Barbara Macfarlane works quickly and energetically. The approach comes across in a recent series of paintings made from old maps of London and New York.

“How you feel comes across in your paintings,” she says.

“People walk into my studio and say they can see the energy in the colours.”

The Sussex-based landscape painter has filled a small collection running at Arundel’s Zimmer Stewart Gallery until June 29 with zesty reds made with thick oils of high pigment.

She says the colours are so vibrant thanks to the rich materials.

Another important factor is the handmade paper from India.

Macfarlane works on metre by metre and a half frames which she imports through a company and mill, Khadi Papers, she set up with her husband in 1994.

“By doing it ourselves we get exactly the paper we want.”

The paper is made from recycled cotton rags, the off-cuts of T-shirts which are bought by the factory and pulped to make paper from pure cotton.

“It gives a beautiful texture. And because I have always painted and sketched with watercolours – and when you paint with that you leave empty space because it is all about letting the paper speak – I use the same method on big sheets and leave a lot of empty space, thus the paper is as important as the empty spaces.”

Macfarlane has painted for more than 30 years. She has concentrated on landscapes, including the South Downs and area around Chichester – Kingly Vale, Cobnor, East Head, the Witterings – and the Isle of Skye.

“The wild sea is a beautiful colour up there and I love dramatic landscapes. I don’t like anything too cosy and soft.”

She still uses techniques she learned as a student at art school in Exeter and draws with ink and a stick. It was a handy way to make marks when she first began to paint and worked outside.

“I carried on painting in that way and by doing so the marks that I make on the landscapes or maps are quite irregular and random.

“It stops me from being too precise and the marks start a life of their own for the painting.”

Macfarlane first began to work from maps for an exhibition put together by her London representative, Rebecca Hossack, to commemorate the Olympics and the Jubilee.

She put three large works into the show based on a map from 1588 by William Smith with London as a panorama.

“It showed the buildings in a three-dimensional way, with all the spires and churches. Although it was a beautiful map, I couldn’t carry on doing it. It wasn’t leading me anywhere.”

So she began to look at other maps. After working from antique maps from the 18th and 19th centuries, she found Edward Weller’s Red Central London map from 1863.

“You can see all the little shapes of the roads, the dead ends, the twists and the turns and you have this beautiful sweep of the river running through.”

Only last week one of Macfarlane’s Red London series was accepted into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

“It’s a huge honour to be chosen. Lots of people love maps and those streets of Manhattan and London are so iconic.”

She branched out and painted Manhattan’s grid system ahead of a show in New York in November.

The High Line (New York) follows the public park built on an old freight-rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.

“Even with all the straight lines, the paintings are as crazy as the others.”

The painting will feature in the small show opening as part of Zimmer Stewart Gallery’s tenth anniversary celebrations.

Owner James Stewart has asked all the artists he has represented in his ten years to take a month each during 2013 to display new work.

Macfarlane and Felix Anaut (exhibiting in October) have both been with Stewart since 2003.

“Through a combination of luck and fantastic support from both artists and collectors, we have survived ten years as a contemporary gallery during some of the most difficult trading times in recent memory,” explains Stewart.

“It is the thrill of choosing work for new shows and seeing visitors’ reactions to each new exhibition that keeps me going.”

  • Barbara Macfarlane – London and New York is at the Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Tarrant Street, Arundel, until June 29. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Call 01903 882063