Tuesday, 31 December 2013

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

A New Landscape

So I've changed location.  I sit here in the kitchen of our new cottage, gazing down the long, narrow garden and out to the rolling countryside beyond. Two hares have just run past at full pelt, about 100m from the house.

I still feel slightly disorientated, having lost most of my familiar markers.  It will take time to re-establish myself and to find the new version of me that will grow in this different terroir.  It is a strange life-in-waiting kind of phase, particularly being between Christmas and the New Year.  A rich mixture of life lies behind and so much yet unknown lies ahead.  I miss my old friends and neighbours, and my beloved little cottage and valley, but I am deeply grateful for this beautiful new home, with it's little garden studio and wonderful views.  Instead of being enclosed within a valley, I now find myself at a higher point in the landscape, on the edge of a plateau from whence the fields on two sides roll and tumble down and away for as far as the eye can see.  There are not many buildings in view anywhere - just a few farms and the top of the tower of an ancient church.  I like the fact that so many of the buildings here are medieval - higgledy-piggledly, multi-coloured.  The beautiful village of Lavenham lies only minutes away.  I find the blocks of colour cheerful and the uneven lines soothing.  It will be interesting to see what effect all this has on my painting.  It is bound to change as a result of this new viewpoint and influences.

In many ways it is a difficult time to move, in mid-winter - bleak and starved of light.  But amidst the stormy weather there have been frosty days of crisp sunshine and moonlit mornings and nights full of stars, so silent that I could have heard a leaf fall in the garden.  I look forward to getting back to work during the next few days, to organising my little studio and starting to paint again, whilst overlooking a new corner of the world. I'm looking forward to a new routine and to the Spring and seeing all the changes that the increasing light and temperatures will make to the earth and the wildlife roundabout.  I look forward to the birds coming back and am pleased that our new home is named after my favourite little character - Wren Cottage.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

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


"Possibilities" - "unspecified qualities of a promising nature" - Oxford English Dictionary

I've been thinking about the French concept of "terroir" - the way in which the geography and geology of a particular landscape interact with the plants grown there.  It can affect the flavour of a wine such that its region can be identified by its taste.  I've been looking around at this landscape and wondering how much it has become a part of my work and affected my own personality.  For someone originally from the flatlands, it is beautiful to live in a valley, where so many more views and angles are possible.  It has deepened my love of the natural world and given me a greater opportunity to observe its minutae.  Living so close to nature puts things into perspective for me and provides a slow, rhythmical backdrop to life.

How much are we a product of our "terroir"?  At one point in my life many aspects of it changed at once, and at that point I realised that much of who I thought I was, was actually just activities and labels.  I was defined and categorised by them - by others, and even by myself.  They had become ingrained over the years - "I am X and I work at Y", "I am a daughter / sister / wife / mother / etc.", "I love to cook", "I am a dog-owner", "I run x times a week", etc., etc..  Taking away a large group of such things in one instant made me feel as if I had been cut free from my moorings and was floating in space.  I wondered what actually "me" was?

But maybe this is not such a bad thing. Perhaps, without realising it, we can become squashed into moulds that we don't easily fit.  Sometimes aspects of our personality can become blunted or subdued by circumstances or ill-fitting roles.  A new situation or environment allows different aspects of "me" to spring to life or to be required.  Perhaps each different "terroir" in my life produces a different version of "me", identifiable by the unique set of factors that it contains.  Each one must therefore contain a new set of possibilities.  It is always interesting to see what grows in a newly-inherited garden, when the weeds are cleared away and the light is allowed in.  You don't always get what you expect and sometimes there are some beautiful surprises.

