Wednesday, 18 April 2018

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

18 April

I awake at 4.30am with an all-to-familiar sensation of sore and sickening pain in my face, my forehead, and at the base of my skull, accompanied by a loud ringing in my left ear.  I slip silently out of bed, gently stretch my neck and back, and take my medication.  I return to bed and fall quickly into a sleep composed of short, vivid dreams – another symptom that I recognise as an indication of migraine.  Fortunately, I have caught it soon enough, and I awake at 6am to find that a summer-like morning has arrived.

It is already 18°C at the top of the hill and the gentle breeze and warm air soothe my fuzzy head as we descend the undulating path.  At the bottom of the valley, a buzzard flying lazily overhead, begins its high-pitched and elongated “mewww, mewww”.  We step onto the small wooden bridge, accessed through a gap in the hedge, and cross the brook, which chatters over pebbles, beneath the sulphur explosions of willow catkins and slender, unfurling leaves.  We pass through rabbit-ville and out onto the road…..

….Well, it’s hardly a road really.  Along the bottom of this picturesque little valley, a lane snakes and slithers its way between rising fields.  The views are stunning.

The only aspect that saddens me, is the litter which has been thrown from passing vehicles and which finds its way into the ditch and beneath the hedgerow.  I collect as much as I can.  It is mostly plastic bottles and cans for “high energy” drinks, and cardboard and plastic wraps for sandwiches and burgers.  I feel sad that the hands that discarded these objects, belong to eyes that do not see the surrounding beauty, hearts that do not appreciate it, and minds that do not think of the potential harm to nature.  Many people are now, quite rightly, concerned about how we can rid the environment of plastic.  It is ironic that it is being put there daily, by other people, who do not share their concerns.  One hand gives and the other takes away.  There are clever technical solutions currently being proposed, but really it all comes down to the blind eyes being opened and that, as we know, takes a miracle.

The warm air is bringing out the blossom – the hawthorn hedges are decked with small, white flowers and the cherry trees with pink.

When I return home, the magnolia tree in Barry’s garden is shimmering in the sunlight.  This most ephemeral of tree flora often falls victim to frosts, which scorch its delicate petals, causing them to turn brown and die.  Today, however, there is no such danger.  It basks in the morning sun, soaking up the warmth, which is predicted to rise to 26°C tomorrow.  After the chill fog of last week, it feels as if we have been sent to the Mediterranean for a couple of days – and no queue at the airport!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 15 April 2018

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

15 April

The meadow has been cut, about three weeks later than I would have liked, due to the weather.  I asked Farmer Graham to leave a field margin, approximately 2m wide, near to the garden.  This was because there are a number of cowslips growing in this strip, and I wanted to save from them from decapitation!

The first brimstone butterflies have appeared, flitting between the garden and the meadow margin. For me, they are the real herald of Spring.  I can only describe their wing colour as “refreshing”, as they are a pale, lime-yellow.  It makes them look like fragments of sunshine flying around.  I also saw a lone peacock butterfly.

The newly cut grass has attracted a pied wagtail, which alternates between bobbing up and down on a fence post and feeding amongst the fallen stems.  Other birds are also gleaning – goldfinches and blackbirds.  The green woodpecker has reappeared, feasting on the occupants of the newly disturbed ant hills.

I have been in the studio, varnishing 8 small paintings, which I will take to the framers on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, indoors, we have been redecorating the guest bedroom, introducing fresh new colours – artist’s day off!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 13 April 2018

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

13 April

The opaque veil has lifted at last.  The evening sun is warm and golden.  As we drive back from Lavenham, a sense of relief washes over me - I am able to see into the far distance once more; the claustrophobic lid has lifted.  From this point so much of this verdant landscape is visible.  And just as an extra treat, we see a barn owl “quartering” a meadow, beside the road.  As we draw level, it alights on a branch; so close that we can see its heart-shaped face and dark eyes staring directly at us.

I know that I am privileged.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 12 April 2018

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

12 April

Today, on day five of the mist, and on the edge of a newly planted field, we find an area of earth and verge heavily patterned with deer prints.  I have never seen so many together – it must cover a strip 100 metres in length.  They look like the impressions of roe deer feet.  They have also liberally scattered their droppings all over the parallel road surface.  Hundreds of small, black, shiny pellets strew our way.

