We will take this beautiful Welsh Border Collie ‘Jen’ on our walk along the canal today. Having enjoyed another delicious Welsh breakfast, we are now heading for the Monmouthshire/Brecon Canal.
During the years that I lived in Crickhowell, each day I would walk across the Crickhowell bridge to LLangatock – through the fields, up past the Dardy to the Monmouthshire/Brecon canal tow path. It is a place to slow down and commune with the natural world.
I always carried a tiny sketch book, watercolour palette and pen. As I walked the tow path I would observe everything around me and make notes like this one.
Looking through the trees down into the Valley – I could see Crickhowell bathed in light.
I encourage people to make little notes and sketches. This one has been in one of my many sketchbooks for over twenty years….and when I look at it all my senses are immediately awakened to that moment in time. Another spontaneous watercolour/gouache sketch from the Canal tow path with shafts of light seeming to envelop the Valley.
I have many happy memories of tutoring for the Brecknock Arts Society. On one occasion – one of my groups met in Brecon with a plan to walk the tow path to Llangattock, stopping every fifteen minutes and then sketching for another fifteen minutes. The idea of this exercise was to loosen up, hone observation skills and nurture spontaneity. Although a long day – it worked and I remember it very fondly.
I would suggest that people start their day this way. Don’t get stuck in one spot. Remember to look in every direction, including up and down. We are recording thoughts ideas and observations….and to do that effectively we need to be open to all that surrounds us. I always enjoyed meeting and greeting people on their narrow boats.. Along with the beautiful views – to our left, right, ahead and behind, all our other senses are fed.
During lock down we have all been reminded of how Mother Nature responds when we look after her..……..I don’t think I have ever heard a better dawn chorus than the ones we have experienced this spring.
Along with beautiful views, there are always surprises when walking in nature, including this Giant Redwood which somehow found its way to the tow path just beyond Llangatock. It has now become a landmark.
There is often an ethereal quality about the light as shown in this quick sketch . It was a place where I often felt totally detached from what was going on in the wider world. Birds and other wildlife are to be found…..and if you walk the canal every day you get to experience and know nature’s beautiful rhythms.
I will use this image as my ‘jumping off point’ today. I like the abstract shapes it presents. I am using a mix of purple and yellow ochre for the dark shadows. With my usual large brush I block out the composition. All the remaining whites are dry white paper. I then add Winsor & Newton gold Green and a little Daniel Smith Undersea Green under the archway making sure to bring some of the same greens into the foreground – ensuring a sense of balance. I am not looking for a realistic image..but rather a spontaneous impression. I am constantly reminded that everything reflects upon everything else….all of life is interconnected.
Using the same greens which are trees reflecting into the water, and a little burnt Sienna to suggest trees and that’s enough.
After another very jolly pub lunch:) later in the afternoon as we walk back to Crickhowell across the fields, the ever present Table Top (Crug Hywel) is bathed in a golden light. After cleaning up we prepare for a trip to the Sugarloaf Vineyard – where we will sample Welsh wines and delicious food produced in Wales. .
Before that we will drop into the 14th century St. Edmund’s church which sits in the middle of Crickhowell to see two large panels I painted.The panels measure 12ft x 8ft. This is not a very good photograph but you will see that many of the animals and birds represented in the panels come from my sketches and experience of living in Crickhowell. I particularly wanted children to enjoy them.
The panels were inspired by the following passage from the Song of Solomon and my love of the place.
‘Arise my love and come with me for the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth, the season of singing has come, and the turtle dove is heard in our land’. (Song of Solomon 2:10-12)
During the ceremony when the panels were officially installed in 1995, the children of LLangattock Church in Wales Primary School read this poem to me….a very moving moment.
And now we go to Sugarloaf Winery gratis my favourite taxi driver, Gareth…..
Sugarloaf Mountain Crickhowell – where we will be sampling Welsh wines.
Tomorrow morning after breakfast we visit Tretower Court (approx one mile from Crickhowell). A place steeped in history and atmosphere.