I’ve been collecting stories from the Yorkshire Dales for a while now in prepartion for an exhibition this summer. When I started asking for it didn’t take long to realise that some places attract legends like a hedgehog attracts fleas. Pendragon Castle is a case in point.
Pendragon Castle lies on the north western edge of the Dales in the shadow of Wild Boar Fell and the crumbling ruin sits on a mound in which a dragon lives. The castle’s name is well known from the legends of King Arthur. Uther Pendragon was Arthur’s father and was reputedly born here. That’s the first legend. Uther lost the castle when an enemy poisoned the castle well during a siege killing a hundred soldiers.
Wild Boar Fell
The castle was also home to Sir Hugh de Morville, one of Thomas Becket’s murderers. Sir Hugh was haunted by the similarity between the silhouette of Wild Boar Fell and the shape of Becket’s face in death. From the right angle the hill looks like the profile of a fallen man.
As if all this wasn’t sufficient for one ruin there is also a buried treasure which is guarded by a spectral black hen. As fast as a treasure hunter digs a hole the hen fills it back in.
So, for my forthcoming exhibition, I’ve been wrestling with how to portray this mysterious place. In the first painting I played with idea of an aura, using a halo effect to enclose the castle and echo the shape of the tree. In the second I drew my inspiration from the colours of the hen: black feathers, red wattle. And in the third I tried to bring an other-wordly, unreal feeling to the castle’s silhouette.
For Wild Boar Fell I wanted to capture to remote wildness of this high outpost of the Pennines and also something of the sadness that here was where the last wild boar in England was killed.
As an ensemble I hope they reflect the various legends of this little-visited corner of the Dales.
All the paintings will be on show at the eventual exhibition (see the poster - right).
| |Tulips in Watercolour
For those interested in watercolour floral painting there are still a few places left on the course I’m teaching at Constable Burton. Run by Artison studios of Masham, the course includes a tour of the beautiful gardens and lovely Palladian house of Constable Burton as well as lunch. CLICK HERE
for further details and to book a place.
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I'm involved in a number of exhibitions this year. I've listed them below. Hope to see you at one of them.
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Screen Prints of Cambridge Cambridge Contemporary Art
Eight new screen prints of Cambridge, including The Bridge of Sighs (above), The Round Church and Queen’s College.
Paintings and Stories of the Yorkshire Dales
Wensley Church, Wensley, N Yorks.
27 July – 11 August 2013
A major exhibition of new paintings based on stories from the Yorkshire Dales collected over the last two years. In addition to artwork the exhibition sees the launch of a book for children: The Penhill Giant, which is an illustrated retelling of events which took place on the hill overlooking the exhibition location. The exhibition will also see the launch of a book illustrated with new paintings created for the exhibition work which will also include a collection of Dales stories, many of which will be appearing in print for the first time.
By kind permission of the Churches Conservation Trust
Also coming up this year:Art in the Pen
Skipton Auction Mart, Skipton, N Yorks.
17 – 18 August 2013
For one weekend Skipton Auction Mart becomes a vast art gallery with artists from across the North of England displaying work where cattle and sheep are usually sold. Always a great event with a wonderful atmosphere. Masham Arts Festival Exhibition
St Mary’s Church, Masham, N. Yorks.
25 October – 2 November 2013
The sixth Masham Arts Festival will include, as always, an eclectic mix of events, art and craft workshops and concerts, but, at its heart, is this exhibition. Featuring thirty carefully selected artists this is always one of the best exhibtions on the British festival scene. Simplicity Of ColourMasham Gallery
, Masham, N Yorks.
21 September - 3rd November
A stunning exploration into the power and beauty of using a single colour by myself and some wonderful printmakers: Anja Percival, Hester Cox, Margaret Morris and Janis Goodman. Aged to PerfectionMasham Gallery
, Masham, N Yorks.
16th November - 31st December - A number of artists explore finding beauty in the worn, aged and imperfect. Includes work from myself and Josie Beszant, Suzanne McIvor and Victoria Sayers amongst others.
