About Me

Journeying Through Landscapes

Maxine Whitbread-Abrutat artist Cornwall

Here & Now …

I am a Cornish artist living on the wild, North Atlantic blue coastline in Rose, Perranporth and have been inspired from a young age by the beauty of the Cornish landscape. It started with childhood holidays on Cornish beaches; even though I did not realise it at the time, these were to become a pivotal influence for my creative interest in and passion for landscapes, the sea and social surroundings.

The draw of the Cornish landscape was intense enough for my parents to make the move from the Midlands and embark on a new life in the county: a childhood of beach life mixed with the countryside and Cornish culture and history was my first connection to creative environments.

  “To draw, you must close your eyes and sing’’ Pablo Picasso


Before …

My early studies were a Foundation Diploma at Falmouth School of Art before gaining a BA (Hons) in Fashion and Design at Cheltenham College of Art. This was followed by a short time working as a children’s wear designer in London for Ladybird, before heading off to complete a PGCE at De Montfort University in Art and Design.

Returning to Cornwall in 1991, I started my 26-year career in education, becoming Head of Art at a secondary school in St. Austell. In 2003 I became Cornwall’s first Advanced Skills Teacher (AST), awarded by the Department for Education.

I used this opportunity as a stepping-stone to support the visual arts in education, with large County arts projects supporting other teachers and promoting the arts within Cornwall. I collaborated with art organisations and educators to stimulate and create change in the visual arts.

After working with the Eden Project on projects such as Roots in Clay, the Fusion Science Art Project and Journey to the Core, in 2018 I had the opportunity of working alongside the artist Antony Lyons (Creative Fellow) as part of the Heritage Futures industrial heritage research project (‘Limbo Landscape Lab’ at Wheal Martyn).

Since 2019 I have collaborated with other artists for Cornwall City of Lights. Recently I returned to university studies to reinvigorate my own practice, with the focus on questioning ‘Perceptions and Journeys through Landscapes’, graduating from Falmouth University as a Master of Fine Art. The draw of the Cornish landscape was intense enough for my parents to make the move from the Midlands and embark on a new life in the county: a childhood of beach life mixed with the countryside and Cornish culture and history was my first connection to creative environments.

Maxine Whitbread-Abrutat artist Cornwall

What Inspires Me?

‘As an artist, I want the viewer to question the narrative of where they are within the landscape and their experiences.’

As a fine art/ textile artist my love for all art has always been about colours, the contrasts of light, textures, surfaces, nature, and the landscape that encompasses all of us. The main inspiration for my creative ideas probably doesn’t stem from my formal art education, it starts in my early childhood with my love for the sea and nature.

This was encouraged by my father and his fascination of what lay in front of his camera (a very important aspect of childhood memories and journeys). As one matures, attitudes change with a greater connection to reflection, but at the same time one’s journeys and experiences expand. My methodology has derived from discovering myself, what I am capable of and where I can lead with my ideas.

I am greatly influenced by the heritage of the 20th century Cornish artists such as Peter Lanyon, Margo Maeckelberghe and Wilhelmina Barns Graham. Also, more recent artists like Jeremy Gardiner and Carolyn Genders, who produce very textual works. They have inspired me to explore ways of capturing the climate and interpretation of the Cornish coastline, as have the authors Robert Macfarlane, Rebecca Solnit, Oliver Rackham and Isabella Tree, who have questioned the ‘Sense of Place’ through nature, history, community and environment.

It is important for me to place in a social context the culture and natural surroundings in which I live and the influences that have inspired me to view the journey that already exists.

My practice has a focus on the emotive questioning of landscapes. I reflect on the power, structure, and beauty of the Cornish landscape, looking at the nature of its sweeping energy and scarred appearances. I experience the landscape through the effects of place, time, movement, seas, colours, space, and the relationship it has with people.

I often use the narratives of my walking journals and sketches to express vastness, exhilaration, ephemeral weather, temperature, light and emotive encounters. These experiences I use to make a connection with each individual composition.

My visual works combine a sensory experience through paint and mixed media connecting and strongly capturing the colours and true intensity of the Cornish coastline and countryside. Azures, Atlantic blues, whites, ochres, and greens are evident, as are the sweeping, simplistic use of line to define and resonate the movement and atmosphere within my works.

I use a variety of materials and scale, including acrylics, oils, inks, paper, textiles and canvas, focusing on layers and surface texture, working to capture realism and to express the view of an extended landscape in place and time. The surface marks and textures enable the abstraction in my mixed media compositions to be spontaneous through colour and shape, allowing the abstraction and detail to collide so that I can express an emotive vision as layers within a landscape.

‘Those incredible edges and high places extend a sense of timelessness through the interpretation of colour and erosion; they spill into layers defining a community scarred by man.’