I listened to the brilliant Reith Lectures given by Grayson Perry a few weeks ago.  In the last talk he quoted Marcel Duchamp, who said, "clear your studio out at least twice in your life".  Co-incidentally, I am about to do just that and, in a few weeks time, the "terroir" will be changing.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 17 October 2013

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


The good thing about having no street lights, and indeed, not living on a street, is that you can see the stars so clearly.  It is a beautifully quiet, clear morning and, as I opened the heavy wooden front door at ten past six, I was amazed to see how many there were.  So clear and so bright, spread throughout the inky blue canopy above.  A few minutes later, I fetched my sketchbook and stood on the stone steps, making quick, rough drawings of the tall, slender tree shapes as they appeared out of the darkness.  I couldn't even see the page, but I know that following the line of what my eyes could see, with my hand, would help me to record the memory more clearly. I also like the completely unselfconscious marks that this produces.  There is often a free-flowing beauty about lines produced without the burden of "having to get it right".  If anyone had seen me, they would probably have wondered what on earth I was doing or, at the very least, thought it an eccentric thing to do.  I suppose so.  I don't mind that - "having a different centre, being in an elliptical orbit, not having the same goal or motive".  If it means that I can take time to look at the stars and the flowing shapes of the willowy trees beneath, then I am very happy with that.

All the small moments (like the encounter with the wren), are important to me.  I like to note them down, otherwise I might forget them.  So many of these journal entries are about early mornings because that is when I write them.  They are the first thing that I do after putting a pot of strong coffee on the stove and making breakfast - I either read or write.  Perhaps, for me, it is another way of laying down memories, other than sleeping and dreaming.  And each day, as it goes on, often becomes so complex and fraught and challenging.  It is sometimes these small moments of beauty that keep me sane.  Perhaps they are a bit like meditation.  I hear a lot about "mindfulness" these days and I suppose that is what these instances are.  It seems to me that there is so much to cope with within a human life, but these concentrated sensory experiences help.  They are outside of all that chaos.  They are like the application of soothing balm to the soul.  So, whether it is the stars, the song of the robin or wren, the heavy dew on the lawn caught in the morning sun or the smell of the earth on an autumn day, I hope that I will keep recognising them and keep recording them, lest I forget how many moments of beauty I have experienced in one lifetime.

All text  ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

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

A Close Shave!

It's 6.36am and I'm having breakfast and listening out for the first birdsong in the morning darkness.  The robin will start soon, but yesterday it was the wrens that were filling the air with their powerful, mellifluous song.  Who'd have thought that such a little bird would produce such a loud sound! They are like little powerhouses - tiny, ocarina-like birds, breathing out music.  Actually the most common British garden birds, they are my favourite.  Sprightly and characterful, with their upright tails and flitting movement.  Despite their miniscule size, they seem to want to fill the air with their sound.  Yesterday morning I had a close encounter with one in flight.

I went out into the garden to fetch some logs for that evening's fire. It was misty, as it is this morning.  The fine water droplets in the atmosphere had diffused the light of the rising sun into widespread, golden glow.  I climbed the two stone steps from the path outside the back door and emerged from the overgrown herb garden and onto the lawn.  A wren, obviously en route from one side of the garden to the other, was not expecting a human object to suddenly appear at that point.  It flashed past at great speed about six inches from my face, at eye level.  I'm not sure who was the most surprised!  I saw it land rapidly and expertly in a tree to my right-hand side - like watching a tennis ball zoom past your eye line.  It was a close shave for us both!

Later, in the studio, I continued to work on a series of small paintings based on our garden visitors.  So far, the two that I have completed have been night scenes, incorporating owls, a rabbit and some deer.  I worked until just before 6pm, almost without stopping, and finished the second one before returning home for the evening.  These pictures will be going to four galleries, as part of their relative Christmas exhibitions.

Meanwhile…..I am expecting another garden visitor….a new little dog is due to arrive next week….can't wait!

