OUR picture choice this week gives us the opportunity to escape lockdown restrictions in the company of Beaconsfield artist Tim Baynes.
And where could provide a bigger contrast with the rolling countryside of the Chilterns than the flatlands of the Kent coast and marshes?
The unique offbeat “kiss-me-quick” atmosphere of the East Anglian and Kent seaside and coast have fascinated Tim and his architect and photographer friend Trevor Clapp for the past decade.
So much so that their Curious Coast project has taken on a life of its own: there’s even a free downloadable collection of some of Tim’s early sketches from the project, chronicling their visits to Canvey Island, Jaywick and Dungeness.
Tim’s travels working for Microsoft and the BBC gave him the opportunity to build up a formidable library of thousands of sketches, all meticulously chronicled in more than 30 Moleskine notebooks, the same kind favoured by painters and writers from Van Gogh to Picasso and Hemingway.
Millions have seen his work over the years – on the weekly Passport travel blog on the BBC.com website, as well as in Wanderlust magazine and major newspapers in America and the Far East.
But away from the world’s major capitals, his day trips with Trevor have provided an intimate record of a rather different world – of oil and gas silos, beach cafes and wind-blown beaches, of passing barges, trailer homes and down-at-heel ports and military installations.
Nowhere is that sense of being on the edge of the world more dramatic than in Dungeness, a desolate headland on the Kent coast which boasts one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe and an extraordinarily diverse plant, bird and insect population.
In this flat and isolated landscape, fishermen’s huts lie in the shadow of a nuclear power station, joined in more recent years by a series of striking architect-designed homes.
It’s a strange and sometimes eerie landscape that has attracted artists and film-makers, music producers and fashion photographers – and this year saw a huge charity crowdfunding campaign designed to save the cottage home of artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman.
Jarman moved to Prospect Cottage in 1986 after being diagnosed as HIV positive. He passed away from the illness in 1994 and bequeathed the cottage to Keith Collins, his close companion, who died in 2018.
Now the house will be taken care of by arts organisation Creative Folkestone, which will organise a permanent public programme and conserve the building including its renowned wild garden sown on the beach shingles.
His former home continues to be a site of pilgrimage for people from all over the world, who come to be inspired by the stark beauty of the landscape and by Jarman’s legacy.
Here, as always on his travels, Tim is busy capturing the scene, just one of a formidable collection of almost 4,000 sketches.
“During each trip I have recorded my observations in spare moments,” Tim told Wanderlust in a 2011 interview. “At the beginning of a new day, an evening alone in a restaurant, in a bar waiting for colleagues, or in a few minutes stolen between meetings.
“I have this compulsion to capture a moment, getting it down on paper. My art is about the ephemeral impressions of time and place. I am searching for what is special about each place.
“The narrative that accompanies some of the drawings is an immediate response to the highs and lows, joys and wretchedness of travel; as a result, my comments are often emotionally charged and always direct.”
During the initial March lockdown, Tim found he was able to establish a routine that devoted three hours each day to painting and drawing and took him on a journey to all those places he had visited over the years.
“I have in my mind and in my studio been to New York, Tokyo and spent (figuratively) massive amounts of time in Kent,” he says.
From West Wales to his beloved Essex, that journey of rediscovery has focused on architecture as well as landscapes. Working oils and acrylics as well as watercolours, his work has been snapped up by private collectors around the world.
Next week: Tim’s lockdown ‘travels’ take him to West Wales