Monday, 31 December 2018

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

31 December

This last afternoon of the year turns out to rather grey and mild.  Nevertheless, I enjoy walking and looking at the silhouettes of the trees – their structures appearing both strong and fragile against the winter sky.

I have watched the year come and go – the seasons and the weather; the changing light; the creatures and the birds.  However, it is the trees of which I have become especially appreciative during this time – their life force and their sentinel-like presence in the landscape.  I have found peace and hope amongst them.

Writing these notes has encouraged me to observe and to remember the beautiful and wondrous displays of nature that so frequently go unnoticed.  I can honestly say that my life has been made much richer, simply by looking at and thinking about what is happening in the landscape around me on a daily basis.

And so, on we go...

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 21 December 2018

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

21 December

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful.............”

...which just about sums up the grey afternoon of thick drizzle.  Now, however, the wind is blowing the clouds away and the silvery-white full moon has appeared to light this longest of nights.  It cheers my heart as I walk home along the lane with Millie.  That fire will soon be lit.

Work has finished for the year.  No painting now until after Christmas, although no doubt I shall be scribbling in a sketchbook and pottering about in the studio, tidying and keeping a bit of heat going as the temperatures drop.  As much as I love my work, it will be good to have a rest, although, in truth, painting is never far from my thoughts.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

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

5 December

It is cosy inside the studio.  Its small interior space is warm and light.  Colour, from the numerous small paintings and postcards on the walls, seems to increase that warmth.  Millie sleeps under a chequered blanket in the armchair, while outside, the thick mist hangs heavily and silently over the fields, cocooning us on a small island of visible land.

The holly tree opposite my door still has berries to feed the mistle thrush and the wood pigeons.  Few birds forage in the cold, wet, open spaces of the garden, but some rustle and hop surreptitiously amidst the shelter of the remaining greenery.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 18 November 2018

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

18 November

In the last hour before the sun sets, we take a walk around the footpaths of the old airfield.  It’s a brilliant afternoon, with what little breeze there is, coming from the east.  This makes the air chill, and predictions for the week ahead are for daytime temperatures in low single figures.  When the weather comes from this direction, we bear the brunt.  Autumn has, however, been very mild up until now, so a few frosts would be entirely normal.

The sun slips down below the tops of the trees ahead.  It casts giant shadows over the field as we approach, and appears like a golden lantern playing hide-and-seek, as we walk through the wood.

The gleaming circle sinks further down behind the bare hedges, finally disappearing below the horizon just as we reach home.  The temperature is dropping rapidly now.  In the leafless apple trees of the garden, the bird feeders that were so busy earlier, hang devoid of occupants.

Within forty-five minutes a waxing, gibbous moon hangs in the inky blue sky, peering in at the front windows of the cottage.  Time to put the kettle on and light the fire.

It has been a very busy few months; especially these last weeks.  From now on until Christmas, I will work more steadily, preparing new projects and developing ideas.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 21 October 2018

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

21 October

The early morning sun, diffused through the thick mist, makes the trees outside the window look like an image from a sepia photograph.  The thin, mostly empty, branches weave together in an abstract, basket-like structure.

The leaves of the adjacent ash have faded to a pale yellow and I find their narrow, drying blades scattered over the vehicles beneath and gathering in a line below the window-wipers of the van.

In this period of Indian Summer, the winter wheat and spelt have germinated, filling the vast, undulating fields with neat, verdant lines.

We make the most of the warm afternoons, walking the dry footpaths which, as soon as the Autumn rains come, will be inaccessible until next Spring.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 1 October 2018

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

1 October

The air is keen and the sky pellucid.  A hemisphere of morning moon hangs high up against the intense blue backdrop, whilst directly below it, a crow, flying into the wind, appears stock-still – the white and the black.

On the fields, more crows - noisy flocks on the newly drilled earth.  The soil is so neat now that the roll has been over it, that it looks like the raked gravel of a zen garden.

I pause by the wood to listen and to look.  I feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders and, as I stand, I hear the treetops beginning to move.  The sound grows louder as the gust of wind moves from the far side of the wood to the near.  As it passes over us it releases a shower of tea-coloured leaves, twisting and floating their way down to the grass below.

