I had an utterly marvelous day yesterday. I sketched in the Minster and then went to the National Railway museum. Aside from trains, they are the repository for the mid century railway posters that have mostly inspired my series of landscape prints with the place names carved into them over the last two years. You may have seen some of these images on calendars and whatnot the last few years, which is where I discovered them.
I was heartsick that no posters were on view, but a very kind docent sent me upstairs to the archivists. They have a research center there, and one very kind archivist found books for me to see what I was most interested in and then took me down to the storage area and let me see a ton of the actual original oil paintings (big! --- 36x48 or so) the posters were made from.
This was so much more than I had even hoped for. It was amazing to see the art in person. I hadn't been able to tell from reproductions whether the originals were screen or block prints of some kind or whether they were oil paintings. (Some are more obviously watercolors.) To get to examine the originals in person was marvelous.
One favorite is Lionel Richmond. They had his Tintern Abbey, among others, down in the rolling upright storage bins.
I'm so impressed with how these artists can take a complex scene and simplify it into a strong, graphic painting that will reproduce well as a poster. I've learned a lot about printmaking from looking at their color and plane choices, but it was a treat to get to see the brushwork up close as well.
I really love Richmond's tree shapes.
Here's a second one of his.
Another of my favorite artists in the genre is Norman Wilkinson. They didn't have as many of his (and none of my very favorites), but here's one I liked a lot.
It was such a thrill to see so many of these paintings in person, and I'm very grateful to the kind and patient archivist who let me pore over them in detail. I couldn't stop smiling all the way home.
I've spent a good bit of time the last couple of days roaming around the Minster. I'm being more of a tourist than an artist, but I guess I can't totally help myself from drawing. There's a series of Green Men (and women) in stone carved medallions in the passage between the north transept and the chapter house. I couldn't get a good picture of my favorite ( below), so I sketched it instead. The. I did the Green Woman (above) and a Disney-worthy, somewhat bewildered looking dragon standing on the head of a slightly troll-like man.
Mostly, though, I've been looking at other people's art. The huge east window is under restoration, and several panels of the Medieval glass are down at eye level to be seen up close --- a rare and magnificent treat. Even better, it's a series based on Revelation. I love the visionary aspects of that book and illustrated it myself several years ago for the Presbyterian Church USA, so I was delighted to see a different interpretation up close and personal.
Usually Medieval glass is so high up its impossible to see anything but the most general impression of the art. I was frustrated last year at Chartres that another Revelation cycle was so hard to see.
But I had no idea the level of detail that's actually in this glass. Apparently the craftsmen were working purely to please God with the gorgeous details. There's now way all that would be visible from the floor of the cathedral.
It hurts me a bit that we'll lose all that glorious art when the windows are reinstalled. I'm thinking of the reproduction caryatids and whatnots in Athens and wishing it were possible to put up reproductions and let the originals be more fully appreciated. But I'm so very grateful I was here to see a few panels.
I drove into York and to my bed and breakfast with no problems, navigating by the map from my grandmother's 1960's AA atlas. But getting to the train station to return the car was another story. It was only a mile from my B&b, but York has recently closed a bridge in the middle of their one way loop around the town, and I couldn't go directly.
Three laps later, I walked thankfully into the city centre, wandered through the Shambles, and gratefully found one open tea table on the plaza just by the west front of the Minster. Tea, scone, and sketching fortified me for the rest of the lovely afternoon.
I'm mostly planning to play tourist in York instead of painting, but I find that drawing something helps me remember it much more clearly, and I enjoy the process anyway. Always have a sketch pad in my purse for drawing emergencies.
In spite of a partly rainy day (necessitating a nap, darn it), I did four paintings my last day in Levisham. I did this first one from the road above Levisham. You can see the village down in the valley between the trees. It was a goodish uphill pull for this Delta girl to get up to the top of the moor, but nothing like scaling the side from scratch.
I did two more actually out on the moor, and I felt like I'd managed to paint everything I really needed to at that point. That's a good feeling to have as you're getting ready to move on. In Derbyshire I left with a pang, knowing there was much more I wanted to paint in and around Hartington. But it's also never wrong to have a good reason to go back.
Then on my way home, there was a vivid band of purple underneath this row of trees I'd kept looking at, so I perched precariously on a stone wall to give me enough elevation to paint it. I kept seeing things standing up that I wanted to paint but couldn't see from sitting on the ground. Someone needs to invent a lightweight folding bar stool for plein air painters to get our sight lines up over the wheatfields.
It was a good way to end the painting intensive portion of the trip. I plan to play tourist more in York and London. It's really the countryside I wanted to paint.
My watercolors of Rievaulx Abbey were so anemic that I want to share some photos of this marvelous place. It's a Medieval Cistercian abbey that was destroyed during the dissolution under Henry VIII.
And here are a few from that same evening out on the moors. Maybe
My best day of the trip so far, though there have been many marvelous ones.
I had marvelous day yesterday. I woke up quite early and decided to go out to paint before breakfast. There was a bit of a wheatfield not far from the B&b I'd had my eye on. It's nice to have a few nearby spots scoped out to paint easily without a long hike.
Then I went to Rievaulx Abbey. It's my favorite ruined abbey, as well as a special place. I was there for the first time with my grandmother at age 17 on the trip the two If us took around Britain, and I really felt her presence there again. I am so grateful to her for that early adventure and the confidence to strike out alone on a train with no reservations and just see what happens.
