ANCIENT landscapes provide the inspiration for many of our favourite artists, and Anna Dillon is no exception.
“As someone who enjoys long-distance walks, travel and exploration I am determined to visit and paint as many landscapes as possible within my life,” she says.
That sense of exploration is reflected in her output, which includes collections ranging from First World War battlefields in France to Irish coastlines, and encompasses dozens of vibrant paintings portraying half a dozen different English counties from Cornwall to the Cotswolds.
But our choice for this week’s featured picture takes us to a painting entitled Whipsnade, showing the view from Ivinghoe Beacon looking out towards the famous chalk lion which has overlooked the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire since 1933 and was restored in 2018.
Born in Wallingford, Anna trained as an illustrator at Falmouth School of Art in Cornwall and ditched her job as a graphic designer in 2009 when she decided to paint for a living. “It was the best thing I have ever done,” she says. “I feel lucky and my passion for the landscape gets deeper each year as I learn.”
From her Oxfordshire studio she shows off some of the works which have been taking shape during months of lockdown, including a new series of Chilterns landscapes and aerial views for a collaboration with drone pilot Hedley Thorne.
The locations of each painting and photo connect with local history to provide a narrative which the pair hope will give valuable insights at their Airscapes exhibition planned for 2021, providing a ‘birds-eye’ view of the Oxfordshire and Berkshire countryside.
Lockdown has also provided opportunities to explore the local landscape on foot, and Anna incorporates notes from her walking diary to accompany some of the paintings, like that from Lodge Hill, north of Bledlow Ridge in Buckinghamshire.
It’s October and the elements are against her, she recalls, with strong winds and flurries of rain.
“Walking through the outskirts of Chinnor, the track becomes lined with beech trees in wonderful colours of yellow and orange. As I shuffle through the fallen leaves The Ridgeway takes a sharp turn right into a large, expansive and attractive piece of downland called Wain Hill as I cross into Buckinghamshire,” she writes.
“The track steadily climbs on to Lodge Hill where the grass on the track is like a green, velvet covering. The views from up here are spectacular with a 360 degree panoramic of the Chilterns.”
Frequently Tweeting about her enjoyment of the local countryside, from frosty walks by the Thames to visits to the “mother of all hillforts” at Maiden Castle, she has developed her style using bold and strong colour which reflect the form, contours and light of the land, using thin layers of oil paints built up gradually and slowly.
One suitable seasonal walk portrays Incombe Hole at the end of December and forms part of her extraordinary Ridgeway series of oil on board paintings, of which prints are available.
“To my right I can see Dunstable Downs and behind me is the famous Whipsnade Lion,” she writes. “I bought my first house not far from here in a village called Slip End on the edge of Bedfordshire. The sun sets on an inspiring walk and the last day of a brilliant year.”
Further afield, her Battlelines Redrawn project started as a study of how some of the wartorn battlefields of the First World War in France and Belgium have regenerated over the last century and exploring poetic connections with the chalk landscapes of the North Wessex and Berkshire downs.
She also cites war artist Paul Nash as a particular inspiration and his special affinity for the wooded hills in South Oxfordshire called The Wittenham Clumps has been reflected in many of her own paintings.