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Thursday 09th July 2015'Belmount Farm' Watercolour and the 'Blanchland Murder.'

 Belmount Farm
This original watercolour co
mes with a gory and murderous story alongside of it. I waited 30 years to paint Belmount Farm - I needed to capture this gently crumbling building in the right light and weather conditions. Despite the adders I always saw in the grass when I called there, and the remote location near Huntstansworth, I am drawn to the building. It has an almost continental feel to it, and a warmth, and I can imagine myself living there.
So I was surprised to read that on New Year's Day 1880, an extremely bloody murder took place there - the 'Blanchland Murder.'  Robert Snowball, the master of the house, was hit in the head from behind, so brutally that his teeth were knocked out and the hammer was half embedded in his skull. No one was ever convicted of the murder, though his elderly father, housekeeper Jane Barron and her beau were all questioned.
This shocking murder has left, for me, no residue of trauma in the building – and I was blissfully ignorant of all this at the time that I visited the house and as I was painting the watercolour. I feel it’s a peaceful painting and landscape, despite this bloody blot on the history of the house.

Posted on July 09th 2015 on 11:59am

Thursday 21st May 2015Teaching in Correze - Towers, A Locked Library and an Addams Family Window.

Teaching in Correze held a few surprises for me this May. The teaching was the main purpose of the trip - my sixth visit to this beautiful area of France. Staying in the stunning Chateau de Beaufort is always good for a twist or two in the tale - in the shape of a 'secret' library this time. I find doors, windows and ... bread ovens in every corner when I travel - and this May, I found a couple of candidates!
The primary reason for my visit was that I have a longstanding teaching arrangement in the village, La Roche Canillac. Kevan Myers, a British poet now living in France, is just one of a group of people in La Roche who is working hard to make this beautiful village an arts' magnet and my teaching is a part of that mission. My courses were well attended by French, Dutch, American and English students, I enjoyed working with them, and it’s possible I’ll be back there in August of this year. It was interesting that Kevan chose a painting of High Force to promote the watercolour course – an iconic Teesdale scene that is very dear to me personally.


I was also lucky enough to meet the director of the Rive Gauche gallery in nearby Tulle who took a liking to my Northumbrian originals and took eight of them to display, and also some of my Indian prints.


One of the highlights of my visit was that I got to stay in the stunning Chateau de Beaufort near to the salle polyvalente where I was teaching in La Roche. With a swimming pool, lake nearby and an almost secret, locked library in its tower, it was a superb place to stay in and to explore.


Another highlight was that I found two windows and a bread oven near to the village that would be perfect for me to paint, so I returned several times to get photographs of them at different times. I never change the interiors I discover, but I do take many photographs to ensure that both colour and light are ripe to show the window, door or oven at its best. The bread oven has been used thousands of times by villagers, which has created a worn and wonderful patina I'd love to capture. And one window reminds me of the 1960s Addams Family TV series, it's so festooned in spiders’ webs. - a painting waiting to happen.


Wonder if I’ll have captured it on paper by the time I return?




Posted on May 21st 2015 on 03:42pm
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