For further details, or to enquire about purchasing my work CLICK HERE
Over the last few months I've been out walking, sketching and photographing in the Yorkshire Dales
working on ideas for an exhibition based on stories from the Dales which will be happening in July 2013. Inevitably this has taken me through the area known as the Three Peaks
- a triangle of high country ringed by the hills of Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent. Running though the centre of this fabulous landscape is the Ribblehead Viaduct - the mighiest structure on the Settle to Carlisle railway
I first came to this place on the day I was introduced to the Dales. I was being taken down my first pot hole! The Three Peaks area is honeycombed with caves and I was being initiated into the art of speleology (that's caving) by a couple of enthusiasts. Driving from Durham we left the A1 at Scotch Corner and passed through Richmond. Then we made our way up Swaledale, crossed into Wensleydale and finally stopped at Horton in Ribblesdale. I was knocked out by the beauty of the countryside that day - the shape of the land, the meandering drystone walls, the tiny barns - and have stayed that way ever since. For the last twenty five years I have lucky enough to live in this wonderful landscape.
Over the years I have painted the Three Peaks several times, usually mounting the three images in one frame, as I have done with the latest set, shown above.
Every day people walk, cycle and run the Three Peaks, often clocking in and out at the time clock in the cafe at Horton. The three hills offer amazing views and have entirely different characters.
Below is a smaller set which I painting while planning the larger version.CLICK HERE
to enquire about buying The Three Peaks.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse (Watercolour)
New Exhibition at The Gallery, Masham : The Edge of the World
21st July to 31st August
Saltburn Pier (Watercolour)The Gallery in Masham
is mounting an exhibition entitled The Edge of the World which opens with a preview on July 20th. The exhibition's title is taken from a remarkable film set on a remote Scottish island: The Edge of the World. (More about the film below).
Looking From The Yorkshire Border (Mixed Media)
The exhibition will feature by some terrific artists: Catherine Sutcliffe-Fuller
, Heather Gatt
, Pamela Knight
, Winifred Hodge
, Gareth Buxton
, Lesley Birch
The concept of "the edge" can mean so many things. The more I thought about it the more I realised that I would have to make some careful choices in exploring the subject. In the end I painted a serious of works which relate to the theme in different ways.
Two pictures: Looking From the Yorkshire Border and Saltburn Pier take Yorkshire as my world and show the views looking from the pass which leads from Cumbria into Swaledale and, far to the East, the end of Yorkshire where Saltburn pier dips its toes in the water.
Lindisfarne (Screen Print)
The images of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh refer both to life on the edge of England but also to where the worlds of the Celtic saints and the Vikings first met. Middlesmoor Church is on a hill, high at the head of Nidderdale, standing in an ancient sacred place where, in the Dark Ages, the edge of earth met the edge of heaven.
Skye from Sanna (Screen Print)
Skye from Sanna and The Lightouse, Ardnamurchan are both paintings from Ardnamurchan in Argyllshire, the most westerly part of the British mainland. Here a long finger of land reaches out, over the isle of Mull, towards the Hebrides. It’s the edge of Scotland and it feels like the edge of another world.
The Edge of the World is at:
The Gallery, 24, Market Place, Masham, North Yorkshire. HG4 4EBwww.mashamgallery.co.uk
There is a preview on July 20th at 7.30 pm. Come and join us for a glass of wine if you can.
The exhibition runs from 21st July to 31st August
The Gallery opening hours are:
Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm
Sunday 1pm - 5pm
Monday - Closed
My interest in the details goes back a long way. I can remember when I was very small losing myself in the patterns on my Aunt Belle’s china, looking at the cast iron coal hole covers on the pavement, following the swirls in the paisley carpet designs.
Along with the smell of damp and the dust motes floating in the air the things I remember best from the long hours in church were the carvings on the medieval screen, the worn encaustic tiles on the chancel floor and the graffiti bitten deep into the choir stalls by previous generations of the bored. Of the interminable sermons not a word ever stayed with me.