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

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


It's a bright, breezy morning.  The sun is just coming up, but we rose in darkness this morning.  The chimney is being swept this week and the first delivery of logs is due on Friday.  And so it comes around again - the year in full circle.  The robin is singing his winter song in order to defend his territory, and the pheasants will soon start wandering back into the garden to join the small birds under the bird feeder. I'll chop the kindling and light the fire and the winter routine will be resumed.  I like the rhythm of it all; the patterns I see in nature.  It's very comforting to go around this dance where the steps are known.  So many things in life seem uncertain, but as I watch the seasons change and the animals and birds repeat their familiar patterns of behaviour, it provides an unchanging and unending structure to the unknown pattern that I find woven on top.  When I paint I like preparing the ground.  Unlike the piece of work that I am about to create, I know exactly what is going to happen.  I know how many layers of gesso I am going to put onto the board or canvas, how I will sand it down and rub it with a cloth to get the surface that I require.  I know how I will under-paint and which brushes I will use for the process.  I know the basic elements of composition that I like and the small selection of tubes from which I will form all my colours.  I have a basic language and a basic style, but after that all is an unknown adventure.  Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn't, but I must stick with it until I bring it to completion.  

I like to use circles in my paintings.  I like the process of creating them.  It's a challenge; I can't be half-hearted.  I have to be brave, make up my mind, and make the whole movement in one, confident, fluid sweep - painting "from the shoulder", as we were always told in college. I like the feeling of that movement as well as the smooth, unending symbol that it produces.  It can make a lot of difference to a composition.

It's now six months since Rosie died and I miss her every day.  I miss having a dog full-stop.  I thought about her last week-end as I stood on the windswept shingle bank above Salthouse beach, and how she loved our days on the coast.  I feel that it's time now to start to look for another little companion.  Looking back inland from the bank, it was all so beautiful that I could have cried.  I remembered a painting of the North Norfolk coast by John Nash.  It looks hardly any different from 1932 when he made that study. It was so rolling and verdant.  So many lush and beautiful greens.  Distant wooded hills with villages and churches, the line of the sea and the wonderful, wonderful open space. I like to stand up there in the bright light with the wind blowing so forcefully.  I like the power and the freshness and the freedom.

I received a bit of good news earlier in the week.  I was on my way to visit my Mum when a message pinged up on my phone.  It turns out that the publishing company that I began working with last autumn have just started supplying greetings cards to the TATE Gallery shops.  The image with which I started this blog in January, entitled "Early Morning by the Coast" (but published as "Early Morning Glow"), has been selected to be sold in the TATE Britain shop.  TATE Britain, or the old TATE Gallery as it was then, was the first art gallery that I ever visited.  I was a young teenager on a school trip.  I thought that it was amazing - so much art in one place, so many different styles and so many artists voices speaking through history - it was sensory overload!  Now one of my little paintings will be in the building, among the hundreds of other cards and prints, the myriad of other artists chosen and represented.  Yet nevertheless, a little bit of me will sit on the geographical spot where art first came alive to me.  I feel honoured that this small fragment will be amidst so much that I admire.

When I arrived to see Mum I wanted to tell her the good news.  I knew that her dementia would mean that she wouldn't really understand, but I just wanted to share my little achievement with her.  Sure enough, as I tried to explain, she stared at me with large round eyes and then knitted her brows to comprehend the words.  Then, after a couple of seconds pause, she seamlessly asked me, "What's the weather like today?  Is it raining?".  But at least we sat there together, amidst the bustle of the care home lounge, sharing a positive moment in time together.

Speaking of time…..Mum now travels through time and space faster than a timelord!  It takes some keeping up with during the course of one "conversation" to work out where we are and who is who, as days of the week and even decades flick backwards and forwards in seconds. And quite where she thinks she is, I have no idea most of the time. At least, she told me, my Dad (who died 12 years ago) was at home looking after Rosie!  I rather liked that idea.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 29 August 2013

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


It's suddenly become Autumn.  First, there was a slight change in the smell of the morning air a couple of weeks ago, together with a subtle change in the light to a crisper and cooler hue, and now it seems to have fully changed.  How do the seasons overlap like that?  The transition is almost imperceptible, but so fast!  Suddenly I realise that it's happened even though I've been watching for it.  Every seasonal change is a pleasant surprise and every time I look around and think, "Ah yes, this is" ….Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter…."I remember what that's like!"

