York: stone, wood, copper…

Autumn is a perfect season to visit the beautiful ancient city of York. A recent week’s break there had me exploring the medieval streets, riverside, and old hidden churches. I took a small sketchbook and brushpens with me, and of course a camera, not anticipating much sketching, but was compelled by the soft seasonal light on the old stone and statues.

For me one of the challenges of a popular tourist city like York is finding the hidden quieter spots to relax and sketch. So it was a pleasure to discover the (free) beautiful garden of the Treasurer’s House at the back of theMinster, where I spent a relaxed hour sketching the various statues and luminous white swathes of cosmos flowers on a convenient bench (the artist’s friend!).One day we stumbled on the old church of St Martin-cum-Gregory in the Micklegate area, which happened to be showing a completely stunning exhibition of the sculpture of Harold Gosney. Unfamiliar till now with his work, this was a beautifully curated retrospective (by the Stained Glass Centre) in a beautiful space. Gosney has worked in stone, riveted copper and wood for the past 60 years, mainly capturing the essence of horses, birds and the human figure. His work is also on display at Ripon Cathedral. More on Harold Gosney and his work here. Images below are © Harold Gosney and greatnorthartshow.co.uk (copper sculpture).

We also spent a few hours wandering through the peaceful space of York Cemetery just outside the city walls, on the recommendation of an artist friend. The cemetery is run on a nature conservancy principle with paths winding through the flowers and shrubbery and semi-hidden angel sculptures among the treees. I found (another) bench in the sunshine and sketched the light through the autumn foliage, trying to push the limits of effects and colour blending possible with my brushpens.

Another place we passed several times without realising it, was the entrance to Holy Trinity Church, off Goodramgate. This is a real gem of a medieval building, which still has the original box pews. Well worth finding but wrap up warm, it’s freezing even on a sunny day. I loved the fleeting play of sunlight on the pews and the colours of the worn old stone.

And, last but not least: a visit to my friend Lesley Birch, an excellent abstract landscape artist who I’d previously only ‘met’ on social media. Her art studio is in Pica Studios, part of the Quacks printers building on Grape Lane. The studios house several artists/makers and are open by appointment. Contact them on this link. Below you can see myself with Lesley in her busy studio.By the way, if anyone can tell me how on earth to add captions to photos on the recent WordPress versions I’d be very grateful. It used to be straightforward, but they seem to have changed it for some reason (on the app anyway!). Thanks.

getting the blues …

not really… I’m on a roll just now; having a slight change of palette has proved an exciting boost to my winter Saltmarsh paintings.

Tried out Sevres blue, which I bought ages ago but haven’t really used so far, with a dash of raw umber and white, (all acrylics) and my favourite inktense sticks over that. I’m excited by the results, it seems to give that amazing fresh clarity of light you often get at the coast.

I’m considering entering these for the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour competition

 

Untitled. Mari French 2015

Untitled. Mari French 2015

  
Untitled. Mari French 2015

Untitled. Mari French 2015

 

seed heads and mussel shells …

Beach at Holme Dunes, November. Mari French 2015

Beach at Holme Dunes, November.

After days of wet, miserable weather, one morning this week was unexpectedly bright and sunny, so shelving my plans for a day in the studio, I threw my sketching bag and warm coat etc in the car and once again drove up to my favourite escape place, to Thornham saltmarshes on the North Norfolk coast, 12 miles from my home.

It was windy and cold, but wrapped up warm I relished the brilliant blue sky and the tobacco and purple colours of the salt marsh. Apart from gathering inspiration I wanted a good walk, so decided I’d follow the sea defences a bit further previously, around Holme Dunes Nature Reserve to the west, through the pinewoods and out onto the beach.

Saltmarsh, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015

Saltmarsh, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015


Thornham creek and marsh, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

Thornham creek and marsh, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

 

Reedbeds, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

Reedbeds, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

The path along the top of the sea defences is great for walkers and bird watchers, offering a panoramic view of the marshes and creeks with their birdlife, out to the sea beyond. It passes large swathes of reedbeds on the way, which this time of year are silvery and blurred with seedheads catching the sunlight and the wind. The only sounds were of the wind in the reeds, curlews on the marsh and Brent geese with their guttural barking, grazing out on the fields.

Reedbeds, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015

Reedbeds, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015


Reedbeds at Thornham, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

Reedbeds at Thornham, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

 

Boardwalk, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

Boardwalk, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

The latter part of the walk is on boardwalks looping over the sand dunes and towards the pinewoods around the reserve (these boards sometimes appear as scraps of corrugated card embedded in my mixed-media landscapes). It was mid-afternoon by now and I followed the sandy path through the firs and out onto the vast stretch of beach.

Holme Beach, footprints. Mari French 2015

Holme Beach, footprints. Mari French 2015

 

Holme Beach, groynes.

Holme Beach, groynes. Mari French 2015

The sun was bright but low giving long shadows and the wet strand reflecting the sky with the colours of a mussel shell. Soon dark bruised clouds were piling up on the horizon and it wasn’t long before they began to cover the sun, bringing a sense of dusk early to the day. I walked out onto a sand bank (the tide was still retreating otherwise this would be a seriously stupid thing to do), to get a closer look at the remains of a line of groynes battered by the waves. I’m always attracted to any graphic elements that appear like this in an otherwise low flat landscape, they give many possibilities for mark-making in my abstracts. I grabbed a few shots, then as the sky darkened, headed smartish back across the sand bank and beach towards the woods and the path back to the car.

Near dusk, Holme Dunes, Norfolk. Mari French 2015

Near dusk, Holme Dunes, Norfolk. Mari French 2015