Local artists open their doors

ART lovers in Buckinghamshire who enjoyed this year’s open studios events should make a note in their diaries for June 2020.

Once again, hundreds of local artists and makers across the county will be throwing open their doors for a fortnight next summer to showcase their work.

TWO WRENS, SINGINGSOUNDS OF NATURE: Two Wrens, Singing by Sue Graham

The Bucks Arts Weeks project – which follows similar events across Oxfordshire in May – allows the public a unique opportunity to hear artists, sculptors, printmakers, photographers and jewellery makers talk about their work and see them in action.

The open studios scheme has been running in Buckinghamshire since 1985 and all the events are free to the public – including exhibitions, pop-up displays and dozens of working studios.

From calligraphy to ceramics and sculpture to digital art, the skills on display include printmaking, jewellery, drawing and painting, metalwork and photography.

For wildlife and nature lovers, highlights include many works inspired by or reflecting the natural world, including animal portraits and sculptures, and paintings rooted in the local Chilterns landscape.

SUE GRAHAMOPEN STUDIOS: artist Sue Graham at work

Geographically the open studios and exhibitions stretch from Milton Keynes and Buckingham in the north to Aylesbury, Chesham, High Wycombe, Chorleywood, Henley and Maidenhead, on the southern edge of the county.

Some towns like Princes Risborough, Amersham and Chesham have their own trail maps and exhibitors are grouped geographically to make it possible to visit a number at a time.

In 2020 the programme takes place from June 6 to June 21, incorporating three weekends.

Past highlights have included striking works by local artists like Sue Graham which have graphically illustrated the loss of birdsong from woods and gardens.

going-going-gone-birds-etc.-600x450MISSING VOICES: Going, Going, Gone by Sue Graham

To the north of the county, the striking fine art photographs of David Quinn have reflected landscapes from the Outer Hebrides to Vietnam, while Katy Quinn has also found inspiration in the landscapes of Scotland and Scandinavia for her jewellery and glass art.

Pop-up exhibitions suddenly appear in churches and village halls across the county, but visitors have to slip into Bedfordshire to see the striking landscapes of Graham Pellow, who works in a variety of mediums and has found inspiration in his local surroundings since moving to Leighton Buzzard.

Another artist inspired by local landscapes is Alexandra Buckle, many of whose linocuts are woodland themed, reflecting her love of walking her dog in the woods. Her proximity to National Trust properties like Stowe, Waddesdon and Claydon also allows easy access to locations which can provide watery reflections and scenes with interesting combinations of colours or dramatic light.

AN-EPISODE-OF-SPARROWS-websiteSENSE OF HISTORY: An Epsiode of Sparrows by Julie Rumsey

Further south in the Chalfonts, working from her gorgeous garden studio in Chalfont St Giles, Julie Rumsey has branched out into mixed media work using acrylic as well as her eye-catching collagraphs, many of which have been inspired by ancient naïve artefacts.

She haa exhibited alongside contemporary fine artist E J England, who often uses damaged vintage books as a canvas and whose works are inspired by the landscapes, cityscapes, flora and fauna of the British Isles.

Animals, flowers and the natural world also provide inspiration for the work of Jay Nolan-Latchford,whose eclectic body of art and home decor ranges from watercolour illustrations with embellishments through to large mixed media canvases.

JAY NOLAN-LATCHFORDINTO THE NIGHT: Jay Nolan-Latchford creates a mystical mood

Sally Bassett is another artist inspired by the Chiltern countryside, as well as the wild sea coasts of the west country. Her work explores and celebrates the seasons of the year, her paintings dynamic, bold and full of colour, energy and movement.

Similar themes are echoed by artist and tutor Susan Gray, who runs workshops and painting days from her studio in Wendover and exhibits in Cornwall and London, as well as in Buckinghamshire.

Also drawing inspiration from the beauty of the Chilterns countryside is Christine Bass, whose vivid tropical colour schemes betray her Trinidadian roots and feature extraordinary scenes across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from Ivinghoe Beacon to Bledlow Ridge.

She is one of a number of artists and craft workers who have shown their work in the atmospheric surroundings of St Dunstan’s Church in Monks Risborough.

Track beneath Ivinghoe BeaconFAVOURITE WALK: a track beneath Ivinghoe Beacon

During the fortnight of displays and demonstrations, visitors can buy or commission work – or even try their hand at some of the skills or sign up for classes. Prices range from postcards and small gifts costing a few pounds to major pieces of original artwork or sculpture costing hundreds.

Any artist or maker interested in taking part next year should contact the organisers on admin@bucksartweeks.org.uk.