The days are still warm and blue, but the afternoon light is more golden now.  It was a beautiful day to see Hidcote Manor on Tuesday.  I've only been once before, and that was in late Autumn, so there were many less flowers.  But this week it was gorgeous!  Masses of mauve hydrangeas, the fiery red borders with their flowers shaped like star bursts, and the cool and dreamlike white garden.  I loved going around the kitchen garden areas too - seeing all the fruit, vegetables and flowers.  One huge patch had golden-yellow pumpkins growing in it, and it was a languorous delight to walk through the slightly wild orchard area, with the boughs above full of apples.  At that point, with the golden light, it seemed as if we were in southern France or Italy but then it was back into the Long Borders again, with the heady smell of sweet peas and the echoing thud of tennis balls from the garden court, and back into a very English afternoon.

I love the light, but I've become used to the nights being darker.  The one streetlight that we used to have in the hamlet was switched off some time ago due to council cut-backs.  So now we have only moonlight, when it is available.  But the dark nights have become cosy and the silence a welcome peace, wrapped around us like a blanket.  Lately I've been waking between 4 and 5 am, before any sounds of human activity have begun, and regularly heard the female tawny owl calling out for her mate - "ke-wick, ke-wick" - a slightly eerie but beautiful sound.

I have another long day ahead today, as I put the finishing touches to the last two paintings for an exhibition, which is due to be delivered next week.  After that, I expect my palette will change again, subconsciously matching the landscape that I see around me and no doubt featuring some of those wonderful memories of Hidcote.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

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

Boundaries and Edges

I have finished two small, square paintings and a long, narrow landscape, during these last two weeks.  I've been experimenting with a warmer palette, in response to the climate.  Colours that remind me somewhat of the Bloomsbury painters - particularly Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell.  I love the vibrancy of their work.  I've also felt that I want to leave some areas undefined.  Painting is always such a balancing act - the dark and the light, the bright and the muted, the large and the small, the defined and the undefined.  A successful painting must balance all these factors, and more besides.  Every aspect needs it's opposite in just the right measure.

I went on two very enjoyable visits last week-end.  Friday evening (19 July) saw the opening of "Aquatopia" at Nottingham Contemporary.  It's an exhibition in collaboration with Tate St.Ives.  All three floors of the gallery seemed to be packed with people.  There was a great atmosphere and a wealth of sensory experiences to be had.  One of my favourites (apart from the one with the people wearing giant fish masks and dancing to a DJ playing in a darkened, crowded room lit by projected images of the sea!) was the huge, white abstract paintings in a cavernous room, with slightly low lighting.  The sound of waves roaring onto shingle, was being played through speakers in this space. The combined effects made it difficult to say where the surface of the paintings actually began.  I really felt as if I was looking at them through sea mist!  It was intriguing.

Outside the cool, contained space of the gallery, was a complete contrast.  The cobbled streets of the Lace Market area were packed with people sitting outside bars and restaurants on this sizzling July evening.  We retreated to a nearby Tapas bar and spent the rest of a very sociable evening, feeling as if we were on holiday in a Spanish city!

On Sunday afternoon we were invited to visit a friend's allotment, for afternoon tea.  It was not quite as any of our little group had expected.  We were met at the gates by our host, and guided along walkways, bounded by high hedges on either side and containing a series of wooden doors at regular intervals.  On both sides of this walkway, each allotment was enclosed by its own hedges, like a series of outdoor rooms. It felt like we were passing "The Secret Garden" over and over again!

Our friend has two of these spaces and we were amazed to open the first door to find a small orchard inside, complete with four Buff Orpington hens clucking and scratching beneath the trees.  It also contained a flower-lined greenhouse and a wooden hut, complete with wood-burning stove and 60's kitchen cabinet.  We sat in the greenhouse and drank tea and coffee before visiting the second allotment - a wonderful mixture of fruit, vegetables and flowers, with a potting shed at the far end. My favourite things were a cloud of gypsophila which was growing in the middle of the space, together with the shed.  A good shed is a work of art in itself!  Then it was back to the greenhouse for more tea and homemade cake.

