From London to landscapes: Meeting artist Nany Crewe

Lucy Goldsmith

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To see more of Nancy’s work, visit her website at nancycrewe.com

PHOTOGRAPHY: Harriet Ellis

Firstly, what was your time like as a Falmouth student?

I loved being a Falmouth student- It was a real blessing to have people around me studying what they loved and being passionate and supportive. I actually really miss the studio atmosphere (although I think I took it for granted and didn’t work as hard as I could have!). I completely got the Cornwall bug! It is such a beautiful place, so different from London (where I’m from). Falmouth is such a great town with so much going on, and the Cornish are like no other- friendly, funny and utterly relaxed. I feel like they’ve got it right with their pace of life!

Has it been challenging to carry on your degree as a career?

When I finished my degree I worked full time as a shop girl for a while in order to stay down here in Falmouth and felt like I was just squeezing art into my evenings and doing it all quite half-heartedly. I now work part-time for a Christian charity, helping students in Cornwall share the gospel and supporting Christian Unions in colleges and the university. Both my jobs give me so much joy – working with students and being able to talk about faith (the whole reason I live!) and discover more about Jesus is so ridiculously good! All the people I meet spur me on to want to be a better artist. I find balancing time difficult but I think I’m getting better at it… well, I hope!

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What mediums do you work with? And how would you describe your subject matter?

I mainly work with acrylic on canvas, and work from films and sketches that I take on journeys (walks, trains, cars). I love landscape, especially the stuff around here – it’s amazing! I’m also really interested in our connection to place and how we remember places. How does memory and experience affect the way I paint? Do I see a landscape in conjunction with other places of importance, other memories, other experiences? How do I transpose this onto canvas? I have my pieces in Beside the Wave gallery in Falmouth.

Does it come easy to you? Are there things you do while you work that help fuel your creative process?

Some days are easier than others- I can be really productive or feel like I’ve barely achieved anything. I think the real thing is just to keep on keeping on. Keep painting, keep drawing, keep looking – make work even if it’s really rubbish. Doing nothing means you’ve got nothing to keep you going. I listen to the radio a lot whilst I’m at work in the studio – I enjoy the company of it. Joni Mitchell is my favourite company whilst painting.

Who and what inspires you?

I’m a big fan of Hockney and Doig, and I get such great delight from Hopper, especially his watercolours. I also love love love Philip Hughes’ approach to landscape – he’s a big inspiration. My biggest literary influence is the Bible. When I first started reading it I couldn’t put it down, which is so unusual for me and books. A day without it is just not as good – I’m always so surprised at how relevant it is. I love the creation story: it’s really fascinating to see how creation affects me as a creative. The passage talks about God ‘gathering’ and ‘separating’ on days 1-3 which gives way for ‘making’ and ‘filling’ on days 4-6. I really enjoy the mirror that we see in our own creative process; gathering materials, images, sketches, separating what we’ve collected, categorising it which then makes way for the making and filling of space, of forms, of new images.

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What’s it like having your studio in your home?

I used to have a small studio to myself, but after moving house I now share a bigger and lighter room with my husband. He has half the space for his web development and design and the rest is mine to throw paint around in! Working from home does pose its own issues in terms of self-discipline though – it’d be easy to waste a whole day pottering round the house and get nothing done – but I feel like we’ve fallen into a good rhythm now. I do miss my beautiful studio at Woodlane though (whilst I was a student). I definitely took it for granted.

What are the biggest challenges you face in creating?

I think there is always the challenge between making the work you love and want to make and making the work you know will pay the rent! That is a difficult path to tread, and a total learning curve. I don’t always get it right.

And what are you creating now that is giving you joy? Is it a big change from your original artistic direction?

I am actually painting a cloud series at the moment which I’m really enjoying. My work has definitely changed – but that is mostly due to my surroundings. I still have a real love for urban landscapes, but it’s just not what I’m seeing or looking at at the moment… I’m sure they’ll crop up again at some point. I’m also learning to get freer with my work and my application of paint; alluding to what is there without spelling it out.

What do you want your work to do? What fuels your desire to create?

Practically I would love to be able to live off my art and be a full time artist. That would be amazing. In terms of what fuels my desire to paint I think it is the love of the subject; the love of the country, the love of the shape of a hillside, the love of a shadow and a cloud, the love of paint on canvas. The love of looking and making.

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