When I look at the short, green stems of the young crop, I can see four flattened paths, where they have emerged from the field.  There has been quite a gathering here in the past 24 hours!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

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

10 April

This is the third day of heavy mist.  It hangs damply over the trees and fields, hugging the contours of the earth.  Pink blossom stands out against the grey.  There is no air movement.  All sound is muffled.  In the distance, the low-toned explosion from a bird-scarer sounds baffled and shortened – like a small cannon with a sock in its mouth.  My neighbour’s Hebridean lambs, whose enthusiasm for life is not dampened by the weather, skip and butt each other as their mothers munch hay from the feeder.

Millie and I pass close by an enormous pile of cow muck – it must be 50m long.  It is organic manure for the fallow field.  Steam rises slowly from it and merges with the mist.  I like the smell – it reminds me working on the farm as a child.  It is reminiscent of the scent of the potato fields in Autumn, when the crop was harvested.  Mud and rotting potato tops.  It’s funny what can be comforting and familiar.

Beyond the heap, I spy two hares.  They have appeared from the grass bank beside the lane and are chasing and stopping, then chasing again.  Another courtship dance, no doubt.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 7 April 2018

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

7 April

There seems to have been a sudden acceleration in nature over the last week.  There is a noticeable increase in both flowers and birdsong.  Suddenly the banks of the lane are covered in open daffodils and the first cowslips have appeared beside the hedgerows.  The birdsong is richer and more complex – more voices are singing, and for longer.

Walking downhill from the church, I spot two kestrels sitting on adjacent posts.  There are large fields either side, one of which has been fallow for some time and looks as if it might be a suitable source of voles ( it has certainly been a successful hunting ground for a barn owl of late ).  In the hedgerow, in front of them, sits a yellowhammer, lit by the morning sun.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

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

4 April

A small flock of yellowhammers moves down the hedgerow ahead of me.  One or two settle on the top of the closely cropped structure.  They allow me to draw alongside, before advancing approximately 5 metres and taking up almost identical positions on and amongst the blunt, thick stems.  And so the pattern goes on down the line, with their high-pitched song piercing the silent morning.

The sticky buds of the aged horse chestnut tree, that stands on the green, are opening to reveal the new green leaves — tiny umbrellas unfurling.   The catkins of a Goat Willow have burst open to extend their stamens.  They look like small yellow bottlebrushes, floating above the silver grey layer of the dried grass stems beneath.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

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

28 March

Through the drizzle I can see some marks moving on the far side of a field.  They are almost identical in tone to the growing winter wheat.  Suddenly one of the pale brown marks elongates as the animal turns sideways on, and I recognise the long, lean shape of a hare.

I walk a little further along the concrete road and then stand still and wait.  The three or four are actually eight in total, running around in an oval shape, weaving in and out of each other.  I am guessing that one is a female, a Jill, that is in season.  There will be many sitings like this over the next few weeks.  Suddenly, one leaps into the air and kicks out its back legs — a pale hyphen above the line of the earth.  These are the mad, March hares.

As I stand beside the easel, mixing paint, I look up and am amazed to see that the kestrel has come into the garden.  She is sitting on the fence, which runs parallel to the building, about six metres from the studio window.  I can clearly see her large, dark eyes and sharp, hooked beak.  No doubt she is scanning for field voles, whose holes are all too evident in the small lawn in front of her.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 23 March 2018

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

23 March

I spot a couple of roe deer in the distance this morning.  They notice us, but don’t seem unduly bothered.  They soon return to eating, before skittishly trotting off down the field.

A few metres further down the lane, in a sunny, sheltered spot, there is a scattering of dog violets.  A bit early to bloom?  And just beyond them is a yellowhammer, sitting atop the hedge.  They always make me smile, as their bright yellow heads make them look a little like escaped budgies!

There are colourful birds of a different variety on the afternoon walk.  As we come clomping down the track, we disturb two jays.  They fly from the hedge and across our path; their dipping and rising flight taking them to the safety of a line of small trees.  

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

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

21 March

When I open the curtains at 6.30am I see the wonderful combination of sunshine and frost.  The trees across the field opposite are partly obscured by mist.  On the lane out front, a rook is busy looking for food.  There’s no obvious target - he just capers about in his pantomimic style, checking first this and then that spot.  He is soon joined by a second rook, in his intense scrutiny of the tarmac junction.  When two or three vehicles pass, they lollop a metre or so back, with their comical sidestep, and then immediately return to the site of their intrigue.

