THE ALERT face of a terrier, turning to one side, its ears slightly pricked.

A cat, curled the way only cats do, its back legs and tail neatly parcelled.

Standing to attention, a bug-eyed hare, on the lookout for predators.

Gillian Gilroy’s line drawings are sharply observed, capturing the very essence of her chosen subjects.

The talented artist does not confine herself to animals. Her fluid strokes of the pen bring forth landscapes - she has executed a simple, yet striking image of Ilkley’s Cow and Calf Rocks - as well as still life drawings and urban scenes such as the messy back of a terraced row of houses with drainpipes, guttering and extractors.

Many of her works are executed as a continuous line - the result of a keen eye and skilled hand.

Gillian grew up in Ilkley where she went to school. Her art teachers played an important role in developing her love of the subject. “As a young girl I had very little self-confidence but my art teacher at middle school really helped to build my self-belief and my love of art flourished,” she recalls. “During my GCSE and A-level years the art teachers at Ilkley Grammar School were very supportive and nurturing, confirming that I might have an artistic future.”

She went on to study at Bradford College of Art, taking a foundation course in the subject.

“I absolutely loved it,” she says. “I particularly enjoyed painting and printmaking which I went on to study at university. During these years I was able to discover and practice different techniques and identify and have faith in my own style and way of working.”

After college Gillian spent time in Australia, then, returning to Yorkshire, she worked at the Terrace Gallery at Harewood House and The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds before starting a family.

Her passion for art took a back seat when she became a mother and devoted her energies to raising two sons.

“It was reignited when I chanced upon a life drawing class in Ilkley and realised all over again just how important art was to my life,” she says, adding that she did not think at that point that art was something from which she would make a living.

“I always loved drawing and the fact that I was good at something gave me confidence, I was

always drawing only for myself, with no expectation that anyone else would be at all interested.”

It was while helping with Ilkley’s first art trail in 2011 that Gillian thought that others may enjoy seeing what she could do.

“I thought about drawings of my own that I could show, and at the following year’s trail I exhibited for the first time since college. It was fantastic to sell one continuous line drawing of a pineapple to a very happy customer, and at the same time receive lots of positive feedback.”

She adds: “I love the simplicity of line drawing, it has taken a lot of looking and practice to be able to capture something and make it recognisable with the fewest marks.

“I prefer not to sketch out my subjects but to go straight in with a pen on a blank sheet of paper. This increases the spontaneity of the work and introduces the element of risk that one wrong mark can result in me having to start over.

“I particularly relish the challenge of using a continuous line, so each piece has its origins in the

first contact between pen and paper; and that contact is not lost until the final work is complete.”

Gillian works from a studio in the basement of her Ilkley home. “It’s a very short commute,” she laughs.”

During Ilkley Arts Trail she opens her studio to visitors, and hopes to take part in similar events in the future.

She draws anything that grabs her attention. “If I'm sitting on a train or am out on a walk I will always bring out my sketchbook, drawing everything - people, landscapes, houses.”

Animals are a favourite, especially dogs. “I have a border terrier called Dotty

who is a regular sitter of mine,” she says. “The challenge is to capture the animal’s character with a few lines. I usually concentrate on the head, particularly the eyes. I love it when I've drawn someone's dog and they can ‘see’ their dog, not just any dog.”

She also loves capturing landscapes, in particular those close to her home. “Drawing for me seems to be a spontaneous approach to reconnect with nature. It's so easy to take landscapes for granted, particularly as I've lived amongst the beauty of Ilkley all my life, but lingering and focusing on the landscape is inspiring, calming and beautiful.

“The Cow and Calf in particular seems to entice me back to the drawing board time and time again. I never tire of looking at it and trying to capture this iconic local landmark.”

She sketches in plein air, but also takes photos while out with Dotty. “She allows me little time to stop and stare,” she laughs. “Quick sketches and photos are a great resource to take back to my studio and allow more time for reflection, study and reimagining.”

Her days always starts with a coffee, then, when the children have gone to school, she walks Dotty and plans the day.

“I spend the hours listening to the radio, immersed in whatever I'm doing - it could be drawing,

painting or printmaking. I break off to walk the dog and clean up for the children's return home.”

A drawing can take as little as 15 minutes or as long as 15 hours.

“A continuous line drawing is like arranging a piece of fine string on the paper. It always feels like it is going to unravel at any moment,” she says.

“I could capture what I want first time or after numerous attempts. I always do a few drawings, not quite knowing what I'm looking for, and quite often go back to the first drawing as it was the freshest.”

Gillian began making prints on her foundation course. “There is something about printing which is uncertain, uncontrollable and unpredictable. After all the intricate, detailed and painstaking

preparations I always look forward to the end result, sometimes with anxious trepidation. I particularly love monoprinting with its straightforward simplicity of line - it captures my style of drawing.”

Gillian combines her art with work in a local primary school. “I work in the school office, and also in early years as a teaching assistant, and I help run an after-school art club. I am also really pleased to have been trained as a practitioner in a therapeutic technique called ‘Drawing and Talking’. It can often be easier for a child to help express a challenge or problem they may be facing through a drawing than to talk to an adult about it. I love that drawing can help children in this way.”

She adds: “All of my roles use my creativity in different ways - my main aim is to encourage children to express their creativity to inspire confidence in other areas.”

Gillian has been encouraged by her family who live close by. “I am very lucky in that my family live in and around Ilkley and are incredibly supportive of my work My mum and dad, in particular, own a lot of my art - I'm sure they're not biased in any way,” she laughs.

She feels a sense of pride when she sees her drawings on show in events such as Ilkley Art Trail.

“It makes me feel very proud and reassured when people appreciate my work, and I'm so very

pleased every time someone likes a drawing enough to buy it.”

With a permanent exhibition in local pub Ilkley Moor Vaults - where she also had a joint exhibition with fellow local artist Aneeta Seshan - the future looks rosy for Gillian.

She exhibited at Ilkley Christmas Art and Gift Fair at Ilkley Manor House last year, and will be at the event again this year.

“I plan to have more open studio events and hope to be involved in the newly launched Ilkley Arts Hub in the Manor House. I will hopefully have more commissions to draw dogs and houses, and I plan to launch my own website.”

Gillian is also pleased to be listed on the and the Ilkley Arts trail website. Visit;;

*Ilkley Arts Christmas Art and Gift Fair, Ilkley Manor House, Castle Yard, Ilkley, is open from Friday November 30 - late night 6pm to 8pm - and then on December 1 and 2 from 10am to 5pm.