THE Blue Tree Gallery's exhibition of paintings on the theme of Vitality opens on Saturday with a preview from 2pm to 4pm with Prosecco and chocolates.

On show at the gallery in Bootham, York, until September 22 will be original works by Neil McBride, Stephen Heward and Claire West, three artists of contrasting styles but each with a love of vigorous painting techniques.

Doncaster-born Neil McBride, who exhibits in galleries throughout Yorkshire, is influenced by myriad artists, from abstract expressionists Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock to figurative painters Francis Bacon and J M W Turner and colourists Howard Hodgkin and Claude Monet.

He continues to develop his distinctive paintings featuring crowds of people in landscapes that allow him to cross over from the figurative to the semi-abstract, mono to colour and back again without any loss of spontaneity.

York Press:

Sennen Late, acrylic, by Stephen Heward 

Traditional painting techniques and methods are employed but the paintings often begin without any pre-conceived idea of an event or narrative, much like the way many writers allow a novel to evolve on the fly. "This helps to maintain a level of intrigue and excitement with every piece," he reasons. "The crowds are designed to act as triggers to the viewer’s own imagination, often resulting in lively discussions about the narrative content and events portrayed in the paintings."

Stephen Heward's paintings are an "evolving dialogue with the elements that celebrate the experience of being part of the landscape, often at the edge of daylight". He combines a loose and spontaneous painting technique with a deep understanding of the landscape from a lifetime of close observation.

For more than 30 years, Heward has studied landscapes and skies all over the world as a landscape architect, then as a pilot and painter. Inspired by the solitude of the sky and the desert, an empty beach or stretch of moorland, most of his work is a response driven by memory and the emotional experience of the landscape, charged by his connection to the ever-changing light and weather of the northern British landscape.

His work lies somewhere between figuration and abstraction and is concerned primarily with the visual pleasure provided by the interplay of marks, colours, textures and forms. For each painting, he works instinctively and directly on to the canvas without preparatory studies or much conscious thought, using brush, knife and hands.

York Press:

Beach Buddies, acrylic, by Claire West 

Claire West describes herself as "a painter who paints because it makes me happy and I hope that it does the same for the viewer". "I have a strong belief in the power of colour therapy in uplifting the spirit," she says. "I love colour and enjoy exploring its contrasts and its vibrant and intense nature.

"In working in colour, I like using colours that are often believed to not work together; in doing this I hope to break down the boundaries of what we should do and explore the freedom that is so often lost in art when we are no longer children."

Claire, whose artwork has appeared in the television series The I T Crowd, Life Of Riley and EastEnders. usually works on canvas in acrylic and inks, producing textured work through layers of paint and random dripping of inks. "As the painting develops, I will discover happy accidents that have evolved and help to form the finished painting, often dictating where detail will happen."

The Blue Tree Gallery, Bootham, York, is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm.