Tag Archives: imogen reid art

The Art of Gardening

“As the light burns more persistently, and rain showers reflect the ever-changing landscape below, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time just staring about. Knowing I could never capture the fleeting delights in front of me, I try and store them in my mind and notebook for future reference..  raindrops on prickly stems of briar rose shimmer impossibly ruby then sapphire in the spring light.” [ed.  Oh dear, it looks like I began this piece months ago but wilful inattention to public relations triumphed for the pursuit of practical application to craft.]

Sadly I didn’t get to the Royal Academy Show, so this isn’t going to be a critical commentary on that event. Monet was the show’s most obvious choice of pin-up, but there were millions of potential understudies; fortunately my favourite French painters of real life, Caillebotte, who after a fleeting 6-year art career retired to his garden in his early thirties in 1879, made the final cast.

Ask most living artists with an interest in landscape, and you will find they will admit to an almost addictive compulsion to get their hands on the sod – especially at this time of year. And yet I believe gardening is a natural companion to painting – not simply because of the appeal of a subtly ever-changing visual dialogue we have with our tamed wildernesses, or as a living canvas on which to express ourselves. Gardening presents a most tangible opportunity for us to interact with our environment.

Just how we approach the tasks in hand is also an indicator of our relationship with our work – do we tend our patch by guiding and coaxing, removing discordant elements patiently, teasing out roots with our hands? Or do we smash out roots, leaving fragments to re-emerge below the surface? Do we try to dominate and control, bring in alien elements to disrupt the space? Do we use chemical or organic agents to improve productivity, or tolerate the rhythm dictated to us by our materials? How we wrangle with the tougher elements in this verdant composition speaks volumes about our present attitude and attention span.

At the moment I give myself an hour most mornings for this meditation before heading into the studio. It is helping me look, at myself, and the interfering thought processes that distract me from my day.  It helps me both clear my head, and to limber up my hands – although it is a fine line I tread between developing strength in my wrists and stiffening them. As Cennini preached in his Craftsman’s Handbook, you should be ‘saving and sparing your hand, preserving it from such strains as heaving stone, crowbar, and many other things which are bad for your hand, from giving them a chance weary it.’

Easier said than done…


garden scene with chicken feeder wm
No Spring Chicken

The Art of Stalking

This isn’t a piece about the genre of stalking art, like Sophie Calle’s Venetian Suite –last month a friend took me deer stalking with dog and gun. He thought the experience might be useful to my work, assist in my understanding our relationship with Nature. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the gun, but knew something about herd management from my time living near Ashton Court in Bristol: those with least talent are dispatched, as they are destined to merely disrupt the herd and be sorely injured in the competition for dominance in the hierarchy … of course you might question any parallel with the art world on that score alone.

I Bone

Covering my face and head, and guided down-wind to begin our quest, we headed down into an ancient local valley. Winter light warmed the afternoon, illuminating the old woodland, the silver lichen glowed, and the canopy shimmered. Creeping up and down the gully, past the scars of the recent storm, uprooted trees, jet-washed rocks, freshly hewn water-courses in the overhanging banks, I kept close in the footsteps of my experienced guide, mimicking his movements. In silence we looked for tracks and to the Pointer, her nose to the ground or scenting the air; we took pause, crouched low, then would sit and wait for maybe quarter of an hour or so, waiting for signs of movement.


After a few hours of this slow, intense yet meditative perambulation, we gave up on the hunt. There was no bloodshed, no finale, and no ‘product’. My guide wasn’t sure how useful the experience had been, but I began to get a sense of its relevance: “Making art is born of necessity and it’s an ongoing process—responding to the world and continuously moving forward, occasionally hitting on something then plodding ahead,” Katy Grannan – photographer/curator of “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco (Andrea Denhoed, The New Yorker 11/08/15)

We track our thoughts and ideas, waiting a while for a path to our quarry. Those moments when we allow a soft gaze into our creative process can be most fruitful. Sometimes our goal is revealed, other times it is absent, just passed, or overlooked, and we have to return again to our expedition. The challenge is to do this without expectation, but full of anticipation, and sensitive to our own mood, energy and environment. To assume the outcome of our enterprise and find ourselves wanting denies us the joy of the chase, can stifle the organic development of our work, and leads us to overlook the clues to our success.


Northern Soul at Christmas

christmas rose copy
Christmas Rose

I’m pleased to say I’ve got my drawing hand back in since I’ve been up here. So many interesting lines to navigate, from determined hawthorns and oaks bracing against the wind, to wild mushrooms, curious livestock and dramatic rocky outcrops.

fir cones
Fir Cones

So when I was commissioned for a few more designs for Christmas cards earlier in the winter, my usual humbug mentality about the season was dispelled. This client is an avid gardener and likes unique botanical compositions. I seek out an appropriate specimen, and then set it on a board, rearranging it until some pleasing rhythm is revealed.

Then I can employ one of my favourite mediums, the classic dip pen and black ink, usually on a heavy watercolour paper. This detailed work is an almost meditative experience, and I love the excitement of feeling the right course of the line first time. Obviously it isn’t always plain sailing and sometimes your attention will drift, or the intensity of the practice has you chewing your left hand off. Still, the discipline is something I still relish, and I’m glad that the output is well received.

By now I expected to be trudging through snow, charcoal and ink in hand with armfuls of chilly scenes to share. And yet, there is the small matter of climate change that now makes such expectations unreasonable. Thank you for following my Northern Progress these past months; I will have some more wintry offerings in the New Year. In the meantime I do hope that you too are fortunate enough to enjoy a Merry Christmas..


In search of my Northern Soul.. 6

I am not Ronny Barker

When I started on this project I had thought to begin in the land of my forefathers, with a look at recent social history, and create a visual record of the locality. Then after a month I would move on, again seeking common themes and constructing my narrative.

When I began to look into the wealth of social and economic history of this area I realised what a preposterous notion that was. It was the artistic equivalent of backpacking through Asia on a gap year; the work of a visual tourist.

Certainly this approach has appeal for some, and a seductive momentum of its own. Many creative projects have been arbitrarily curated in this time-limited fashion ‘a painting a day’, ‘around the world in 80 paintings’,  ‘a month in madrid’. Yet that isn’t my purpose. I want to get to know the character of my home country, its geology and geography, its biology and ecology, the sites and the society.

I firmly believe that as an outsider, generalised statements about communities lacks credibility. An artist offers you their own perspective on the world, and that comes with the bias of a different upbringing, history and heritage. The integrity of the work comes from acknowledging that unique subjective observation of the environment in which you work. So my focus has shifted to be what engages me about this country, not what I expected to find.


In Search of My Northern Soul.. 5

Inspired by my trip to the Netherlands with a wealth of visual information in my head, I was determined to get back out into the open air.

I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to winter plein air painting. Notorious amongst my friends for the numerous layers I need to take camping in the summer, I prepared as best I could: two pairs of glove liners, latex outers, wrist warmers, fingerless additions to the top of the three underlayers. For the feet, Two pairs of winter socks and one thin pair of silver socks recommended by the Raynaulds Society. My circulation is terrible!

I struck out for a sheltered spot in a copse of beech and fir. Starting fully 2015-11-20 10.40.26gloved I realised I had forgotten my palette knife (clearly I need to brush up on packing my school bag properly), which most definitely hampered my operating speed. I had to take off my gloves to work with a smaller brush, and within 10 minutes they were red raw. It may have been a bright day, but it was 4 degrees out there and the wind had a cunning instinct for seeking out its prey.

Beaten, I wove my way through the red-flagged shooting parties and resolved to try as do some other plein air painters like Tom Coates, finish the work in the studio, or in my case, the barn. I don’t usually adopt this practice because the change of pace alters the character of the work: you are not directly responding to the natural lighting conditions so you lose some dynamism. What is positively different is the dialogue with the material has the upper hand; this certainly shouldn’t be avoided – the balance and counterbalance of subject and process is the essential rhythm of a painters workflow.

So, another hour under cover and this was the result. Perhaps this approach has potential…

waterloo monument wm
The winning side, Ancrum

Website Competition Result

The winners are…..

First Prize: Heron Jones

Second Prize: Samantha Bainbridge

Thank you all for taking part. More competitions will be announced soon!

Imogen x