Born in 1962, Isla studied Art and Art History at the Edinburgh College of Art and EdinburghUniversity, graduating with an MA Hons in Fine Art in 1985.
From 1986 to 1992 Isla was a lecturer in colleges in Scotland, London and the Southeast, and she has also worked as freelance exhibitions assistant and researcher and has written and published several books.
In her own words: “I aim to record the essence of what confronts my senses in the presence of nature at its most elemental. Sketching and documenting my subject and committing my observations to memory, I return to a pared down approach back in the studio environment.
Through my improvised and sustained engagement with materials and mark-making I try to convey the sheer physicality of my original experience and a sense also of the monumental and furtive in nature. I am interested in the way that the sweep and intensity of landscape can be evoked through an engagement with paint, its propensity to spread and settle into pools, to splatter when poured, and to run in unpredictable ways. Taking risks – allowing one colour to run into another, brushing over entire areas and then sponging out to retain only trace elements of what is below – is central to my work.
I usually work on the floor of the studio with sketches and colour notes scattered around me. Rather than follow some preordained plan I prefer to improvise – the main lines of an image can be established by letting paint run across the page.”
Isla has had her work in exhibitions across the country and was elected to the Royal Watercolour Society in 1993.