Hundreds of artists are featured at venues across Buckinghamshire from June 6 until June 21. Free hard copy directories are available from May from art galleries, libraries, tourist information centres and participating venues.

Vivid view from the ridge

5tx4w3UP TO THE RIDGE: one of Christine’s AONB landscapes

PLENTY of artists draw their inspiration from the beauty of the Chilterns countryside.

What makes Christine Bass’s contemporary landscapes so unusual is the vividness of her tropical colour schemes, which betray her Trinidadian roots.

More than 30 of the paintings on her website feature extraordinary scenes across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from Ivinghoe Beacon to Bledlow Ridge.

Near BledlowNEAR BLEDLOW: original acrylic and mixed media

Her landscapes are characterised by strong lines and shapes, flattened planes and the use of vibrant colour. She grew up in Trinidad and it’s easy to see how the bright light and vivid colours of the tropics still exert an influence in her paintings.

She draws inspiration from the countryside where she lives, on the Buckinghamshire border with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire – and her work is on show until Sunday June 24 as part of this year’s Bucks Arts Weeks displays.

She is one of nine artists and craft workers currently showing their work in the atmospheric surroundings of St Dunstan’s Church in Monks Risborough.

Track beneath Ivinghoe BeaconFAVOURITE WALK: a track beneath Ivinghoe Beacon

Although other parts of England feature in her paintings too, from the South Coast to Cornwall and the Lake District, the gentle beauty of the Chiltern Hills provides a constant source of pleasure, her pictures capturing the patterns of fields scored by furrows and bounded by hedgerows, the bare trees of winter, the colours of crops and of the seasons.

Christine’s blogsite contains more details about her work and career. The show at St Dunstan’s runs until 5pm on Sunday. Other Bucks Arts Weeks events take place across the county throughout the week, with more than two dozen artists featured on the Princes Risborough Art Trail, which includes venues at Askett and Bledlow.

Perfect site for red kites

EMMI 3HUNGER PANGS: a red kite drops in for a snack [PICTURE: Emmi Birch]

RED KITES have become virtually synonymous with the Chiltern Hills over the past 20 years, but it wasn’t always that way.

Once a common sight in the towns and cities of medieval Britain, the birds had become virtually extinct by the end of the 19th century after a couple of centuries of human persecution, with perhaps as few as a dozen pairs surviving against all the odds in a sparsely populated region of central Wales.

Nowadays the Chilterns is one of the best places in the UK to see red kites, thanks to a successful re-introduction project between 1989 and 1994 – and it was that re-emergence of the species which prompted Emmi Birch to set up a Facebook group for people to share photographs of the magnificent birds.

“The group was created in May 2016 to purely enjoy photographs and film of the red kites,” Emmi recalls. “Living in Buckinghamshire, I have had the pleasure of seeing the red kite population grow rapidly.

“Years ago, we would very occasionally see one and everyone would stop what they were doing and rush outside just to get a glimpse. We now have the privilege of seeing these incredible birds every day in the skies above us.”

Indeed the Chilterns Conservation Board nowadays publishes a leaflet about where to see red kites in the Chilterns, where there are now more than 300 breeding pairs.

Emmi is not alone in her appreciation of the birds, it seems. When she set up the group Red Kite Sitings UK she hadn’t anticipated that it would soon have more than 1,000 members.

ALAN EWARTSPLASH LANDING: a Welsh sighting in Ceredigion [PICTURE: Alan Ewart]

On the site’s welcome page, she wrote:  “I’m hoping that this group will allow others to post their photographs and film of red kites from around the UK, so that those who aren’t familiar with these magnificent birds can enjoy them and those, like me, who never tire of seeing the kites can just indulge themselves looking at yet more photos and film of these beautiful birds of prey.”

Fellow enthusiasts haven’t been slow to share their pictures of kites soaring on the breeze all over the UK, a reflection of the extraordinary success of this conservation movement, which had its roots in the foresight of some pioneering visionaries in the early 20th century who realised how close the birds were to extinction.

Contributors to the website include Fife-based enthusiast Allan Brown, who has posted a number of stunning pictures of the birds on the wing north of the border.

Allan Brown's stunning shot of a red kite at Argaty, PerthshireON THE WING: a red kite at Argaty in Perthshire [PICTURE: Allan Brown]

Describing himself as an “enthusiastic amateur” photographer, Allan says: “I am interested in all raptors, but I particularly like red kites for their agility, acrobatics and colours.

Another enthusiast who describes himself as “just an amateur with a camera” is Alan Ewart in Wales. He says: “I took up photography less than two years ago and I’m lucky enough to have two feeding stations both within an hour’s drive. Once I’d been once I was hooked on these magnificent birds.”

