CURIOUS cows peering over dry stone walls, two smiling Swaledale sheep greeting each other, a group of flat-capped farmers chatting at the mart - this is the world of artist Anna Tosney.

Anna, who grew up on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, brings her love of the landscape, its creatures and characters, to life through beautifully observed work.

Whether a flock of curlews wheeling in the wind, sheepdogs eyeing each other suspiciously, a pair of boxing hares or a lone tree against a winter sky, her artwork and prints embody the sights she has known since childhood.

Anna grew up in the Skipton area, living at first in Embsay, then Skipton itself, and later the village of Lothersdale.

A former pupil of Skipton Girls High School, she always wanted to be an artist and focused on art in the sixth form before taking an art foundation course at Bradford College.

She went on to study for a degree in fine art printmaking at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, graduating in 2000.

“I then deviated slightly from a career in printmaking when I took a masters degree in ceramics,” she says. “However, the appeal of printmaking was too strong - as a printmaker I love to express my close attachment to Yorkshire.”

For a few years, while teaching English in Spain and later Denmark, art and printmaking was something Anna did in her spare time.

During the summer holidays she exhibited her work, but as time went on, she harboured a longing to work full-time in the subject she had studied and had a passion for.

“I returned home in summer to exhibit work at Skipton’s ‘Art In The Pen’,” she says. “After a few years I felt I should use my degree more fully and make my hobby my career.

“I was also starting to feel homesick, missing the fresh Yorkshire air and sheep-filled hills.”

On returning to Skipton in 2011, she began to teach printmaking through the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) and selling work through art fairs and various galleries across Yorkshire.

She specialises in drypoint and monoprint techniques. “In drypoint a sharp steel tool is used to scratch directly into the surface of a printing plate - in my case plexiglass,” she explains. “A line is inscribed into the surface and a burr is pushed up, like the furrow of a ploughed field. The plate is inked up by rubbing thick printmaking ink into the lines. Then the surface is wiped clean, leaving ink only in the scratched lines and the burr. When put through a printing press, this gives a black velvety line.

“In monoprint - which is often confused with monotype - a single underlying image is used, such as an etched plate or a screen-print.

“In my case I use a drypoint plate. This is then made unique through the process of hand-colouring or surface alteration to the printed image. A series of monoprints may be similar but no two are ever the same.”

The animals and birds that inhabit this picturesque corner of England have long been a source of inspiration for Anna, who tried to capture their characteristics in her work.

“I remember being fascinating by wildlife and the countryside as a child and I feel privileged to have grown up in small Yorkshire villages where farming is part of life,” she says. “I have been drawing animals and birds since I was about four years of age.”

She adds: “I love little owls and try to bring out something of their apparent facial expressions - sometimes we see in animals hints of what we recognise from human emotions.

“The little owls look kind of serious, a bit annoyed perhaps. They are probably neither, these are our perceptions. I like to bring these perceptions to my work. Smiling sheep are a good example of this.”

She also draws heavily upon the Dales landscape, its lone barns, windblown trees and dry stone walls.

Dry stone walls play a large part in her work.

“At art fairs I am often asked: ‘Why is that wall green in colour?’ and I reply: ‘Because the best ones are.’ I love the colour and texture of lichen and moss and often use these in my work.”

Anna works mostly from memory and photographs but also out in the landscape. “While walking on the moors or through fields, I often see something that makes me smile,” she says. “Sometimes I am quick enough to get my camera out and take a photograph, but mostly these are transient events that I’m left with only the memory of.”

Sketching the design may be ongoing over a number of months or take as little as a few hours. Preparation of the plate takes several hours for a small plate, or a day or more for a larger design.

“It takes about an hour to produce each individual print from a plate,” she explains. “Once the paper - which is soaked at the start of the process - is damp you need to complete the print before it dries out again.”

Texture is an important aspect of her work. “In my drypoint/monoprints I create texture using rags or scrim, a coarse material. It’s very often the texture that helps give the work atmosphere.”

She also uses torn or crumpled-up paper or glue, and the white paint mixture gesso. “They play a major role in my working process.”

A typical day for Anna generally starts with an “inspirational walk” with her border collie Floss.

“After that it varies greatly depending on what is on my list of things to do - this could be anything from drawing new designs or making/printing plates to catching up on administration such as emails, applications and accounts. Sometimes there are art fairs/trails to prepare for and attend too. Every day is different.”

Anna hails from a creative family - an architect father, who was good at drawing and painting, and a mother who works with fabric and has a good eye for colour and design.

“I learned a lot from them and hopefully inherited a bit of their talent too,” she says. “My mum often helps me decide which pieces work well hanging together at art fairs and exhibitions. She has a good eye for that.”

Anna - who works from her studio in the centre of Skipton - exhibits her instantly recognisable prints across the UK and has sold work to customers as far away as Canada and New Zealand.

“I mainly exhibit in Yorkshire and the north of England, but have had work exhibited in Scotland and Wales too,” she says, adding that is rewarding to see her work so widely appreciated.

Anna holds workshops at her studio and elsewhere but is currently taking a break after giving birth to her first child Noah, now six months old.

“I am planning to get more dates in the calendar for this autumn,” she adds. “I hope to get back to work after maternity leave feeling refreshed and full of inspiration and new ideas.

“I’m quietly working on some new designs in my head and am looking forward to getting them drawn up on paper and eventually printed.

“I would also like to produce some slightly larger scale pieces and give myself some time to experiment with other media.”

l Anna’s studio is at Central Chambers, Otley Street (corner of High Street), Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 1DT

l Anna can be contacted through her website. For more information on studio opening times and future exhibitions visit