This book features all of the sketches from my solo exhibition held at Gallery Four in Oldham in 2023. The work represented a culmination of the style I developed over the last few years walking around the back lanes and footpaths of Saddleworth.
My art focuses on the places I see as I wend through the high and wild places across the North of England, where peaceful country lanes and dark, dramatic moorlands can exist side-by-side. I don’t just stick to well-trodden footpaths, venturing to isolated and sometimes dangerous vantage points.
I focus not just on location, but also the seasons and their weather. From the clear and sunny days of summer to the dark and overcast skies of winter; somewhere can feel familiar in one season, but totally alien in another. Here, where we can experience both blistering heat waves and snowstorms throughout the year, our landscape is always changing.
Even over a short space of time, the subtleties of the light can change to create an entirely new perspective. I draw in the open air, quickly capturing these moments as they are fresh, employing a spontaneous, scratchy movement using ink and homemade tools such as sharpened lollipop sticks, matches and twigs.
My process continues when I return to the studio, where I develop the sketches further with water-based media, including ink, acrylic and watercolour. Rather than tidying up the sketch, this part of my work is about highlighting the dimensions of light and atmosphere of the moment I’m trying to capture. I’ve always been inspired by artists who offer technical skill with a bold, bright vision, such as David Hockney, David Bomberg, John Nash and Eric Ravilious. My figurative style seeks to blend an untethered approach with my eye for detail, allowing me to instantly capture the feel of a place.
This snapshot approach is about retaining a true impression of the environments I walk through, in the moment that I experience them. There’s no going back with my technique. I always stay true to the untamed character of the original sketch, embracing small mistakes and letting the wildness of nature shine through.
Having worked as an art director for many years, and always having a serious interest in art, I was inspired to sketch and paint again after a major heart operation, where my recovery walks gave me a newfound appreciation for the drama, beauty and variety of the North’s landscapes and townscapes.