Award winning Gray’s graduate Izzy Thomson discusses her approach to painting, ahead of her latest exhibition…

For as long as I can remember I have always had a desire to create, to mould and to make marks: with mud, with straw, in sand, on paper. I became interested in painting by seeing what other painters were doing. I was seduced by its juiciness, its versatility and ability to make visible anything I imagined.


‘My painting practice explores our misplaced wild world. Through playful representations of mountainous landscapes, I paint to understand the value of the wilderness in
our fast taming world. My paintings tell stories. Painting is offered to me as an endless stage, where I can tell through colour, shape and character, the stories that I see and imagine. It is a different type of narration to film and book, because like poetry, it does not really end.

‘At the start of my honours year, I was awarded a travel scholarship by the Cross Trust. I chose to visit Iceland for a visual research trip. I journeyed through an enigmatic landscape. This landscape gave me ideas as to how Scotland’s landscape was formed. Now, when I go walking in the Scottish mountains, I imagine them breathing like volcanoes. My work’s all about wild spaces – spaces in which one can feel a sort of ‘pin-prickling’ self-awareness.  I read a lot of poetry and books, watch films and feel myself ‘taking’ from these sources all the time. Katherine Bradford is a brand new hero of mine. David Lynch is an older one.

‘Each of my paintings starts with drawings and research from outside. Once I’m back in the studio, I play. I make oil paintings with “added ingredients”. When painting, I need to concentrate only on the action of painting: the placing of this “squiggly smear” next to that “scratchy scribble”. I like my paintings to feel buttered with the history of my earlier marks, so I approach painting in a similar way to sculpture or drawing: pushing, pulling and layering marks on the surface.

‘Even though I graduated with first class honours, being an artist is not an easy option. I think a lot of young artists who are fresh out of art school and thrust into the real world find it hard to sustain an artistic career, whilst earning enough money to stay afloat. I know I do, but I’m completely determined to find a way to do it.

‘Right now, my ambitions involve being in a position to always be able to make and exhibit work. I was lucky enough to be awarded a residency at Leith School of Art, and my goal is to keep working as a painter, whilst continuing my research and undergoing residencies in wild places.  I also hope to complete an M.A in painting in the future.’

Izzy’s latest paintings will be on show from 30 November until 18 December in Aberdeen Arts Centre & Theatre at 33 King Street. They can also be viewed on her website:

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