Tag Archives | Norfolk Broads

Painting the Norfolk Broads – A forgotten National Park, or an Artist’s Paradise?

Mousehold Heath, Norwich - John Crome

Mousehold Heath, Norwich – John Crome

The Norfolk Broads are renowned for their early morning mists, beautiful lakes and rivers (known as broads), windmills, trees, wildlife, boats and sailing craft of many shapes and sizes, boathouses, low bridges, old stone ruins, and a few human ruins, sorry – I mean artists, setting up their easels all over the place to capture some of this magical atmosphere.

Of course we’re not the first to notice these natural beauties, The Norwich School of Art was the first in this country, founded in 1803 and made famous by John Crome, John Sell Cotman and Joseph Stannard, to name a few. Their works went on to influence the artists of the French Impressionist school.

Atmosphere is what we as artists are trying to capture in paint. To accurately record the scene before our eyes, isn’t inherently difficult, even a camera can do that quite well. But the artist seeks to capture the ‘atmosphere’ which attracted him or her to the scene. That might be the early morning mist, the sound of the ducks, the way the light is filtered through the tree branches, the smell of the woodland, and all the other senses that the artist is experiencing.

It’s not surprising then why I and so many other artists prefer to work out doors, directly from nature.  It is also no surprise to learn that paintings and sketches made on a rainy or misty day, perhaps in the snow, or beneath a magical evening sky or in the early morning light, very often manage to capture something special about that atmosphere in a way that studio work rarely does.  For the same reasons working from photographs is almost never successful.

View from How Hill, Norfolk

View from How Hill, Norfolk. This is the highest hill in Norfolk.

So you might think we have the best job in the world? Visiting interesting places, checking out stunning scenery, painting until the light fades away, well yes and no. That is the creative part of the role, and it has many excitements and disappointments, not least  when a few spots of unexpected rain can ruin an hour and a half’s work in watercolour, or a sudden gust of wind carries away the easel, complete with firmly affixed wet painting, requiring a scramble over the rocks or a dip in the cold algae covered lake to retrieve said masterpiece. Of course, this is all forgotten when the next attempt is a success.

The other part of the ‘job’ is less creative, and more ‘sales and marketing’, a subject which doesn’t come naturally to many creative people. So it’s, framing and mount cutting, cataloging and pricing, entering into competitions, talking to galleries, planning exhibitions, placing work in Internet shops, writing detailed descriptions, packing and sending paintings, web site maintenance and writing blog articles, such as this. All very interesting and it has to be done, but still it keeps us from getting out there and being creative as much as we’d like.

mount cutting

Cutting mounts and double mounts

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Four Days – Painting ‘en plein air’ In Norfolk!

Four Days to paint Norfolk! What a challenge! Q) How would you like some adventure?

Early morning mist at Rollesby

A Norfolk Early Morning Mist over Rollesby Broad

Well I was up for it, so I signed up to join in the first ‘A Brush with the Broads Plein Air Festival’ –  A week long event in the Norfolk Broads National Park organised and hosted by professional artist and teacher Linda H Matthews. We arrived late afternoon on the Thursday, at Clippesby Hall where we met everyone in the welcome marquee and after some food, we were treated to a watercolour demonstration.

Friday morning brought lovely weather and all the artists went off in different directions to paint in their chosen localities, scenes varied from rural agricultural land and buildings to rivers and wider waterways, known as the broads, to boats of all shapes and sizes, old bridges, wind pumps, churches, boathouses, the variety was endless. I particularly liked the early morning mists hanging over the waterways – very atmospheric and not easy to paint such sensitivity in watercolour.

View from How Hill, Norfolk

View from How Hill, Norfolk. This is the highest hill in Norfolk.

Saturday also brought warm and dry weather and everywhere we went, fellow artists were set up under the trees, by the boathouses etc, making art each in their own way. In the evening the organisers had laid on a social function, with a live band, but I regret I was too tired to enjoy this, and took an early night, missing another excellent workshop.

Sunday dawned, again misty but beautiful and we set off to the City of Norwich, for a timed ‘Quick Draw! Charity event. We each had two hours, to complete our vision of Norwich, a city I don’t know very well, but I found a corner behind the Art School, made famous by the Norwich School of artists, lead by John Crome, JS Cotman, and Stannard. among others. Here is my dip pen Indian Ink and Wash sketch.  On the Monday we again found more subjects to paint, this time, I chose a view from the  top of How Hill – one of the few hills in norfolk, a county which is known for its flat open, low-lying landscapes and big skies.

Pen and Wash Norwich Art School

This was the home of the Norwich School of Artists

Monday evening was the exhibition of the best works, and many sales were made. I’ll be participating again in 2015 so watch this space for the write-up.