About mari french

I am a full time artist, living and working in a small village in Norfolk, UK. I enjoy experimenting with mixed-media - an unpredictable and exciting process, resulting in a distillation of my experience and a loose, atmospheric evocation of place. In 2016 I was a selected artist for the Royal Institute of Artists in Watercolours (RI). I was a finalist in Artist & Illustrator Magazine 'Artist of the Year 2016'; and was featured in The Artist magazine in June 2016. In 2014 I was a finalist in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. I am an elected IEA Member (Provisional).

Cornish sketchbook at Open Studio

Gosh its been quite a while since I last posted on here. It’s been such a busy couple of months. I’ve been away on a 2 week art residency at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall, which I’m planning on writing about soon. But in the meantime here’s a quick look at the sketchbook I worked in whilst there, which will be on show at my Open Studios May 27, 28, 29 and June 9, 10, 11 as part of Norwich & Norfolk Open Studios 2017. My studio is in Harpley, Norfolk and you can get more details and a map here. Hope to see you!

Reedbeds and reflections…

River Wensum at Sculthorpe Nature Reserve © Mari French 2017

River Wensum at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve © Mari French 2017

Delighted to discover a new reedbeds landscape this week, this time at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, just outside Fakenham. It’s only 8 miles from my home but although I was aware of it, I haven’t visited before (a mistake), as I normally head for the north Norfolk coast and the saltmarshes and reedbeds there. 

Sunday was a blustery and changeable early spring day, with scudding clouds and more bright sunshine as the day unfolded. The reserve is larger than I thought with extensive winding boardwalks providing comfortable and easy exploration. Lots of benches too. I had my camera with me but no sketchbook, which I’m going to put right on my next visit (soon). 

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Birches embracing, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Birches embracing © Mari French 2017

Mere and reedbeds, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Mere and reedbeds, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Reflections and bridge, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Reflections and bridge, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

I loved the variety of habitat – white birch trunks standing out against the furze of woodland, the meandering river Wensum, its banks lined with pollarded willow, catkins already out, reedbeds and open meres (with great views from several hides). Lots of birdsong, which you’d expect in spring in a place popular with birdwatchers. Speaking of which, the peace and quiet was more noticeable and welcome given that any visitors encountered were talking fairly quietly being there mainly for the birds and wildlife.

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Movement of wind in the reeds and bulrushes, sparkling sun on the water, movement of branches, reflections, fenceposts punctuating the reedbeds … these obviously all fed into my subconscious because a few days later in the studio, after some experimental markmaking, I produced these mixed media on paper pieces, which I’m rather excited by! (And yes, I did see some interesting birds).

insight… in sight…

Thinking more about the subconscious process behind my art lately …

Work emerging from the studio the past two weeks appear again to be channelling my time spent studying and sketching reedbeds and pools/channels on the north Norfolk saltmarsh coast.

Initially these were experimental pieces with mixed-media (inks and acrylics etc) on watercolour board and paper. But having left them alone for a few days, then coming back and working into them with that lovely rust colour for instance, they definitely evoke reedbeds and water to me. The first one below from a close viewpoint, the second from further away.


Untitled. Mixed media on paper © Mari French 2017

But I’ve also been considering this: they’re not just about distilling what I see or feel, my work seems increasingly to recall my physical experience; the journeying and exploration of my chosen terrain. So some motifs may appear more than once and at different scales, because I see the same place/object or experience the same feeling or sensation several times as I go, turning and watching, stopping and walking back to study some more.

Having been working towards abstraction in my interpretation of the landscape over the past decade, it’s intriguing (and a bit thrilling) to get this insight into the way my own process works.


Untitled. © Mari French 2017