RED KITEWELSH WONDER: a red kite at Bwlch Nant yr Arian [PICTURE: Alan Ewart]

The full story of the birds reintroduction is told in detail by Elfyn Pugh in an article for the online birdwatchers’ magazine Birds of Britain.

By the turn of the 20th century the remaining population were clinging on in their Welsh stronghold, having been plagued by unscrupulous egg collectors,  shot for their skins and mounted as stuffed birds in glass cabinets.

EMMI 2PHOTO BOMB: Emmi’s site has contributors from all over the UK [PICTURE: Emmi Birch]

A determined group of individuals and landowners were appalled at the continuing destruction and formed the first kite committee in 1903 to start protecting nests, with the RSPB becoming involved a couple of years later.

But it wasn’t until the 1980s, with the red kite identified as a globally threatened species, that the RSPB and Nature Conservancy Council got together to discuss reintroducing the red kite to England and Scotland.

The programme has continued ever since, with colour-coded wing tags identifying the different places of fledging or release, from Yorkshire to Aberdeen and the Black Isle.

Red Kite on he hnt at Glen QuaichMAJESTIC: on the hunt at Glen Quaich [PICTURE: Allan Brown]

But the Chilterns remains a major stronghold and a perfect place to photograph the birds soaring on the thermals above Stokenchurch and Radnage.

Says Emmi: “My interest started around 13 or 14 years ago when I saw my first red kite fly over the garden. I was absolutely amazed by the size of it.”

In Wales the kite is a national symbol of wildlife and was voted the country’s favourite bird in a public poll run by the RSPB Cymru and BBC Wales poll and announced by Iolo Williams in the final episode of Iolo’s Welsh Safari.

He said: “The red kite is an extremely deserving winner with a hugely uplifting story of recovery from the brink of extinction. We can be proud that, when red kites were facing such a difficult time elsewhere in Britain, they hung on in Wales and have since gone from strength to strength.”

red kite 2FEEDING TIME: Bwlch Nant yr Arian visitor centre [PICTURE: Alan Ewart]

The enthusiasm is not universal – the tabloids do run occasional stories of residents complaining about being dive-bombed by birds of prey, but Emmi’s page followers are sceptical about such lurid claims, pointing out that the birds are natural scavenger, not hunters, and tend to gather to feed on carrion, mainly dead rabbits, mice and pheasant, and animals killed on the road.

An RSPB spokesperson was quoted in one Daily Mail article reassuring people: “They are not the fearsome predators that people in the Victorian era thought them to be and they are not like a sparrowhawk or kestrel, which would go for a live prey.”

EMM1NATURAL SCAVENGER: kites prefer to feed on carrion  [PICTURE: Emmi Birch]

Outside the breeding season the kite is a gregarious species and can be found in communal night time roosts, with up to 100 being counted in Britain and some 500 birds being counted in Spain, where large numbers of European kites spend the winter.

As Elfyn Pugh writes in his 2005 article: “It is a sobering thought but it is now clear that the remnant “native” British population of the red kite came perilously close to the brink of extinction. If that had been the outcome then we in Britain would have been deprived of one of our most magnificent and majestic birds of prey.”

That’s a sentiment Emmi and her fellow red kite enthusiasts would endorse. The distinctive whistling call of roosting kites is echoing loud and clear across the Buckinghamshire countryside these days – and long may that continue.

 

Calling all photographers

IMG_0391WET WOODLAND: Easter at Burnham

The snow may have gone but days of heavy rain have left Burnham Beeches pretty boggy over the Easter holiday weekend.

It’s muddy underfoot during our visit and with a wintry sun only managing the odd bright glimpse, it’s a reminder both of the limitations of my cheap and cheerful digital camera – and the fact that the website’s official launch date is looming.

Once the social media feeds are up and running and the website goes live, we will be looking for contributions from some of the amazingly talented amateur photographers out there in the Chilterns who are chronicling the landscape and its wildlife all year round.

We hope to launch a Picture of the Week feature to highlight some of the most dramatic of those shots – with the aim of it becoming a daily feature if there are enough submissions…

Landscape masterclass

BB+D810+1645Stunning. That’s the word which springs to mind when you first glance through Paul Mitchell’s amazing portfolio of pictures chronicling the seasons in one of Britain’s most famous woodlands.

It’s a magical world which is constantly changing through the seasons, as Paul demonstrates in his startling photographs of Burnham Beeches – that tiny remnant of the ancient woodlands which once covered so much of the country.

BB+D810+1730Paul’s ‘album’ contains dozens of uncaptioned shots of the woods throughout the year – draped in snow, dappled by sunlight, looking mystical and enchanting, sometimes intriguing and welcoming, sometimes otherworldy and even scary.