Autumn is truly in residence now.  The blackberries have gone from the hedgerows and morning frosts are just beginning.  The light is turning golden and the days are starting to close early.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

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

11 September

I’m currently working on a wide, narrow, panoramic landscape painting.  Today, therefore, I am particularly focussed on the shapes of distant trees and the surface of the land.

The morning is warmer than I had anticipated and, by the time that we get near to the Hall, I am beginning to feel very over-dressed.  The small windproof jacket, that I have put on over a t-shirt, is making me steam as the sun shines on my back.  I feel as is my torso is cooking en papillote!

Millie, meanwhile, is rootling in the hedgerow, fascinated by the many scuttling noises therein.  I coax her along the bridle path and pause beneath an oak tree.  That invisible force, the wind, is making its presence known by slowly rocking the heavy boughs back and forth.  The roar of the power passing through the leaves is like the sound of heavy rain or the churning of the sea.  Two black rooks fly above me, repeatedly heading into the rush of air and then pausing, like tethered kites, until they tilt..... and allow themselves to be blown backwards to start again.

I turn to my left and watch the light pass over the compact shapes of distant woods, large solitary trees and undulating hedgerows.  The colours and tones change from moment to moment, as bars of shadow run down the stubble fields and ploughed work.  The hues intensify and dim from second to second - lights on, lights off, lights on, lights off.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 6 September 2018

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

6 September

The kestrel is back in the meadow today.  I haven’t seen her for months.  Looking out of the studio window I spy her balancing on the top wire of the stock fencing.  Nearby some crows sit on the posts and the gate.  After a while they decide that she is not welcome, and mob her until she leaves her precarious perch and flies off to the shelter of some nearby trees.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

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

4 September

Unexpected bird sighting this morning………………

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 3 September 2018

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

3 September

Peering out of the window at 3.20am, I see thick fog blanketing the village.  By 6am it has thinned and continues to lift, to give a warm, bright and still morning.

Vans from the electricity company are gathering at the end of the lane, as they prepare to begin work on replacing the line of posts and wires that travel across two large fields.  The new ones have been laid out beside the old, looking like giant matchsticks on the earth.

Walking along the southern edge of the wood, I spot two hares running on the stubble field opposite.  They are so busy chasing and leaping, that it is a while before they are aware of us, enabling Millie and I to stand transfixed and watch the show.

There are still quite a few white butterflies around – both on the field margins and in the meadow.  The hot summer has apparently been good for their numbers.  Another creature that may have been enjoying the warmer weather, is the grass snake.  I have found two whilst out walking, and two neighbours in the village have each said that they have found the same number in their respective gardens over recent weeks.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Friday, 31 August 2018

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

31 August

The mist on the windows this morning denotes two things - that the overnight temperatures are dropping and that we don’t have double glazing!

Summer is surreptitiously transitioning into Autumn.  The mornings are darker, the field colour has become a soft, pale, mauve-brown, and the intense heat has been replaced by a more traditionally temperate climate and steady rainfall.

Today, however, Summer seems to be preparing for its last weekend.  The sun is warm on the shoulders and the sky a cloudless blue as we walk.  In a nearby field, the clay is being broken down by a large tractor which is pulling a disc harrow.  Gulls are flying in, attracted by the turning soil, and swallows are diving and low-flying along the lane.  No doubt they will soon begin their exodus.  I shall be sad to see them go.

The oak trees, I notice, are beginning to produce acorns and the hedgerows are decorated with blackberries (not quite ready yet) and jewel-like sloes - each tiny ovoid a glossy aubergine colour, overlaid with a dusting of mid-blue bloom.

The sheep have been moved closer to the farmhouse.  I saw them being walked back on Wednesday; a long line of woolly ovals, trotting along the track, followed by one of the farm staff driving a small vehicle similar to an Italian Ape, and tooting the horn.  The sheep, of course, kept stopping to grab mouthfuls of green en route, as is their wont!