As one of my friends said, "I spent Friday evening in Seville and Sunday afternoon in Provence".  It did feel like that!

As I sit writing this today, the thunderstorm that was lightening and crashing overhead seems to have moved on to be replaced by patches of blue sky and a fresh breeze.

I've been to visit my Mum this afternoon.  It's the first time that she's not been entirely sure who I am.  It seems to be the outlines or boundaries around things that are going.  She's not really clear about where she ends and I begin.  People get all jumbled up in her head and seem to change from one to another without her noticing - a bit like they sometimes do in a dream.

Time is something else that's lost all it's containers.  Events seem to move around - like liquid on a tray - backwards and forwards as the angle changes slightly - nothing is fixed any more.  She whispers now - through lack of strength rather than mystery - "I went to see Mum and Dad last night".  "How were they?", I ask.  She smiles a toothy grin and shrugs her shoulders slowly.  "Oh, you know", she whispers, "getting older like the rest of us".  About a minute later she asks me, "Are you going to see Mum and Dad?".  "You're my Mum", I say, and grin.  She looks at me with eyes as big as a kitten's.  She is very still.  She looks somewhat confused.  "Do you know who I am?", I ask gently.  She nods slowly, but I am not convinced.  I know that she is searching for a memory to identify me.  Something that will bring complete clarity, but she can't find it.

The person that is what is left of my Mum, sits in the chair.  She is leaving bit by bit, drifting slowly away, as if into a mist, and now only a fragment of her is left -  but I am glad that this woman, once so full of anguish and activity, is calm at last.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 11 July 2013

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


Well….. the good news is that they did find a brain AND I don't have a "dissected" artery in the back of my neck, for which I am very grateful.  The scans were interesting to look at and the consultant was very witty, so I did have a laugh with him, but it could have been a bit of a nightmare…

In the meantime, I've sent off my work to the Sea Pictures Gallery in Clare for their new show which opens this coming Friday.  It looks like Sarah may actually get some sunshine to go with the title of her exhibition.  I've been loving this spell of hot weather - summer at last - and been spending as much time outdoors as possible.  Last week-end we bought a chimenea and have taken great delight in sitting out in the garden these last few evenings, watching the sun go down, while keeping warm by the succession of small fires that we must light in it in order to season the clay.  The sunsets have been pretty impressive affairs - a full crimson globe descending to the horizon each night.

I have finished my poetry book from Much Wenlock.  I had been trying to ration out the poems in order to make it last a bit longer.  The last one was an extract from "Little Gidding" by T.S.Eliot, which is the final one of the "Four Quartets".  This series of poems is one that I have often heard mentioned, but never read.  My first thought after reading it was "helluva poem!" - not exactly the height of literary criticism I know, but my gut reaction nonetheless.  I don't claim to fully understand it, but it seems to contain some really powerful ideas and beautiful imagery and makes me want to read the whole series.  I've also ordered another book…..

It made me think about the energy of human creativity.  It's so amazing that these little creatures can suddenly produce something so powerful - like a fuel cell unlocked - a kind of creative nuclear fission!  We seem to have the potential for world-changing inventions, beautiful literature, art and music to explode out of us.  Something sparks it and it ignites, develops, and becomes something so much bigger than the tiny individual that formed it.  A kind of "tardis" effect in reverse.  Suddenly, something is born into the world out of the human spirit and takes on a life of it's own, going on to affect the lives of many others.  It's pretty incredible!

In terms of inspiration……a few years ago the fashion designer Paul Smith wrote a book entitled "You Can Find Inspiration in Everything*: *and if you can't, look again".  In our rather random garden I have let some leeks "bolt", just to see what they look like.  As it happens, they look quite amazing and slightly like a Derek Jarman sculpture…or possibly the CN Tower in Toronto.…….I wonder………?

