Derbyshire-based artist Catriona Hall didn’t learn her craft at art school. Instead, her charming, often whimsical paintings have been shaped by her studies in art history, with references ranging from American folk art to early medieval portraits. She also cites a stint living in Egypt (where imagery is always rendered in profile) as a key influence. All of this has filtered into her idiosyncratic, stylised works, which play with viewpoints in muddy colour palettes, usually dominated by earthy terracottas and yellow ochre.
Hall’s commissions focus on houses (from £2,500) and pets (from £750), and combinations of the two. “Usually, people have a good idea of the main elements they want to include in a picture, but more ideas often pop up when they show me around the house and garden,” Hall says of her initial site visits, adding that she can work from photos too. “I spend a long time over the initial sketch, playing around with the scale.” Once the layout is approved, the final image is produced on gessoed board using acrylic paint, and viewed again by the client before it is varnished. “It gives them a last chance to ‘tweak’,” she adds. “Invariably, I am asked to make the Labrador slimmer.”
Her house subjects have ranged from cottages to grand old piles, often with animals in the foreground, including the home of the late Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (the youngest of the Mitford sisters) at the Old Vicarage on the Chatsworth Estate. “My absolute favourite sort of commission involves a Jack Russell, topiary, a good, regular Georgian dolls’ house façade and a large tree,” says Hall. “I slightly baulk when I am asked to put too much in as less really is more in a composition.”