I have been busy preparing for an exhibition requiring 25 paintings, and have just finished a commission.  The show opens tomorrow.  In the studio today, I reorganise the space and begin to get back to the routine of regular painting, in preparation for the next event.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 19 August 2018

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

19 August

The recent rainfall has put the newly cleared field drains to good use.  Two or three heavy storms have deposited large volumes of water in a short space of time.

I am considering the water level in a smooth, wide, clay ditch, when I notice a shape on the left-hand bank.  A slender pinky/brown bird, with a thin pointed beak.  It is sitting perfectly still and is so camouflaged that it is difficult to see against the colour of the soil.  I watch and wait.  Suddenly it takes flight over the surface of the water, revealing its electric blue back and wings.  A kingfisher!

It travels speedily and elegantly along the face of the brook, turning at speed around the sharp right-hand curve of the bank and then up into the cover of some overhanging branches.  It cries out and then flies up into the air again, looping back to the shelter of a dense area of bushes that are growing on the bank near to its original position.

I have seen a kingfisher no more than four times in my life, making this sighting something special.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 2 August 2018

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

2 August

One of the benefits of walking early on a summer morning is the potential for an encounter with wildlife.

We are heading downhill, the dew still on the coarse grass.  I am admiring the pale blue of chicory flowers, newly opened in the field to my right, when suddenly there is a sharp tug on the lead.  Millie has picked up a scent and is earnest to pursue it.

She is beginning to pull determinedly now and, being attached by a running lead around my waist, I have little option but to pick up the pace!  I half stumble, half jog my way down the rough track until she comes to a sudden halt.  I manage not to somersault over her (just) and regaining my composure, follow her gaze.  There, to our left, through a hedgerow opening into an adjacent field, are two roe deer.  A male and a female, facing each other, but with their heads now turned towards us.  They can be no more than fifteen metres away.  Backlit by the rising sun, which is peering over the upslope behind them, they are all chestnut glossiness with glowing edges.

We stare at each other for a moment, before Millie’s excited whine sends them to seek cover.  A running roe deer is the most elegant of creatures.  They appear to be weightless – leaping in long, low arcs, hardly touching the surface of the earth before alighting again. They are gone in the blink of an eye. We do not see them again, although I continue to look as we make our way along the path.

The author Diana Athill, writing in her 97th year, describes the experience of sitting and thinking in old age.  Rather than a pitiable state, she finds that it is surprisingly enjoyable – discovering, when her mind relaxes, that events from her past float into her consciousness.  Instead of the lovers and achievements that she expects to focus on, she finds that it is the most beautiful places and things that she has experienced that return to her.   What gives her pleasure in her last years is her rumination on the paintings and views that she has stopped and stared at.  They have been stored away unknowingly, to be paraded before her again and fully enjoyed once more.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 26 July 2018

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

26 July

At 5.30am I open the windows and doors of the old house to let half an hour’s worth of cool air drift through, before setting out to walk.  I will open them again at 7.15am when we return, but by 8 o’clock the blinds will be drawn for the day and the interior of the house kept dark until twilight, when they will be flung open once more.  This daily pattern has become the new normal in this most unusual English summer.

Just up the road, near to Bury St Edmunds, a weather monitoring station has recently recorded the highest temperature (33.3°C) and the lowest rainfall (55 days with less than 1mm) in the UK.  Tomorrow, it is suggested, may break the British record of 38°C, and today looks like it will be a good practice run!

But this morning, at 6am, I am grateful that the open neck of my old linen shirt scoops up the fresh air. There is a musty, damp smell rising from the ground, where the dew is still on the grass.  The moisture sneaks into my battered running shoes, through a hole in the toe.  Can’t say I mind.  The last remnant of a layer of mist is disappearing above the western horizon.

Amongst the trees, the tapping of a woodpecker echoes in the stillness.  It sounds like a lone, distant workman, effecting some unseen repair.

Out on the dusty track, a farm vehicle passes me on its way to deliver more water to the sheep.  The tractor bumps along and the driver greets me with a sleepy wave.  From the droppings on the path it looks as if the deer recently travelled this way too.  I wonder if they attempt to share the rations?

