Tag Archives: john clare

on green, purple, and blackbirds

Thursday 15 April 2010

I finished and finally framed the painting Edgescape: Fenn earlier this week… it will be exhibited in the HWAT showcase exhibition for the duration of April 2010.

abstract fen painting, east anglia, the fens

[Edgescape: fenn, mixed media on canvas, 90cm x 90xm, 2008-2010]

I added a few more glazes over the lower section of the canvas to get a more of a yellowy-green, and the upper section is a purplish-reddish dark brown-violet. I got slightly obsessed with the subtle degree of merging and how it related to a simple lowland horizon – which also explains my term edgescapes as the series title for these large paintings…

detail of fen painting, green brown

[fenn, detail of painting edge, with white wood frame]

Fenn as a title (archaic spelling), I hope is quite self-explanatory, alluding to a marshy, often flooded lowland landscape – a landscape that, prior to the 17th century when much of the low-lying land was irrigated for agriculture, is what much of the East Anglian landscape would have been like. This painting (fenn) is more of an abstract, sensory response than a depiction of a landscape scene; partly landscape in the implied horizon line, but also as an organic surface greatly magnified. I can’t do these large paintings quickly (I started this one in the early summer of 2008, a few weeks before it was needed for an exhibition) – it seems vital for these paintings to evolve over time…

Note to self: the poet John Clare lived in (or perhaps just wandered through) the deepest part of the fens, a landscape that stirs up the metaphysical mind…

For a morning respite from all things art-related, I pottered about in the garden, and soon spied this little fellow, a blackbird in the willow tree… a composition most pleasingly serendipitous in its contrast of colours (echoing fenn) – and the wriggling worm in the blackbird’s beak is further echoed in the curls of the willow branch… he was waiting to make a safe return to the nest…

blackbird in willow tree

The male blackbird was taking it in turns with his female mate to gather worms for their hungry offspring. They had decided to make their nest in a large, tangled pile of recently pruned clematis and so I was unable to get on with clearing the area – so I temporarily sectioned it off with some chicken wire fencing…

I also spent a lovely afternoon out at the coast with an artist friend – both of us are avid beachcombers and find much creative inspiration there. I found all of these delicately purple-hued pebbles, which I placed on a green algae-covered piece of driftwood to photograph my hoard, which glowed more pink in the late afternoon sun…

purplish red pebbles

I also liked the contrasting textures in this dense, clumpy thicket of reddish-twigged bushes with the softer beige grey grasses – serving a purpose in reducing the impact of wind erosion on this exposed part of the coast…

dunwich heath

and these trees, in a nearby old wood, looked almost petrifed

dunwich trees

I feel quite lucky to be less than thirty minutes from this stretch of the coast…

dunwich cliffs sea

out of the woods

Friday 18 September 2009

sketchbook drawings - in the woods trees gnarled oak tree trunk

gnarled oak tree trunk

sketchbook drawings - oak bark in the woods

oak bark

sketchbook drawings - trees stripped bark in the woods

stripped bark

sketchbook drawings - young leaning tree

young leaning tree

sketchbook drawing - pollard trees in the woods

pollard trees

sketchbook drawings woodland - upturned dead tree with roots

upturned dead tree with roots exposed

sketchbook drawings in woods - tree with split branches

tree with split branches

sketchbook drawings - trees and bark in the woods

[sketchbook drawings… in the woods, september 2009]

after a week of teaching, it was a relaxing break to find a couple of hours of solitude by more drawing in the woods… it is not all green leaves; there are knotty and gnarled tree trunks to touch, cracked and split bark surfaces, smaller pollards and spindly saplings, the felled and fallen branches left to season or decay into the leafy carpet. the greenest signs of growth are mostly in the woodland’s high canopy…


[the artist measuring an old oak tree…]

i had previously learnt from the woodland trust that ancient trees can be age-estimated by the number of hugs around the tree trunk at 1.5m high. this oak tree measured about three and two thirds in hugs, making it about 350-400 years old, but dense woodland may make trees grow more slowly than those situated on more open land.

later, on the way back, i went into the local charity shop, whereupon i saw on a crowded bookshelf a small moss green paperback book, with the one word clare on the spine. opening it at a random page, i came upon these words:

mere withered stalks and fading trees
and pastures filled with hills and rushes
are all my fading vision sees

[decay, by john clare]


[out of the woods; out of focus…]

shades of grey [continued…]

Thursday 14 May 2009

seeing shades of grey. there is a reason for this… strangely, it helps to see the relationship of colours, the balance or contrast between vibrant and muted hues..

salthouse 09 - 25 panels with begginings of colour - oil glazes - artwork in progress

saltscapes [a work in progress]

paint pots.

i’ve become quite obsessed by the poetry of john clare

why john clare? a troubled soul who found solace and peace in the most ordinary of landscapes… somewhat relevant for me because it was the flatlands of the fens… what an exquisite connectedness he had with the minutiae of nature.