Early autumn sketching at Thornham reedbeds…

Another recent walking and sketching day at Thornham on the Norfolk coast. This time I concentrated on the entrancing light, colour and movement in the reedbeds as they subtly change with the approaching autumn.

Looking over the reedbeds towards Holme church from the raised banks around Ragged Marsh is one of my favourite views. The wind rustling through the silvered stems and purple-grey feathery heads is very calming. I used mainly watercolours with just one abstract using the brush pens that I mentioned in the last post.

I also did a watercolour sketch of the otherworldly ‘stumps’ looking out over the creek and marsh.

I remembered my camera this time and even caught a starling murmuration as well as the odd rusted artefact!

Creative colour… sketching with brush pens


On Monday I enjoyed a few hours sketching and walking at Thornham, north Norfolk. It had been a few months since I'd last sketched here and this time I'd decided to try out a batch of newly acquired Pentel brush pens, which are convenient to pack and use. With a small clip on metal dipper filled with water, I was able to achieve some of the wet-in-wet effects I like to play with. I love their versatility so I'll definitely be packing the brush pens on my next sketching holiday.

Because the colours I'd bought were limited (vibrant pink, bright yellow!) it forced imaginative use of what I had with me, but the resulting quick brightly coloured sketches of the beach, for me, more effectively captures the heat, the warm wind and the liveliness of the waves.

No photos this time, I took my camera but halfway along the walk discovered I'd forgotten the batteries!

Below are studies I made of light-filled creeks in the marsh from the sea defences, before the tide went out, with water soluble graphite pencil and with the brush pens again. Some sea lavender still bloomed.

‘Painters’ exhibition at the Black Barn …

'Illuminated coast i, ii and iii' by Mari French at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.
I’m currently showing three large canvases at ‘Painters’, an exhibition of work by 19 contemporary Norfolk artists, at the Black Barn, Cockley Cley, nr Swaffham in Norfolk. The exhibition is curated by Hugh Pilkington, for Sir Samuel and Lady Roberts. Artists include Tracey Ross, Elaine Banham, Kate Giles, Anne Allanson and Fred Ingrams.

Saturday (5th August) saw the private view of ‘Painters’ very well attended and enjoyable. Bright sunshine and flowing fizz with Hugh as genial host, made for a memorable evening. But most importantly, the works on display, all contemporary paintings, many of which were large canvases, formed an impressive, well-selected and thoughtfully hung show.

Work by Tracey Ross (left) and Anne Allanson at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Tracey Ross (left) and Anne Allanson at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.


Hugh Pilkington curates quite a few exhibitions in Norfolk, including the Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre. He chatted with me about his interest in whether there is such a thing today as a Norfolk school of painting, as there was in the 19th century with the likes of John Sell Cotman. This exhibition ‘Painters’ is a result of Hugh’s desire to get together a group of contemporary Norfolk artists to illustrate the high quality of art currently being created in Norfolk. 

Hugh also curated Cley Contemporary 2016 (which I wrote about in a previous post, here). I’ll quote again, part of his text from Cley Contemporary 2016…

Who are the artists who could make up a new Norfolk or Norwich School? Who are the successors of Cotman and Crome; of Sell and Ackling; of Emerson and Payne Jennings? Who are the landscape painters? Who are the abstract painters? Who are the sculptors? Who works in other interesting and challenging formats?

Hugh Pilkington, Curator, Cley Contemporary 2016.

Work by Tracey Ross at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Tracey Ross at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Fred Ingrams at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Fred Ingrams at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Kate Giles at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Kate Giles at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.


‘Painters’ is open each Saturday and Sunday in August, 11am-1pm (other times by appointment – Hugh Pilkington 01366 328354). If you’re planning to visit, follow signs for the (now closed) Iceni Village south of Swaffham, then follow the signs for the Black Barn.

'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Mari French and Tracey Ross at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Mari French and Tracey Ross at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.