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 13 June 2013

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


I like to listen to the radio as I work.  I listen to a lot of music but also like to hear discussion and description.  By nature I am curious about ideas and the way that things work. I enjoy hearing debates and differing views on all sorts of topics.  I also find that focussing my conscious mind on the logic of the arguments and the speaker's personality helps me to paint subconsciously.  It prevents an inner dialogue about the work - which can be inhibiting - and postpones it for a point of critique or assessment later in the day.

Recently I have listened to three very interesting programmes on BBC Radio 4.  The first was about the dawn chorus and the other two were about walking.   The dawn chorus is something that I am particularly aware of here.  I often seem to wake just before the onset.  Apparently it peaks in mid-May and continues until July.  Following the programme, I decided not to miss the experience for another year and so, one day last week when I heard the first robin start to sing, I heaved myself out of bed and quickly got dressed.  It must have been around about 4am.  In the twilight of the garden I probably looked like a ghost, wandering around in a pale cream hoodie and faded jeans, but it was definitely worth the effort of getting up.  The volume and variety of song were amazing.  It rippled and echoed like water.  They were singing their hearts out!  We are surrounded by huge, ancient trees and farmland and live on the edge of a little valley with a lake about a mile away - so it is an ideal environment for an abundance of species.

The other two programmes were from the series "Ramblings".  The first was about a stonemason that goes barefoot walking in order to "earth" himself.  He believes that to do this regularly means that he maintains a high level of health and well-being by being in direct contact with the earth. The most recent interview was with the writer and environmentalist George Monbiot, the author of "Feral", a book about his attempt to "stave off the monochrome nature of everyday life" and his attempt to "rewild" his life by his contact with the natural world.  As someone that is very aware of the surrounding landscape each day, I found their descriptions about wanting to re-connect with the environment intriguing. They were both passionate about the positive and balancing effect that this has.

Interestingly enough, I couldn't have experienced much more of a contrast to this than on Monday of this week, as I was in hospital having a CT scan on my head and neck.  In this environment there is no natural light, no organic structures and almost no colour. It is a bit like a grey cave, lit in part by fluorescent tubes.  The room containing the scanner seemed to consist solely of metal and glass.  I felt a little like an extra from a science fiction film as I lay on a metal bed, being injected with a drug by a machine through a line in my arm, while my head was inside something resembling a large washing machine on spin.  It was a curious experience, especially as you are alone in the room and the voice that is speaking to you is recorded and coming from a speaker. I would find this an extremely difficult environment to work in.  Having grown up on a farm I am used to fresh air and freedom.  I am very grateful for the people that work in such a landscape, but I would feel like a caged animal.

As I continue to read my way through the anthology of poetry that I bought in Much Wenlock, I found this one by the American farmer, writer and poet Wendell Berry.  I read it on Tuesday morning, and it seemed to sum up much of the sentiment in those radio programmes and what I had been thinking.

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 
Wendell Berry

All text (except poem) and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson
"Ramblings" BBC Radio 4, Thursdays 15.00

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

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

The Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night

I've really enjoyed the week-end.  On Saturday I had the day off and the weather was beautiful.  We did some household chores and then went outside to work in the garden.  My partner did a sterling job mowing the large lawn, while I tackled the overgrown vegetable garden. The heat and bright sunlight were a joy and I didn't mind the novelty of having to wear a sunhat and sun cream!  We worked hard for over three hours and were very pleased with the results of our labours, surveying the transformation with satisfaction over a celebratory drink at the end of the afternoon. While I sat there looking, I was interested to see how yellow the green grass looked in the sunlight and how similar it was to the ground colour that I have been using in my recent paintings. It's funny how often working by instinct proves to be more accurate than I initially think.

On Sunday morning we set off for Gloucestershire, where we were going to stay at our favourite hotel for a couple of days of real relaxation.  This is always such a special treat for me.  It is set in acres of beautiful grounds and I spend hours looking at the various views while walking or sitting in the garden.  The best view, this time however, came during the night.  Sunday's weather had been glorious and had given way to a wonderfully still evening.  I woke at what must have been around 3.30am and got up to look out of the window.  I saw a full moon in a pale blue/grey sky reflected in the cobalt blue lake below.  It was so still and so beautiful that I had to photograph it.  The camera doesn't really do it justice.  I felt so privileged to see it - I was lucky.  While we were all sleeping it had appeared and shown itself in all it's serene golden beauty, just hanging there, thinly veiled in the mist like a gauzy garment, casting a benevolent glow on the un-knowing sleepers below. I looked at its reflection in the lake, echoed in the paper lanterns and the topiary and felt inspired.

Moonlight over Cowley
(Acrylic on Board)

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 13 May 2013

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


I have finished both of the paintings that I have been working on this week.  I'm more pleased with the one featuring Rosie.  It's an odd juxtaposition to put a 3-D object into an abstract painting, but the loose brushwork seems to make it work as a whole.  It's also brighter and the shapes are simpler, which always appeals more to me.

I've found myself wanting to use much more yellow of late.  I definitely go through different phases with my colour palette, which is also heavily influenced by the time of year and the weather. I feel as if I am surrounded by it at the moment.  For example, I took a photo of rain over the garden at sunset the other evening.  The sky had turned into a liquid gold and golden-yellow light poured through the branches of the trees.

Last night my partner asked me a very interesting question, which was whether I thought that it was possible to tell the time of year by looking at an artist's palette.  You definitely could by looking at mine, because I am constantly absorbing what I see around me.  Apart from this I think that there must also be some psychological reason for choosing different predominant colours at different times.  Margaret Thatcher apparently never trusted anyone that wore yellow.  Why?  What did it say to her?  Too frivolous?  Wouldn't concentrate?  Not in the "real world"?  Who knows?  When I was a small child yellow was my favourite colour.  That was replaced by blue when I became older.  I used to ask my Mum and Dad what their favourites were - Dad's was red, Mum's was blue, so between us we held the primary colours and anything was possible.  I think that even though she now has dementia, my Mum still seems to react to colour.  She will "comment" on it, in her way, if I wear or carry something in a colour that she likes, and she doesn't react to much now.  It seems to be a very primeval thing for us.  I wonder if we have a special relationship with it all our lives?

I suppose, for me at the moment, it represents light and warmth and therefore hope and relaxation and freedom.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

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

May Day

May Day - a beautiful blue morning.  Fortunately I don't have to dance around the maypole today.  Fortunate for me and anyone that may have to watch me.  I can see why the Romans celebrated Flora, the goddess of flowers (not margarine) on this day.  Perhaps there isn't as much of a burst of colour as there would be normally be, but there is now a lot of beautiful blossom appearing.

This week I've been working on two square canvasses of differing sizes.  One is 40 square centimetres and the other is 60 square centimetres.  Sometimes it's interesting to work on a different texture and, although I use very fine portrait linen, the surface has slightly more "tooth".  This means that it creates subtly different brush marks.  This is helpful when I am trying to suggest the line of a hedge or light on the surface of a field.  I've been using much brighter colours of late - particularly yellows, but also lilac, warmer greens and browns - while thinking about sunshine and warmer light.  I'm aware too that the leaves are beginning to come out at last, and that soon the views will change and the sunlight will be filtered through the tree canopy.  It has been feeling more positive this week, as seeing the expanse of sky is like having a lid taken off the world.  There is so much more space, more room to think and more hope (a bit like de-cluttering your studio - must do that!)

My other recent activity has been to work with a printer on a series of charity cards.  I wanted to do something positive in memory of Rosie, so I've chosen three of my images to put onto greetings cards.  My intention is to give 50p from the sale of each card to the Scruples Whippet Rescue.  I hope to have them available by the end of the week.

As far as the garden menagerie goes, we have now acquired a pair of red-legged partridges as daily visitors, and both bird boxes have blue tits nesting in them.  We are particularly lucky as one of the boxes is just outside the bay window, so we get a ring-side seat to watch the birds coming and going.

