How the Magic Happens

Some time ago, whilst driving along a back lane to visit friends in the New Forest, we passed a grassy area by a stream.
I thought this would be a perfect spot to paint and I returned with my equipment for sketching a few days later. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, Mark went off for a walk, and I sat at my easel pastel painting.

I loved the light and shade created by the overhanging trees, and the lovely colours in the brackish steam. A sound nearby alerted me to a new prescence and looking up I saw a beautiful white pony walking down to the crossing point in the stream to drink. As I was sitting still, the pony ignored my prescence, and I was able to take some lovely photos, before he/she moved off again.

It was a really lovely moment! I had been wanting to find the special places in the Forest, and the stream had seemed to be it, but now there was another kind of magic that happens when we sit still and become part of our surroundings. This lovely visitor inspired my first two horse paintings and so began the summer’s inspiration!

Returning to this spot again a few days later I arrived in the morning instead. The ponies are creatures of routine, so as I sat sketching again, interested in the difference between the morning to afternoon light of the same location, a group of 3 chestnut ponies came by. Once again, after a swift look at me, they continued with their wandering grazing.

These 3 inspired the series of 3 dark horses against the dark hedge, allowing me to explore the lights, darks and negative spaces. I loved the way the chestnut reds of their coats shone in the sunlight.

Since these two encounters I have taken hundreds of photos of the New Forest ponies, but none capture the joy of just sitting and allowing the magic to come to me.


There is nourishment for the body and nourishment for the soul, and as an artist it is important to feed our creativity. This can come in the form of a visit to an exhibition, a walk in the countryside, great conversation with friends, and inspiring articles . I was recently lucky enough to visit an exhibition of the work of Kaffe Fassett at Mottisfont.

I was quite unprepared for how amazing this would be! Each room of the exhibition spaces had been painted a different, specific colour, at Kaffe’s direction, so for example the red, orange and pink quilts and embroideries were hung on a shocking pink wall. We started off in the soft blues and greys room and gradually the colours became more vivid and more exciting until by the pink room I was literally bubbling over inside, just so excited by the colour!

I soon realised that my excitement was not universal: overhearing a conversation between the stewards, one complained she couldn’t stand it anymore and hated all the red and pink. On chatting to the other steward, he too complained and said he would have preferred a plain, neutral wall. I felt I had to express my excitement and how I thought Kaffe’s choice of colour went so well with all his creations. Each to his/her own!

Coming home I was still so excited by the vibrant colour that I painted 2 Fauvist style pieces celebrating autumn colour in all its vividness. Probably a bit too much in your face, but sometimes you just have to go for it!


I have been thinking about and observing colour a lot recently. Whilst walking in the Forest yesterday I was aware of how we can look at a scene and perceive bright colour, but when we examine it more closely we become aware that actually there is very little colour.

So as we observed a large area of dying bracken in a lit clearing what we saw first were the autumnal yellows, and we thought it was more colourful than it actually was.. Most of the bracken was a very uninspiring brown colour and there were only a few touches of brighter colour, and even this on examination was not that vivid. What made the yellows appear vivid was the dullness, or neutrality of the tan brown, and the dark greens of the surrounding holly trees and deep shadow areas.

My tendency can be to go straight to colour, and I need to be brought back to using neutrals to show off a few colour patches that make a painting sing. So that’s my challenge of the month now – observe the neutrals, observe how colour really works around me, and find the balance!