Monday, 11 February 2008

A Monday Afternoon in February

Over the past twenty five years or so the subjects to which I have most frequently returned have been the land and river-scapes of north Dorset, and the seascapes of the nearby coast.

Since moving to south Dorset a couple of years ago I have begun to paint Winfrith Heath, near which I now live. Initially this heath landscape seemed so alien to me. But I have grown to love it - and to begin to feel a part of it.

The challenges it offers to a painter are that the heath has so much movement and activity in comparison to the rolling hills and valleys of north Dorset. There are few points that feel solid enough to fix a mark with, to provide a permanent reference for the painting. The ground seems to undulate as I observe it.

Lines of distinction between, for example, the warm hues of the gorsy grass and the purply blue of the woodier brush are frequently blurred and indistinct from one moment to another. There are no clear and obvious dividing lines.

I find the new challenges of painting here are compelling enough to make me keep returning to make sense of it all.

Usually the heath is a haven of peace and quiet, disturbed only by the occasional dog walker, and the rustle of field mice (I think!) not far from where I am sitting. It is also renowned for snakes, and is one of the few habitats for Smooth Snakes, but I have not yet seen one - nor even an adder.

Today however was slightly noisier. The heath is quite near the army ranges at Lulworth and Bovington. I painted to the sound of distant machine-gun fire.

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