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Illustrator highlights art gallery favourite

By David Porter

Aberdeen Art Gallery's reopening to the saw more than 5500 eager art enthusiasts make their way through the doors of the historic venue in its opening weekend.

The Aberdeen City Council project, designed by Hoskins Architects and exhibition designers Studioarc, has dramatically increased the amount of display space for the nationally recognised collection, with the number of galleries increasing from 11 to 19, with a further three galleries presenting a programme of regularly changing special exhibitions.

Amongst those joining the visitors was renowned north-east illustrator Johanna Basford, whose adult colouring books have taken the art world by storm.

She spoke to Grampian Online explaining her love for one of the most famous work in gallery which has in its time travelled round the world in exhibitions.

One of the key works by the Glasgow Boys, To Pastures New (1883) by Sir James Guthrie (1859-1930) was presented to the city in 1888 by Francis Edmond.

The work is oil on canvas and Crowland in Linconshire is the actual location of the painting which shows a long flat landscape which is combined with low perspective to give a monumental frieze akin to Greek temple.

Both the Glasgow Boys and French realists take the working man and child as paragons of virtues of hard work and labour – not glamourous and sacharine like most Victorian art.

Explaining the attraction of the work Johanna Basford said: “My favourite work has to be To Pastures New but it's better known as the Goose Girl, this is the painting that I remember coming to see when I visited the gallery with my granny.

“We would sit and my granny would encourage me to sit and draw and sketch it, it's the image that I remember the most and she used to ask me “where do you think they are going, where have they been, why is she on her own, why does she have the stick”, all those kind of things.

“What catches my eye is that there is a story to it

“A portrait is a picture of a person and you are quite used to seeing that but this one there is definietly a narrative there and I think my imagination as a child would always question what was the story behind the picture.

“A big storm with a boat sinking is quite dismal, this one always seemed a little bit more whimsical and I guess there were a variety of outcomes, all quite nice – they have had lunch, they are off to market.

“Any painting with animals is going to draw kids in an this is a nice one.

She noted: “I dont know if the frame has been changed on this since I was little but as a kid I always loved the ornate frames and would spend just as long looking at them in detail.

“That perhaps ties into what I do now and the intricate nature of some of it.

“I still see creativity and drawing as a way of telling a story and for me these days, my job is to draw the start of the story, like a giant game of consequences and its for other people to finish my stories – it all has a thread thatties together.

“The seed was planted when I was seeing these pictures when I was younger.

She added: “Looking ahead have actually started recently scaling up my work and looking at different ways, I am always encouraging people to be bold and not in their comfort zones with creativity so it seemed a bit poor for me to stay in that small niche myself, so tackling more ambitious projects, especially when you see other peoples work, gives you ideas of whats possible and if you don't look at other stuff outwith your own tiny field you tend to have a narrow career.

“Coming next is large scale – taking my work which is intricate and scaling it up and see how that works when I draw really big.”

To Pastures New 1883 by Sir James Guthrie can be found in Gallery one on the ground floor of Aberdeen Art Gallery.

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