Multi-talented and multi-faceted, Lesley Fotherby goes from strength to strength in expanding her range and increasing her popularity. She perpetually strives to capture the moving world around her, with fresh approaches and new appeal. Lesley Fotherby was born Lesley Dixon in Kingsbury, North London, on 24 June 1946, the daughter of an engineering draughtsman for Westrex and a hairdresser. She was educated at Roe Green Infant School (1951-57) and Copthall County Grammar School for Girls, Mill Hill (1957-64). Following a foundation course at Bath Academy of Art, at Corsham (1964-65), she studied fashion and textiles at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design, in Bromley, where she numbered Zandra Rhodes among her teachers (1965-68). Teacher training at Leicester Polytechnic (1968-69) prepared her to teach art at Hatters Lane County Secondary School for Girls in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire (1969-71).
While in High Wycombe, she met her future husband, fellow teacher, David Fotherby.
Following a move to Yorkshire in 1971, Lesley continued to teach, most notably at a school in Richmond. However, from 1977, she gave more time to painting, and in that year attended a course at West Dean College on botanical illustration. This proved a turning point in her work, particularly in her use of watercolour. Her botanical illustrations became regular contenders in the shows of the Royal Horticultural Society, achieving one silver and two silver-gilt medals in the early 1980s.
While exhibiting at the Chandler Gallery, Leyburn, in 1983, Lesley met Chris Beetles, who encouraged her to paint full time. And so, though she began intermittent adult art teaching with an evening class at a school in Wensleydale, she gave up school teaching. Lesley's increased focus and productivity led, in 1985, to 'Nature Through the Seasons', the first of many solo shows at the Chris Beetles Gallery, and one that helped establish her as a sensitive painter of subtle, atmospheric landscapes. In addition, she has also become a regular contributor to the gallery’s annual Summer Shows and Cat Shows.
In 1992, Lesley started painting dancers at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, then at several other dance schools, including the Central School of Dance, Northern Ballet and London City Ballet. Her interest in form and movement developed from this early figurative work, and continues to combine motion and spontaneity with an adeptness and fluidity of representation both in oil and watercolour – from the simple flurry of a line and the bleed of a wash, to her closely observed and richly perceived and perfected portrayals.
Also in 1992, Lesley wrote and illustrated The Cat Who Came to Stay, at an early stage on her way to becoming one of the country's most admired painters of cats. Subsequent publications have included Cats: Drawing and Painting in Watercolour (1993) and six books by Doreen Tovey, for which she provided the illustrations: Cats in May (1993), Cats in the Belfry (1993), Double Trouble (1994), The New Boy (1994), More Cats in the Belfry (1995) and The Coming of Saskia (1995).
Since her move to Little Eversden, in Cambridgeshire, in 2001, Lesley has been Artist-in-Residence with both the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra and the Lucy Cavendish Singers, while also continuing to paint dancers, particularly those of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Having long been established as a painter of landscapes, Lesley Fotherby began, in 2005, to capture the drama and beauty of the sea, again in both oil and watercolour. Together with her images of the countryside, dancers and cats, her seascapes reveal a continuing pleasure and passion for the movement and rhythms of the world around her.
Since 2006, Fotherby has held four exhibitions with the Chris Beetles Gallery: 'the Traditional and Spontaneous Eye' (2006), 'The World in Motion' (2011), 'Sunlight and Spotlight' (2014) and 'Walking with Nature, Dancing for Joy' (2016).
Two major shows are anticipated in 2019: one focussing on dance (in the summer) and the other showing the complete range of her art, including landscape, still life and cats (in the autumn).