My practice as a still life artist starts with continually looking. Particularly looking outside, and specifically at meadows, verges, and hedgerows.
The process of looking and drawing began when as a solitary child I had the freedom of wandering about the Eden Valley in Cumbria where I grew up. Along the river Eden, I made dens under hedgerows in the little sandy hollows where the sheep gave themselves dust baths and sheltered from the summer sun and frequent and sudden thunder storms. Mostly this was in the summer as the winters were just too harsh and biting.
The summer meadows and hedgerows were home to a wealth of insects, birds, and wild flowers. The hedge rows were also a handy pantry, supplementing a Dairy lea sandwich with a pudding of wild straw ¬berries, tiny raspberries, and some very sour wild gooseberries only to be eaten as a last resort. With the aid of a trusty pen knife, (which appears in some of my paintings) pignuts could be dug up and eaten as an entrée.
My still life practice is born of studying these meadows where a profusion of wild flowers supports a whole universe of insect life. My patient husband is dragged from one hidden corner of the Northwest to another in search of Bee Orchids, Fragrant Orchids, Marsh Orchids and Helleborines. I once abandoned my car on a dual carriageway because I’d spotted Greater Butter fly Orchids growing in the gravel between the curb and the verge. These plants fascinate me.
I’m mesmerised by the beauty of clover. Each little trumpet of Permanent Rose making up a stunning bouquet. White clover is equally gorgeous. Yellow Bird’s-foot Trefoil supports 37 species of insect and is delicately stunning. Lying on my stomach in these meadows and watching daytime moths, all the different species of bumble bee and, if you are lucky, a hawking dragonfly, is amazing. And we have all this on our doorstep to look at and wonder over.
Each meadow study takes about three months of solid painting in oils. The images are worked from dark to light with painting and scraping back. As with the water colours I use a triple zero brush. The paintings are labour intensive, multi-layered and a meditative process. They are part of a quiet routine of thought and memory and a documenting of the places I love.
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