Monday, 29 December 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

Frost, Ice & Stars

The frost has not left us today, but we did not get the snow that covered so much of the country.  The sun is just setting, bringing a rose-gold glow to the garden at the back of the house.  I was just looking at Patrick George’s painting, “Hickbush, Snow Scene With Hare”.  He captures the local landscape perfectly and manages to really create the atmosphere of winter cold.  When I look at it I instantly recall the sensation of breathing in freezing and water-laden air.  He makes me feel as if I am standing beside him, looking at the view at that moment in time.  I like paintings like that.

I’m looking forward to seeing the snow here for the first time. I’m eager to see it’s effect on our own particular landscape and on the light.  When it does come, I will be out with camera and sketchbook to make copious notes for future paintings.

One thing that I did see this month was the Geminid meteor shower.  Living out in the countryside, as we do, means that there is very little light pollution.  The stars are very visible here.  I was able to get a good view from the field behind the house.  I  admit to a child-like excitement about seeing shooting stars.  I find them to be a magical sight!

I’ve been out walking around Lavenham again today.  It was beautiful in the winter sunshine and I am always intrigued by the patterns and shapes in the church and it’s surroundings.  The imposing tower can be seen for miles around and is a real local landmark.  However, although large, I find it a very friendly and cheerful building up close.  I love all the carvings and flint work on the outside.  I spent some time this morning taking photographs of tree and star designs and also the yew trees along the paths, which are clipped into globe shapes.  This topiary does seem to be a feature of the area and our own village church has similar designs, on a smaller scale.

One of my favourite things about December was the Candlelit Carol Service. We live in a very sociable village and the little medieval church was full on the afternoon of the 21st.  We were lucky enough to sit in the choir stalls, which meant that I was able to get an elevated view over the beautiful interior space.  It was a very relaxed and cheerful.  I like the fact that it took place on the winter solstice.  It seemed apt to celebrate the light.

I’m thoroughly enjoying having a few days off.  I love my work, but it is good to get time to talk and to read and to refresh a brain which feels “hoovered out” by constant composition.  Thus I think that a few more walks to the pub and a few more hours spent delving into the pile of books by the armchair, are in order before the whole process starts again next year.

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

"Patrick George" by Andrew Lambirth, Sansom & Co., 2014.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

Trees & Twilight

Today I’ve been over to Stoke-by-Nayland to drop off some work for Cobbold & Judd’s week-end show.  It was a beautiful clear blue morning.  I had a warm welcome from Emma and a cheery chat with Richard, before taking Millie for a walk around by the church.  There are some wonderful old medieval houses just opposite and adjacent to it.  It’s amazing to think that they are simply family homes, as it is like walking around on a film set!  Opposite too, is one of my favourite gardens.  The seemingly low wall beside the path drops away at least three metres on the other side to reveal a very large and well-kept fruit and vegetable garden which is also populated by many mature trees, the most beautiful of which, in my opinion, is an enormous fig tree that grows up and over the old garden wall.  I have no idea who lives there, but whoever they are they have constructed something that I find both beautiful and inspiring.

The Garden, is one of the subjects that I return to again and again in my paintings.  I find them fascinating, not least for the wealth of sinuous pattern to be found among the branches and stems.  Now that winter is almost here these patterns are becoming more visible as the leaves continue to fall.  The magnificent fig tree itself had become a curving pale grey network, dotted with hundreds of small bud shapes where the figs clung to the branches.

As the days shorten, my afternoon walk with Millie has become a twilight walk. I’ve been appreciating the trees in this light too, as they turn into shadows and divide the sky into segments.  There seem to have been so may beautiful full moons this year, and during these early evening outings I have photographed the silver-white disc shining through the net of branches.  No matter how many times I see it, I still find it fascinating and awe-inspiring.  At a bonfire party last week-end I took a photograph to record its appearance with the structure of a fire-illuminated tree.

I can see that the moon is going to continue to appear in many paintings throughout the winter.  It always seems such a hopeful and magical thing.

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.


I’ve been up since 6.30am.  It was a dark, wet start to the day. The moonlit mist of 4am had given way to cloud and rain.  After taking Millie outside and then feeding her, I came into the lounge and was delighted to find that the fire was still warm to the touch.  I opened the door and discovered one remaining log from the evening before, black on top, but all white ash and red-glowing ember underneath.  It is a simple thing, but one that I find deeply satisfying - to be able to re-start the fire in the morning, with no extra matches.  I nursed it a little, resurrected it, and then sat in the armchair next to it, to have my breakfast and coffee.

