Now that I am settled here in Northumberland and working on creating a new routine, the choices facing me in my working week can seem endless. With an office space at home, my new studio a short drive away and the infinite number of places to go to be inspired, I am seeking that sweet spot between planned work days and spur of the moment adventures that make the very most of all the wonderful places that surround us here. There is no need for me to just be creating in my studio – indeed I think working outside is going to have a huge impact on my work as a whole.
I aim to get out of the studio at least once a week to draw and paint and to be inspired by my local area. The weather has been pretty changeable here these past few weeks and whilst I don’t anticipate that I will be a fair weather artist only, torrential summer rain has put a bit of a dampener on my ability to get out and about lately. So when I arrived at my studio one day last week with the sun shining and the sky a perfect blue I could not help but grab some supplies, my sketchbook and camera and take that extra ten minute drive to my favourite harbour village.
Craster is a tiny harbour village, nestled in the space between land and sea with beautiful harbour cottages and a view of Dunstanburgh Castle which is only a mile down the coast. This beautiful place has been go-to excursion in the last few months where I have experienced all kinds of weather. The most inspirational was marked by stormy seas and a wind that made me cling to the harbour wall as I walked round, fearful of getting too close to the edge. One day the whole village was covered in a haunting mist that obscured the sea and castle completely – so beautifully atmospheric. Most days I have visited it has been so quiet with barely a soul to be seen but as I discovered last week a hot summer day brings many visitors who walk the path to the castle, sit at the harbour reading or play ball with excitable dogs who delight at the cool, shallow water when the tide is out.
Even in this tiny village there is infinite possibilities for sketching. Usually it is the harbour houses I am drawn to and I often move from point to point, changing my view as I work in the pages of my sketchbook, also taking photographs as I go. On this occasion I settled myself in one spot, sitting on the grass overlooking the harbour out to sea. The first couple of times we visited, the structure above was a great mystery to me. What could it possibly be? I had never seen anything like it. But some research revealed that this was the base of a huge wooden structure that has long since been removed and was built to enable stone from the nearby quarry to be loaded onto boats for transportation. I have a photo of it somewhere that I shall look out for the future.
I find myself so drawn to harbour walls – spindly ladders, crisscrossing ropes and the beautiful colours of and tones of olive, amber, rust and blue-grey that mark the water line and the variations in stone. I am fascinated by the way people have created these spaces that sit on the edge between land and sea. Beautifully connecting man-made structures with the vast space that opens up beyond the edge.
I know I will be back time and time again. And so begins a new idea for future blog posts – Plein Air Postcards. Just a simple journal of my days creating art outside – whether I am drawing or painting. An ongoing diary of where I go, what I take with me, in progress shots and of course photos of this beautiful part of the world. I may even have tales to tell of the people I encounter, the joys and hazards of creating art in the open air and perhaps even the funny things people say to me when looking over my shoulder. I would also love to invite questions or comments you might have if you too are drawn to creating En Plein Air or if it is something you are thinking about doing but unsure where to begin.
I sat for a few hours in the scorching sun on this particular day (thank goodness I remembered to wear sunscreen) and worked both in my sketchbook with the humble pencil and on paper attached to a board both with inks and then pencil and oil pastels which threatened to melt away in the strong sun but allowed me to build up some colour and texture.
So I do hope you return for future Plein Air Postcards – who knows where I might venture out to next – or even what the weather will be. This is the UK after all!