GREAT art is perhaps even more satisfying when it comes from a surprising place.

Barbara Peirson is perhaps best known as an actor who has appeared on stage all over the country as well as on television, and who also teaches at Essex University and is the artistic director of the campus’ Lakeside Theatre.

But it’s in a different creative medium Barbara is now picking up the plaudits for, her captivating paintings.

Currently on show at the Hayletts Gallery in Maldon, Barbara, who has lived in Wivenhoe for the last 25 years, tells me although she’s known for her acting, art has always been an important part of her life.

She says: “I’ve always loved it and when I left school I actually wanted to do art but a teacher told me I should apply for drama school and when I got a place, and knowing how fortunate I was to get a place, I did that instead.

“But I carried on the drawing, right through my studies, and it’s remained an important part of my life ever since. When you’re on tour there’s swathes of time sitting around and you’ll always see an actor do something whether that’s knitting or writing.

"For me it was drawing.”

After working with Willy Russell at Liverpool’s Everyman, touring the country in national tours, and eventually getting a regular part on the shortlived soap opera Albion Market ‘my husband and I ran a flower stall’, Barbara moved to Essex when her husband, the playwright Jonathan Lichtenstein, got a job at the university.

“I didn’t like Wivenhoe at first,” she admits, “but it grew on me very quickly and I must say I don’t think my painting would have developed the way it has without being here.

“Not only does it have an incredibly supportive network of other artists, galleries and workshops, the surrounding area is so inspiring.”

Barbara Peirson’s paintings can be seen at the Hayletts Gallery, High Street, Maldon, until June 9.

The gallery is open between 10am and 5pm, from Tuesdays to Saturdays.