The mist soon lifts, and after breakfast Millie and I set off on one of our favourite walks - I like the sweeping views across the farmland and she likes the proliferation of rabbits!  Before we even get near to Rabbit-ville, she begins her low, crouching walk: head, back and tail perfectly aligned, stealth on four legs!  The rabbits, on the other hand, are very blasé.  They are used to frequent human and canine walkers crossing the field, and continue to sit in the Spring sunshine, at the top of their burrows until the very last minute when - *pfff!* - they disappear, like the reverse of a magician’s trick.  Millie sticks her muzzle down a hole and sniffs.  Drat!  Got away again!

We turn right along the lane.  Whilst I am looking at the field patterns, there is a sudden tug on the lead and some rustling on the other side of the hedge.  A grey heron rises above the blackthorn and flies off across the grass field.  He must have been hunting in the ditch.

The lane descends steeply and crosses a brook, by an old, abandoned, cart bridge.  On again and then uphill, towards the church.   About halfway up, as I am looking up at some fieldfares, I feel another tug on the lead.  Millie has found something in the grass.  At the bottom of the bank lies a dead barn owl.  It is possibly a male; it’s hard to tell, as I cannot see its face, but the tail bars are quite a pale grey.  There is little air movement, but a light breeze stirs a layer of exquisitely fine, white feathers.  The bird appears so weightless; as if I would feel nothing on my palm, should I pick it up.  A few more feathers are strewn around and I cannot see the head amidst the crumpled form - was this damage done before or after death? 

Barn owls have few predators, but at this time of year, in periods of harsh weather, many starve to death for lack of prey.  I sincerely hope that this is not the case.  Even in death, it is a beautiful and noble creature. I cannot bear the thought that it grew weak from lack of food.

So much meadowland has been lost since the 1930’s - 97% in the U.K. We are luckier here than in most areas, but still, competition is fierce for that which remains.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

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

20 March

It is 5.30pm on the Equinox - this day of equal light and darkness.  I am walking uphill towards the lane.  On my right, a ditch and hedge, and on my left, a vast open field.  As I complete the steepest section of the curve, I pause to listen as a skylark has started to sing.  No.  Listen more carefully.  [ I concentrate ].  Two skylarks.

I shield my eyes from the setting sun and search the air above me. There’s one!  A tiny, dark dot against the pale blue.  The zenith of their flight is approximately 100m and this one must have reached that height.  But how loud he is!  This grain-shaped speck is a bird not much bigger than a sparrow, but his voice is raw power.  He hovers - the sound pouring out of him - rippling, bubbling and lyrical.

I stand stock still and continue to watch.  He descends somewhat and sails across towards me.  It is then that I see the second, crossing the sky below him and also moving in my direction.  They both hover, almost directly above me.  I am transfixed.  The song is likely to be about showing strength to attract a mate, but it seems to pour out of his chest like pure joy.

But what do they see as they look down? A tiny, dark, column with an upturned face, standing on the edge of a hundred-acre field, lit by the evening sun.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 19 March 2018

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

19 March

We have escaped the worst of the snowfall, but the very low temperatures and strong winds have created a surface of sculpted ice.  On the exposed airfield path, the puddles, which look to be about 4 metres long and 3 metres wide, have two different textures.  They are part angular and re-frozen slabs and part globular and bubbled.  The snow must have frozen into small, connected lumps on top of the previous surface. I have to squint as we edge past them on the narrow margin of mud and stones.  They reflect the sun like opaque mirrors.

The cross-wind on this bleak section is painful on the face and fingers, despite the hat, gloves and scarf.  I am relieved when we complete this stretch and turn the corner into the protection of a hedge.  Out of the wind the sun is warm - it is noticeably gaining in strength.

I have cut and gessoed 6 more boards.  I finish the final two layers today.  They dry while I do some more work on Millie’s portrait and then lay down a background for a new painting.  When we return from the afternoon walk, I make a quick sketch of my thoughts in a notebook.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 17 March 2018

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

17 March

A light covering of snow has fallen overnight.  From the accumulation on the fence posts, it looks to be about a couple of centimetres.  “The Beast From The East” has returned for a weekend break!

The last remnants of the previous fall only disappeared about 48 hours ago.  Amazingly, there was still the odd lump lying around in the bottom of a ditch or beneath a hedge.  My Mum always used to tell me that if snow hung around like that, that it was waiting for another fall.  I have to admit that this time I had been thinking that her weather lore may be incorrect, but sure enough she was proved right.  She had an abundant stock of such meteorological sayings, which she passed on to me when I was a child.

The large flakes continue to drift down all day, but do not add to the layer in the garden.  “Big snow, little snow; little snow, big snow”, she told me.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 16 March 2018

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

16 March

There is no air movement.  All is still.  The setting sun lends a red hue to the blackthorn.  Lichen-coated tree branches are citrus-green.  The brook that they overhang is full from the snow melt and the week’s additional rain.

I stand at the top of the hill and look out across the rolling countryside.  A line of tiny, distant cars looks as if it is riding a giant rollercoaster.  A blackbird sings his fruity evening song in the hedgerow and blue tits flit in and out of sight, calling in their high-pitched, staccato voices.  I look up at the illuminated clouds, caught in the scratchy net of the treetops.  I am weary, but the privilege of being this close to nature, is immeasurably soothing.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 12 March 2018

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

12 March

It is grey and damp, but good to be out and about this morning.  We walk past the sheep in their new location in a field on the other side of the village.  They are busy grazing on the stubble of a former crop.  Some are sitting, protected from the drizzle by their warm and oily coats.

All the colours are subdued today - greys, browns and blue/greys.  There is not so much noticeable birdsong either.  Even the garden seems strangely quiet.

I return to working on Millie’s portrait, adjusting fine details on the face.  However, before beginning to paint, I turn the picture upside down and consider it.  Then I right it and look at the reverse image in a mirror.  In this way my brain sees it as something unfamiliar and is forced to work harder.  It makes errors more visible.  I can see that the line of the mouth needs a slight adjustment in length and angle.  As with a human portrait, the merest millimetre of difference to the length or thickness in the line of the mouth will change the picture to one of a very similar individual, but not the actual sitter.  I am always fascinated to see how it is the smallest details that make us us.

I make the appropriate corrections and continue thus, while the rain patters on the roof and the radio mutters to itself in the background.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 10 March 2018

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

10 March

There are seven lilac-coloured crocuses open in the garden this morning - more evidence of the cautious approach of Spring.  On closer inspection I see that the stamens and stigma are the colour of rich egg yolk - the kind that you get from happy, outdoor hens, and that make your Yorkshire puddings rise!

Whilst walking past one of the large, medieval buildings in Lavenham, I see a small tortoiseshell butterfly sitting on the pavement.  Not wanting a pedestrian to tread on it, I bend down and place my hand next to it.  It obligingly walks onto my index finger.  I shelter it gently with my other hand and carry it across the street to a garden opposite, where I lean over the hedge and place it carefully on some foliage.  It is reluctant to leave the warmth of my skin.  I’m not sure whether it will have sufficient strength or nourishment to survive, but its chances must be slightly better than sitting on the tarmac in Water Street.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 8 March 2018

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

8 March

Thin layers of inky cloud lie over the horizon as the sun sets.  Suddenly I detect movement out of the corner of my eye.  A hare, barely visible, has started to move.  It is the colour of pale earth.  After a few metres it pauses and sits up straight.  No doubt it is aware of our presence and is watching from afar.  It remains there, like a small statue, for a few moments and then suddenly sets off running again - up and over the vast field until it disappears from view.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

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

7 March

5.46am.  Birdsong.  A blackbird sings mellifluously in the twilight.  He is soon joined by the high-pitched, chirrupy song of the robin.  Something has changed.  It’s as if a great, rusted cog has shifted and the heavy mechanism of the earth has moved slowly and ....CL..UN..K!!..., has turned its face a stage further towards the sun.  They know that, and they have begun in earnest the process of attracting a mate and defending territory.

Sure enough, when it is light, I look out of the kitchen door and see two male blackbirds fighting.  Eventually, the one that looks slightly tattered, gives up and moves away.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see a female land suddenly on the fence, not far from me.

I have a pleasing day in the studio, executing a painted sketch of last night’s sunset from a hastily taken photo, and then completing a more abstract night scene, on which I have been working for some time.