Just thinking about hope again - I must memorise this poem by Adrian Mitchell, which I found in one of the anthologies that I bought while at the Poetry Festival in Much Wenlock.  It makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Celia Celia

"When I am sad and weary
When I think all hope has gone
When I walk along High Holbourn
I think of you with nothing on"

Adrian Mitchell

You can't beat a good poem……!

All text (except poem) and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 22 April 2013

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


Since returning from holiday I've been working on a commission - a coastal painting with a rowing theme - which I finished on Friday morning.  It has been difficult to envisage sunshine again, but in the end I was pleased with the bright light effect that I managed to achieve.  I was even more pleased when the sun actually shone on Saturday.  It's been feeling a bit too much like Narnia under the white witch lately - "always Winter and never Spring". I'm hoping that it's going to continue for a while, as next week I have to start work on a series of paintings for an exhibition entitled "Summer Sunshine", which otherwise is going to require even more elements of memory and imagination that usual!

I spent most the of the time outdoors on Saturday, walking in the morning and gardening during the afternoon. One of the farms on our route had lambs in the yard and three very chatty piglets next door. A little way further on, at the top of the hill, we saw a newborn calf taking its first few hesitant steps. So as not to disturb the cattle, we quietly descended the steep path and sat by the lake for a while watching the birds and the light on the water.

After lunch we worked in the front garden for a couple of hours, tidying the areas that run alongside the lane.  So many flowers have died in bud this year, but now at last the colour is starting to appear as the daffodils in the verges are all opening.  When we had finished our labours we sat on the front step with a cool drink and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun.  I leant against the stone of the doorway, which had absorbed the heat, and closed my eyes as I listened to the abundant birdsong.  While we sat there, one of neighbours came past on her way home from work and stopped to chat.  

An hour or so later, after washing and changing, we were making our way down the lane to her cottage, carrying a bag of clinking Adnams bottles, bought as a gift in Norfolk.  We had a very sociable evening, sitting outside chatting until about 8.30pm, watching the sun set over the rolling landscape and the antics of the waterfowl and garden geese.

You could say that it's a pretty old-fashioned lifestyle in many ways, but I don't care.  Slow and steady and the pleasure of community.  Suits me.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 12 April 2013

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

On the Road

I've been on my travels for the last couple of weeks.  It's been refreshing to see different landscapes and different people for a while, and a break in routine after Rosie's death has been helpful.

On one of our journeys, we travelled up to the North Norfolk Coast, to places that I haven't been for many years.  I had forgotten how beautiful the gently rolling countryside is as you drive towards Holt on the Thornage road.  The colours, patterns and shapes made me think of paintings by Paul Nash and Dora Carrington.  It was a wonderfully crisp, blue day when we arrived we in Holt, which has changed enormously from the quiet little town that I remember from childhood.  Now "discovered" and full of quirky shops and cafe culture, it was a very lively, friendly and enjoyable place to spend some time.

Next we travelled on to Cley, where my aunt used to live and visited the Made in Cley Pottery, buying three beautiful bowls.  I felt a surprising sense of exhilaration at being there again. Happy family memories I suppose.

We continued on along the coast road, through Blakeney, Morston, Stiffkey and Wells, stopping finally in Holkham.  We parked on Lady Ann's Road and set off across the vast expanse of Holkham beach. I love the HUGE sky and the freedom of the emptiness that I experience there.  No buildings, hardly any people, just………………SPACE………………PEACE……………...the mind at ease.

The air felt so cold and purifying.  I felt as if I wanted to drink it down in great, refreshing gulps.  We paddled in the sea (in Wellingtons of course - we are British after all!) and then walked back through the dunes and across the marshy bay to the loud accompaniment of skylarks.  So much beautiful birdsong.

Then it was off to the tiny village of Burnham Overy Staithe, before heading back home for the day.  What a wonderful day out!


All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson