Artist Profile - meet Isabelle Roberts

North Cornwall artist Isabelle Roberts shares with us why she loves Cornwall, her inspiration, and the story behind her incredible talent.


How would you describe your art?

My work is intuitive, semi-abstract, emotive, spiritual … each painting is a journey of discovery for me whether I’m creating an abstract landscape or working with figures in motion. I rarely plan a painting but work spontaneously from a feeling or from a memory. I’m always the first to be surprised by the outcome. I paint mostly in oils, sometimes with acrylics and mixed media such as sand held in gesso to create random marks and texture that add to the serendipity of the process. People sometimes describe my palette as Turner-esque … I guess I’m often reaching for tubes of moody blues and iron oxide…

Where does your passion for art come from?

As I grew up in Switzerland where I come from, I spend a lot of time drawing and was told I was good at it. I got so much pleasure from it and really wanted to go to art college at age16, but for different reasons and circumstances, I went into other employment and I didn’t actually allow myself to really explore my creativity until I was much older.

How did you get started as an artist?

At age 38 I finally enrolled on a life drawing course which brought me so much joy that I enrolled the next year on a foundation course, part-time over two years as my teenage children were still at home. Around the same time, my father died very suddenly and I used Art to process my grief and found much peace, meaning and a deep sense of identity from it…there was no stopping me after that.

I carried on studying part-time at the Bristol School of Art for another 4 years and started creating paintings and ceramic sculptures and was offered a chance to exhibit for the first time in 2005.

What is the piece that you are most proud of?

I would have to say it’s my very first painting - a monochrome portrait of my father from memory on a smallish canvas that had been given to me 20 years previously… An artist friend of mine who had seen some of my drawings gave it to me as she emigrated abroad, one little blank canvas together with her easel and a tin box full of oil paints. ‘All I ask in return is one of your paintings one day” she said … It took me 20 years to have the courage and confidence to paint on it!

If you weren't creating art, what would you be doing?

That’s a hard question…I can’t imagine not being creative… Music? But I’m doing that too, I actually play violin in a band…

I love people and I love hospitality so I would maybe run a guest house… oops I’m also doing that already!

Gardening then… I certainly would be better at it if I gave it more time :)

Where are your favourite places in Cornwall?

Oh, I love the coast! We are spoilt for choice with so much magnificent coastline within 15 min of my home; Holywell, Bedruthan steps and Treyarnon are some of my favorite local beaches, though a trip to Penwith where my husband’s family is originally from is always very special.

Where do you go when you need to feel inspired?

I feel so blessed to live in Cornwall and to be surrounded by so much natural beauty, I feel inspired even driving up the Atlantic Highway to Wadebridge to shop!

But if I need inspiration, I walk the costal path, or up Castle an Dinas, close to where I live in St Columb and get a sense of the infinite sky and of the play of light on the ocean. I feel a deep spiritual connection to this landscape which I seek to reflect in my work. Music is also a big part of my inspiration and poetry and writings by the likes of John O’Donohue. He seems to put in words some of what I feel in my paintings.

What is your top tip to unwind?

I’m not very good at staying still… I’m always doing something, catching up with friends or family or keeping up with jobs that need doing. A day on the beach with a body boarding session or two is great to unwind or a long walk along the sea, or a dip in my wood fired hot tub … but when I paint, I go into a deep meditative space that helps me process a lot of thoughts and feelings, it brings balance to my busy life.

Where is your ultimate holiday destination?

I’ve travelled quite a bit in my life but now I live in Cornwall I rarely feel the need to go anywhere else…

What’s on your playlist at the moment?

I listen to a wide range of music, especially when in the studio. I love the music of Arvo Part but lately I’ve also been listening to albums by The Gloaming, Feist, and the debut album ‘Turning Tides’ by an astonishingly talented group of girls from Devon called ‘Wildwood Kin’.

What is your favourite piece of clothing/boot/slippers from Celtic & Co?

My sheepskin boots, I think, I’ve got a lovely burgundy pair I bought last year that I practically live in when the weather is cold.

I also love my cosy clogs slippers, I just put them on and I’m ready for winter!

My new catalogue has just arrived and I have my eyes on some lovely soft Merino woolly jumpers for this season, and something from the new indigo range … also maybe a pair of leather boots to wear at gigs with the band!