The psychology of a landscape

Somerset Coast by Andrew Hardwick

Somerset Coast by Andrew Hardwick

Growing up deep in the north Somerset countryside played a role in shaping Andrew Hardwick as an artist.

In case you were wondering (I had to ask), saltings are grass land that are on tidal land, and are regularly flooded by sea water. Imagine that, a place occupied both by sea and land. My inner poet is in raptures.

These are among views that capture Andrew’s attention and inspire much of his art.

“I have a studio out at the farm and that enables me to collect all the things that are left over from farming,” he says, listing: “Decorating paints, PVA, plastics and pigments – soot and soils. I glue and cement it all together on canvas bound with wire.”

Valley and Wind by Andrew Hardwick

Valley and Wind by Andrew Hardwick

Becoming an artist was a process that gradually consumed Andrew Hardwick over a number of years. “It took quite a long time,” he comments. “The enthusiasm and fascination slowly built up, and before I knew it, it had taken over my life!”

Art classes and a part time foundation course contributed to his enduring desire to create. “I think when you go to art college they expect a level of seriousness and professionalism that cements it, that make you click and identify fully as an artist,” he says. “I’m now totally committed.”

In truth, it was seeded in his psyche from his earliest days.

The artworks themselves just come, Andrew says, “from doing lots of walks. They’re not immediate representations, not something I’ve seen and am recording in a straightforward way. Rather, they’re memories of a landscape, with lots of accidents in play in making the final artwork.”

The moods of his surroundings intrigue Andrew endlessly. “I’m interested in the psychological implications of a place, as I remember it,” he explains. “I do occasional works based on actual places – a recent exhibition was all based on Bodmin Moor, for example – but these aren’t pictures of specific views, rather the feeling of the view.”

Moor, White Sky, Sheep by Andrew Hardwick

Moor, White Sky, Sheep by Andrew Hardwick

Andrew enjoys the challenges of his work. “It’s all very personal and because of that it’s fascinating to do,” he says. “My passion for the landscape is a big part of it, but also the way I perceive it as mirroring my own state of mind. Finding ways to explore that is key to what I do – answering the questions in myself.”

He’s keen to dispel the myth that dark works are proof of a dark personality. “I work mainly around the estuary and Dartmoor so people might presume I’m a bleak person, but the opposite is actually true. I see my work as reflecting the power of nature and wilderness and the power of being alive. It’s wonderful being out in the rain with the wind blowing. It can be frightening, but it can also be spiritual – elemental.”

He adds: ‘I see a lot of joy in my work – it\s a celebration of life and living things.”

Andrew will be exhibiting at the RWA’s 165th Annual Open Exhibition from 1 October until December 3rd 2017. He will also be showing his work at the Totterdown Front Room Art Trail on 18th and 19th November 2017.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judy(at)

A quality of precision

Clifton Suspension Bridge by Mike Rome

Clifton Suspension Bridge by Mike Rome

A pleasing sense of meticulousness arises from the artwork of Mike Rome. There is a crispness and clarity to the light captured in his oil paintings, and a confidence of line and scale that lets you know this is an artist who understands how to translate what he sees onto a canvas or page for all to appreciate.

Yet, Mike says, becoming an artist was for him less a conscious decision, than a consequence of experience, time and circumstance.

“I had an interest in and enjoyed drawing as a child, with, of course, no thoughts of a career at that stage of my life,” he says, “I was encouraged by art teachers at school, and during secondary education did consider going on to art college.”

Coming from a working class family, however, Mike had no choice other than to start work at sixteen, but this only put his artistic ambitions on hold briefly.

Bristol Steam Crane by Mike Rome

Bristol’s Steam Crane by Mike Rome

“My father found me a job as an apprenticed engineer, and after three years on the workshop floor my employers recognised my artistic ability and transferred me to the drawing office where after a short time I became a design and detail draughtsman,” he says. “Although I used a drawing board and technical instruments to create working drawings, I also enhanced the work with freehand illustrations to aid production, at the same time giving myself the opportunity to improve my drawing skills.”

In his mid-twenties, Mike made a dramatic career change into financial services, which he worked at for 20 years. “During this period I found the time to continue to draw and still had the desire to return to an artistic career,” he says. “I attended evening art courses and a basic graphic design course, eventually finding a position as a graphic designer – albeit on half my previous salary!”

In 2005 Mike felt ready to concentrate fully on his art, designed and launched his own website, and became a self-employed artist.

Broad Street Bristol by Mike Rome

Broad Street, Bristol by Mike Rome

“All of my paintings are oils, although I do draw as well,” he says. “I’ve experimented with watercolour and acrylic paint, but find the consistency and slow drying nature of oil far more suited to my style of painting – deliberate and cautious. I love the feel of working with the paint and the depth of colour one can achieve.”

Toward St Mary Redcliffe by Mike Rome

Toward St Mary Redcliffe by Mike Rome

Without a doubt, the style of Mike’s art has been influenced by his previous careers, which required him to produce accurate and representational work. “As a consequence, even my abstract works have a tendency to be tight!”

The majority of Mike’s paintings are created using photographs and grids “so as to be as true to the original as possible. I sometimes work from sketches, but rarely en plain air as this style is more suited to artists who work quickly and with a loose style, using watercolour or acrylic.”

