The City Gallery: The House On The Hill

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Artist: Denise Di Battista

Medium: Acrylic

The full title of the painting is The House On The Hill, Gower Coastal Path.

An admission; when I first saw Denise’s work, I didn’t like it. I thought it was garish. It began to grow on me, but when I finally made up my mind to buy something by her, it was in the unlikely setting of Ward 3 of Swansea’s Singleton Hospital. There are several prints of her work hanging in the patients’ day room there.

I had a look on her website (http://www.artofwales.com) and found the original of House On The Hill was available. I visited her studio, in the front room of her home in Llanelli, and had a chat with her about her work.

Denise in her front-room home studio
Denise in her front-room home studio

She was born in Middlesbrough, but her family moved to Llanelli when she was very young. I asked if she had had a conventional art school background.

“No, I trained as a nurse,” she said. She gained a science degree from the Open University in her 30s, and her nursing career had progressed to the point where she was a Sister Tutor at Llanelli General Hospital.

Why then did she decide to make the radical switch from nurse to artist?

“I had always wanted to paint, but I was never sure I could make a living out of painting. But when I got to 50, I thought ‘If not now, then never’. ”

She retrained as a respiratory medical technician, because it was better paid than nursing. The extra money gave her the chance to find the time to start painting as well.

But it was still a considerable financial gamble. She remembers always painting when she was young, but as a child of the post-war 1950s she was understandably encouraged by her parents to seek her future in something that offered more security than art. Hence the nursing career.

How did things work out?

“I was able to make a living from day one, because I was selling prints of my work.

“I had a good exhibition in Llanelli. I sold 25 prints. I used the money to buy my own printing equipment.

“My husband makes limited edition giclee prints of my work, and I started selling them at craft fairs.”

This approach was driven by necessity because of her background. “Lots of artists make their money through teaching. I am not qualified to teach, so I had to sell.

Denise paints every day from early morning until early afternoon.
Denise paints every day from early morning until early afternoon.

“I worked hard at it; I still do. I paint every day. I start as early as possible, and paint until 2pm. I treat it as my job.”

Denise describes her work as “adding colour to life.” What inspires her?

“I firmly believe that whatever your life presents you with affects your work. At the moment, my husband and I are doing a lot of walking, so my current work is very influenced by the coast and woodlands where we walk.”

The house in the painting I bought can be seen from the coastal path near Thurba Head, Rhossili. “I wanted to capture the undulation of the various strips of land, the wonderful stonework with the white geometric shape of the house perched aloft,” Denise says in her description of the work.

A confessed lover of bright colours, she admires artists, like Van Gogh and Gaugin, who portray things with exaggerated vibrancy.

Her own exaggerated sense of colour is now hanging on my wall. It makes me smile when I look at it.

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