I spend a lot of time drawing and painting buildings. I usually start by getting to know the silhouette but it’s the details that draw me in.
Looking back through my photo files I’m amazed by how many times I seem to click the shutter on something small, but amazing. Here is just a small selection.
The next art course I'm teaching at Artison is:A Contemporary Approach to Watercolour
Friday, 18th May 2012 Price: £65.00
Watercolour frequently suffers from an undeserved reputation as a pale, washed out medium. Contemporary watercolour artists, however, are exploring vibrant new ways of creating results rich in colour and texture and this course looks at some easy ways to take these ideas into your work. By the end of the course will be able to:
- Mix and use watercolour in a variety of ways
- Incorporate different media for different effects
- Plan paintings which move away from traditional styles
- Develop an awareness of directions in contemporary watercolour
To book CLICK HERE
Fountains Abbey, Late Evening
Framed Size: 28" x 21"
Currently on sale at
The Gallery, Masham
To enquire about this painting CLICK HERE
To visit the NEW Gallery website CLICK HERE
Penhill from Great Whernside, watercolour.
I’m working on some ideas at the moment for my exhibition in July 2013 about the Yorkshire Dales and I’m doing a lot of reading. Apart from collections of Dales stories I’m reading an excellent book on Yorkshire geology.
The special character of the Dales is closely associated with the limestone beneath. When you’re walking in the hills the evidence that this was once the floor of a sea is evident in every fossil-studded rock. For an artist, however, it is the more recent legacy of the ice ages which lends the skyline its character.
Four hills in particular: Penyghent, Ingleborough, Penhill and Addleborough owe their distinctive profiles to a combination of smoothing ice flows and hard layers of underlying rock giving the flat-topped, step-sided horizon which typify the Dales and make them such a pleasure to paint.
Of these four, Penhill holds a special place in my heart. It’s in view most of the time when you’re travelling in Wensleydale, where I live. It is a lovely climb, with fantastic views from the top and it’s a hill of stories:
- the legend of the Penhill Giant – a maiden snatching, cow-munching psychopath whose grave caps the summit.
- the tumbled down beacon thought to date from the threat of the Spanish Armada 500 years ago.
- the strange tracks cut into and around the hill made by drovers, traders, monks and possibly by the Brigantes tribe who once ruled the Dales before it was England. (They made Tor Dyke – a big ditch cut across the top of neighbouring Coverdale).
Here are some paintings done over the years of my favourite hill along with an excerpt from a recent poem, written for the forthcoming exhibition.
Penhill, Evening, watercolour
Penhill from Grinton Moor, watercolour
To enquire about any of the images on this page, please CLICK HERE
Always on the skyline of my life for two score years now,
Seen from a train, a distant castle, a motorway,
From a road rolling in the belly of the dale,
From ship shaped village green,
From beyond the torn walls of a ruined chapter house
The hill, prow lifted to the east,
Sails against the sky.
Rising from the sculpted ordered Georgian bridge
By hand hewn hedges smooth as hounds
And lifting to the racehorse rumbling high moor
The symphonic heft of Wensleydale behind, beneath,
And suddenly the sky is close above us.
Ripon Cathedral from Studley Royal, Limited Edition Print.
Art course coming up ...
There are a few places left on Top Techniques in Watercolour
- a course for everyone interested in painting in watercolour -
at Artison (near Masham, North Yorkshire) Thursday, 5th April.
The course, which will focus on a variety of very effective techniques, costs £65.00 (which includes an excellent lunch). CLICK HERE to book.
Helvellyn, Ian Scott Massie
"Artists are people who say I can’t fix my country or my state or my city, or even my marriage. But by golly, I can make this square of canvas, or this eight and a half by eleven piece of paper, or this lump of clay or these twelve bars of music, exactly what they ought to be." Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut
understood the artistic mind very well. In his novel Bluebeard
about the fictional abstract expressionist
Rabo Karabekian he lifts the lid on the life of an artist and the tension that exists between control and liberation in every media.