The hares are about as usual and a couple of partridges run ahead of us.  They look like two misty little skittles, wobbling their way hurriedly uphill towards the light.

Just before home, we pass one of the sheep fields.  Some are already tucking into a pile of hay.  It would normally be their autumn/winter rations.  This really is turning out to be a year of extreme weather!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

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

17 July

Last night, alerted by a tapping sound on the roof, we opened the kitchen doors and were met by the earthy smell of rain.  It was 10.30pm.  I walked the length of the garden and stood in the twilight, looking out over the fields at the narrow, orange arc of the moon, and let the heavy droplets fall on me.  It was over all too soon, but was so good while it lasted!

This morning is breezy and blue.  Small white fists of cloud scud across the sky and the air is cool.  We set out just after 7am and walk approximately three and a half miles.

On the dusty bridle path near the wood, I observe the dark polka dot pattern of last night’s large raindrops still evident on its surface – as if the soil has held them there, just to treasure them for a bit longer.

By 8.10am the sun is already feeling hot, but I have planned our route so that the last section will be in shade. A buzzard flies languorously above us, casting the shadow of its great wingspan onto the land below.

We reach the lane at the bottom of the hill and wind our way along.  Millie stops periodically to check out flattened areas of the verge, where the deer have crossed from field to field.  There is still some water at the bottom of the deep, tree-covered ditch.

Further along, the land rises again, and here the drainage is being improved.  It may not seem relevant now, but when I think back to the winter, it is all too necessary.  A digger has cleared another deep, narrow ditch (it looks as if it descends steeply about three metres) and three dead trees have been removed.  I can see the open ends of two large pipes (the land drains) jutting out of the smooth, cut side of the opposite bank.  Before being cleared, the bed of this deep-set brook ran between gnarled tree roots and was overhung with lianas and twisted branches.  In parts it looked more like a sunken lane from a hobbit adventure.  Now the base and one side are composed of shiny, compacted clay.  They will speed the autumn rains on their way.

As we reach the top of the hill, the swallows are skimming the surface of the cropped clover at high speed, in pursuit of their in-flight meals.

We head back home and I into the studio to begin again a day’s painting.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 15 July 2018

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

15 July

The last time that I seem to have recorded any rainfall was on 12 June, and that was just a light shower, refreshing an already parched landscape.  I have almost forgotten that earthy smell of long-awaited rain when it falls.  I’m hoping that this week I will experience it again.

The harvest has begun early, with some straw already baled.  Everything is bleached and tinder-dry – the crops, the lawns, the verges.  The leaves of the huge horse-chestnut tree on the green are hanging limply and many are covered in brown scales.  It all needs rain.

The butterflies, however, are loving the warm sunshine.  Small blues, large whites, peacocks, red admirals, small tortoiseshells, ringlets and gate keepers abound.  They especially love the pinky/purple flowers of the oregano, both in the garden and that which has escaped into the meadow.

Mrs Blackbird lands noisily on a post in front of me.  She does a pirouette, whilst nabbing an insect.  As she turns, I can see that the feathers on her rear end are scruffy and loose – no doubt she is moulting.  The only birdsong on this baking hot afternoon is the cheep-cheep of sparrows and the rippling little voices of the goldfinches.  Meanwhile I sit in the shade and write my notes, dive-bombed by butterflies and listening to the electrified “zzzzzz” of the grasshoppers.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 8 July 2018

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

8 July

Lepus the hare is out in force this morning.  We see seven on our early walk, including two separate incidents in which the individuals come lolloping down the dusty track towards us, only to be surprised by the presence of two people and a short-sighted whippet!  In what looks like a “yikes!” cartoon moment, both pause, stare, and then swiftly do a 180 degree change of direction, showing us the soles of their long, narrow feet.

The crops are ripening rapidly now and I saw the first harvested field yesterday.  It seems as if the entire landscape is turning to the colour of pale straw.

