Monday, 22 January 2018

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

22 January

The snow has all gone and the day is sunny and much milder.

Work is hindered again by another trip to the doctor, as my mystery virus reveals itself as......(ta dah!) - Shingles. No wonder it has been so painful!  However, a trip to Lavenham is always welcome.

On the way back from the pharmacy, I pause to stare up at one of the white doves, who is perching, proudly upright, on the ridge of a tiled and mossy roof.  He looks like a small sentinel, gazing out over the ancient settlement, and reminds me of Raphael, standing on the spine of a Venetian roof in the wonderful “Miss Garnet’s Angel”, by Salley Vickers.

During the afternoon I visit the framer and talk to a gallery owner about re-stocking work.

I’m really keen to get back to painting tomorrow.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 21 January 2018

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

21 January

Mist and frost give way to fine snow and light grey cloud, and then finally to a heavier, steadier fall. The landscape becomes almost monochrome, save for the green/grey of trees in the middle distance.

I take my camera upstairs and open wide the window to the panoramic whiteness.  Unfortunately, I am too slow to capture a picture of two hares running across the face of the broad field just beyond the meadow.  The colour of the gulls changes from charcoal grey to dirty white as they pass from the background of snow to that of the trees.

Downstairs again, I focus my lens on the garden birds - not quickly enough to photograph a family of six long-tailed tits that are jostling to gain access to two fat balls.  However, I take shots of the other avian visitors and am amazed to see how colourful the wood pigeon is, when I examine its image up close.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 20 January 2018

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

20 January

A bitterly cold and sleety day.  In a Lavenham garden, we spot snowdrops appearing beneath, and adjacent to, a shrub with vivid scarlet stems. The plant’s interwoven, basket-like structure is both striking and intriguing.  Possibly a type of willow?

We visit friends, and from their sitting room window, gaze out across a sweeping view and see six deer trotting along the line of a hedgerow.  They pause now and then to graze at the edge of the field.

It is definitely a good day to be watching the wildlife from indoors, with convivial company and a mug of hot coffee in hand.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 19 January 2018

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

19 January

A grey heron stands looking hopefully into Barry’s ice-covered pond, until our door to the garden opens and causes it to lift off, flying languorously away over the meadow.

I am able to take a longer walk in the winter sunshine today, but do not feel well enough to spend a whole day standing at the easel in a cold studio.  Instead, I limit my time, making sketches and ink paintings with simple compositions and a restricted colour palette.

At twilight, Millie and I take a short stroll and I look at the sliver of moon, set against an ice-blue sky.  The silhouettes of the motionless, bare trees are inky black against the translucent background.  A wide and heavy band of purply-blue cloud moves incrementally across the scene and obscures the fingernail of light.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 18 January 2018

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

18 January

I’ve been laid low by a virus for the last couple of days, so today, I am very pleased to get out for a short walk, some fresh air, and to see the sky again. Being outdoors makes me feel so much better. We are surprised to see so few branches down after last night’s winds of 80+ mph.  They must have been weeded out during the last storm.

There are no other buildings for miles in a westerly direction from where we live.  This means that our little cottage takes the full brunt of the west wind.  Being old, it literally moves with the onslaught - a strange sensation when you are lying in bed!  However, the fact that it flexes is probably why it has managed to stand here for so long.

From 3am to 7am, the wind roars over us, dislodging the board that blocks one of the chimneys, and pulling air through the house so strongly that I have to put my shoulder to the old wooden kitchen door in order to latch and bolt it!

A small, Victorian, bedroom fireplace, which we had assumed was decorative, is obviously not, as at 6am it starts clanging loudly.  The metal flap that opens directly into the chimney stack, and which I had thought was welded to the surround, is being pulled open and shut. It sounds like someone is banging a spade with a hammer. On inspection I see that it has a metal eyelet on the flap, which enables me to thread nylon picture twine through it and to tie it to the bars of the grate and impede its movement.  Useful stuff for all sorts of jobs!

I am so grateful to be feeling well again today and that the storm has left us unscathed.  Hopefully, tomorrow, it will be back to business as usual.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 15 January 2018

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

15 January

A wet and windy start to the day. Grey, grey...grey, grey, grey.

However, it still feels energising to be outside.  The wind blows the fine rain into our faces as we walk in open countryside.  On the right-hand side of the path, a covey of partridges is feeding.  Our arrival disturbs them and they set off running, like the Keystone Cops, along the curving face of the vast field and down, down, to the wooded area below.

In the afternoon, I glance out of the studio window and see the kestrel hovering above the field, flying into the oncoming wind.  The sun plays “Now you see me, now you don’t”, to great effect - one minute throwing a golden spotlight onto the trees, the next hiding behind layers of heavy cloud.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 14 January 2018

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

14 January

At 2.30am I hear the long, wavering call of a male Tawny owl.  The “hoo, hoo, hooo…” travels across the dark and silent landscape to where I lay listening.  I don’t find the sound remotely spooky; to me it is comforting - the voice of another creature awake at this lonely hour.

We spend a peaceful day walking and reading.  During the early afternoon I go out to the studio and use it as a hide, setting up my camera and taking photographs of the bird of prey and the garden birds.  At one point, I am intrigued to see the kestrel and the woodpecker sitting on adjacent posts, happily ignoring each other and focussing on their respective tasks.

The bird feeders are doing a brisk trade and for some time I concentrate on a female blackbird.  I am very fond of blackbirds.  Their bright eyes and quick movements make them look so alert and inquisitive.  I often have them in mind when making the shapes of birds in my paintings.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 13 January 2018

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

13 January

It is heartening to see the pale golden sun reaching out from under a band of light grey cloud, as I look out over the garden this morning.  The goldfinches are already raiding the bird feeders and the robin is hopping about territorially at the base of the apple trees.

In the little meadow, the green woodpecker and the kestrel return to seek out their respective food sources.  They have become daily visitors now and I am pleased to think that we are helping to feed them.  I go outside to chop some kindling and see that the emerging snowdrops are beginning to form tiny white flower heads.  My arrival disturbs the woodpecker, who flies off to the safety of a nearby hedge.  The flight patterns of woodpeckers always amuse me.  I watch it travel in an up-and-down scalloped-shaped line.  It’s body shape makes it look like a flying wooden skittle.

I pack some work to go to an exhibition and review yesterday’s painting.  The compositions need to rattle around in the back of my mind for a bit longer.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 12 January 2018

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

12 January

The first sound that I hear on waking, is a robin singing....and singing....and singing.  There is virtually no light, but he is in full voice.  I cannot prove it, but my gut feeling is that a change has occurred, and that he is singing for longer.  I suspect that the holding of winter territory is now overlapping with singing to attract a mate.

The dawn breaks onto another grey morning, but the cloud begins to thin and soon patches of watery blue sky appear.  I realise how something as simple as a glimpse of colour in the sky cheers my heart and energises me.  

We take the path through a wooded area, and I see a flash of pinkish-brown out of the corner of my eye, and then another.  A jay zooms through the trees at head height, to my left.  

In the studio I work on two paintings, adding colour and building up the layers.

During the late afternoon, the sun emerges from beneath the cloud base, just for five or so minutes, but the effect on the colour of the landscape is striking.  A line of trees on the horizon turns an amazing red-gold.

I love art, but it can never out-do nature.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 11 January 2018

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

11 January

Fog.  Visibility is down and sounds are muffled.  It makes the landscape look mysterious.....but is still not good for painting!

I do what I can, but then the framer very kindly delivers some work and I set about constructing a box and packing a painting to be sent to a customer.  It is a kind of law of the universe that, no matter how many boxes I save to recycle, there is never one that is quite the right size!  Thus I begin wrestling with cardboard, fasteners and tape before I have a bespoke container for the picture.

Millie and I have our second outing at dusk.  I walk to a location from which I sometimes see owls take off at this time of day.  Unfortunately not this evening.  The sound of our steps disturbs a few roosting birds.  They shuffle amidst the branches overhead, whilst the trees “drip, drip” in the silence.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

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

10 January

The grey lid is still on the world.  The fine mist clings coldly to my face and finds its way through the weave of my gloves.

As we pass the now abandoned sheep fields, Millie and I put up a flock of fieldfares that have been scouring it’s curved surface.  I count approximately 25 as they take flight.

Further along the road, I glance through a gap in the right-hand tree line and catch a glimpse of some roe deer.  They are difficult to spot in this light as they are blending tonally into their surroundings.  Walking quietly, I reach the end of the bushes and slowly turn the corner.  I am able to get a better view from here and manage not to startle them.  There look to be six in all, grazing on a field margin and sheltered by a long, undulating hedge.  The white markings on their hind-quarters are the only parts of them to stand out against the mud and twigs.  I don’t want to disturb them, so I turn back and take another route.

The lane climbs upwards, between some buildings and a small wood. The view is diminished, but I am cheered by the songs of skylarks above the fields on either side.  Their high-pitched tunes ripple like a musical waterfall.

Back in the studio, despite the poor light, work must be done.  I complete the gessoing of the panels and make a rapid colour sketch on a large sheet of paper.  Then I begin to paint backgrounds on the panels that are fully dried and sanded.  Finally, I cut up the sketch and use it to make a collage, in order to help me to think about composition.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

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

9 January

Another day of grey.  There is almost no air movement and consequently the heavy layer of cloud refuses to budge.  It continues to sit over us, rendering the light as virtually permanent twilight.  But the birds are busy.  In the morning the small white ovals of distant gulls look like scattered grains of rice on the green surface of an emergent crop.  I hear, but do not see, a buzzard, somewhere above me.  The “mew mew” is a strangely high-pitched call for such a large bird.

Necessary appointments break into the hours of work, and when I can get into the studio I continue the preparation of panels, in order to build up my stock of paint-ready surfaces.  This will aid the fast flow of ideas later.

At dusk, as we walk home from the direction of the church, I listen to the “spink, spink” of blackbirds in the hedgerows on either side and calling from somewhere up ahead.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 8 January 2018

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

8 January

It is one of those winter days when it never seems to get fully light.  A thick layer of cloud drapes itself over the whole landscape like a damp, grey blanket. There is no frost today, but it is bitterly cold and the concrete farm roads are slippery underfoot.  All their potholes and crevices are packed with ice.

We walk briskly along, in order to keep warm.  Two horses, wearing what look like oilskin coats, lean silently over the rails of their paddock and stare at us as we pass.

The poor light levels are not good for painting, even with the studio lights.  It is very difficult to accurately assess colour in these conditions.  Instead, I begin preparing panels with layers of gesso, so that I will have surfaces to work on later in the week.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 7 January 2018

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

7 January

Another bright and icy day.

The kestrel is back, successfully employing her “perch and pounce” technique on the local vole population.

We decide that it is a good day to trim our two small apple trees (aided by Barry’s book on pruning, of course).  With rather numb fingers, we clip and lop last year’s growth in order to recreate more compact and less cluttered shapes.  Just before we complete the task, a loud chorus of cheeping and chattering begins in a nearby ash tree.  The garden birds are growing impatient.  We have kept them from the feeders for far too long!  As soon as we step a couple of metres back from the trees, the first ones zoom in, and by the time that we are in the house, looking out, about twenty are squabbling over the food.  There is some serious eating time to catch up on before dusk!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 6 January 2018

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

6 January

Twelfth Night begins with a sharp frost and clear, pale, blue sky.  The dissolving moon hangs over the garden at the rear of the cottage.  The rooftops beneath are coated in thick, white rime.  Millie races back in, leaping from lawn to decking - which is like an ice rink - and somehow manages to brake like a figure skater, just before the back door.  How that dog keeps those four, stick-like legs from going in different directions, I will never know!

Lavenham is resplendent in the winter sunshine.  Its houses of Suffolk pink and ochre glow warmly in the cold air.  Walking past the Priory, I hear a deep, rippling, “tchoo, tchoo”.  Standing proudly on the pinnacle of the steep roof of this white, 13th century building, is a large dove of the same colour.  It looks like the figurehead on the prow of an ancient vessel.  There is a theory that some of the timbers of such medieval houses were recycled from old ships.  Whether this is true or not, I like the idea.  I often look at our own small ceiling, with its gnarled, strong central beam and curving ribs, and feel as if I am looking at a hull from below.  I like to think that, in some past life, our small house, before it came to settle here, had adventures on the high seas!

The kestrel returns during the early afternoon.  Although I am not sure, at first, if it is a different, larger bird.  Looking through field glasses, I can see that it is a female, and the reason that it looks larger is because today it is not puffing its feathers and bending into the wind.  As we watch, she suddenly swoops down from her perch on the fence post to the grass below.  A successful kill is made and off she flies towards some nearby trees to eat or cache the vole.

The bird of prey is not the only hunter out today. I am carrying in some kindling at 3pm and hear gunshots echoing across the valley from the distant woods.  A pheasant shoot is underway.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 5 January 2018

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

5 January

As we set off this morning, Barry our elderly neighbour and font of all useful gardening and building advice, hails us cheerfully from his garden.  “Aconites”, he says, pointing to the flowerbed just in front of his feet.  I lean over the rosemary hedge to see five or six buttery-yellow globes emerging from the earth.  They are each about the size of a small marble, and seated on top of a crown of narrow leaves.  Soon they will be open to form a scattering of rich yellow cups set against the dark earth and surrounding shrubbery.

Even in these winter months there is vivid colour to be seen.  One of the features of the landscape around where we live, is the proliferation of small woods and copses.  Today we pass three, and I pause to look at the bright yellowy-green of some of the trunks and the pale spots of lichen covering the bark of a another young tree. Apparently lichen is an indicator of air quality, but my main interest in it is as a pattern of contrasting oval shapes on the slender, linear structure.

In the early afternoon, the cloud lifts to permit the sun to warm and brighten the colours further.  Whilst having a break from painting, I spot a kestrel sitting on a post on the edge of the meadow. Despite the increasing sunshine, the air is still bitingly cold, and the small bird has puffed its feathers against the buffeting wind.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 4 January 2018

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

4 January

This morning we take a different route and walk along the lane towards the church and the Hall.  Once out on the ridge, I can see for several miles in each direction.  The sky is flat grey and the chill air is damp and clinging.  The cold penetrates the fingers of my gloves. The moisture in the atmosphere is what my mother would have called “mizzle” - that hybrid of mist and drizzle. What is most noticeable, however, as we descend the hill, is the stillness.  With almost no air movement today, there is a welcome silence after the battering storm.

The road winds down between high hedges. Their auburn and mauve/scarlet branches makes them stand out against the leaden sky.  Something about their colour and roughly woven structure makes me think of a pirate’s beard from childhood literature!  From them comes the chitter-chatter of numerous small birds, who dart rapidly in and out, down the line ahead of me. Three large oaks emerge from the right-hand hedge.  Crows flap about lazily in their naked branches, flying up and down to the field below where, until recently, sheep were grazing.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

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

3 January

3.15am.  The pattering of tiny paws again.  Millie is pacing due to the recent arrival of storm Eleanor.  The wind is howling round the cottage and the trees outside the window are thrashing and creaking.  The wheelbarrow has been transported from its usual peaceful posture and its handle is clanging intermittently against a metal container, as if someone is randomly ringing a tuneless bell.  We allow the anxious dog to jump up and bury herself rapidly beneath a woollen blanket which lies on top of the duvet at the foot of the bed.  She curls up between two pairs of feet. She inhales a short gasp and then exhales a long....slow....breath....hhhhhhhhhhh - relief!

