Saturday, 8 August 2015


Artist David Hockney working 'en plein air' in the East Riding Wolds

I’ve just returned from a holiday with my wife and two children to the East Yorkshire Wolds, or East Riding as it is known, near the coastal town of Filey. When we booked it I, surprisingly, had forgotten about the area’s connection to being the landscape recently made famous by David Hockney in his extensive series of landscape paintings made ‘plein air’ and celebrated in ‘A Bigger Picture’, his enormous exhibition of this work at the Royal Academy in 2012. 
David Hockney, 'Path Through Wheat Field. July, 2005', oil on canvas, 61 x 91.4 cm 

I really enjoyed this exhibition and so it was a pleasant surprise to find myself driving along these winding country roads where yellow fields of barley and wheat seemed to stretch seemingly without end beyond the abundant hedgerows either side.  I felt like I had stepped into these gloriously colourful and light filled paintings, and as the landscape was so flat but above the sea, whose horizon was always in view, and with clear blue skies above dotted with white fluffy clouds, at times I felt like I was dizzyingly on top of the world. 

David Hockney, 'Sledmere View', oil on canvas, 2008, 90 x 150cms

It’s strange as we spent most of our week by the sea, on the nearby beach, or the beaches of nearby Bridlington, Filey or Scarborough, yet the sea is oddly absent from Hockney’s paintings of the region. 
David Hockney, 'The Big Hawthorne', 2008, oil on nine canvases, each 91 x 120cms
After a personal tragedy (1) the artist and his assistants seemed to almost abandon the Bridlington base he had worked from for nearly five years, in what was an incredibly creative period from this incredibly creative artist, overnight and return to his LA home he is more famous for. He has since returned to portraiture with his usual drive, despite suffering a minor stroke, but I must admit his recent exhibition in London of these seemed really disappointing (2)

                     Lucy Jones, 'Serenity', oil on canvas, 50 x 70cms, 2010

I did a few drawings of my own on holiday, but it is pretty impossible to give it any real time when you have two lively kids kicking sand in your sketchbook. I would love to develop more seriously my interest in ‘plein air’ painting again at some point in the future. 

The last painting on this post is by Lucy Jones (above), whose work I really like, and she works on these paintings, which are often very large six-feet across things, entirely in the ‘plein air’ tradition. She must overcome what must be immense physical difficulty to create these paintings as she suffers from cerebral palsy and works on her knees outside in all weathers (3). I think they are brilliant and so full of life.

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