From lawyer to rural artist: Why the British countryside is an inspiration

Both wild and serene, with its rolling hills, stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife, the great British countryside is a source of inspiration and joy to many. Farmers Guide deputy editor Sarah Kidby spoke to lawyer-turned-artist Nicola Evans about her rural-inspired work.

Watercolour of a green tractor by Nicola Evans, with a wheat sheaf laid across one corner

© Nicola Evans.

Despite training as a lawyer and working in the commercial in-house sector for an international company for 10 years, Nicola Evans had always loved to draw. She continued to take commissions of people’s children and pets while working as a lawyer, before going on to study with renowned equestrian and traditional portrait atelier, Nichola Eddery after starting a family.

Nicola is now a full-time artist, taking inspiration from her home in the Mearns, northeastern Scotland, as well as her young son Finn, who cherishes an ambition to become a farmer.

Black and white photo of artist Nicola Evans stood against a brick wall - with long wavy hair, dress, denim jacket and a black hat.

Nicola Evans.

“We are surrounded by beautiful countryside,” she says. “It is also very agricultural in the Mearns and there are so many sources of inspiration, from the landscape of the mountains, rivers and beaches to the lovely wildlife.”

She adds: “The light constantly changes on the mountains that we are lucky enough to see from our steading and that is very special.”

Many people in the area have horses, so Nicola has had a number of commissions to draw polo horses and Shetland ponies – she also incorporates local birdlife into her work, including Indian runner ducks and the pheasants that are in abundance in the area.

Inspired by Finn

Nicola recently completed a landscape collection in pastel and acrylic, as well as a commission of a tractor in watercolour for a local farmer. She is now working on a new monochromatic equine collection and a Homestead card collection inspired by her son Finn, who loves gardening and growing vegetables.

“From garden tools, plant pots and vegetables to chickens, ducks and wildflowers, I hope it reflects a love of rural life and a desire to go back to a simpler, more self-sufficient life,” she comments.

Finn has also been inspired by their rural home and has ambitions to become a farmer – prompting him to reach out to Farmer Tom for advice on social media during the pandemic. Nine years old at the time, Finn was inundated by advice from farmers on how to get into the industry.

Responding by video, Farmer Tom advised Finn to be “curious” as it is “one of the most important skills and characteristics for a farmer”.

Challenges and rewards

Commenting on her preferred styles of drawing, Nicola says: “I tend to prefer more traditional portraiture. I love the softness achieved with sanguine (a traditional red chalk pencil used in many old Master drawings) which I have used in several portraits.

“I also enjoy working with charcoal for children’s portraits and coloured pencil for animal portraiture, as the layers that can be achieved can create some nice realism. I find that soft pastel is a really lovely medium for landscapes.”

On the left, a painting of a Jersey cow's head, and on the right a black horse looking down, on a black background.

© Nicola Evans.

Whilst it’s difficult to choose a favourite commission, and each project brings with it a learning curve, a portrait she completed of the American racehorse Tapit was a particular favourite, drawn as a birthday gift.

“I love animals and horses are always so graceful. I’ve also loved some studies I’ve done of cows. Wildflowers are nice to sketch and I love drawing children,” she continues.

One of the biggest challenges of her work is not the art, but managing social media. “It can be both a motivation and a drawback as it is tempting to post too often but I’m learning less is more,” she says. “That said, technology is a wonderful way of reaching a wider audience.

“The biggest reward is when someone sees the picture they have asked for or been given as a surprise gift by their family – it really is lovely.”

Nicola accepts commissions nationwide and internationally. To see more of her work or to enquire about a commission visit:

Watercolour of a blue tractor.

© Nicola Evans.

Painting of a rural scene

© Nicola Evans.

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