Interview with Tessa Newcomb

Bridgeman Copyright speak to artist Tessa Newcomb on her inspirations, her mother's works and her favourite artists


What is your earliest memory of an artwork and who was it by?

My earliest painting I saw would have been my mother’s, Mary Newcomb.


Mary, Tessa and Hannah Newcomb


Talk us through your creative process. Where do you begin?

I prepare hardboard with many washes of thin oil paint then I go out drawing.
I come back, layout my handful of drawings and choose a board that will fit with the place and mood I'm trying to recreate. Usually I paint it in one go then return to finish it, often a story comes through as I paint. Radio 3 helps.


What is your favourite time of day to be in your studio? 

Ideally I start at 9 am but that does not always happen. I feel I have done a good day if I paint for four hours. That’s four hours painting not fiddling around with frames and other things.

What inspires your different bodies of work? Are there any particular experiences that have informed your paintings and choice of subject matter?

Going to places and seeing exhibition changes my work, also clients’ requests.


Boy In Boat, 2013 (oil on board), Tessa Newcomb (b.1955) / Private Collection 


You mention the influence of your mother in your first answer. I was wondering if I we could build on that and maybe I could ask how your mother being a painter influenced your work and whether she had any advice for you?

My mother was the reason why I paint. I learnt the craft of painting through her: how to prime boards, what materials she used etc. I also knew what it was like to be around someone who painted, who had that internal world going on.

I began by painting on her off-cuts then I went off to art school, Bath Academy of Art (1973-76) after which I returned to the painting I always had done and started exhibiting. I have not stopped since. It seemed a natural process for my paintings to look like my mother’s, but to then become my own. Mary had a stroke in 2004 and died 4 years later. I used up her paints and boards, carrying on the line with a new voice.

I used to go out drawing alongside my mother but I never concentrated like she did. Concentration and intensity are everything, which came later for me.

She was always a country person, sophisticated in her thinking but did not come across as an artist. Her painting was something she did quietly upstairs after the other things.

I have always painted, it's what I feel comfortable doing. You never know what direction a painting is going to go in - I love  the excitement of seeing what will come out of my work and how it changes.
At first I had to balance painting with bringing up the children.. Nowadays it's much easier -  I have become established, working with nice galleries who have become my friends. Suffolk is also full of artists, maybe too full! So I'm no longer such an anomaly. 

I'm now very busy and have books to finish, new things to start, grandchildren and little dogs!


The Dahlia Show, 1985 (oil on board), Mary Newcomb (1922-2008) / Private Collection / Photo © Bonhams, London, UK


How would you sum up your practice in 5 words?

Recreating a place and mood. Or Letting a story come through. 

What convinced you to join Bridgeman for copyright and licensing and what would you most like to see your images licensed for?

I want Bridgeman to use my work because they have a standard that I can trust. 
I would like my work to be on the covers of sympathetic books.


Corn Flowers, 2009 (oil on board), Tessa Newcomb (b.1955) / Private Collection

What artwork or project are you most proud of and why?

I'm most proud of a book I made about allotments called The Adorable Plot published by Samsoms and Company. My partner Telfer Stokes has an allotment and I thought the only way I would get to see him was to join him there. It’s a very home grown book, recording various allotments. The text is mostly comments I heard on them. The edition sold quickly. I was pleased because it was me being myself.


Pet Geese, 2011 (oil on board), Tessa Newcomb (b.1955) / Private Collection


What three things would you take if you were cast away on a desert island?

I would take my handbag which would contain my drawing things and Nina my miniature Dachshund.


If you could pick 5 artists, dead or alive, to have dinner with who would they be and why?

I would have dinner with my mother, who was the painter Mary Newcomb, Margret Mellis, a painter and mother of my partner, Mary Potter (my favorite painter) and Winifred Nicholson. They all knew each other so would talk amongst themselves. I would also ask Craigie Atchison. I would be interested to hear about their working day and how they fitted painting around family and dogs.


See all images by Tessa Newcomb and Mary Newcomb on the Bridgeman website available for licensing.


Bridgeman Artists' Copyright Service

Tessa Newcomb and the Estate of Mary Newcomb joins a distinguished list of artists and artists’ estates to have appointed the Bridgeman Artists’ Copyright Service including Lucian Freud and Stanley Spencer. 

Even if the image is not held by Bridgeman, copyright can still be cleared.

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