He explains: “The portfolio is my response to this world of wonder and features images made in the icy grip of winter, the vibrancy of springtime, the green canopy of summer, through to the richness of autumn.”

Burnham Beeches was bought by the City of London Corporation in the latter part of the 19th century to safeguard the area from property developers and to protect its future for generations to come.

As Paul explains, the landscape of the Site of Special Scientific Interest was created by human management going back many centuries and has provided grazing land for livestock and fuel via the pollarding of beech and oak trees which has not only helped to  prolong the lives of the trees, but help to give them their characteristic  gnarled appearance.

BB+0802

Born in East Yorkshire, Paul now lives and runs his own design consultancy in Buckinghamshire and tries to devote most of his free time to photographing the landscape.

He has had numerous exhibitions and has had articles and images published in many photographic magazines.

Sunrise scoops top award

_99904091_'cerradosunrise'bymarciocabral-174986Marcio Cabral’s award-winning Cerrado Sunrise

A picture of the vast ecological region known as the Cerrado in Brazil has won first place in this year’s International Garden Photographer of the Year.

Marcio Cabral of Brasilia, Brazil, scooped the award with his winning image entitled Cerrado Sunrise.

Tyrone McGlinchey, managing director of IGPOTY said: “Marcio has captured a spectacular vision of plant life in the Cerrado, displaying the beautiful flowers of Paepalanthus chiquitensis, stretching out on countless filaments towards the first light of the rising sun.”

Gardens and landscape scenes from all around the world have also been commended in the competition, showing nature in all seasons, from rolling hills of golden rice in China to a flower-smelling hamster in Austria.

_99907935_'earlydinner'byhenrikspranz-160598Early Dinner by Henrik Spranz shows a wild hamster smelling a flower in Vienna, Austria

Woodland wonderland

19-Spring-Woodland-1It’s great to see Chalfont St Peter photographer Paul Upward expanding his portfolio of fine art prints based on local landscape photos he takes during early morning rambles in and around his home town.

Many of these photos are now being offered as mounted and framed prints available to buy through his online shop, priced between £40 and £150, depending on size and format.

Five per cent of the profits  from these sales will be donated to an unusual local charity. Back in 1824 a villager from Chalfont St Peter, Maria Taylor, bequeathed a sum of £300 to be spent on buying bread, coals and blankets for the needy and destitute of her village at Christmas.

Paul writes on his website: “Almost 200 years later, Maria’s gift is still giving to vulnerable villagers who may not have the resources to spend a little extra at Christmas time and a small treat, hand delivered by the charity’s  three trustees, can go a long way in making a person feel a little of the Christmas magic that some of us take for granted.”

 

 

 

Stunning images

MICHAEL KING TURVILLETurville, Michael King’s stunning portrait of a red kite featuring in this year’s online exhibition from the Chiltern Society’s Photogroup

The Chiltern Society PhotoGroup’s 2018 online exhibition has just opened, now in its 14th year and featuring nearly 300 photos from Chiltern-based members.

Landscapes are the most popular subjects in the 2018 collection, closely followed by some spectacular flora and fauna. This year’s guest reviewer is Terry Coffey, a judge with the Chiltern Association of Camera Clubs, who particularly liked this wonderful shot of a red kite over smoky Turville by Michael King.

The society will be featuring more submissions from PhotoGroup members on its Twitter, Instagram & Facebook pages. Follow them @chilternsociety.

Create some ‘happy little trees’

bob ross 1

There could hardly be a painter whose geographical sources of inspiration are further removed from the gentle landscapes of the Chilterns that the soft-spoken American cult art legend Bob Ross.

But budding artists don’t need to focus on the mountains and log cabins in Ross’s pictures to pick up some handy technical tips from the inspiring host of the US TV program The Joy of Painting, which aired from 1983 to 1994 and still enthrals millions today on Youtube.

There are plenty of “happy little trees” in Black Park, after all, and dozens of Ross’s video tutorials to choose from for anyone tempted to crack out the titanium white and give his trademark wet-on-wet technique a shot.

Perhaps part of Ross’s timeless appeal is the fact he was himself a convert to art after attending a painting class in Anchorage during his 20 years in the US Air Force and honed his own techniques at the feet of another TV artist, the German painter Bill Alexander.

Ross’s enduring appeal stems in part from his distinctive laid-back style, quaint catchphrases and eternal upbeat positivity, and in part from the sheer speed and ease of his quick-painting technique. If you’re ever tempted by the idea of painting but never got round to giving it a try, check out Ross’s official Youtube channel, which has around a million subscribers.