Friday, 22 October 2021

Travelling teacher inspired by winter

AN art teacher who went part-time to concentrate on her painting is hosting an exhibition of

AN art teacher who went part-time to concentrate on her painting is hosting an exhibition of her work in Henley.

Francesca Chalmers will stage an open view at the Old Fire Station Gallery tonight (Friday) during the Christmas Festival before tomorrow’s official opening.

She is head of art at a preparatory school in London and 18 months ago decided to work a three-day week to focus on her painting.

Francesca, who lives in Greys Road and previously worked at Rupert House School in Henley, is inspired by her years living in Oxfordshire and abroad.

Her love of mountains and snow stemmed from her years living in Poland, France, Switzerland and Italy.

She also spends her summers in Cornwall which has spawned her Cornish collection.

There will be an array of Henley river scenes, bluebell woods and flower meadows in addition to some warming summery Cornish coastline views and some wintry Alpine scenes.

Francesca paints landscapes and seascapes in oils. The texture of her paintings and strong tones show the feelings and emotions she has for the landscape.

She uses vibrant upbeat colours and rich hues, coupled with her love of texture and free flowing brush strokes to create eye-catching pieces with movement and depth, using light and reflection.

She said: “I try to create windows with a view to put on a wall which has no windows and transport people to the places that I love.

“Landscapes are what I enjoy doing most, I love the way that they change all the time with the slightest change in light or wind direction — they never look the same twice.”

Francesca settled in Henley 12 years ago as she followed her passion for rowing. She was a gold medallist at the national championships, a Cambridge Blue and rowed at Henley Women’s Regatta.

She is a former member of Upper Thames Rowing Club and now sculls out of Phyllis Court Club. Francesca starts off her paintings by taking photographs of the views and places that she likes.

“I also do some preliminary sketches in pencil or sometimes an oil pastel sketch. I do also like to take videos because movement comes across better than in an image. I use it to remind me of the sounds I heard when I was on location, as it helps remind me of how I feel about a place although most of the views I paint are etched in my head from so many visits at different times of year.”

Francesca’s favourite things to paint are wintry scenes because she loves using light. “When we had all the snow in Henley a couple of years ago it was so spectacular,” she said. “I was out there taking pictures and started painting Henley in the snow.

“My picture of Henley Bridge came from lots of photographs that I had taken. I drive over it pretty much every day and I am always looking for new angles.”

Francesca studied Art in Florence and at Cambridge University and picked up her passion for educating children.

She said: “It is so wonderful to see the pride on the face of a child who has just created something way beyond what they believed themselves capable of.”

Francesca also runs workshops for children in fine art techniques as well as craft workshops for both adults and children.

The exhibition, her fourth at the Old Fire Station Gallery, will open from 7pm tonight, when the tree in Market Place will be lit. It will then run daily from 10am to 4pm from tomorrow (Saturday) to Tuesday, December 8. For more information, visit

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