Artist Alison Best speaks to The Journal on her My Place.
ALISON, 53, became a professional artist after an illness meant she was unable to continue with her public sector career in international marketing.
Born in Stockton-on-Tees, she trained as an artist at the then Newcastle Polytechnic before going into the public sector MBA.
When she fell ill, she did art as a therapy and now pursues it full-time and has developed a system called expressionist stencilling.
She has had a number of exhibitions and has written a children’s book for Alnwick Garden called Monkey Business at the Tree House which has been endorsed by the Duchess. Alison lives in Tanfield Lea, County Durham, with her husband Anthony, 48, who works in accounts with the CACDP charity, and Alex, 15, who is at Tanfield Comprehensive.
Where do you live?
How long have you lived there?
We’ve been in about six weeks, but we’ve lived in the area since 1985.
What’s your dream home?
My dream home is actually more or less what we’ve got – a bungalow with a beautiful garden and room for expansion. I think Derwentside is such a beautiful part of the country.
How do you get around (walk, car, public transport, private jet)?
I tend to use the car because I’m working at Alnwick Gardens and Allendale in Northumberland.
What is your favourite part of the North-East?
There is so much to chose from! I’m stuck between Hadrian’s Wall and the Northumberland coast.
What is your favourite building in the region?
Again there is a lot to draw from but I find Durham Cathedral very inspiring.
What is the best holiday you’ve ever had?
We adore going to Skye in Scotland in the Trottenish Hills, and we try and get there every year.
What’s the favourite thing in your home?
I think my favourite thing has to be my art stuff – my drawing board and paints and so on. Apart from that, nothing in particular. I take inspiration from nature and after our move, I found I had a lot of stuff I didn’t need.
If you could have one luxury, what would it be?
I’m pretty keen on chocolate but it is probably music, whatever music I wanted so I could listen to it when I’m drawing.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve a very exciting project with the Alnwick Garden which will be revealed in the spring. I’m also working on pieces for an exhibition at the Buddle Art Gallery in Wallsend, North Tyneside. That will run from April 15 to May 17. It will be called Blossoming: The Art of the Garden. It was supported by Alnwick Garden, as a lot of inspiration has come from there.
Who or what is the love of your life?
My husband and son.
Where is your favourite place in the North-East?
My favourite place is probably Alnwick because there is so much inspiration there for me.
What is your favourite shop?
I like going around charity shops and finding bargains. I find little bits of china for mosaics and glass which gives you inspiration.
What is your favourite restaurant?
Bistro 21 in Durham.
In actual fact, its probably one in Yarm that my dad used to go in, The Pot and Glass. I’ve a lot of family associations there, we go there and have a drink for my dad and grandad.
I’m big into salads. I like Caesar salad.
Are you any good at cooking, do you spend much time in your kitchen?
I like cooking but my husband’s completely taken over the cooking. If I can get him out of the way, I like making bread and scones and biscuits.
What’s the last play or film you saw?
We don’t tend to go to the theatre so much, so it’ll probably be the panto!
What book are you reading at the moment?
I’m actually reading one by Elizabeth Noble. It’s a light comedy. I picked up one of her books at random, it’s called Alphabet Weekends. It’s light and fluffy, but brilliant.
What are you listening to on your I-pod / CD player at the moment?
I do like Amy Winehouse and I love the Proclaimers, they are what they are and they cheer me up.
What is your favourite TV programme?
I’m enjoying Cranford at the moment. I like period dramas like Bronte and my favourite is Pride and Prejudice, it doesn’t matter which adaptation.
What are you proudest of?
I’m so proud of having my very first exhibition last year and rediscovering my love of art and it is getting better all the time.
When and where were you happiest?
In my childhood, we lived in the Lake District near Wasswater, I have very happy memories of clambering around on rocks. I’m also very happy now.
Do you have any wisdom to share?
I think life is about enjoying each moment and you have to go with the flow and see what life brings, and embrace it.
What does the future hold?
I’m looking forward to the work with the Alnwick Garden. I also want to get into regeneration work with my stencils. I’d like to find a manufacturer to work with me to produce metalwork versions and possibly glass versions.
For more information on Alison and her work, visit www.alisonjbest.co.uk