The long days of light are my favourite time of year, but these dark, even damp, mornings have their own kind of charm for me.  It is cosy.  It is quiet.  There is something of the cocoon about it.

I put the porch light on and look outside.  It creates a ball of warm orange light over the garden.  Beyond the trees I hear cars on the nearby road starting to go past, as the world wakes up and begins to move around.

By 8am there is still a light, misty rain, but the western sky of mauvey-grey has developed a slit of pale cerulean and pink-white.  The sky colour at this time of year can vary enormously.  Greys, mauves, orange, even greenish tints.  I like to look at the landscape paintings of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.  Not many blue skies feature, but some wonderfully evocative warm greys, setting off the surrounding colours.  I always find them inspirational.  They are two of my favourite painters.

I am enjoying moving once more into the more gentle and subdued palette of winter.  After the art fair in Cambridge this week, the next exhibitions will be the Christmas shows.  I have already produced a number of pieces for these, but all must be complete by two weeks time, in order to allow for framing.  I have been using varying sky colours in the work, and also thinking about the stillness of days and nights shrouded in mist or covered in snow.  If I am honest, I think that stillness is one of the major themes that run through my work.  An impression of a view suddenly revealed by the landscape and a moment when time stops…..

I can’t record the sounds or smells of the landscape - the gentle “crump” of footsteps in snow, the distant waves, the “drip” of leaves and branches or even the fermented fruit smell of autumn hedgerows, but when I paint I want to remind myself of all these sensory experiences - all these aspects of being in the landscape that I appreciate and love so much.

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

Harbours & Harvest

We are just back from a day at the coast.  It’s a glorious early autumn day of about 20˚C with golden light.  We walked along the beach at Dunwich and then had lunch at The Ship, where we were able to sit in the garden. They have a wonderful array of fruit trees, including a massive fig tree.  Suffolk seems to produce very impressive fig trees - much to my liking!  Then we set off for home, calling at the second-hand bookshop at Westleton en-route.  We inevitably made a couple of purchases - Ronald Blythe’s “Akenfield” and two volumes of Greek myths re-told by Robert Graves.  These were something that I always loved reading as a child and look forward to delving into again.

The mornings here have been getting misty of late - the first one came on cue with the start of September. Since then there have been a series when the landscape has looked as if it is covered in a damp woollen blanket.  The sun has usually made it through by 9 or 10am, and we have had blue skies and a warm beginning to the month.  I really notice the change in the colour of the light at this point in the year and always think that it is the closest that we get to the more Mediterranean light of, say, northern Italy.  Something about the golden nature of September afternoons always transports me back in my memory to trips that I have made to that part of the world.

The landscape too has begun to change colour again.  After the completion of the harvest, the large areas of pale ochre-coloured stubble are turning into burnt umber as the ploughing, cultivating and rolling are getting well underway.  Throughout August the stubble fields have created an environment in which to see numerous hares and deer as we have been out walking with Millie.  During this time I have also had to prepare work for two exhibitions which both began last week.  One was based on the theme of harbours, and I found myself using the pale sand colour of the straw in some of the paintings.  The end window of my studio has a view which is filled with farmland, and therefore presents a different colour block in the room as the seasons and the light varies.  This usually weaves it’s way into the paintings that I am producing at the time.  The colour of straw or sand is a peaceful colour with which to work.  It actually takes me quite a lot more mixing than just yellow and white to get it. Many colours are actually a complex combination of elements.  I mix all my colours from a selection of reds, blues, yellows, white and brown only.  I often make little triangular dabs of paint onto the pages of a small sketchbook with my knife as I work. I annotate these with scribbled notes containing the “recipe”.  I find these to be very useful reminders, as I can be somewhat forgetful about exact mixes if I haven’t used them for a while.  

I am now engaged in finishing work for the Cambridge Art Fair, which takes place in October.  I like to produce more than I need so that I can choose at a later date.  After that is will be back to the end-of-year accounts - oh joy!

One of the pieces that I have produced as a potential for this show is a return to the theme of owls and the moon. August saw another supermoon, as indeed did this week.  Another good thing about having a dog is that I have to go outside late at night as well as early morning.  This gives me a chance to look at the night sky and to view the landscape by moonlight.  The full moon has been really impressive and I can’t resist working with such a beautifully bright contrasting circle in a deep purply-blue background.  Just to add a bit of spice - while travelling back from Lavenham a few nights ago, a large barn owl suddenly swooped across the road ahead and was briefly and dramatically illuminated by the car headlights.  It stuck in my mind and has appeared as a motif in the painting.

