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.

ancient fragments …

Mari French,photograph,stained glass,medieval,ancient,Burnham Deepdale

Medieval stained glass, Burnham Deepdale. © Mari French 2013

a blood-red shard like a dragon’s eye…
the sublime expression on a sun-moon visage…
the forgotten face of a young man…

… fragments of medieval stained glass.

medieval stained glass, Burnham Deepdale Church, Mari French 2013

medieval stained glass, Burnham Deepdale Church

Mari French,stained glass,medieval,church,ancient

Medieval stained glass-Burnham Deepdale church

Medieval stained glass, Burnham Deepdale church © Mari French 2013


a simple wooden chair on a polished flagstone floor takes on a calm presence in the low light of the circular bell tower …

Mari French,, Burnham Deepdale, church,Norfolk

Old chair, Burnham Deepdale church. © Mari French

… found imagery in the ancient church at Burnham Deepdale on the Norfolk coast.

shadow and light …

a few recent mixed media works inspired by last year’s studies of light and shadow in medieval churches and undercrofts …

… ready for framing then delivery to Kentmere House Gallery in York.

Undercroft: shadow & light © Mari French 2012

Undercroft: shadow & light © Mari French 2012

Threshold: blue & gold © Mari French 2012

Threshold: blue & gold © Mari French 2012

Undercroft - blue shadows © Mari French 2012

Undercroft - blue shadows © Mari French 2012