- 14 April, 2021
When Alice isn’t guiding her blind husband to glory on the international ski racing scene: the husband and wife pairing were former double British Champions in the Slalom and Grande Slalom, the artist can be found in the more sedate setting, painting in the mountains.
Firstly, can you tell us whether you’re currently atop a mountain for our interview?
We’re currently back in our London flat, having spent over 3 months in the Alps. As soon as tier 4 was announced in London, we packed within an hour and drove to Dover with our ski kit and two cats, and spent our time until now in Switzerland.
Which came first: ski racing or mountain-scape painting?
Hmmm tough to know; they both kind of grew together organically! I’ve always drawn and painted, and always loved to ski (albeit badly), but it wasn’t until my 30s that we started taking ski racing and my mountain painting seriously.
Tell us why you made the decision to set up home in your van, ‘Louise’
Louise is epic! She’s a VW Crafter, and has been custom built for us. She’s a 4×4 (great for the mountains), has fantastic heating and can hold 12 pairs of skis – including some Super-G skis which are more than 2 metres long. We invested in her after our previous van, Thelma, was lost to rust. Having a van is financially so much better for us: we can follow the good snow, drive to our ski races across the continent, and take our cats with us too. She gives us the freedom we need and it’s fabulous to sleep in your own bed the night before an important race.
Can you describe what it’s like to be a ski racing guide for James?
It’s intense! Fortunately we’re still married, despite having the odd ‘discussion’ on the slopes. I have to ski faster than him for us to be competitive, so it’s a tough ask. And quite frightening when I realise I have 90kg following me down the slopes… I give him commands over our bluetooth comms; he tells me to speed up or slow down, and he follows my shoulders – the only bit he can see – down the race course.
Do you find that painting helps to bring a balance to that adrenaline-fuelled life?
Definitely. In fact this last season I even managed to escape James some days and do some painting up the mountains themselves (I normally have to paint once we’ve finished skiing as I need to concentrate on keeping James alive when up the mountains!) I tend to stop and appreciate the landscape when I’m on a chairlift, or stopped to chat to our coach, and take numerous photographs while I’m skiing so I can use them for reference afterwards. I can then chill in the evenings and draw or paint – it’s a nice way to unwind and to soothe the body and soul after an energetic day on skis.
What is it about the mountains that inspires your art?
I think it’s a range of things… their beauty, their sheer size and how solid they are, how the light always makes the colour of the snow change minute to minute, how rugged and threatening they look, but also how calm I feel when I’m in them, and the sense of perspective I get on life in general when I’m in them. I want to try and capture some of the joy and magnificence in paint, for others.
How do you hope your paintings inspire others?
I really hope that my paintings give a sense of respite from our busy, chaotic daily lives. I want my collectors to feel a sense of peace, of calm and that sense of perspective when looking at my paintings. I want to give a brief escape and allow my collectors to dream. I think that’s why I paint such blue skies so much – I want to share the happiness I feel in the mountains.
What was your favourite thing to do in lockdown?
I also have a day job as an NHS analyst, so lockdown has always been very busy for me… either working on data, painting or (fortunately!) skiing. I’m so so lucky that we managed to ski – so I’ll have to say that!
What can we look forward to at your exhibition for this year’s Artist’s Open House?
A new collection of paintings inspired by my time away in the Swiss Alps – I’m even going to bring in some more colour to the canvases which is exciting! I’m also going to be repeating my ‘pay what you want’ studio sale of my earlier pieces, so keep your eyes peeled! All proceeds from my art go to supporting our ski racing career (we’re currently unfunded).
What are you planning for the future in terms of your art and ski- racing with James?
My ultimate dream is to live in the mountains with our cats, selling original paintings of the mountains and ski racing for Great Britain. In terms of my art, I want to bring joy to as many people as I can through my original pieces. And in terms of ski racing… we’re currently 19th in the world, and so are working towards World Cup races, World Championships and the 2026 Winter Paralympics. Watch this space!!
Alice is exhibiting her paintings online at Artists’ Open House.