From reclaimed wood to wild creatures: we talk with artist Tanya Hinton
Updated: Mar 7
Tanya Hinton’s studio can be found just north of Shaftesbury, over the border in Wiltshire. Having painted on canvas for many years, she discovered working on wood around eight years ago and has never looked back. We wanted to find out more...
Your beautiful paintings of wildlife on blocks of recycled wood have proved very popular at FOLDE. What inspired you to create these 'mini-masterpieces'?
I had some offcuts from some regency doors I had been given; they were too narrow to use for a large painting so Nick cut them into blocks. The blocks allow for mini freestanding original paintings to be created. The small size of these means I can produce a more affordable range of study-style paintings: bijoux!
Your animal and bird paintings are incredibly detailed. How do you manage to get the feathers and fur so lifelike?
As a child I used to help with my father’s business; he manufactured a niche brand of model soldiers. I would paint them for him so got used to working with very small brushes to create detail.
As well as British wildlife, there's also a bit of a Norse theme that comes through sometimes in your work: tell us a bit about that.
I’m inspired by all mythology and folk tales. I will often take names from these stories to title my paintings. Sometimes the animal is associated with a particular deity, other times the link is less obvious and I just feel a connection between the name and animal. The Norse tales are some of my favourites!
Reclaimed wood is a theme throughout your work. How do you choose what to paint on each piece you use?
The reclaimed wood I use is a ready-made landscape for the creatures I paint. It often has remnants of old paint from its previous life; this can create the feel of skies, fields or the sea. I look at the wood and see the landscape it suggests and place an animal that is appropriate. The wood chooses really...
Where do you usually find the wood from? How old is it?
My wood comes from all over; sometimes driftwood, I’ve been given old doors, sheds, floorboards. I’m always looking for discarded treasures to work on. The ages vary: the oldest piece I’ve worked on was part of a 17th-century drawer, which obviously was once a tree, so potentially that tree may have been growing during the reign of Elizabeth I! Other pieces are newer; offcuts from a DIY project will not be wasted! I’ve also just been given some old window shutters from the Royal Crescent in Bath. I can’t wait to work on them! As I mentioned, the bijoux have come from a regency door; however I’ve just about run out of that wood now so future bijoux maybe painted on other wood too.
Do you have a favourite creature to paint? What is it, and why are you drawn to it?
As the wood often suggests the animal, I don’t always know what I will paint until I have the wood in front of me. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes I have an urge to paint a wolf or bear and I look for the right wood. Sometimes I am commissioned to paint a particular animal so again I look for wood to suit that animal. I’m inspired by wild animals rather than domestic pets. I like my beasties to look wild and will not ‘cute’ them up! Animals I’ve painted most frequently are wolves, hares, polar bears and turtles, so I guess these are my favourites!
Whatever I paint, the wood will always be unique, even if cut down from a larger piece. This way I can paint the same animal again but the piece is guaranteed to be a one off; this is true even for the bijoux!
What else is the in pipeline for you this year?
This year I have been drawn more and more to the application of gold and silver leaf. I love the irony of a discarded piece of wood and putting precious metals on it. Lockdown allowing, we have the Wylye Valley Art Trail this May so I’m producing a new body of work with that in mind. Jumping ahead to November and we have an exhibition planned for Shaftesbury Arts Centre and are hoping to launch our next book then with my illustrations.
Can people come and visit your studio?
We welcome visitors to our studio at Bull Mill Arts in Crockerton, and when not in lockdown we open the studio on the first Saturday of each month. Visitors are also welcome by appointment.
Find more of Tanya's work here
Follow her on Facebook
Tanya's Bijoux Blocks are available in The FOLDE Collection