Portrait of a rising star

Francesca Simpson with her painting entitled Indi.
Francesca Simpson with her painting entitled Indi.

A talented young artist from north Northumberland is busy preparing for her first solo exhibition at a prestigious Newcastle gallery.

Francesca Simpson – who shot onto the North East art scene last year – will present a selection of her works at the Northern Rock Foundation Gallery at The People’s Theatre from October 30 to November 30.

The 24-year-old from Lesbury specialises in landscapes and animal portraits, so it’s perhaps not surprising that her premiere will be playing to her strengths.

Her show is entitled ‘Animal Landscapes’, and features some stunning renditions in acrylics, ink and giclee.

What is most remarkable about Francesca’s art is that she is entirely self-taught. A graduate of Music Performance at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, she turned her attention to pursuing a career as a full-time artist just two years ago.

Working in a variety of different mediums, her style is an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary, abstract and astonishingly realistic.

So far, she has exhibited in Glasgow and is currently represented by North East Art Collective in Newcastle as well as a number of local galleries. In addition, she has illustrated for award winning publisher, Bradt Travel Guides, contributing to their 2012 publication, ‘Slow Northumberland & Durham.’

Francesca is still in the fledgling stages of her career, but awareness and appreciation of her work is steadily gaining momentum.

In January, her painting, ‘Hello’ – featuring a strikingly-coloured parrot – was selected by leading contemporary art galleries, Opus (Newcastle) and Danielle Arnaud (London) as one of seven images to represent the North East at London Art Fair in Artspotter’s ‘Seven Postcards’ series.

It was noted by organisers that her postcard was ‘hugely popular’.

Francesca says her latest show is a big step forward and she wanted to use as much of her work as possible. “I kept the title quite general, as it’s a culmination of all the work I’ve done in my first two years as an artist,” she said.

“It’ll be a mixture of prints and original work mainly from 2010-present and will show my progress and development in different styles, many of which were experiments and I won’t be continuing with some of the ideas in my new work.”

In June, Francesca took pride of place at the Alnmouth Arts Festival, just down the road from her home, after winning a competition to produce a piece of art to advertise the event.

Her stunning image of the village, viewed from across the estuary, was used on thousands of flyers, posters and trail guides, further increasing her profile via the thousands of festival visitors who came from across the region and beyond.

And during the event itself, she found her work in high demand, selling a large number of prints to eager art fans.

A special preview night is being held at The People’s Theatre on October 29, from 6.30pm to 9pm.

Francesca added: “On the preview night I’ll be putting on some food and drinks for guests. No invitation is necessary – anyone is welcome.”

Francesca’s exhibition is viewable on play nights from 6.30pm, although alternative viewing times can be arranged by contacting the venue manager on 0191 275 9875.

The Theatre describes it as ‘an exhibition of acrylic paintings, ink drawings and giclee prints’ of animal portraits, farm machinery and Northumbrian scenery ‘in a refreshingly modern yet traditionally realistic style’.