As I write this, I have just turned to look out of the window and seen three deer running across the field opposite.  I wonder if I might feature them in a painting shortly…….well it’s got to beat filling in the tax form!

Sea Pictures Gallery, Clare, Suffolk
“Any Port In A Storm”, 5 Sept - 13 Oct, 2014

Art @ The Cliff Top, Felixstowe, 4 - 28 Sept, 2014

Cobbold & Judd Fine
Cambridge City Art Fair, 9-12 Oct, 2014

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

The Heat Of Summer

We are having the perfect English summer (apart from those random thunderstorms!).  It is the best that I can remember for years.  The temperature is already up by 8am, and as I walk Millie along paths that cut through and run alongside the cornfields, I hear the wheat "crackle" in the heat and the air is filled with the lazy "bzzzzzz" of grasshoppers. We walk from shade to shade between the large hedgerow trees.  The skies are a cloudless blue canopy and a bright red line of poppies hovers over the top of the final field of grain.

When we return, I take coffee and water into the studio, and work in the morning when it is cooler.  The doors are flung wide open and the light is filtered through the muslin curtains that cover them.  These move gently in any passing breeze.  Just a couple of metres beyond the white haze of this layer, the birds "tap" and "click" on the bird feeder which hangs on the fence.  They are oblivious of my presence, which enables me to get a close look at them or to sketch them quickly.

Between 1 and 2pm, it is getting very hot and I retreat to the shade of the old house, walking barefoot across the terracotta tiles of the kitchen floor to feel their cool surfaces beneath my burning feet.  In the afternoon I will work on admin and household chores until the temperatures begin to drop again. At around 6pm we will have another walk - but no running this time, it is still too hot!  After that we will cook dinner and watch the sun sink, in a golden and crimson glow, below the woods on the opposite side of the valley.

The heat and the intense colours of the summer flowers have been featuring heavily in my work during this past month. Crimson and Cadmium red, golden yellow, fiery orange and fuchsia pink.  It seems right to work with these searingly hot and energetic colours at this time of year. I find them vibrant and visually exciting to look at.

At the end of the day, we retreat to bed, with all the upstairs windows open.  It is too hot to sleep and as I lie drowsily in the darkness, I hear the distant hum of combines working late into the night.

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.


We have been here just over six months.  We arrived a few days before the winter solstice and now it is just past the summer solstice.  I was thinking that a new environment is similar to a new painting - all blank at the beginning as one has no history there - a mixture of daunting and exciting.  All things are possible.  Now, after six months, a background is beginning to be laid in place.  Events and meetings, things seen and memories formed are starting to create an underlying structure. Similarly, my paintings always begin with random marks.  The composition evolves over time, but I like to start without preconceived ideas of what will emerge.

I've been working more with mauves lately.  I'm enjoying exploring the variations - lilacs, purples, magentas and the overlap into blues. This has combined well with recent themes of moonlight and dawn. Personally, I love this time of year when there is hardly any real darkness, but a lot of half-light.  I especially like the evenings at around 10.30pm, when there is still some light in the sky and at 3.30am, when daylight is beginning to seep back into the landscape before sunrise and when the air and the earth smell so fresh.

Early morning walks with Millie have been wonderful as the summer progresses.  Beautifully warm, golden mornings.  The corn is just beginning to turn this week.  It is starting to click in high heat.  I look forward to seeing the harvest - it always reminds me of my Dad.

Suffolk open Studios has come and gone.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and chatting with all the visitors.  Many stayed to look at the view and have a drink.  For two week-ends the kitchen was buzzing with people and conversation.  I was pleased also to have sold a number of pieces and prints.  This month I shall be sending four paintings to the Number Four Gallery in St Abbs, Berwickshire.  I also have some work at the Gallery In The Garden, Great Saling in Essex, for the first time.

As I continue with my work, and as I get older, both my drawing and painting have become less detailed and more gestural, less realist and more abstract.  There are less edges around the shapes and a more fluid structure.  It is really about the atmosphere that colour and light evoke.  I still love mark-making, and perhaps even though there are less marks, they are more varied.  As I change, and as I see and experience different things, then so too my work.  It follows along, like a roadmap through life.  I love making paintings.  I feel as If I am always learning and seeing new things.