At around 4pm the sun appears, following a heavy shower.  It seems an opportune time for Millie and myself to set out on our afternoon walk.  When we are at the furthest point from home, a weighty and ominous blue cloud drags itself across the sky.  I can tell from the way that it trails its feathery base just above the treetops, that a downpour is imminent.  We pick up the pace and make it into the porch just as the first, heavy drops begin to fall.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 5 March 2018

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

5 March

Apart from the odd stripe and spot in the landscape, the snow has mostly gone.  Such a large quantity has miraculously disappeared overnight.  There is a tentative return to colour, where the morning sun picks out the pale ochre of a distant field and the orangey-green of a lichen covered tree.

What I also notice is an increase in sound - skylarks singing, sheep bleating and a flock of birds ‘chat-chatting’ in a treetop.  They are SO loud, as if they are all over-excited and are trying to speak all at once!

As we return from our walk, I see a hare running up and over the curve of an adjacent field until it disappears over the horizon.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 3 March 2018

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

3 March

The snowy landscape is covered in mist.  The entire vista is almost monochromatic; there is so little tonal variation.  The wind has dropped and although the temperature hovers around zero, it feels much warmer.

There are signs that a thaw is beginning.  The snow cliffs in the lane have the occasional hole in them and beneath the oak trees, patches of road surface are visible.  Our footsteps now make the familiar “crump, crump” sound as we walk down the hill, suggesting that the snow is wetter and less powdery.  

Down by the Hall we pause for a few moments, and notice a line of footprints emerging from the garden hedge and crossing the road.  They disappear into the small wood opposite.  They are clearly those of a badger - five toes with claws, positioned ahead of a broad pad, about 5-6cm long in total.

We walk uphill again and pass a flock of sheep being herded into a large pen.  They jostle and steam in the cold air.  The snow is thicker again here and we find more elegantly curved and elongated drifts.

As the day progresses, the spectacular icicles, which have been hanging like tubular bells from Barry’s kitchen roof, begin to drip and melt.  We periodically hear a dull “thump!”, as the layers of snow on our roof begins to slip.  When I look up from feeding the birds in the garden, I can see that it has crumpled and folded like a white duvet pushed down to the foot of a bed.  It sits ominously just above the gutter.  I’m very glad that we have a small front porch, as the firm closing of our tight-fitting front door could just trigger some slippage and a classic comedy moment!

By the end of the afternoon, the roads and paths are becoming dark again - muddy ribbons scattered over the white fields.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 1 March 2018

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

1 March

For the first time that I can remember since childhood, there is ice inside the bedroom windows this morning.

On the lane, the wind has blown the snow off the fields and through the blackthorn hedges, forming curved, multi-layered, shelf-like drifts.  They are very sculptural and beautiful.

Unsurprisingly, there are no other footprints in the white swathe ahead of us.  We are well dressed for the conditions, and enjoy the chance to be outside and see the altered landscape.  On our way back, we meet a neighbour driving home slowly in his Land Rover, having been out shopping for supplies.  He is very cheery, and stops to chat, although briefly, as it is too cold to stand still for too long!

In the studio, I decide to make a sketch of the snow in the lane and produce a quick, loose painting of the subject, in order to remind me of this relatively unusual weather event.

When we walk again later, the wind is picking up and the snow is blowing again.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

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

28 February

Good job that I got those logs in, as we have had 15cm of snow since we went to bed last night!

When I awake, I am aware of the silence and then the creak, crack, crump, thrum of a car creeping cautiously along the snowbound road outside.  Peering gingerly from behind the curtain, I can see that a heavy snow shower is in progress.  Visibility is poor - more like fog.

Before breakfast I go out to fill the bird feeders and put out water.  The garden is full of birds today, with doves and a pied wagtail joining the usual suspects.

Millie seems to really enjoy the snow for the first time.  She skips around, sometimes jumping round in a circle and then looking at us as if to say, ‘this is great isn’t it!’.  We do, however, get caught in a bit of a blizzard as the wind picks up, but she trots gamely on.  When the snow is blowing horizontally and visibility is down to about twenty metres, we decide to turn for home.  We manage about 45 minutes in all.

As the studio is in the garden, I am still able to make it to work!  I continue painting on one of the smaller abstract landscapes, looking out periodically to see the top layer of the powdery snow being blown across the surface of the farmland by gusts of wind.

The sun breaks through at around 4pm, but more heavy snow is predicted tonight, with possible blizzards to follow!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson