My morning begins with a walk before I go to the studio. Usually out of the village and along the river Alham, a river only 10 miles long that heads towards the Somerset Levels. I don’t draw from life; the walk can act as a starting point, a jumping off place offering new possibilities.
The empty landscapes of my childhood unwittingly appear in my work. Our house looked out on Black Sluice Gate that separated the fresh water of the Witham from that of the sea, and my mum’s family home was on the tidal Island of Horsey. In these empty places the figure becomes important. I like to paint people in rooms too, – squashed places, a lovely antidote.
I’ve always found landscape a tricky word. As a child living in the Fens the concept of landscape (if I even thought about it back then) was always about somewhere else. I don’t think that ambivalence has ever really left me. A couple of years ago I read John Stilgoe’s book, What is Landscape? and was pleased to learn that a Harvard professor considered it to be a promiscuous word and that for him (and now for me) ‘individuals conjure landscape individually.’
Finding my own meaning in a new place with the idea of making an image is both daunting and expansive. There’s a concatenation of shapes and forms and colours in front of me that I need to make sense of. Drawing gives me a way in. It is with looking that my understanding begins, and ideas – spatial, structural and emotional – emerge, paying honest attention within the constraints of a simple medium.