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 2 May 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

Spaces Between Busyness

April turned out to be a busy month one way or another.  My Mum moved to Suffolk to be near to us and we helped another family member to move house and to host an 18th birthday party on consecutive days!  One exhibition closed and I have prepared work for another.  I've been developing my prints - both giclee and hand-made - and juggling all the usual admin and on-line management.  My little van has covered many miles of Suffolk roads, delivering, collecting and visiting.

Because we arrived here in winter, we started with a blank canvas of a landscape.  Every development is new to me - my first view of each season.  Each week brings new shapes, colour changes and views.  Spring is now out in abundance and this week the heady perfumes of the hedgerows have become more obvious.  Soon too, the vast fields of broad bean flowers will be fully out, releasing a beautiful jasmine-like fragrance.  The fields of rape seed are creating huge yellow patches, as I look out across the miles of open fields.  I've seen more hares in the last few weeks than I have seen in the last few years, and also a couple of muntjac in recent days.

This month's painting has been very influenced by soil preparation and planting. I've found myself creating work about gardens, mainly because some very kind friends have lent us some space in their garden to use as an allotment. It is very satisfying work and a refreshing break from the small space of the studio.  I am also fascinated to be in a area of many patterns, enclosed by trees.  I'm intrigued to see the light filtered through the branches and foliage and to watch it falling in ever-changing patches around me.  It has stuck in my mind and come out in my work.  The trees screen out the outside world and are full of birds, which means that birdsong is the only sound that I'm aware of as I work.

Over Easter, we were also very privileged to look after a neighbour's sheep.  Only seven, not a whole flock!  However, they did increase during that time, with the first lamb being born on Easter Day.  Fortunately Mum and baby managed ok on their own.  I was beginning to wish that I'd watch more of "Lambing Live", but thankfully no help was required!

One other very special thing that I did this month, was to visit the grave of the painter John Nash and his wife Christine, who are buried in a village churchyard not far from where we live.  He is one of my artistic heroes and I found it very moving to stand quietly in front of their very simple gravestone on a beautiful, bright and peaceful Spring afternoon.  This is a county with such an artistic heritage and I am thoroughly enjoying finding out more about it and meeting many of it's current inhabitants that work in the arts - and very kind, interesting and witty they are too! 

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

Flowers Appear All Over The Earth…

"Winter is past.  The rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear all over the earth; the season of singing has come."

It may be a piece of ancient Hebrew poetry I know, but it certainly seems truer than ever this year.  I've never seen as many cowslips and primroses in my life as this Spring.  The hedgerows and field edges are thick with them.  I even photographed a patch of beautiful star-shaped wild flowers growing in a ditch the other day.  I don't think that I've ever appreciated the blossom quite as much either.  On one side of our back garden there is a tree covered in elegant white blossom. I was working out there on Sunday, when I became aware of a delicate, cologne-like fragrance.  I realised after a while that it was the perfume from the flowers on the tree.

We've also got some small apple trees growing in the front garden and I've been watching the buds on these.  They looked like little green/white parcels until today, when for the first time they have opened to reveal tiny rosettes of pale green leaves and pink and white centres that look almost like a cluster of miniature figs.  The trees are slender and delicate and with their little pattern of buds along the stems, they make me think of Japanese textile designs.

After the drab and stormy winter, I feel as if I'm enjoying this Spring more than any in my life so far.  I know that it's an old cliché to say that the earth is dressing herself in all her finery, but this year, for me, it does seem like that.  After being lashed by the rains and starved of light, she seems to be enjoying the warmth and celebrating by putting on her most colourful and decorative garments - (florals are so totally on trend!).  The trees look as if they really are waking up from a sleep and stretching out their arms in the sun and even, sometimes, as if they are dancing.  It's not difficult to see where the idea of the dryads came from.  

Thinking about the trees has brought another old piece of writing to mind recently:

"there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.  Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant."

Change is a constant - as it were!  Things are always moving and developing as the days pass.  They never stand still.  I was walking alone with my dog Millie the other day, on a path that cuts across this vast rural landscape, and looking around as I walked.  I marvel that I am here.  Not in any part of my previous existence did I expect to be living here, now, among people that I have not previously known.  But that seems to be part of the strangeness of human life - after long periods of travelling on what looks like a very well-defined path, one or two elements can change and then the whole pattern shifts and a brand new phase emerges - something entirely new and unexpected.  This principle of relentless growth that I see around me, seems to apply.  Things start springing up quickly and suddenly you realise that the season and the whole context of your life has changed.

