Confinement & cul-de-sacs…


”A time of gifts’ © Mari French 2020

I’ve never left my blog unwritten for such a long time before. It’s good to be back. In the past few months of the Covid crisis, I just haven’t been able to summon up the will or the words to write about my art. As for the art itself, like many artists in these strange times, I’ve been floundering around a little lost for a while. With 3 exhibitions cancelled/moved online, Open Studios also cancelled, galleries closed etc, it’s hardly surprising I suppose. It’s not that I haven’t been painting, and I’ve made myself go to the studio to do something a few times a week at least, it’s just that each spurt of creative activity – sketching, collage, painting – has seemed to fizzle out after a short time. Cul-de-sacs I’ve started to call them.

However, each little cul-de-sac has produced some interesting results, so perhaps they hold some promise for a future way forward; like one of those narrow hidden footpaths you can often use for access to the area beyond the cul-de-sac, the one cars can’t take.


Ploughed fields & tree belt, near Anmer. Sketchbook. © Mari French 2020

With anything more than a long walk forbidden here in the UK, in the last few months, coastal visits weren’t an option (I live 20 minutes drive from the beautiful North Norfolk coastline, where the reedbeds and saltmarshes are a great source of inspiration), I’ve been out sketching the local fields and farmland – something I haven’t really done since moving to Norfolk 10 years ago.

I loved the way the early spring sunshine caught the ploughed fields, exaggerating the russet and ochres of the sand and chalk soil. And the hares were out in force chasing each other in large groups. I haven’t taken these any further though, hopefully at some future point…


Ploughed field, Anmer Road, with flint. © Mari French 2020

Meanwhile, at the airbase, outside my studio, is a large cherry tree which was covered in deep pink blossom back in March. It was only when a glorious deep pink started to appear in a series of small experimental works on paper, that I realised how the blossom had entered my subconscious. These works look great on some lovely small white cradled wooden panels I’ve bought. I really enjoyed these but as I said, it wasn’t long before I started to flounder. I keep going back to them, so they’re going to get picked up again at some point.

Later in spring, mostly confined to my garden (I know, I’m lucky compared to many) and with almost a month of warm sunshine, my glorious tulips, ‘La belle époque’, just had to be sketched. Then in the studio, I set about abstracting them, in both mixed media and collage, which I enjoyed, before (yes you guessed it) I once again hit a cul-de-sac. Still, I’m excited by the potential of these small works so who knows.

Below is the mixed media collage I produced as part of this abstract tulip work  (all the papers using in it were created by myself, including the calligraphy). Which reminds me I haven’t posted the experimental collage I was developing back in February before the virus hit, so I’ll add them to the next post (it won’t take as long as this one post did I promise!).


‘Palimpsest’, mixed media collage © Mari French 2020

shades of gold …

Recent Plein air watercolour sketches of …

the reedbeds and whelk sheds at Brancaster Staithe

autumn field further inland

and the glorious beech woods near Massingham and West Acre

… all around North west Norfolk

Whelk sheds, Brancaster Staithe. Mari French

Whelk sheds, Brancaster Staithe. Mari French

Reed beds. Mari French

Reed beds and tidal mud. Mari French

Autumn field. Mari French.

Autumn field. Mari French.

Beech woods near West Acre. Mari French

Beech woods near West Acre. Mari French

Beech woods and stubble, Massingham Heath. Mari French

Beech woods and stubble, Massingham Heath. Mari French

a safer distance …

I’ve been developing my sketch ‘a safer distance’ further (see previous post ‘passing time’). This artwork is acrylic ink and tissue on watercolour paper, approx 40 x 45 cms. 

The original inspiration was the crumbling interior of a 19th century dynamite store at Cape Cornwall, a place I’ve visited a few times this year (see my post on the art residency I took at Brisons Veor). The small austere structure, perched on the rocks above Priests Cove, was originally part of Cape Cornwall Mine. The bolts and bars in the fabric of the interior walls were bleeding rust in a very interesting way. I seem to be very attracted to industrial archaeology lately.

I like that I can see other imagery in this. It feels there may be potential for a series here.

A safer distance. Acrylic ink/tissue on paper. Mari French 2014.

A safer distance. Acrylic ink/tissue on paper. Mari French 2014.


Old dynamite store, Cape Cornwall. Mari French 2014

Old dynamite store, Cape Cornwall. Mari French 2014