OUR latest Picture of the Week is a painting completed during lockdown by local artist Christine Bass.
Most of Christine’s paintings are inspired by the countryside where she lives on the edge of the Chilterns, where three counties meet.
Her contemporary landscapes are characterised by strong lines and shapes, flattened planes and the use of vibrant colour.
She says: “This spring and summer, I walked almost daily up Steps Hill. My painting shows the start of that walk along the chalk track up the hill. My favourite route takes me from the base of Pitstone Hill, skirts round the top of Steps Hill, turns off into Ashridge Wood and descends to the meadow along the lip of Incombe Hole.
“There are some fabulous views on this walk: the dramatic curves of Incombe Hole as seen from the top of Steps Hill, expansive views across Aylesbury Vale, the softly rounded hills leading up to Ivinghoe Beacon, and the beauty of the beech woods.
“I love that combination of chalk downs with woodland and, this year in particular, in the midst of the lockdown, it gave me an exhilarating sense of freedom.”
Christine draws particular inspiration from landscapes where the natural lie of the land is accentuated by man-made interventions such as tracks, farmed fields and hedgerows, planted woodland and reservoirs.
This year she has spent many hours working on very large drawings of Incombe Hole and Ivinghoe Beacon, but even at the height of summer, working conditions outside could be challenging.
She recalls: “Even on fine, sunny days, the wind at the top of Steps Hill was so fierce that I had to wrap up warmly and really secure the pages of my sketchbook.
“The soundtrack was that of burbling skylarks and whistling red kites. There were wild flowers in abundance: cowslips and buttercups, bluebells and orchids, knapweed and ragwort, wild carrot, ladies bedstraw, agrimony and scabious, bellflowers and harebells, clover, marjoram and yarrow.”
As the summer fades into autumn, Christine will work in her studio developing paintings from those drawings, working with layers of acrylic paint on a collaged base.
“I begin by drawing the composition onto board before collaging the whole surface with tissue paper,” she explains. “The drawn composition is important to me; when it begins to disappear beneath the layers of tissue, I re-draw it. I then paint in acrylics onto that collage base, focusing on the original drawing but also incorporating many of the shapes which originate from the tissue layer. My aim is a synthesis between the drawing and the more abstract collage, with the painted layer bringing the two together.”
It’s a change of technique from her early artistic career when she worked as an illustrator producing black and white pen and ink drawings. She grew up in Trinidad and the bright light and vivid colours of the tropics still exert an influence in her paintings.
“I longed to work in colour and my first, very vibrant paintings reflected that desire. I still use strong, saturated colours in my landscape paintings but they tend to be more natural – greens and yellows, blues and greys, oranges and browns,” she says.