With life being a bit busy of late, last week I realised I hadn't been out walking with my phone camera and sketchbook for a while. So in pursuit of recording the changing environment and invoking some summery inspiration, I ventured into the local countryside.
The idea was to find some big skies, golden fields, atmospheric effects or quirky features to record, and get some colour guidance for up-coming paintings with variations in my colour palette to reflect the current season.
About 5 minutes into my walk, from a fantastic vantage point, I could literally see the clouds rolling in, engulfing the big blue sky and dumping a fine, but soakingly persistent rain over the area.
Which, it turned out, made for a tons more interesting landscape than glorious summer sun and big blue skies.
The blanket of mist-like rain created fascinating layers in the receding landscape, faded bright colours into muted tones, and churned up the sky into glorious dark purples and greeny-greys.
A bonus about going for walks when it's raining is that I'm usually alone with my own thoughts—and that's utterly blissful.
The only noise I heard was the rustle-tramp-rustle-tramp of my waterproofs as the hood rubbed against my ears with the rhythm of my steps, and later, as the sun revealed itself, the caws of a rising flock of crows, disturbed in a field as I walked past. Not a dog walker, rambling group, or runner to be seen.
I took loads of photos, as per normal. After an hours' walk, I'll easily come back with over 150 photos, loads of which I'll end up discarding after I've worked through them.
All the shots you can see in the header photo I've deliberately left un-edited, because I want them to be a realistic record to use as inspiration, rather than working directly from them to make paintings.
Sometimes I see gates, telegraph poles (with those oddly compelling yellow Danger of Death signs on them) and jarring man-made installations that creep into shots. Some incidental features I don't see until I'm going through the photos on my large screen afterwards, but they may later find their way into work composed from a few different scenes.
On other occasions, peculiarities jump out at me with their incongruity—of synthetic objects to the organic material surrounding them or because they're fleeting atmospheric moments, or transient occurrences of nature going about its business.
It all makes for a huge amount of interesting material, and each time I review the process, create drawings and then, eventually, paintings, I reflect on what I took away from the walk compared with any prior expectations I had of the experience.
Despite setting off on a trip excited and curious to discover new scenes or capture new moments, there’s always an open mind and a meditative approach to the exercise.
Drink it in, feel the weather on your skin, smell scent in the air, whether it's earthy leaf mould, or cow shit, or heady blossom—or diesel and takeaways if it's somewhere more urban.
Allow yourself to see your surroundings instead of just looking at them, and be awed they will never be the same twice.
All images and text © 2020 Julia Brown
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Julia is a motorcycle-riding, cat-herding, food loving fine artist.
Based in rural Yorkshire, she lives with her partner, sculptor Damon Price, and their 3 bonkers cats.
Aside from painting and drawing, she designs and illustrates books, sometimes does the garden, and loves food and cooking—but then has to run it off at some point later.
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Julia writes this blog on her website www.juliabrownart.com.
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