At home with artist Annette Edgar

When artist Annette Edgar moved into her 1920’s west Glasgow home 16 years ago and started pulling up the carpets, she uncovered an unexpected house warming present in the shape of a four-leaf clover.

Not that Annette needed confirmation that she had found the right house, but with the leaves symbolising faith, hope, love and luck respectively, it was an encouraging sign. “To be honest, the main reason I bought this house had nothing to do with the interior, and everything to do with the way the light comes into the back garden,” confides Annette, who graduated in 1980 from Glasgow School of Art.

“I needed a quiet space at the back of the house where I could build my studio and this was exactly right.” Once the stone garage was converted into a studio, Annette turned her attention to the house itself, reinstating original features such as arts & crafts fireplaces, sanding and polishing the original pine floorboards and uncovering the Oregon pine banister hidden under layers of hardboard.

Most of the houses in Kelvindale were built by family builders MacTaggart & Meikle in the 1920s and 30s, and while this is an area that could be categorized as suburbia, its close proximity to the west end gives it an artsy edge.

“All the houses came with individual coats of arms, and when the garage was being converted I came across the original stained glass panels from the living room windows,” recalls Annette, who says she appreciates the honest design of the arts & crafts features in her home.

Be it the original cabinetry in the living room and dining room, or art deco panelled doors, it’s a house fitting for a ‘Glasgow Girl’ with an atmosphere reminiscent of a Jessie M. King illustration.

It’s a home that reflects Annette’s generosity of spirit – warm welcoming and colourful,  filled with the artist’s own work, and gifts from artist friends, including Damian Henry, Simon Laurie, and Rosanne Cherubini, whose distinctive sculptures make their presence felt throughout the house, particularly the box construction, ‘The Dream and the Dreamer’, above the living room fireplace.

“I like to surround myself with the work of other artists, especially if they are friends – we do some great swaps,” points out Annette, who on the day we meet is wearing jewelry exquisitely crafted by artist and close friend Ruth Swan. Collectables such as Kilims, antique glass and art deco artifacts in the living room are tangible reminders of the days when Annette bought and sold antiques to help pay her way through art school as a mature student.

“I’d wanted to be an artist, ever since I was a four-year-old, painting my sister Janet in the back garden, but didn’t think it was possible,” recalls Annette, who as single parent with two daughters, enrolled at Glasgow Art School after studying for Highers at evening classes.

“Peter Howson was in the year below and I admired his work even then, and the actor Peter Capaldi was a great pal. We had lots of laughs but none of the stories are printable, and were so fortunate to have had such fantastically encouraging tutors such as Barbra Rae, Jimmy Robertson, and David Donaldson.”

Annette has been painting and exhibiting both in the UK and internationally since 1986, winning prizes such as the MacRobert Purchase Award, and the William & Mary Amour Award PAI, with her works held in many private and public collections including The Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

The Arts & Crafts inflected reception hall is dominated by one of Annette’s early paintings, ‘Guardian’ which she claims breaks the rules by taking all the elements that she was warned against by teachers.

Even the shoe rack underneath the painting, crafted from an old school bench has aesthetic appeal. “I like the fact that the shoes change on an almost daily basis to create a wee pattern,” says Annette. “I always keep a few pairs of ‘studio’ shoes here, as during a long session, it’s good to come in and change them.”

While Annette spends most of her day in the studio, her home is all about comfort, colour and entertaining friends. Visitors find the open peat fire in the dining room at the rear of the house is irresistible. More recently, the extended kitchen has turned into a sociable space where guests relax and chat while Annette prepares dinner; she’s particularly delighted with the integrated wine cooler.

“I lived with a fridge freezer and microwave in the dining room for three months while the building was going on but it was worth it,” says Annette, who chose simple white high-gloss cabinetry and beech work surfaces, and silver/glass mosaic tiles, to create a high-tech but warm kitchen.

While her home has a magnetic appeal, it’s clear from her own paintings, such as ‘Indian Temple in Mauritius’ which hangs next to the living room fire, that Annette is inspired by travel. “I discovered an entire new spectrum in Mauritius which has remained with me – the purity of the colour and the light, the rickety towns and handmade signs….

“Travel always refreshes me and I feel compelled to discover new places, which I think is so necessary for any painter. I love hot sunny places such as France, Italy, Majorca, rural Spain, and most recently Mauritius. The sounds and smells of new places inspire as much as clear colour and shapes and pattern in the landscape.

“I’ll usually make drawings and notes, often with small colour studies, but it’s back home in the studio that the larger paintings happen. Remembered and filtered images intrigue me and fire my imagination. “Almost always, many months later, often during the cold of a Scottish winter, memory and dream come into play in the making of my paintings.”

Annette points to ‘Bright Sparks’, a painting that depicts the waters of the River Clyde with more blue and turquoise than in reality. Annette’s studio is well-insulated with day star lights which are used in the North Sea providing constant daylight even in the wee small hours.

Even on the most dreich Scottish summer day, the colours on her table-top Perspex palette ignite the space with colour. “I think it was David Hockney who said ‘always use the best colours you can afford, always’,” says Annette.

Annette’s work has been well shown and received in London and the south of England, with further shows planned for 2012 onwards. She is currently exhibiting at a mixed summer show at the Bohun Gallery in Henley, and has plans for a solo show at the Catto Gallery in Hampstead next year.

“Now I feel the time is right to exhibit in Scotland again, and I’ve been invited and have agreed to do a solo show in the Union Gallery in Edinburgh, sometime within the next 18 months or so, and we’re already enjoying a great rapport.

“I hope that as my work progresses and develops, that it grows in such a way as to invite the viewer into the work to make it their own, in much the same way as they do with my home.

“I want my home to be a place where my friends, family and children can feel completely relaxed.  Bright pools of light and colour help people make the space their own. In a sense there is a similar philosophy within my painting.”


Favourite food: Goats Cheese with Mint Risotto Last Read Book: Just Kids by Patti Smith.  The story is about her love affair with Robert Mapplethorpe, but more than this it is a beautifully constructed portrait of New York in the 60s and 70s and the young musicians, artists and writers of that time. The book is altogether like love poem. Favourite musician is Leonard Cohen My favourite artist is almost everybody, but top of the list just has to be Picasso for his brilliant inventive genius. My favourite holiday destination is Mauritius. I love the religious diversity and tolerance. Street processions are every other day and there is such open hearted warmth. Like many other people, my favourite way to relax is at home with a carry out curry and a good film.

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