Ickworth en plein air

I’ve been an infrequent blogger of late (something I intend to amend) however I am a more regular creative, there’s so much I could write about, but today I really wanted to write bit about my annual Artistic safaris to our local National Trust property Ickworth House, something I’ve been meaning to write about for along time now.

I’m a plein air painter by choice, I’m many other things as well but if we’re talking about paint my choice is outdoors. Like many artists before me, I find it fascinating to return to the same spot; it’s like rooting oneself in a place and letting it settle around you. Since 2011 one of my spots has been Ickworth House.

I’ve mainly found myself painting architecture or trees and occasionally conjunctions of the two.. rarely do people feature. I don’t know why they are scarce in my paintings so far, they may feature more in the future. The house and gardens have at times contextualised my life, in each successive year an ever changing theatre of arrivals and departures; children growing up and some people’s last summers, but mostly the house and gardens remain the same. This is of course emotive, the marks and flourishes, shades of colour and permanence or not, make these paintings entirely personal, but I like sharing their story and would happily in person or via any of our communication choices. Art if nothing else can be about story telling which is a vital component of who we are.

Some years its been hard to find the time to paint, these paintings find their moment amidst life in all its shades. Some years I either didn’t finish or almost didn’t start, but each year I was there and will be next summer if graced with the opportunity.

As I said my frequency of blogging has been infrequent. It occurs to me that line could be descriptive of these paintings over 12 summers, I will do more of both in the future.

Scots Pine – Form Within

A Scots Pine at least 100 years old, an accompaniment to domesticity close to buildings. Marked by comings and goings, but growing at a tilt amidst power lines and heating oil tanks, had started to creak and knock on our roof. It’s crown was heavy with rot and it’s years and finally it was felled for safety reasons. 

However, in memory a 10 foot stump was left and over three and a half months, during the Covid summer, I carved it to a design, part planned, but also in flux. It contained at least a dozen blacksmith made six inch nails, which had sunk to the heart-wood, as new growth covered them. Perhaps they held a sign once, or a washing line? I heard as well about strings of lights illuminating outdoor dances during The Second World War, when troops were billeted nearby. At the end of the day, I didn’t know why, but carving them out influenced where some forms fell. At those moments, pulling them felt like extracting time to leave what was left in the form of this sculpture. Other hands had influenced its growth and use and my hands now allowed them to let go.

At this end of 2019

At this end of 2019 I find myself thinking back over all the creative projects that  have been trig points mapped over the first year in a new house. An area of adjoined Woodland that soon showed signs of human activity over many millennia gripped me earlier in the year, the land of the Iceni suggested a possibility to do some environmental Art by remodelling existing mature box hedging into the shape of an Iceni horse design archived from a stock photo online of an Iceni coin. IMG_1693After sculpting the existing hedges replanting and constructing curved fences from fallen timber the design which is roughly 100ft in length was laid out as a path and will hopefully winter well before coming into its own next Spring. The entrance to the path is marked by a mosaic of a similar horse manufactured from hand cut flint sourced from the wood, many thanks to Laurence Payne for equipping me with new learnt skills to cut tesserae by hand.

It’s also been a year of the written word, 2 poems published courtesy of The Poetic Bond and a short story published courtesy of Thrice publishing… at time of writing another short story is forthcoming courtesy of Rainfall records and books. The winter allows time indoors to complete a short story inspired by time spent in the wood, now with 10 months plus spent in the wood elements have seeped under my skin that allow contemplation of where the writing will go.

Earlier in the year I was able to carve part of a dug up tree root, as well as a piece of locally sourced Mulberry wood and a weathered piece of bark but my intention had always been to approach 2020 as the major carving year focussed on the stump of a Scotch Pine that we had to have felled due to extensive rotten wood. At time of writing this is seasoning in its new form until I approach it next year.

2019 has nearly passed and I wanted to make up a little for not posting many Blogs recently by summing up a busy Creative year now. Many thanks to all who may read this and visit this site. Happy Christmas and see you all next year X.

Exhibition.

Ashdown Gallery in Forest Row East Sussex are showing 22 of mine and Lorna’s Collaborative pieces as well as some individual work this month.This is the culmination of a lot of hard work and planning as well as the vision of Juliet and team at the Gallery to facilitate showing the work in a space so conducive and to their benefit.It goes without saying that we are all really excited.

As part of this exhibition I am showing 4 sculptures and wanted briefly to share a little of my working method with any readers.I work by hand with locally sourced wood,a later part of the process may include an electric sander or router but the main work is with mallet,chisel,file and saw.I do this to enable being in tune with my material,working faster with more mechanical tools would make the piece develop too quickly and mean I would miss the subtlety of my material.The considerations of form and texture I’m interested in can only be arrived at by working slowly by hand and feeling the piece as well as living with it a little.By default this means sculpture takes time and patience but the results are truly in tune with the material as a consequence.Because of the labour intensive nature of this type of work I only sculpt for part of the year usually reverting to painting ,writing and of course collaborations at other times.Concentrating on one medium e.g Wood and the associated physical effort until finishing projects leaves me fresh afterwards to consider other mediums,I’m at this stage now and will revert to painting again soon.The recently completed sculptures are being displayed for the first time at Ashdown Gallery ,I’m delighted to see them there and I hope a few people will see them in person.