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Alexandra Woods: Ski instructor and professional artist, illustrator and designer

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If you’ve skied with ES in Verbier before, you may well have been taught by Alexandra Woods. Having spent around eight years on and off in Verbier, she’s not only an incredibly talented ski instructor but also a professional artist. You might recognise her unique paintings of farm animals or her beautiful illustrations. We had a chat with her to find out a bit more about her work.

Hi Alexandra! Tell us a little bit about your background as an artist?

From as early as I can remember, I have always had a passion for colour and exploring creative processes such as drawing, painting, designing and making. As a young girl, during school holidays on rainy days, I could be found drawing and painting at the kitchen table with my grandfather. I was inspired to embark on a painting career after I inherited a large box of oil paints from him. I also enjoy the visual puzzle solving of creating illustrations and pattern designs. This led me to embark upon and successfully gain a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in textile design and illustration respectively.

When did you start painting / illustrating full-time and how did it come about?

As a practising artist, illustrator and designer, I have been selling my work since 2004 and continue to undertake commissions and exhibit my pieces both nationally and internationally. Prior to this, I worked on a freelance basis creating specialist paint finishes and murals for interior design companies and domestic clients.

Alexandra Woods

Alexandra this winter. Photo: Julian Griffiths

You illustrate as well as paint, how do these two media compliment each other? Do you have a preferred one?

For my paintings, I generally work on a large scale with oil paints and I create these in response to my own brief for exhibitions as well as client commissions. I am fascinated by colour and enjoy the process of mixing colours to represent the ones that I see. I enjoy the physical nature of applying the paint on a large scale. My illustration work is generally on a much smaller scale and I like to experiment with a combination of hand rendered and digital methods. I am particularly drawn to editorial illustration where I visualise a piece of text for a magazine. Combining illustration and fine art painting satisfies my curiosity in exploring a variety of methods and materials. For me, the two compliment each other well.

Alexandra Woods Alpine Logo

An Alpine logo design by Alexandra.

What is it that drew you to farm animals specifically?

My love of art and the countryside became intertwined at a time when farming was facing a crisis. Touched by the publicity and vulnerability of cows during the BSE and Foot and Mouth crises, I started observing these bovine beauties at Petersham Meadows in Richmond Upon Thames for drawings and paintings. From this initial encounter my interest in sound animal husbandry and the countryside has continued. I always record my observations on site, meeting the animals and studying their individual characters amongst the herd. I aim to capture the essence of their spirit and promote the individual within the herd with a view to greater consideration and understanding of our colourful world. Impressed by the farmers’ abilities to remember all of the individuals’ names within their herds, I ensure that all of my work is suitably named. I have always been interested in animal welfare stemming from my early childhood, when I was fortunate to grow up in a small village in the Cotswolds. I had the chance to see and learn about animals at close hand.

Do you have any favourite pieces? And if you do, why?

I don’t have a favourite piece. All of my paintings provide reminders of certain places and particular characters. Some pieces come together more immediately in terms of capturing the essence of the animal’s character and the placement of colour.

Genepi Alexandra Woods

Genepi – A Swiss Heren Cow

Tell us a bit about your Swiss cow paintings!

During visits to the ‘Combat Des Reines’ cow competitions hosted in the Swiss Canton of Valais, the powerful heads, soulful eyes and glistening coats of the participating breed of Heren cows inspired paintings such as Eva, Genepi and Heidi. During the summer months, I have seen these cows grazing high on the mountains above Verbier.

How do you fit skiing around your work as an artist? Do the two things compliment each other well?

Sport and art are equally important to me, so skiing and working as an artist compliment each other well. The warmer summer months allow more sedentary time outside recording my observations of animals and scenery, which means that I can create a collection of pieces to be exhibited during the winter months. I have been fortunate in being able to combine ski teaching with my practice as an artist.

Heidi Alexandra Woods

Heidi – Another of Alexandra’s Heren cows

How did you get into teaching skiing?

The challenge of negotiating and responding quickly to varied terrain combined with the escapism of being fully immersed in the physical activity gives me enjoyment and a sense of achievement. Even better when sharing these moments with others. I have taught art and design for a number of years and I wanted to also share my passion for skiing and the enjoyment of guiding others to achieve.

What’s your favourite thing about Verbier?

The Alpine scenery with stunning bird’s eye views from Mont Fort. I will always remember seeing sun halos, circular rainbows around the sun, with sparkling crystals in the air on a crisp cold morning skiing in Bruson. I have skied in France and Austria as well as Switzerland but Verbier offers such a range of ski terrain from bumps, powder to freshly groomed tracks.

Thanks Alexandra! To view more of Alexandra’s amazing work, visit her website, where you can find out more about what she does and check out her shop.

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Alexandra Woods: Ski instructor and artist, illustrator and designer
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Alexandra Woods: Ski instructor and artist, illustrator and designer
We chat to Alexandra Woods, ES ski instructor and professional artist, about her artwork and her love for the mountains.
European Snowsport