We are up at 5.30am for B’s journey to work, which does not seem like a good idea in the present conditions.  Left alone (Millie is still buried under the blanket) I tend to the stove through which the air is gusting, despite the fact that both the vents are shut tight.  I find just one small spark amidst the bed of ash, but it is enough to light fresh paper and kindling, and very soon a small friendly glow is warming the coffee pot and lighting the darkness of a winter morning.  Somehow, when one is alone, a fire is companionship.

Later in the morning I take Millie for a walk around the old airfield.  We get blown along the route by Eleanor, who is still with us, shoving an invisible hand into our backs!  I pause to look at some trees and to take a couple of photos, but we still complete the route several minutes faster than usual.  Shortly before home, I catch a glimpse of three, small, stocky little birds in the hedgerow.  They have deep-apricot coloured chests and black caps.  The bullfinches move along the line of brambles and bushes in front of us, in a kind of Mexican wave.  

When we return, I head straight into my little studio, crank up the fan heater and switch on the radio.  It’s good to be back.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

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

2 January

I am woken at 5.45am by the pattering of paws on a wooden floor, followed by their gentle scratching at the door.  Millie is telling me that she needs to be let out to go to the loo.

I open the kitchen door and look out over the garden to see the first and largest supermoon of the year on its morning descent.  It hangs like a huge, pale, pearlescent lamp in an inky blue sky, presiding over a scene of perfect stillness.  The valley beyond the garden appears to be made of pewter and I can see for miles.

Later, the sun rises in a bold display of crimson and gold - looking regal, but foretelling the arrival of wet and windy weather.  Its glory is soon shrouded in grey cloud.

After returning from a morning walk, I fill the bird feeders and notice the first snowdrops and crocuses emerging from one of the beds.  A gentle rain begins to fall and I remember that storm Eleanor is on her way.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 1 January 2018

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

New Year’s Day 2018

The day began with toothache - not the most auspicious start to the new year, but one that I was determined would not spoil my fun.  A couple of painkillers, a salt wash and a hot water bottle followed my gingerly eaten breakfast, before we set off to explore a new route.  Friends had recently introduced us to a walk that we had not previously known and I had worked out that we could link it to one that we did, providing us with a circuitous path of about 2 hours length.

We followed the lane down to the old church as usual and then uphill towards the wood.  There had been rain overnight, but the mud underfoot was manageable, with not too much slipping or squelching.  The sky was bright and pale blue and the air still and fresh.  It made everything seem unsullied and hopeful, as befits a New Year’s Day.  

Following the line of the wood to the left, we then turned right and passed through a pungent stable yard.  It’s not a smell that I find unpleasant and somehow reminds me of the of the interior of a shotgun barrel ( from when, as a child, my father used to let me clean his 12 you do...).  A horse, walking round and round in an automatic walker, paused briefly to watch our small procession.  It looked somewhat offended as the the crossbeam continued on and smacked it on the bottom, encouraging it to press on with its exercise. We crossed the drive of a large and ancient house and then followed the footpath through the fields until our neighbouring village came into view.  Had we more courage, we could have turned right just before the houses, but being slightly unsure, we played safe and went to the road and along as far as the pub, where we recognised the small bridge that our friends had shown us.  We crossed it and easily found our way through the sheep fields and back to the cottage .

Just prior to home, we saw a muntjac trotting along the path ahead of us.  It seemed unaware of our presence and carried briskly along until disappearing into small the wood on our right.  Millie, our sight hound, who had missed the whole thing, picked up the scent and hurried to the spot where it had last been in view.  She did well on what has been her longest trek since a recent illness.  Good to see her lively and enthusiastic once again!

During the afternoon, as we sat reading in the kitchen, B alerted me to the presence of a hawk, hovering above the garden, about 3 metres away. The light from the setting sun cast it into a rose/gold background.

Now the cloud has come and the fire is lit and there are tea and homemade, spiced biscuits to tuck into - carefully avoiding that dodgy tooth!  Happy New Year!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson