snowbound in a sketchbook, once again

Sunday 5 December 2010

it was the early morning shock of seeing a thin film of ice on the inside of the windows that prompted a couple of snowy walkabouts this week… for some exercise, some fresh air, to warm up, an excuse perhaps to think more about and reconnect with this rural landscape…

suffolk snow landscape painting - sketchbook

a hill and some snow, acrylic on paper, 8″ x 12″

i carried with me a sketchbook (or three!) but, for a change, i took some small tubes of acrylic and a few offcuts of card. why on earth go out sketching in this inclement weather? well, the intention was to go for a bracing walk and the opportunity to do some outdoor sketching seemed like a good idea at the time… i just needed some white, brown, blue, a little yellow ochre… (you can view last week’s before the snow winter field sketches here)…

these three small sketches are about 5″ x 16″

suffolk snow landscape field - sketchbook

suffolk snow sketches - sketchbook

suffolk snow fields horizon - sketchbook

[click to view larger]

i discovered a new footpath which i had not seen signposted before, perhaps because all the surrounding vegetation that would have concealed it had died back. some farmers, it seems, don’t like to draw attention to the public rights of way that circumnavigate their fields. this particular footpath began at the roadside – it was a quick scramble up a steepish, stepped incline through a small thicket of elder, hawthorn, briar, bramble and the like, which soon thinned out onto a small footbridge across a ditch, which opened into the corner of a large field – regimental stalks of harvested maize pricking through the blanket of snow..

suffolk field snow landscape sketch

winter field with stubble, 8′ x 22″

i walked a narrow path between the hedgerow and the broken lines of sown crops, minding the occasional black hole which indicated a rabbit burrow. in the snow i could see the pitter-patter pattern of animal footprints, probably a dog i thought but i could see no human companion footprints –  were they the trail of a hare, a fox or muntjacs perhaps? the hedgerow seemed to have shaken off most of the recent snowfall and so it exhibited an interesting patchwork of textures and colours when viewed against the snow – from the sepia hues of damp, dead wood to the musty grey-black of dead nettles, small patches of fading green to grey, the auburn brown of tall docks, shades of bronze and tarnished copper on the edges of leaves, the prickly hawthorn branches dotted with red berries…

suffolk snow field hedgerow - sketchbook

field and hedgerow, acrylic on paper, 8″ x 12″

the line of the hedgerow led slowly uphill, then turned an abrupt corner at an oak tree – and hereabouts, sheltered from the chilled midday air with a scattered carpet of acorn husks underfoot, it afforded a clear view of valley ahead. smooth white fields, lightly traced out by their boundary hedgerows, sloped gently to the south and east, a distant cluster of trees merged into a mist of many layered greys. to the north the field’s straight crop lines seemed to converge at a point near the flat horizon, with only the faintest delineation of trees to suggest where the land ended and the sky began…

snow winter field sketch painting - sketchbook

winter field, acrylic on paper, 8″ x 12″

some people assume that suffolk is, in the main, quite a flat county, but this is because the most travelled routes follow more even ground. walk a little off the beaten track and the vistas become much more undulating and expansive – made even more appealing to the senses when there is snow on the ground. all seems for a short while quite serene, quite still. snow softens the sounds and disguises the blemishes, it sculpts, smoothes and redefines, drawing out the best features of a seemingly natural geography…

perhaps on reflection it was not such a good idea to use acrylics as they did not dry properly in the ice cold air. to stop the sketchbook pages from sticking together i sandwiched them with maize leaves, powdery bark and even clumps of snowy soil, all of which had added some interesting textural effects by the time i had headed back. something of real substance to work with, so i applied more white acrylic here and there, the remains of soil and the blurry smears of paint became the tangible traces of walking. i rather like that they turned out this way, incomplete and unrefined, within each rough gesture or mark is a brief thought or memory that relates to the experience – exhibiting the very spirit of a brisk walk in the wintry, white landscape…

these two sketches are 8′ x 22″, on black card – it is (or was) a photograph album…

field snow landscape sketch

suffolk fields snow - sketchbook

[click to view larger]

so, these small studies have really become remembered landscapes, they no longer exist, the snow has now vanished, but we have been warned that the snow will return…

i often remind myself that i have become something of a cave painter – i see things (discarded, redundant or dead things, mostly!) and then i retreat to the studio cave to make art out of the experience. sketching in the landscape seems to be a means to re-engage but also to step back a little, to take in the wider view…

7 thoughts on... snowbound in a sketchbook, once again

  1. Lisa

    I love these sketches Jazz, they are so intimate and expressive of the soundlessness of snow to me. I can almost hear a crow cawing trying to break the silence. Simply stunning.

    I like the image of being a hunter gatherer of experience and images returning to the cave to create. I hope your cave is warm and cozy. :o)

  2. charlie

    today my teacher was saying that landscape is out of date, but he does play devils advocate a lot I have assumed. I dont care, even tho the land artists moved away from ownership and even a material, ownable art(efact)/object (am I right in thinking this?) I will do what is considered ‘un-fashionable’ and stay true to my aims. Whatever happened to quiet confidence and a humble attitude and observation? Is it me or is the world bonkers? I like the idea of images acting as icons to emotional/attitudinal states. It doesnt make my work irrelevant?

  3. Jazz

    yes charlie, the world is going totally, stark-raving, completely blinky bonkers… people stick these metallic saucers on the outsides of their houses in order to watch nature on the discovery channel and then complain that harnessing nature’s power by means of a windfarm is an ugly blot on the landscape… they need to get out more…

    did your teacher mean landscape or just the depiction of it in a painterly form? the end of landscape, surely not – once we lose that connection all hope of humanity is lost… did you watch the art of germany and the no small mention of friedrich with regard to the spiritual/sublime in landscape? i could also suggest a dip into schama’s landscape & memory…

    one could say that intervention (such as andy goldsworthy and the many spawns/derivatives) is more assertive/possessive of the landscape than merely painting or drawing it (the object) – but the ephemeral nature of the leaf/twig/stone artwork seems more respectful and less about individual ownership or consumer materialism – but the goldsworthy (as i see it in books) is not so dissimilar to discovery tv – it’s still coveted, elegantly detached, refined, crafted, tasteful to the eyes… btw, i don’t have a tv – now that’s unfashionable…

    there is so much psychology inherent in landscape, the inconsequence or traces of mankind in/upon it, battling or communing with nature, heaven and earth, life and death…

    i think art is necessarily an emotional engagement/outcome – which is where it goes slightly awry with the radical conceptualism – thinking versus feeling…

  4. charlie

    Thanks jazz.

    I am trying to learn all the time. I am fascinated by Japanese aesthetic and psychological concepts. The landscape for me is about layers of history, marks of past histories, a recognition of the melancholy in the beautiful, similar to your interests which is how I discovered your work.

    I feel that at least one of my tutors sees my work as ‘romantic’, and not of the ‘real’ landscape, when it is more of a metaphor anyway. I cannot tell if it is his lack of perception, him playing devils advocate or what the hell. He is very politically inclined, and sees spirituality as a device which was put there for social control, which is saddening.

  5. Jazz

    hi charlie! it’s quite difficult to respond to your comment (re. tutor’s comments) given that i haven’t seen any images of your own work but i shall demand to read the grand thesis that you are no doubt currently working on!

    p.s. i know how people discover my work – i have stats!! 😉

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