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A Canvas Of Old Books: Interview With Artist Liz England

by Melanie Gow

Liz England is hard to track down, you would do well to discover her for yourself.


When did you first say to yourself “I am an Artist”

I’m really not sure! I simply don’t know what else I would do now and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy drawing or creating things.

Did you study art ?

I went to a grammar school which strongly discouraged anything it felt was non-academic, so I took a B.A. in History and then an M.A. in Popular Music Studies at The University of Liverpool. I carried on painting throughout this time and went straight into a career of privately commissioned art, finally returning to study art ten years later.

You say you are “attracted to the imprint of time on old objects” what do you mean by this?

North Country, by Liz EnglandI love painting on old, damaged books partly because they are beautiful objects and deserve a second chance of ‘life’ but also because I am curious about a book’s past owners and where it has travelled.

Each book has potentially passed through many hands, with favourite pages folded down, old tickets used as bookmarks, inscriptions written inside. Even a coffee ring on a cover is of interest to me.

How did you start doing this?

I found an old encyclopaedia with water damage on the pages and a worn-out, faded red cover, of no use to anyone but it just seemed to be whispering, ‘Paint on me’.

Where do you find your canvasses, is this part of what you love above your art?

I find the books I use all over the country and now often have people donating them too. However, I will never paint on a book that is still in good, readable condition – I have been (wrongly) berated by someone visiting an exhibition for committing such an offence!

Which of your books that you’ve painted best describes who you are?

I’m not sure that any particular book describes who I am but I suppose an artist’s personality inevitably slips into their work unawares….

Where have you exhibited?

ToTheLighthouse, by LIz EnglandIn Britain, I’ve exhibited in galleries, shows and through the Affordable Art Fairs throughout the South and in the Midlands. This year my work travelled as far as Hong Kong, thanks to my involvement with Will’s Art Warehouse.

What does it feel like to know your art is on exhibition on the other side of the world?

As I’ve spent most of my life as an artist working on private commissions where I know my client, it’s still somewhat of a novelty to imagine my paintings so far away hanging on an unknown wall.

Through Windsor Emporium I have sold work to clients taking it home to France, South Africa, Canada and the USA and it’s absorbing to think of my very British scenes at home so far away.

I believe you mount and make your own frames as well, is this by necessity or a part of the vision?

I now make my own frames with friend and fellow ‘Emporium’ artist Julie Rumsey. We both felt it was necessary to ensure we achieved the exact style we wanted for our work – it’s rather satisfying too.

What is art worth (to society, culture, etc)?

Two For Joy, by LIz EnglandThe arts touch all aspects of life and should be given equal respect and worth to nature and science, all overlapping and enhancing each other. It’s easy to trivialise art but it’s in all things and that is where its worth lies.

What is your art worth to you?

I am fortunate to do something I love for a living and my belief in the worth of my work grows quietly each year.

I trust my instincts as an artist now more than ever and it certainly helps to rely on them in a profession where one can sometimes feel forced into compromise for the sake of commercialism or profit.


Liz England is exhibiting at the next Windsor Emporium

on the 1st of September 2013

The Windsor Emporium is on Facebook

It is held on the first Sunday of every month in The Guildhall and aims to bring the best of British art, quality hand-made gifts and objects of the extraordinary together under one roof, once a month.

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