I painted at Rievaulx Terrace, a site up the hill from the abbey itself with views down into the valley. I feel like my work regressed a bit, though, with the focus on the architecture. Or maybe I just had an off morning. But a couple of people have kindly pointed out latelythat my landscapes on this trip are a departure from the work I've been doing and that my handling of paint is richer and more layered. I loved being at Rievaulx, but I wasn't happy with the work from there.
I did a quick journal sketch both to loosen up and also just remember this lovely tree. I mostly want to put time and effort into work that at least has the possibility of being exhibited if I like it, but sometimes it is fun to do a little sketch work in my journal just for me.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous yesterday, and I decided to pack a snack supper and head back out on the moors as soon as I got home. Never waste sunshine in Britain, and I also wanted to get quickly back to the painting that I had been feeling good about.
The sky and clouds were just glorious. I'm still not capturing clouds in watercolor as happily as I can in pastels or oils, but this trip has been good practice, and I do feel like I'm learning a lot. Sometimes getting away from my normal subject matter stretches me and challenges me in ways that remain after the trip itself is over. My summer in Greece eleven years ago forever brightened my palette, and I hope I can carry over the richer paint handling and different compositions to work after I get home.
I've been eyeing this line of trees from every angle and had painted it once already, but I wanted to get it from this vantage point with afternoon light, if possible. It reminds me if a very different line of trees in Bergama, Turkey, that also haunted me and made repeated appearances in my work there.
Walking home was an amazing sunset. I was utterly spent after doing seven watercolors in one day (I think that's a personal record), so I just took a photo to enjoy instead. I couldn't stop smiling all the way home. The beauty out in the moors is incredible, and I feel so lucky to be painting here after ten years of wanting to.
I went to Sunday services today in the tiny stone church just across the green from my B&b. it was a beautiful service, very close to the prayer book Rite I that I remember from going to early church with my grandparents growing up.
Then I walked out to the moors to paint. I'm enjoying my lunch breaks with a view. I took this photo from my lunch site yesterday and went back there to paint the same trees today.
If I can get back out there in the late afternoon, I want to paint from the same vantage point as the photo.
My hosts greeted me with tea and cake, as they do every afternoon, and I'm currently sitting in a huge, cosy leather chair with a fire going for the evening. I can't say enough good things about Heather and Michael and their Rectory Farm B&b here in Levisham. I'm delighted to be spending five whole nights here with them. Their kindness makes me feel very happy and at home.
I spent a semester abroad at the University of York when I was in college, and in the process, I fell in love with the North Yorkshire Moors in general and Levisham in particular. A friend took me walking here, and the landscape instantly took hold of me. I've been wanting to return and paint here for some years now, and I'm delighted to have five full nights in the village of Levisham.
The village is tiny (one pub) and right on the moor. I can walk out the road and very soon be on the footpaths among the sheep and heather. I spent my first full day yesterday walking a circle out on the moor and painting as I went.
The landscape looks similar to me in form to the mesas Georgia O'Keefe painted, with their steep sides and flat tops, where you can walk for miles and feel on top of the earth. But the palette is very different, of course, in this green and pleasant land.
I am also delighted to have found the Rectory Farm B&b. Michael and Heather have made me welcome in so many ways. Tea and cake in the afternoons, big, cosy leather chairs, a fire last night in the lounge when I was the only one there, and a heated bathroom floor. I'm so happy to get to spend a number of nights with kind people in their very pleasant home.
I just went to Sunday service in the tiny stone church across the green, and I'm off to paint. Hope all of you have a lovely day as well.
I'm behind in my blog because I packed a couple of sketches from Wells that I forgot to photograph, so I'll circle back around to post those later.
After I dropped my family to hike the Thames Path, I headed north solo in the car to paint. I'm spending most of my time in Yorkshire, but I had a couple of nights before I could check into my B&b there, so I decided to stop partway in The Peak District in Derbyshire. It seemed appropriate on a Jane Austen trip to visit Mr. Darcy's home county.
It is stunning. After several false tries for a B&b, I gratefully ended up in Hartingon. I could spend a month painting here. It's a small stone village with gorgeous gardens, a cheese shop, a chocolate shop, two tea rooms, one inn for dinner, one excellent dry goods store where I got a neat hat to paint and walk in, and (best of all) absolutely gorgeous countryside the minute you step onto a footpath leading out of town.
I walked out in the evening the first day I arrived and did two watercolors in the late, slanting sunlight. Today I did five. I am going to have to come back someday with more time.
We are now in one of my favorite places. I was here as a teen with my grandmother and utterly fell in love with the cathedral town of Wells. It's small enough that you can walk straight out the back of the Bishop's palace and be on the footpath to the next village, so that's exactly what I did yesterday morning. I did a couple of paintings from the footpath before the family got moving to go see Bath.
Here's the cathedral green, with our hotel (the Ancient Gatehouse) on the right. It's part of the medieval wall around the cathedral. I'm up under the eaves sleeping under half timbers.
We spent the afternoon in Bath seeing Jane Austen sites. Marian and I had tea in a tinty tea shop built right into the Pulteney bridge. Here's the view out the window from our table.
And I did one watercolor of the sycamore grove (of course) at the center of the circus.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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