The Northampton Town and County Art Show 2015

January 25 2016

Our Landscapes Through the Eyes of our Artists.

"I am following Nature without being able to grasp her"

Claude Monet 

If you want innovation, beauty, local art, sculpture, print-making, painting, drawing, collage or large scale artwork - this art show has it all! Every year for over a century now, The Town and County Art Society has put on fantastic and high quality art shows. Hosted by The Northampton Museum and Art Gallery every Autumn the county's most talented artists put their work on display and share the products of their inspiration and perspiration  with the public.

This year I decided share with you, some of my favourites from the exhibition. There is so much variety that I thought I would focus on my passion for landscapes.
Standing Stones by Brian Mutton ( Richard Barnard Prize Winner)
Brian Mutton is for me one of the most original artists in the show. He has created this landscape which has a great sense of depth due to the layered shapes he uses. What I found really interesting was how the landscape appears to move as you peer into it. This effect is helped by the shadows which are cast at the back of the painting. 
Memory, light, place and fleeting moments of beauty are a few of the things which always draw me to this subject. When I see paintings like those above I just want to be there immersed in the elements and experiencing that connection to nature. 

One thing I really enjoy is dappled light with a soft breeze blowing the leaves and Colin Bradbury really captures that in his painting at Delapre Abbey. As a local lad myself I have lots of memories of this place going back to when I was a boy , I even remember seeing a red squirrel back in the 70's! 

Tove Valley - Autumn by John Wickham has another kind of light of course but the perspective really gives me a sense of the journey a river takes through a valley. It reminds me of the great public footpaths in the county which I go walking on with my wife.

Hot Summer days, birds singing, insects and rabbits are what the next painting bring to mind. John Walton's lush and rich painting, Overgrown Tree - Grounds of Roche Abbey, invites you to imagine being enveloped by flowers and leaves to discover the hidden shade of a sturdy old tree. 
Print making is such a fascinating and engaging way to create imagery. It always amazes me how many techniques their are in print. I visited Sorrell Kinley's studio earlier this year where, as always he enthusiastically explained and demonstrated his techniques. This lino reduction of Lanyon Quiot- Zennor. West Cornwall reminds us of our country's rich history and is also one of my favourite parts of the country to visit. I have painted Cornwall a few times myself.

This counties rich heritage is shown in 'Impressions of Pitsford Water' by Claira Corfe. These gorgeous little etchings have both texture and a dream-like quality to them. Again this work brings back memories of walking, cycling and running around the reservoir. I particularly enjoy the reflections on the water but the sunsets here are often stunning.

Another local spot in Northampton near to where I work at Northampton School For Girls is 'Bradlaugh Fields' made using scraper board by John Urmson. I really like the foreground detail and the butterfly but also the Church in the background which I can see from my office. But, the couple walking the dog reminds me how much I am looking forward to getting a puppy this year! Maybe a cocka-poo or Westie ... not sure yet!

I couldn't resist posting my painting or a video of it below. I was over the moon to have won the award for innovation from the University of Northampton, the first award I have won exhibiting with the Society. It will now be on display at Northampton School for Girls in the theatre foyer, for children and parents or anyone to enjoy on their next visit.
These paintings only scratch the surface of all the great work at the show. I am looking forward to exhibiting again in the coming shows this year. So, there will be more chances to see what Northampton's talented creative's have to offer very soon.  See you at the next private view!

If you went to the annual exhibition this year, what were your top artworks? Add your comments here....

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“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

January 11 2016
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Get in contact with yourself - Make Art!
Taking a "breather"  and just letting yourself "be" is a much under-rated but very basic human need. At certain times of life, when reflecting on our frantic lives it's necessary to slow right down and contemplate things for while. Reminding ourselves that we live on a little blue and green planet in outer space , or letting time and thoughts drift like a like a cloud can be a very rewarding activity. 

The last few years of my busy life as an artist and teacher has brought me to the top of a hillside and I have found myself having to slow down and looking back at the path I took. I have kind of, sat down on a bench  to look over the landscape to reflect.
Making my art, gardening, going for long walks and staring at the stars at night provide me with inspiring and peaceful time process the day. You have probably also noticed the proliferation of colouring books for grown ups on the market recently. They provide the same opportunity for a kind of escape from the busy world. You can spend time chilling out by colouring detailed swirly designs using psychedelic colours in order to find that Zen state of mind. 

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” 

― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices

This is a very natural and quite meditative pass-time which people seem to really need and are craving for these days. Mindfulness, as it is called helps us to sit in a nice comfy chair and watch the busy traffic of the day drive past us. It allows a certain distance to be put between us and the hassle of the day - we become observers rather than participants.
Last year, I had an exhibition of my art at the Leicester City Methodist church. I took part in and helped to run a creative retreat where I gave a talk about my work and then ran a practical workshop. Participants were given a chance to try out my technique of making paintings using words. They all made a  design using collaged text on a small wooden cross, a 'prayer cross'.

Usually I make my paintings alone in my studio, which gives me time to be me. But on this occasion I was inspired by the way the process of sharing materials, scissors, glue and ideas brought people together, encouraged conversation, and helped us to relax. We just felt ourselves.

At the Greenbelt festival last year, found this a great way to meet people and relax when doing the same kind of activity. People  felt  comfortable asking questions and chatting whilst being creative together. The weather and location at the tranquil Boughton House was also hot and sunny that day too, which always helps!
Since, Greenbelt  I have used this activity at our local church in Irthlingborough with adults and children and plan to do the same at Sunday school too. But whether its colouring, designing , painting or making something else art has a wonderful quality  that connects us to our surroundings, each other and importantly ourselves. 
The prayer crosses have become something that I enjoy making at home in my studio, alongside my other projects. The Inspiration come from the local nature reserve of Irthlingborough lakes and meadows and the British countryside. The crosses have developed from abstract designs into mini illustrations made using prayers, bible quotes and poems.

If you would like to own your own illustrated prayer cross visit my shop! You can also contact me if you have a specific request for a Baptism, Christening or Confirmation or to decorate you home. Email -

Some ideas that will help you be more mindful when making art or colouring in!

Before you start - sit quietly and notice how you are feeling for a short time. Notice how your body feels are you comfortable or tense? Also are you stressed or relaxed, sleepy or wired?
Physical Awareness -When you have started colouring or drawing or focussing on your creative activity and pay close attention to your actions. Notice how you are physically moving, using your hands, picking up another colour, how you hold a pencil, the direction in which you move a pen.
Colour - How do you make a decision about the next colour you are going to use? Are you choosing colours instinctively or does it take longer to pick the right colour? Could you select colours that express how you feel in this moment?
Doodle - Most people have made random doodles at some time or another. You don't need to be a great artist to do it. I often start with a group of shapes or boxes, then start colouring them in or repeating them. Try to focus on your breathing or physical movements. Try, closing your eyes, scribbling a few lines and then keep going by adding other ideas.

Get in Touch with You! Fish Cross.

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