Inspired by plants and ecosystems

Underneath (Help our Kelp) by Louise Pettifer

Some of you may already be aware of the exciting range of artists working in the studios at the Rye Creative Centre but if not, I recommend you to take a look. When browsing through their website I was drawn to the wonderful images by Louise Pettifer and her ideas about “raising awareness of rewilding, whilst celebrating the beauty, joy and connection we humans share with the natural world”.

Since 2019 Louise has been researching and developing new work around the concept of rewilding, supported in her work by Arts Council England. She says “If we deeply love something, in this case the natural world, my hope is that we will be more committed to protecting it and allowing it to recover and grow”.

Louise loves walks and tries to walk in nature every day if she can. She says “I was initially inspired by the plants I saw on my daily routes and started drawing them. Soon my house was filled with old seedheads (it still is) that I had spotted and couldn’t resist taking home to draw”.

“As often happens when you throw yourself into something wholeheartedly, my life has been imitating my art, as I have joined a local community group, whose focus is on increasing biodiversity around the village and I have been on a number of protests with Extinction Rebellion. I hope my new work will continue to raise awareness of rewilding, whilst celebrating the beauty, joy and connection we humans share with the natural world”.

Raising awareness of rewilding

Louise worked in the Rye Art Gallery about twenty years ago, soon after graduating from art college, where she met many of the talented artists around Rye. “Seeing their work, visiting their studios and getting to know them was wonderful, but it made me miss my own art practice terribly, so after a year I went back to university and undertook an MA in drawing at Camberwell College of Art. A few years later I have now come full circle and have a studio of my own in Rye at the Creative Centre”.

She has a textiles background and studied silk screen printing for her BA. She says “I think my work still reflects my love of pattern, but I also absolutely love drawing and painting, so I have developed work that happily combines these passions. After my MA I spent ten years teaching art in secondary schools. During this time I undertook a residency at Sissinghurst Castle Garden. This residency and my walks in nature led to an ever growing appreciation for the natural world, and as I became more aware of the destruction and demise of our ecosystems, my work shifted focus towards the concept of rewilding.

I read Isabella Tree’s wonderful book ‘Wilding’ and visited Knepp, the farm that she and her husband have given over to nature. I was incredibly moved by how quickly nature will repair and regenerate when it is given a chance but I was also struck by how limited these chances are becoming as humans encroach more and more onto the planet. I was fortunate to be given funding from Arts Council England to spend time researching and creating a new body of work based on rewilding. My current work revolves around this focus and I feel it carries more depth, resonance and personal meaning for me now.

The impact of Covid-19

Covid-19 has unfortunately had a bit of an impact on my work, mostly in terms of lost opportunities to exhibit as I was one of six artists, from Rye Creative Centre that were exhibiting together with a shared theme of appreciation and concern for the Earth. The exhibition was originally scheduled for May 2020 but we are hoping we will be able to rearrange the show next year.

I also had an exhibition in Tenterden in October that has sadly been cancelled. I normally run in person workshops and sell cards and prints through local shops, and both of those have suffered. Luckily, I was still able to have my walks in nature (I dreaded them being banned), so I continued to find inspiration in the natural world.

The featured image above is actually based on the kelp forests off the coast of East & West Sussex, so particularly local to Rye. This was made after I heard about the Sussex Wildlife Trust campaign, ‘Help our Kelp‘.

Where to buy Louise’s work

Louise has work available online via her website and she also has an Etsy shop where she sells cards, notebooks and a couple of smaller original pieces. Follow her too on Instagram.


Image Credits: Louise Pettifer .


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