In the meadow, a few ox-eye daisies are still to be seen, now accompanied by the occasional splash of red from a newly opened poppy.  Mauve thistle heads are providing food for the goldfinches and the spikey, purple flowers of knapweed are beginning to appear.  We have laid out three shallow water bowls, refreshing them daily.  Butterflies have been sipping delicately from them and the blackbird with no tail (now growing again) helps himself to a drink before foraging amongst the tall stems adjacent to the path.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 2 July 2018

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

2 July

Millie and I are still employing our “earlier and further” walking routine.  The hot weather continues, with no end currently in sight.  The grass is cool and dewy in the shadow of the hedgerow, and we can keep up a comfortably brisk pace without breaking into a sweat.

Much to Millie’s disappointment, rabbit-ville is devoid of occupants this morning.  She still performs her low “stealth” walk – just in case!

We take in the sights from the meandering little lane at the bottom of the valley, and I am pleased to note that the stream that runs beneath the old cart bridge still has water in it.  No doubt this is due to the enclosed tree tunnel which sits above it, providing constant shade.  Watering holes for the wildlife must be getting sparse by now.

On the way back uphill, towards the church, the sheep in the field on the left are huddled under the shadow of a large oak.  They fit themselves together, like a woolly jigsaw, in order to form its exact shape.  They always remind me of the paintings of Samuel Palmer when I see them thus.

By the afternoon, the meadow sounds as if it has been plugged into the mains.  The continuous, electrified “zzzzzzzz....” is being emitted by innumerable grasshoppers, whilst velvety brown Ringlet butterflies flit over the surface of its biscuit-coloured stems.

Thankfully, however, there is a considerable breeze, and looking out beyond the grasses and wildflowers, a vast field of pale green barley on the opposite side of the valley is being combed by the wind.  It is flicking over the surface and forming almost white waves.  We have an inland sea view!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

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

26 June

When I look out, shortly before dawn, there is layer of mist floating just above the earth.  A band of soft-focus, hovering between grass and sky.  Our little valley has become a sea, and the wood, an island.  The billowing green of two large oaks that pierce the grey, appear as the sails of galleons.

The sunrise brings bright light and saturated colour.  Millie and I go out earlier than usual, in order to avoid the heat and to walk whilst the hedges still afford some shade.  The paths where I once slipped and slid through mud, are dry and dusty.  They crumble underfoot.  There is a crunching sound as I walk. 

Other sounds – the jingle of Millie’s harness; the light tap of her little feet on the pale clay; the chirping of hedgerow birds and the song of a wren; the grasshoppers “zzzz-ing” and the deep “baaaaah” of distant sheep, interspersed with the higher-pitched “beh-he-heh” of maturing lambs.  They have stripped the pasture of every stem of clover.  They will soon be on the move.  But for now they cluster around the bowser, or gather beneath the trees for shade.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 24 June 2018

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

24 June

Everything is beginning to dry out in the heat.  The tops of the meadow grasses are golden brown and many of the corn crops look as if they are starting to turn.  With high temperatures forecast, and no rain for the foreseeable future, it looks as if the harvest may be early this year.

There are more butterflies than ever amongst the grasses.  As I sit here, writing, they are fluttering haphazardly across the tops of the seed heads and flowers in the field.  In the distance, there is what my father would have called a “heat wobble” - a visual disturbance, just above the surface of the earth, caused by the high temperature.  The butterflies look even more erratic, as they waver through it.

Some scuttling, to my left, most likely signifies the presence of a mouse rummaging around in a heap of ivy-covered logs, whilst our resident blackbird (the one with the missing tail feathers) is singing his fruity little song in the holly tree.  He has grown so tame, since raising his family in the garden, that he dares to come very close.  He has taken to sitting on the fence, just above my head, and to serenading us. On a garden table, 2 meters away, we have set out a water bowl.  He appears on the fence opposite and then flies over to the wooden surface.  His egg-yolk yellow beak is open, as if to let out the heat within.  With admirable boldness, he hops across the tabletop and onto the edge of the ceramic container, to enjoy a lengthy drink.  Then, with his thirst quenched, he moves to the shelter of the blousy, perfumed Philadelphus, in order to perform his song-cycle once again.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson