Yearly Archives: 2014

Christmas Eve – the best part of Christmas

Christmas Eve walk on the fell image

looking towards Sedbergh in the muted, colourful, afternoon light

When I was a child I realised that I preferred Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. It was so still and mysterious and there was that wonderful anticipation in the air. You could imagine anything was possible and it could be true, in a way, before reality arrived the next morning.

Being a Catholic family we went to church at Christmas and Midnight Mass when I was older. This seemed to make everything even more charged and exciting, because staying up so late meant entering an unknown world – a sleepy, magical, miraculous place where people gathered in the darkness inside a hazy candlelit church. One year it snowed and we were cut off from the rest of the world, a small quiet village marooned by a bypass stuffed with drifts. That Christmas Eve felt especially enchanted as we trudged around streets devoid of engines, with glowing stars, the blue dark sky and waves of snow shimmering with crystals.

This year a walk on the fell saw gloom pierced by rays of light, fiery bracken all around and beautiful gentle colours of violet and green in the distance.

photo of sun's ray in the gloom

could this be the fabled ray of hope?

Tilly may have been looking forward to the future with enthusiasm and hope or she may just have been lunging for a treat. Who’s to know?

photo of dog in bracken

Tilly lunges into the future

In 2015 I hope to paint furiously and, if I can, adopt the mindset of Ray Bradbury who once said:

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

Where is this place?

Bowland landscape plein air drawing in pencil, A5

plein air pencil sketch, A5, drawn somewhere in the Bowland landscape, perhaps around Whitewell?

A place I went for a walk in about 15 or so years ago has turned into a mystical landscape somewhere in the back of my brain. I can see it now in my mind’s eye; it’s very green, cloudy and peaceful with nothing but hills and trees and it’s very damp, because it has been raining for a long time. In spite of being wet it is a beautiful place with rounded hills sweeping up and away and revealing further rises behind, which could be reached if you were to walk on, through a valley opening and beyond. It’s a very secret, mysterious place shrouded in mist. I know I made sketches of the landscape when I was there and I think I know which ones they are in my tiny sketchbook, but I can’t be completely sure.

The drawing above is the one I’m most sure of. There is also another one, obviously sketched in no time at all (maybe we were getting cold) that seems to be of the same place.

pencil drawing created in the Bowland hills

quick plein air pencil sketch in unknown Bowland landscape, A5

A subsequent watercolour sketch went a bit strange.

watercolour on Arches paper of landscape in wild colours

wild colours watercolour, 8 inches square on Arches paper

So I tried again, trying to keep the colours and shapes a bit more true, but it lacks the spirit of the place.

small watercolour painting of a Bowland landscape

somewhere in Bowland … a small watercolour painting

Finally I made the first sketch into a huge charcoal drawing as preparation for a possible painting.

A1 charcoal drawing of a Bowland landscape

charcoal drawing created from small pencil sketch of Bowland, A1 paper

When I walked in the real place I was on a camping trip with Andi, who was ill. My planned route turned out to be 14 miles in all: seven there and seven back. We did stop at an inn in the middle of nowhere at the halfway point but Andi was extremely stoical to tramp all that way through wet fields. I seem to remember him collapsing with a grateful sigh when we got back to the tent and not really moving until the next day. It might be interesting to go back one day but maybe not – you can never really go back. It might be better to reimagine.