The Old Man of Coniston, Ian Scott Massie
In watercolour great results are frequently born out of happy accidents, and so it is one of the most divisive media. At one end of the scale are the purists who dislike compound colours such as Paynes Grey
(a neutral tint originally made up of red, blue and yellow), and abhor the use of white or black. At the other end (a district in which I am happy to reside) are the experimenters for whom anything is fair game – inks, gouache, acrylics, wax and so on.
Both approaches can produce great results, because both camps include people with great artistic ability and vision. Both also represent an ever-present divide between those who strive for complete control and those who wish to be unconfined.
Dallowgill, Ian Scott Massie
I am setting out to reconcile both groups through a course I’m teaching at Artison next week called Liberated Watercolour and I’m going to try a few ideas in which there is an element of control which the artists can then deliberately undermine. The thinking behind this is that many artists want to break from their self-imposed degree of control while others find that an unstructured approach comes all to easily and often want to find ways to repeat the happy accidents which befall them. I'll be letting them explore what happens when you just let the paint do the work, but also ways to intervene and channel the developing picture.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the end result allowed someone to echo Kurt Vonnegut’s wonderful words and, by losing control, find the right picture?
To book a place on Liberated Watercolour CLICK HERE
To join my 4 week course in Working With Watercolour CLICK HERE
One of the most frequently found terms in contemporary painting is “abstracted landscape “. Its one of those terms which could mean almost anything, but this is an illustration of what it means for me.
This is a painting I made a few years ago after a moving visit to Wasdale Head
. Wasdale is a small valley in the Lake District in North West England. It holds the remarkable lake of Wastwater - its surface two hundred feet above sea level and its bottom 50 feet below. The painting is of Wasdale Head, home to the Wasdale Inn and the starting point for many climbers of England’s highest mountain.
In the valley bottom is St Olaf’s church. Its roof trusses are reputed to come from Viking ships. Inside are small memorials to climbers who have died on mountains all over the world and many are buried in the graveyard. The inscriptions of their untimely deaths make very hard reading.
We came here because we have an old Turner
print which was found in Masham
and we were looking for the place where Turner made his picture. We found it. Afterwards we had quiet, reflective beer in front of the fire in the slate-floored inn.
Some places have so much personality a realistic painting of surface appearances would simply be not enough. So this became a landscape painting abstracted by experiences and emotions and, to help me find some of those things, I wrote a poem at accompany my sketches. The rest came from colour and movement and my thoughts as the painting came into being. I don't ask what the elements of the painting represent - they just came out that way. But I know it means to me the time we spent at Wasdale Head. Wasdale Head
Deep into shadows under the hill
To the heart of the rain
And scumble of the falling water
To the bright-fired and slate-floored bar.
Wood smoke and fresh coffee
In the first chill of autumn
And then the path drawn upwards
Into the painting
Until the contour lines
And engraver’s furrows
If you'd like to see Peter Hicks - one the greatest of landscape abstractionists - in action, CLICK HERE
Racehorses are a subject I return to again and again. I find the combination of beauty and power just wonderful and always have since first going to the races at Kempton Park in my late teens. The first image I put into print was a picture called Winning in about 2005. It was by no means my first horse picture but I felt I had finally captured the feeling I was after.
The only other horse image I have put into print is Racing Green which now coming to the end of its edition - just a few left. Both pictures include the rails which, along with other formal elements of the course – starting gates, stands and furlong markers – act as a foil to the primal power of the horses.
Following a commission for a new racehorse painting, I’ve recently begun looking for new ideas for racing pictures. Here’s recent study.
If you're interested in seeing, or commissioning any racing pictures contact The Gallery, Masham by CLICKING HERE.
If you’re very quick you can still hear my interview on BBC Radio Yorks
from last week. Its on iplayer till Sunday. CLICK HERE
Art courses I'm teaching at Artison
in the near future:
| |Exploring Acrylic Inks
Friday, 24th FebruaryCLICK HERE
to book a place.
| |Liberated Watercolour
Friday, 16th MarchCLICK HERE
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