5 Minutes with Riga Forbes


One of our valued artists, Riga Forbes, provides us insight into her moody, dreamy landscapes. Despite the dark elements of Forbes’ landscapes, she captures the playful nature of light, which is evocative of Monet’s Haystacks. Riga discusses her inspirations, creative drive, and recent successes.

Where do you find your inspiration and creative drive?

My artistic practice is painting the land, sky, and sea, which I love ferociously. For me, being in nature is an experience of deep connection, I suppose it’s an ordinary yet spiritual sense of connection. Whether it’s raining, howling a gale, or serene sunshine outside, some internal part of me feels right at home in the elements. As though I am intrinsically part of it all, and it’s part of me.

Creatively, I am inspired most of all by exploring nature’s transient and dramatic moments through my work, like the distant passing of light rays through clouds on a dark day, or evening light on the sea, or trying to capture the gentleness or pure force of a waterfall.  Articulating these qualities in paint helps me to express the complexity of feelings inside me and enables me to create a visual space for that nature-connection in my studio. I want the viewer to be able to access this sense of connection too.

I usually find inspiration when walking, especially when daylight is fading. If I can, I will sit and sketch, or take photographs of what I see.  Sometimes I find photographs and use them as a starting point for my images. I am very happy working in the studio, but I believe that a landscape painting often comes to life through my lived experience of being in that place first. Then working in the studio becomes a process of reliving my experience, as it is painted.

How has your career changed over the last six months?

In the last year I’ve started receiving commissions for paintings, which is exciting. Being asked to exhibit at the Florence Biennale 2021 has also been a big shift for me and has taken a lot of dedication to prepare for. As a UK national, exhibiting one’s artwork in Europe, post-Brexit, is a project unto itself. There is so much paperwork and figuring out the implications and practicalities of importing art temporarily to and from Europe. But I think I am finally ready and am so excited about going to Florence again having not seen it for more than 30 years… and this time as a participating artist, amidst the rich and wonderful historic art-culture there.

What do you find the most rewarding part of being an artist?

For me, the most rewarding part of making Art is the ecstatic sense of ‘flow’ that I often have when I’m in the painting process. It is my home ground where I feel very much in my ‘self’, even when I am facing creative or personal challenges. I also get so much from the enjoyment that others receive from my paintings. I feel that the cycle of Art making is ultimately fulfilled when the works are really received by the viewer.

What advice would you give to early-career artists?

Any artist who is just starting out in their career is taking a courageous step. I would say acknowledge your courage and disregard self-criticism, or any negative judgement or rejection from anyone else. Just follow your heart and soul and go for it!

I find these final words from a poem by David Whyte very helpful if I ever get stuck:

“You are not an accident,

You were invited from another greater right,

Now… what urgency calls you to your one Love?”

The VAA support artists with the most relevant information and resources. Through them I have learned so much about becoming more visible as an artist, through social media, networking and getting organised at a practical level. They frequently look for feedback in order to keep refining everything that they offer. They’re so welcoming, and they cultivate this warm sense of community among their members. I have really benefited professionally from their services and mentoring and can only recommend them.