Triplets on triptychs: how membership inspires art

(From left) Rebekah, Rachel and Sarah with their finished triptych of Scotney Castle

Rachel, Rebekah and Sarah are 17-year-old triplets who paint as a trio and whose National Trust membership has helped inspire their work. In an interview with the National Trust Magazine, they share their experiences and describe the places they’ve painted, including the triptych of Scotney Castle they created for the 2016 Sky Landscape Artist of the Year competition.

When did your love of painting begin?

All three of us have always enjoyed art – Rebekah probably the most – but it wasn’t until our grandad started giving us art lessons when we were 13 that we started to paint seriously. We never thought we were any good until then, but the lessons gave us more confidence and then we started to paint together.

Our first piece as a trio was a mountain scene that we painted as a present for our family. We painted on one canvas together and did it three times as fast as we would have individually because we could swap when one of us got tired. An average piece now takes us about 25 hours.

This view over the moat to the ruin at Scotney Castle, Kent, inspired the girls' recent triptych painting
A view over the mote at Scotney Castle in summer

How has your National Trust membership inspired your art?

We’ve been members for as long as we can remember, and love walking around the houses and gardens and having picnics. In the lessons with our grandad we would sit outside at Trust places sketching, taking inspiration from the buildings as well as the trees and the landscapes. Looking at old paintings to get ideas for techniques gives us an energy boost. It makes us want to get back into the studio and start painting. We’ll take photos and sketch on the iPad while we’re there, and then try out different ideas back at home.

" We’ve been members for as long as we can remember, and love walking around the houses and gardens and having picnics... Last year we made a triptych of Scotney Castle in Kent – it was the first time we’d done three separate paintings that could be pieced together."
- Rachel, Rebekah and Sarah

Which places particularly inspire you?

The first Trust place we ever visited was Polesden Lacey in Surrey, and we go there often. Cragside in Northumberland is also one of our favourites – the way it’s built into the rocks, and all the waterfalls.

Last year we made a triptych of Scotney Castle in Kent – it was the first time we’d done three separate paintings that could be pieced together. We painted it for the Sky Landscape Artist of the Year competition. The reflections and the plants growing on and around the castle are so atmospheric.

Detail of the triplets' Scotney Caste triptych painting
Detail of the triplets' Scotney Caste triptych painting

Are there arguments when you work together?

At first it was difficult because art is quite personal and we each have our strengths.
Rachel is really good at plants and foliage, Sarah is best at skies and Rebekah prefers architecture. So we work out what we each want to do before we start, and come up with a plan that plays to our strengths and combines our styles.

It can be annoying if someone changes something that one of us has worked on in a certain way, but we always work through it. It’s normally quite peaceful, and fun to share ideas.

The Madonna of Humility by Francescuccio Ghissi

What is triptych art?  

Triptych is a Greek word meaning threefold. In painting, a triptych has a central panel with two hinged side panels. Tina Sitwell, the Trust’s paintings conservation adviser, says: 'Triptychs have often depicted religious scenes, from large ones in cathedrals to smaller devotional ones for the home. But they are not always religious – they can be used to convey any image in three parts such as Francis Bacon’s triptych of Three Studies of Lucian Freud.'