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 28 February 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

Energy & Atmosphere

Preparation for the first exhibition of the year is now complete.  The last few pieces went into the frames this week.  I'm interested to see how they will hang together in the gallery space.  My colour palette has changed again due, I think, to the recent intense phase of cloudy and wet weather.  Perhaps there are rather more subdued tones than usual!  However, a preliminary glance at the collection in the studio suggests that there is a richness to the overall colours, and that they work together as a set.

I enjoyed a break into realism this time too, with a painting of a Millie on a morning walk.  In it I included a reference to the skylarks that have been so prevalent of late.  It was a pleasure to portray the surrounding countryside more directly in my work and made me feel as though I would like to do more.  It was very loosely rendered and incorporated some of the techniques and lessons learned from my abstraction.  I find that my walks around the village provide plenty of inspiration.

Something else that's been inspiring me this month is the sea.  Having lived in the centre of the country for over 30 years, it's a pleasure to be closer to the coast again.  Although more than an hour away, it's still near enough to spend half a day there with ease.  I've enjoyed walking along the beach with Millie at Aldeburgh and Thorpeness, and seeing the rough energy of the water as well as its serenity.  I've also discovered large, grassy areas on the cliff tops, where Millie can run.  It's one of the happiest things in my life - to see my young dog do what she was made to do - RUN!  I can sense the energy and excitement in her as I release her from the lead and watch her take off! She will begin by running vast circles at incredible speed.  Then she will suddenly turn on a sixpence and run straight towards me like a rocket, swerving at the last second to avoid crashing into me, and then reeling off to start another loop.  After a few minutes she will canter back, tongue lolling out, tired but so happy, ready now for another slower, exploratory walk.

This aspect of energy is an interesting one for me.  I certainly feel the effect of what is around me, and that frequently finds its way into my paintings whether, as this month, it's the increasing amount of birdsong on bright mornings, or the raw power of the sea.  I also find that it affects my choice of music while I'm working.  I often repeat the same couple of albums frequently throughout the course of making a series of paintings. There is something unquantifiable in them which sums up the mood and links them together.  The nine new paintings produced for this show were all made while listening to the Icelandic singer Asgeir*, alternated with Handel oratorios** and opera***, interspersed with the wonderful randomness of Radio 4, where I find plenty of comedy to make me laugh.

After a few days break, during which I'll clean the studio and un-pack and organise the rest of the stuff from the house move, I'll start all over again on a different series, for a new exhibition, with a new atmosphere and soundtrack no doubt!

* Ásgeir - In The Silence
**George Frideric Handel - Your Tuneful Voice (Iestyn Davies), The King's Consort/Robert King
***George Frideric Handel - Giulio Cesare, Glyndbourne, Sarah Connolly, Danielle De Niese

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

The Skylarks

The first month of the year has passed in our new home.  It's been a month of wind and rain, but we consider ourselves lucky when we see the flooding in other areas of the country.  Between the gusts and the showers, I have done a lot of walking with our dog, Millie, along the muddy footpaths, looking out across the wide open landscape and rolling distance.  For someone originally from the flattest of lands, this position in the gentle Suffolk landscape feels like the top of the world.  I feel as if I'm living in the clouds!  I love it.  Perhaps that's why I have been so interested in the wild birds that I'm seeing, and why they are weaving their way more and more into my work.  I feel as if I'm seeing the land partly from a bird's perspective.

A couple of weeks ago we were walking at a particularly high point, on a day when the sky was unusually clear, when we disturbed five skylarks.  Up and up they went.  I stood and watched them - powerhouses of song.  Such tiny dots in the vast blue space, but filling the air with sound. They looked like minute kites tethered in the wind.    I thought about Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending", and how cleverly he captured that upward movement and the voice of the bird, in his music.  I can see why he would be inspired by it.  It's quite emotional I think - a tiny creature, full of spirit and beauty.

It's funny really, I feel more aware of the sky here than I did as a child, living on an unbroken plane.  There, it seemed to bear down upon us, almost crushing us.  Here, I seem to have risen up to meet it.  This is ideal for me.  I find it peaceful - the perfect balance.  The mass of mountains is too frightening and the flatland too oppressive, but here there is a wonderful sense of lightness.  I think it is changing the compositions of my paintings and that will be a challenge.  That is, however, a good thing for me.  It will stretch my mind to work with different shapes and viewpoints, and make me look at things afresh.

All text & images ©2014 Carol Saunderson