The chosen composition can make the difference between a sale or no sale, Mike says, so he crops his photos “to create the desired layout before any painting commences. Sometimes colours are varied or elements changed to add emphasis.”

From MShed to Cabot Tower by Mike Rome

From MShed to Cabot Tower by Mike Rome

Mike usually paints on pre-primed canvases, occasionally opting to use board for smaller works.

“For the ‘photographic’ works I normally grid, draw, over-draw with pen, erase the pencil, cover with white to knock-back the pen, allow to dry and then proceed to paint by blocking in the darkest colours first to create the initial contrast,” he says. “I sometimes work purely with shades of grey to achieve the overall contrasts before adding colour and/or colour glazes.”

The biggest pleasure for Mike comes at the very start of a new picture, when all possibilities still remain open. “I love the creation process. Starting with a blank canvas, deciding on a subject, working with the paint and colours and producing something that people enjoy are all part of this.”

Clevedon Pier by Mike Rome

Clevedon Pier by Mike Rome

Knowing when to stop painting and setting the sale price can also be difficult, “as not only am I trying to produce a work I am pleased with and satisfied is of a sufficient standard to market, but I’m also attempting to sell the finished product at a realistic price for the work and hours involved.”

Mike’s aims for his art are straightforward, if not necessarily simple – to achieve “Realism, to the best of my ability, colour and impact in my abstracts, and beauty in all my work.”

Find more of Mike’s paintings and details of upcoming exhibitions at

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on Give me a shout at judy(at)

Jamaican rhythms

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

Fancy feeling the heat this summer? Until 11th September 2016, Bristol’s RWA Galleries will be awash with Jamaican art, culture and politics thanks to a special exhibition.

Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora will showcase the diversity present in Jamaican art today and yesterday, with contemporary works exhibited alongside more historic pieces.

Artists featured include Ebony G Patterson, Andrea Chung, Kimani Beckford and Di-Andre Caprice Davis. Expect vivid colours amid works simmering with energy and emotion.

My Little Island V1 by Di-Andre Caprice Davis

My Little Island V1 by Di-Andre Caprice Davis

“While exploring the roots of modern Jamaican art and suggesting new links between past and present, the exhibition also explores the artwork through a political lens and considers how global attitudes to body, gender, religion, class and sexuality have impacted this small island nation.”

Find out more about the exhibition and connected happenings at

Writing prompt – savages

Feather tree cr Judy DarleyI recently meandered down a little used track, and discovered this scene. It made me recall how when seen through a child’s imaginative eyes, every old tree, fallen feather, discarded leaf and found stone has potential to become part of a savage land populated by pirates, vampires, dragons and more.

Make this the basis of your story, remembering to recast the ordinary as fearsome and the commonplace as potentially magical. Anything is possible.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Writing prompt – influence

Boy meets the busker cr Judy DarleyIt’s my littlest nephew’s 3rd birthday this week, which means that any one of the many adventures he embarks on could well become his earliest memory.

On this day, he met a busker, stood transfixed, and then took the coins his mum gave him to drop into the busker’s guitar case.

The scene makes me think about the friendships that can form between the very young and very old – the positive influences each can have on the other.

Imagine your protagonist’s childhood. Who did they meet who helped shape the person they grew into? Alternatively, imagine your character very old – what small person might help them see the world with fresh eyes?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Writing prompt – superstition

Wells Cathedral cr Judy DarleyI visited this impressive Gothic cathedral in Wells a while ago and was struck by a curious piece of information in the museum. Apparently back in the days when the cathedral was built (between the 12th and 15th century), it was traditional for a worn left shoe to be buried in the foundations of a new building to bring luck.

What a brilliant, random idea! Who might this shoe have belonged to? Why was it significant to the residents of that home?

I love the concept of weaving a piece of superstition like this into a story, making it the motivator for your protagonist’s deed – the more unsettling the better.

Find more superstitions-from-around-the-world here.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Writing prompt – afloat

Whatever Floats Your Boat by Jimmy Lawlor

Whatever Floats Your Boat by Jimmy Lawlor

This beautiful painting is by Jimmy Lawlor and captures a moment of magic. So many questions are raised by this scene.

What here is real, and what imagined? If dreamt, what does it represent? Has this boy been abandoned, or is he on his way somewhere? Why are all the other boats empty?

To me there is a reminder here of the refugees currently spilling from Syria across Europe, but that’s just my interpretation.

Weave together your own invented answers into a work of fiction, and see if you can create a reflection in words.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Writing prompt – memory

Seascape for Pad by Judy DarleyToday is my dad’s 77th birthday. A pretty impressive age. Buying him gifts has always been a challenge, and now that he’s enduring the ever increasing losses of Alzheimer’s disease, the big thing is to find something he can connect with in the moment he opens it and gain some simple pleasure from.

I decided to paint him a seascape. It took me back to being a small child painting pictures for my dad, and already knowing the pride that would shine from his eyes when he saw it. There’s some irony in that given that my dad no longer knows I am his daughter, or that he ever had children, but that’s a story for another day.

The man who I will give this painting to is kind and caring, and loves art. My hope is that the sea in the scene will make him smile.

As today’s creative prompt I invite you to consider how you might attempt to connect with someone whose memory is failing them, and how that interaction might turn out.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on