Riverside Café Gallery – q&a with Felice Hardy, Joe Wilson, John Atkinson & Penny Fleet

Riverside Café Gallery – q&a with Felice Hardy, Joe Wilson, John Atkinson & Penny Fleet

The Riverside Café Gallery is delighted to bring together four local artists for A Sense of Place, an exhibition exploring the relationship between an artist and the landscape around them. The exhibition which features the work of painters Felice Hardy and Penny Fleet, as well as photographers John Atkinson and Joe Wilson, has be curated to demonstrate the contrast between mediums and an artist’s perspective as they each attempt to capture the sense of a certain place. We spoke to the artists to find out more about their individual practices and the work they produce. 

Felice Hardy - Alpine Flower Meadow

Felice Hardy – Alpine Flower Meadow


What are you working on at the moment and where do you find ideas for your work? 

Felice Hardy: I am a travel writer so my inspiration comes from my travels around the world. My most recent journey was to Limoges in France.

Joe Wilson: This is one of two exhibitions I have set up for this year, the other being in my home town of Alton that will feature photos from the town.

John Atkinson: A project which gathers together a range of Farnham-related images, both from the town and the surrounding countryside. No shortage of ideas…

Penny Fleet: I am starting to work on some new paintings and collages for a Contemporary Art Fair in Brighton in October. I am using big bold and colourful bunches of flowers such as dahlias, daisies, peonies, lupins and roses so will be visiting lots of gardens, florists and flower markets over the next few weeks. My ideas come from getting out and about, then recording ideas in my sketchbook, taking endless photos and working out interesting colour palettes.

What medium do you use in your practice and why?

Felice Hardy: I use a combination of acrylic paints, ink, pen, pencil, oil pastel and paper collage and a variety of tools such as spatulas, rollers and card to make my pictures. I love to experiment with these tools and materials to create interesting and unpredictable colours, patterns and textures.

Joe Wilson: I use Digital and Film photography in my work, and use a few different DSIR’s and CIR’s to take photos. I use still use film as I like the effect it gives and combine it with digital to get all round good results.

John Atkinson: Currently digital photography though for many years I used self-processed film. I’m also interested in cyanotypes and, as an ex-chemistry teacher, enjoy creating these from scratch.

Penny Fleet: Water-based oils is my favourite medium because they dry more quickly than traditional oil paints. I occasionally use acrylics and I enjoy experimenting with print-making – such as silk screen, monoprint and etching.

Joe Wilson - Chantry Wood

Joe Wilson – Chantry Wood

What motivates you to make work, who do you believe has influenced your career and inspired you to start?

Felice Hardy: I went to art college after school, where I completed a foundation course, followed by a three-year course in Illustration.

Joe Wilson: Seeing the beautiful landscapes around me, and the plants in different seasons inspires me to take photos. The biggest influence I have had is my old photography lecturer, PJ.

John Atkinson: Although my current work is in colour, I’m very attracted by the work of some of the great twentieth century b/w photographers, especially the likes of Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Bailey, Robert Doisneau.

Penny Fleet: I am inspired by many things, but ultimately by nature and my surroundings wherever I am. I took a 1 year Art Foundation course in 1981 which was exciting and very creative. We were encouraged to work on a large scale and to experiment with and explore a huge range of materials and techniques. We pushed ourselves and our boundaries so nothing was off limits, I realised then that I can do this and that anything is possible. My textile degree reinforced this love of experimenting with different materials.

If you could name one, what is your favourite piece of work you have created, and why?

Felice Hardy: Puglia Sea which I painted on a short break to Polignano A Mare in southern Italy with my daughter after she’d finished her final year’s exams at university. It was such a gorgeous and unspoilt place – looking at my painting takes me back there.

Joe Wilson: My first proper photo, which was taken at Lake Taupo in New Zealand.

John Atkinson: The latest set of images – for a while

Penny Fleet: There is one painting I did of a bunch of Autumnal flowers I was given from a good friend’s wedding. I did it very quickly one afternoon with no planning as the flowers were fading fast, so it was very spontaneous. Somehow, I managed to achieve a good balance of rich Autumnal colour, and a good mix of paint and collage without even thinking about it. It is not for sale as it reminds me of a special day but so many people have liked it I have produced a few versions of it.

John Atkinson - Frensham Common – Ridge Between Ponds

John Atkinson – Frensham Common – Ridge Between Ponds

If you can name one, what is your proudest achievement?

Felice Hardy: Watching my three children grow up to become wonderful adults.

Joe Wilson: Overcoming a serious head injury in 2011, when I was 15, left me in a coma and having to learn to walk and talk again.

John Atkinson: Passing on my interest in photography to others, some of whom now make a living from it.

Penny Fleet: My proudest achievement was when I sold a painting in a gallery and was told it was being shipped to Sri Lanka where the buyer lived as it filled her with joy, made her smile and reminded her of an English country summer.

What is the most indispensable item in your studio?

Felice Hardy: My two dogs! They have modelled for me quite a few times.

Joe Wilson: My DSLR (Sony A68.)

John Atkinson: I work with two cameras. A Canon 5D (with a 100-300 lens) is heavy and solid but allows very effective composition in camera. Also a Sony RX1R, which is tiny and inconspicuous but creates a very large file. This gives lots of post-production composition choices.

Penny Fleet: Probably my camera as I use it for my inspiration and to record my work in progress and finished work. I am rarely without this. And also my sketchbooks – they record all my ideas, my thoughts and plans.

Penny Fleet - Cornish Light

Penny Fleet – Cornish Light

Where is your favourite place to see art? 

Felice Hardy: Everywhere: it’s not necessarily in art galleries and sometimes you’ll find it in the most unexpected places.

Joe Wilson: North East Scotland, near Aberdeen, where my Grandad used to live.

John Atkinson: The Print Room of the V and A (for photos) or the Frick Collection in NY City.

Penny Fleet: I enjoy finding galleries everywhere I visit, and love to see local art and enjoy stumbling across something unexpected. I ‘see’ art everywhere in buildings, towns and countryside. Some of my favourite galleries are in St Ives, Cornwall.


A Sense of Place is on display until 19th July 2019 in the Riverside Café Gallery during the café’s opening times.

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