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Magic in the English Countryside: How One Artist Finds Inspiration in Nature

Art is a communication form, yet most of us don’t know what we are trying to communicate and need to try lots of different things before finding out. Personally, it took me until I was 54 before I found out what the hell I was trying to communicate.

In the end, it turned out to be rather simple:

I am trying to capture a tiny part of the magic I experience in looking at nature, so that I can keep a bit it of it forever by fixing it as a painting on a canvas.

seeking-the-light

I get inspiration for my paintings by various means, but the best inspiration is simply walking and looking. I like to print pub walks off of the internet for different areas of South East England and simply go and explore. The instructions are often out-of-date or the writer was drunk so I usually get lost, but this is all part of the fun.

What occurs when I walk is that I go completely “out of time.” I walk through beautiful English countryside that has not changed much in centuries. I can feel the ancientness of the land. I hear birds singing, bunnies bouncing, cows chomping, insects buzzing and know that these sounds were exactly the same 5000 years ago.

I often pick up flashes of history and even emotions; I have no doubt that places retain memories put there by life forms long gone. As I walk—with no anchor to the present—I am happy to forget what time period it is, who I am and where I come from. I am happy to just exist and look at the spectacle nature is performing around me. I am a dryad in the woods, and a selkie by the sea, a wise woman, a witch, a green man, a fairy, a warrior, an elf. I am anything I can imagine and I love it.

When I come home again, I step back onto my timeline. But I want to retain some of the magic I experienced by painting an image that tries to capture a little of the essence of it.

A painting I did recently called Gems of the Forest shows two blue tits fluttering against a woodland backdrop. I painted it after a walk in Sussex in which I went through lots of little patches of woodland.

gems-of-the-spring-forest

Each time I walked into a wood, it was the blue tits I saw most frequently—little streaks of colour flitting around among the muted browns and greens of the trees. They rarely sit still long enough to really see them well, but they are simply beautiful little birds and I wanted to crystallise in paint my impression of them—along with my impression of the forest I saw them in, the bluebells that were there, and the May sunshine through the trees.

My landscapes are not traditionally realistic. . . they are not painted from life; they are painted largely from memory—helped by photographs and sketches—but mostly from memory. As I walk, I absorb information. I see, hear, smell, and touch the environment I am in and then later, on canvas, I paint what was impressed on me from it.

I think of this as a form of “impressionism,” but it is painting from memory impressions as opposed to the impressionism practiced by Monet.

A few years ago I started a series of paintings of woodland paths. Woodland Path to Somewhere Wonderful was the first of this series.

woodland-path-to-somewhere-wonderful

Woodland paths are fantastic! I often feel that on such paths, there will be a revelation somewhere round the next corner or over the next hill. I see animals watching me from the crooks of branches or the tree tops or in the fields.

Deer especially grab my attention as they stop dead still and simply watch me as I respond by also stopping dead still and looking back at them. I love the way they stare a while and then turn suddenly, flashing their white bums at me, before vanishing into the trees.

It very much feels that the forest is theirs. The land is theirs. They are making sure I respect it and will lead me to somewhere wonderful if I behave.

All of my paintings, including the seascapes and underwater paintings (painted after trips to the Caribbean) are attempts to encapsulate a memory of something wonderful. That they communicate my enthusiasm for nature to others, too, is a bonus as it means I can make a living from being an artist—which I am very grateful for!

My ultimate goal is to one day paint something so captivating that I will not be able to look away. A painting I could disappear into, where I would find all the things that really ought to be there—that is the magic I’m trying to portray.

For more art and inspiration from Gill, please visit her website.

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If you like art—as a professional, student, or teacher—your source of fresh ideas is somewhere out in the world. As Rumi said: “What you seek is seeking you.” It’s a matter of connecting.

So today I’d like to share three ways to find artistic inspiration, and give you an easy tool to capture those sources of inspiration to. . . read more

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