A landscape painting quest
Updated: March 2020
I'm a Yorkshire landscape artist based in the county. A painter and printmaker with a studio in the Vale of York in North Yorkshire.
Yorkshire is the perfect location for a landscape artist addicted to besting their last best artwork.
I don't paint landscapes for fun. That might seem an odd thing to say. Let me explain…
My landscape painting mission
I'm on a constant quest to be the best landscape artist I can be. My quest demands I don't give up when everything's going wrong, and it's all frustrating. It involves banging my head against the wall of "Why it no work!" until it does work.
Pushing artistic boundaries and taking on creative challenges is the only way to progress art skills.
I must be odd because all this problem solving floats my boat. If making landscape art was easy, I'd lose interest.
Creating Yorkshire landscape paintings stretches my composition and paint skills. Making landscape prints tests my printmaking skills.
Dangerous adventures into new ways of representing a landscape's story, fraught with potential failure, are something I crave.
Yorkshire landscape paintings by the country mile
Yorkshire overflows with different types of countryside perfect for works of art. In some parts around here, every twist in a rural lane opens up a vista begging a canvas and some oil paints.
To the North of my studio are the noble, sumptuously carpeted North York Moors. A high expansive terrain with the most extensive acreage of heather in England (1).
To the East are the epic and
archaeologically outstanding (2) Yorkshire Wolds. Beyond this rolling chalky countryside is the East Coast of Yorkshire. A 45‑mile coastline of distinctive seaside towns, wide beaches and cliffs filled with fossils or nesting seabirds.
To the West are the often bleak, always spectacular limestone Dales. Famous for the original Three Peaks Challenge and their picturesque dry stone walls and barns.
As if that's not enough scenery to chew on, the surprisingly lush Derbyshire Peak District to the South lends a little of itself to Yorkshire.
That's just the higher places in Yorkshire. I've not mentioned the Vale of York, Vale of Pickering, the Howardian Hills, any of the rivers, or the Yorkshire towns and villages.
It's a magical variety of terrain on my doorstep.
Artistic comfort zone in Yorkshire? Argh, no‑o‑o!
Once I've mastered one kind of Yorkshire landscape painting, upsetting things by tackling something new is simple. I just set‑off in a different direction with my Plein‑air and sketching kit.
All this geography to feast on makes it easy to reintroduce the uncomfortable feeling of not quite knowing ‘how’. Artists grow when they're in an unsettled place.
What's called a "comfort zone" is where artistic magnificence goes to die before it arrives. I reel in horror at the idea of nesting in that territory.
The Yorkshire heart is green and pleasant
I live in the heart of a landscape banquet, lucky me. No wonder I'm like a kid in a sweet shop. My eyes are bigger than my tummy, and I want to paint it all.
All this richness will help me on my quest and I can't crack‑on quick enough. I have to keep telling myself to
hold my horses and take it one art study at a time!
The thrill of completing a painting that's better than my last best is addictive. It's why I'm a Yorkshire landscape painter and why I get up in the morning.
Below: Two Yorkshire landscape paintings and a lino print
East Yorkshire Wolds & Coast Paintings
Updated: 3 March 2020
At the end of 2019, I took a step back to review my progress as a landscape artist. I decided to stop exhibiting and promoting my art. It was a distraction from working on my art.
I have a number of paintings I intend to add others to, to make into a series. These collections are haphazard and evolving.
It's time to intentionally plan and execute a set of Yorkshire landscape paintings. A series devoted to one area of the county.
I've not set out with the aim of making a series before, and I'm convinced this 'project' will help up my game.
So ‘where’ is the question
The Yorkshire Coast changes character every few miles, and like a bewitching siren, it calls me to visit whenever I can.
Flamborough Head, and Bridlington next door, are my nearest seaside idylls. They never fail to please, and I'm a regular visitor.
To get to the coast, I've crossed the East Yorkshire Wolds countless times over the years. The area's become a fascination, regardless of weather or time of day.
I love the drive and stop to photograph the views a lot. It's only relatively recently though, that I've begun to explore the Wolds themselves.
There are ancient imprints and relics littered over this softly folding chalk countryside. The spell is complete since this discovery, and my obsession with my Wolds muse is now fully formed.
It takes half an hour at the most to get from my studio to the soft‑sided, snaking valleys and sublimely rounded hilltops.
This practicality makes the Wolds a perfect choice for tightly focussed series of Yorkshire landscape paintings. While developing other ideas, I intend to favour paintings of this area on my schedule.
We'll see if it develops that way. It's good to have a plan whether you follow it fully or not.
Going the Wolds Way
The Wolds Way is a 79‑mile walk crossing the curvy chalk high lands. I've walked short sections of it, though not in a planned way.
The path starts in Hessle on the side of the Humber River near Hull. It strides over the hills following a sweeping semi-circle from the South, ending at Filey in the North.
My Wolds way journey is little to do with the path, though it already features in my sketches.
I'd begun sketching and painting in the area toward the end of 2019. The weather in 2020 has been against us, so I've not progressed things much since.
While hibernating at home, I've been researching sketching sites. Hours have passed pondering what to include and exclude from this new series of Yorkshire landscape paintings.
Which way to Wolds paintings?
I've never intentionally planned and created a tightly focussed series before. I've always let things evolve before.
There are so many questions to answer. Perhaps I should sketch anything and everything, and then see if a theme appears.
An alternative is to decide a theme first and sketch to suit it. Another option is to just go for it, ’whatevar‘. It'll evolve, either way, no doubt.
This series won't progress in a meaningful way until I get back outside in the landscape. There are weeks of reference materials collection to complete and bring back to the studio.
I'm champing at the bit and the lack of outdoor sketching action is making me feel starved.
If some maniac with a wild look in her eyes, sketchbooks grasped tightly, mows you down on her way to the Wolds I apologise now.
I'll update this section periodically with progress bulletins (and apologies). The adventure will probably justify a devoted page. I'll add a link to it, here.
Below: Three East Yorkshire paintings
North York Moors Paintings
Updated: March 2020
We don't call the moorland at the top of North Yorkshire the North Yorkshire Moors. This high land covered in heather is called the North York Moors.
If there's ever a location worthy of being part of a Yorkshire landscape paintings collection, then this is it.
The area includes the picturesque Cleveland and Hambleton Hills. The Cleveland Hills are the highest part of the North York Moors.
Painting the North York Moors
I've happy memories of painting in the upper reaches of Bilsdale which touches the two hill ranges I've mentioned above.
There's bound to be a Bilsdale scene, or two, in any North York Moors landscape painting series I make. Of course, there are lots of other dales to explore.
The North York Moors are bigger than the Wolds in both height and breadth. The high moorland area is so big it'll take a lot of exploring and taking it bit‑by‑bit would be sensible.
The tops throughout the moors are covered in heather, while the valleys are lush and green.
When the heather is flowering, there's a mix of purple, vivid greens and saturated blue that dazzles.
The skies up there are epic, the moor is majestic, and even without a biting wind, it takes your breath away.
On a balmy summer's day, the landscape fills you up, and you breathe deep on these uplands.
There are more landscape paintings than you can shake the proverbial stick at up there. They're everywhere you look.
As well as Bilsdale, I've already collected sketches of the Hole of Horcum. Further along the route towards Whitby, I've scribbled quick thumbnails while stopped briefly during my journeys.
The Whitby road snakes over the Saltergate moor tops, through deep dips with sharp turns over bridges at the bottom. Several places along this highway suggest monumental landscape paintings.
You'll know the locations I'm talking about if you drive the route.
I have an idea for a series of Yorkshire landscape paintings with these tracks across the moors as a theme.
The road from Kirkbymoorside (silent second 'k'), to Castleton, over Blakey Ridge would be another one. Then there's what we call 'the Roman road' and the drive from Rosedale East and West.
A top hill of its own
Roseberry Topping is like a waymarker for those returning North. Roseberry is an unusual and eye-catching shaped hill. It roughly marks the point where the Vale of York becomes Cleveland.
While Roseberry Topping sits within the North York Moors, and North Yorkshire, it should be a series of paintings on its own.
I've explored the area a lot and found several viewpoints I think will make great landscape paintings.
Yorkshire Sheep Paintings
Yorkshire landscape paintings of moors without sheep would be against the law! Without trying, I've already collected lots of reference for the sheep dotting the moorland landscape most of the year.
They're characters, peering at you over the hummocks of heather while you paint. No doubt there'll be a few more Yorkshire sheep paintings popping up in my collection.
Truth is, I've no favouritism for sheep over other creatures. I suppose being a Yorkshire landscape artist though, sheep are bound to get in on the paintings I make.
The next painting adventure
Once I've completed my series of Wolds paintings, this is my next project. It could be a big series given there's so much to paint.
I already have a number of randomly collected sketches and Plein‑air paintings. As well as a bucket full of ideas for North York Moors paintings.
Below: A print and two Plein‑air paintings from the North York Moors.
Yorkshire Dales Paintings
Updated: March 2020
The Dales are larger, and further away from my studio than both the North York Moors and the Wolds. While they're within a sketching day trip, it's a more involved Plein‑air expedition.
The Dales is also the most painted. There are many, if not hundreds of paintings of the Dales to choose from. Do we need yet more paintings of the Dales I wonder.
I've planned a number of linocuts and then not made them. Not because the prints weren't very good, but because I needed to spend my time on other things or because I didn't have the money for materials. Sometimes both.
It'll be at least a couple of years before I've finished all the work above. Unless I lose my self restraint and start on some Dales paintings before I've finished the other collections. It's always a possibility.
The Dales will be the easiest of all to paint. The difficulty will be funding my travel. I may have to think about staying over.
Being a landscape painter can involve a fair amount of travelling and it's an expense you have to plan for. Perhaps my other series will fund it.
A Yorkshire landscape painting series featuring the Dales is a long way off, so I'll cross that bridge when I get there.