Inside the Studio

Yvonne Coomber’s paintings are a colorful celebration of love


What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

Untamed nature is very important to my practice. I travel and walk a great deal with my husband Mike, exploring, absorbing, and photographing wild places. I then pour these journeys onto primed linen. I feel things deeply, and my canvas provides a container for these huge emotions. Oceans, meadows, forests, and moorlands all inspire my work, but I also love simply playing with color and creating abstracted pieces. My work is ultimately my spiritual practice; paintings feel like offerings and are an acknowledgment of all that is good in the world. Each piece is a celebration of love.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it?

I love the intensity and lustrous quality of oil paints. The richness of the pigments is so exciting to work with.  They are versatile and easily lend themselves to experimentation. I always mix my own colors and I’m fascinated by the alchemy of this process.  There is also, of course, a long, established historic tradition with oil paints that has been used by masters since the middle ages. This is both humbling and inspiring.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

When I started my formal training with a foundation course in Sussex, my initial explorations were with textiles and printmaking. I loved the results of layering with these materials. This gradually translated into my works on canvas. I was attracted to the delicate qualities of fabrics as opposed to the pure physicality of working with printing techniques. It was during this period that I explored methods of creating the effects of building up layers of oil paints that I had previously explored with fabrics.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

The paintings begin with a dream, and slowly this dream takes shape on my canvas. I always work outside; so, in a very direct sense the elements are woven into the work. With my meadow paintings, I usually start with a traditional landscape and gradually over weeks and months build this up to create depth and vitality in the work. I love the ways colors vibrate next to one another, and my paintings are also an exploration of this. I work quickly in the initial stage, almost dancing around the canvas until finally, in the last stages, I am obsessed with the most minute details. It has to be perfect in my eyes. It has to sing. It is then that I know the work is finished.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?

I have such a profound love of flowers that I think I would have to be a florist. I believe that an exquisite arrangement of old-fashioned country garden blooms has the ability to take ones’ breath away. Flowers also have the simple power of communicating hope, tenderness, and love, and these are qualities I would desire to offer to the world.

Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?

I adore William Turner and the sense of light and the dreamlike quality found within his paintings, and I adore Cy Twombly for his freedom on canvas and his desire to constantly push the boundaries of his practice. My heart is also inspired by Monet, not least because of his deep love of flowers. I love to visit exhibitions and am fascinated by the way paint has, and continues to be, used.

About the Author

Katherine Henning is Senior Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service here.