Monday, June 9, 2014

June 2014 Newsletter Sketching the English Village: Photo Essay

Well, we’re back from our sketching trip to England. We've had a wonderful time. Our accommodation, the Chiseldon House Hotel, was absolutely wonderful. Students have told me they were apprehensive because the hotel is in such a rural part of the country—even wondering if there were bathrooms in their room. Yes, they are all “ensuite.”

The first day we all got settled into the hotel and then went on a tour of the village. Chiseldon dates back to the Bronze Age, but historically (that is, written history), can trace its roots to Alfred the Great, when he and his son willed the village to the monks at the abbey in Winchester. As an American, it’s hard to fathom that someone can will an entire village to a group of people. But things were (and are) different here. To this day, a lot of the land in and around Chiseldon is owned by one family, awarded to them hundreds of years ago.  I can see why our ancestors were so thrilled to be able to own land.
An adorable gazebo on the property.
Notice the thatched roof.

One of the fun spots to sketch in the village includes the hotel. Dating back to 1825,Chiseldon House was once home to the Browne family and sat on a huge estate. During the two wars, their carriage house was used as the fire brigade. Our accommodations were lovely, including a scrumptious breakfast each morning and a light lunch in the afternoon. The grounds are rather elegant and serve as a backdrop to all sorts of sketching.

The village today is home to 3,000 people and has a primary school, several thatched cottages and a church that dates back to 900 A.D, although the current building was built around the 13th century. Back in the 1880s a railway ran through the center of the village, but was closed in the 1960s with the tracks and any remains removed by 1968. Actually it’s quite hard to imagine that a railroad used to exist here. Below is a picture of the village green where the station sat.

It's almost impossible for me to imagine a train station and "railway"
going through Chiseldon. All that remains is a large memorial rock.

Special places, special histories
On our  first full day we visited the village of Avebury. Although everyone knows about the giant rocks in Stonehenge, this village has them quite literally around their homes. Actually, the settlement was created thousands of years after the creation of the stoned henges. What's very cool about this place as opposed to Stonehenge is that you can go right up and touch each stone as well as enjoy the free-range sheep grazing in the area.

These mighty stones are several feet high. The
tallest, the Obelisk (now gone), reached 22 ft high.
An outbuilding topped with a thatched roof, foliage and sweet meadow
The advantage of visiting in the spring is we see all the new babies,
including colts, lambs, cygnets, ducklings and goslings.
On Wednesday, we ventured into the market town of Marlborough—famous for the royal Severnake forest, St. Peter’s Church (now redundant) where Wolsey was ordained, picturesque River Kennet, colorful gardens and its lovely high street. Unfortunately, this was one of our rainier days. I was so disappointed because I had visions of us sitting by the river drawing ducks, geese, flowers and landscape. Instead we were limited to taking photos and sketching inside St. Peter's. But not all was lost. We did  have an early afternoon "cream" tea (tea served with scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam) at Polly's Tea Room--a must for every visitor.

River Kennet filled with wonderful wildlife.
Since it was raining, we were limited to
sketching inside the church
Best part of visiting in spring is witnessing new life.
Photo credit Angela Dickenson

Afternoons free to explore
Well located, Chiseldon is an easy twenty minutes to the train station that takes you to London, Oxford, Bath, Cardiff (Wales) and other interesting places. After a few hours of sketching on location (when it wasn't raining) or inside the hotel, students took off for an afternoon filled with exploring new places and new sites.

Back to Chiseldon (also known as Chissy)

Here we are in front of the hotel, learning to sketch arches,
iron fences, windows and foliage. Photo credit: Gerhard Meng

Most days we spent exploring the village and sketching different locations. The village is just chock full of places to sketch. We also learned about the history from it's ancient days before recorded history, it's rural years, the railway days and up to the two world wars. Chiseldon was the site for a major military camp in WWI and WWII. In fact our military base was first situated in Chiseldon with its own hospital, serving over 30,000 wounded.

Many of the thatched cottages date back to as early as
the 13th century.

But housing isn't limited to cottages. There's plenty
of Edwardian and post WWII housing mixed in.
The cockoo bridge, that has become a landmark, was originally built to
accommodate the railway. The path above leads to Washpool
where the sheep were washed every year.

Natural beauty is ever present,
even growing out of the old stonework.

Cars and trucks going the "wrong" way.
All surrounded by impeccable beauty.

Techniques learnedAlong with having some time to sketch new subjects, the group also learned a few sketching techniques, such as:

  • Always take a snap shot of the subject so you can finish it later in the hotel room.
  • When sketching foliage, don’t get bogged down with details, such as leaves and even tiny flowers. Instead sketch the outline, then by using ink and watercolor create your greenery and florals.
  • Perspective is important but almost impossible to get accurate while on-site. Place your drawing instrument along the angled line and then place the same line on your paper. I also use a clock method, which I often discuss in my drawing and sketching classes.
  • Don’t expect perfection! I always create a sloppy copy first—quick lines to serve as a starting point. Sometimes, one may not have time to finish the first attempt especially if you are on a tour bus. But you can fill in the details later (or maybe not).
A good time had by all.
In total 12 Americans descended upon Chiseldon the last week of May. Seven students, four companions and me. Not only did the students have a good time, but I think some of the villagers who met us enjoyed our company too. It's sometimes enjoyable to be different and while all of us could pass for English, the whole mystique melts away when we opened our mouths--yes, heads do turn and usually with a smile.

This sketching trip was so enjoyable, I'm considering planning another one back to England next year around the same time--maybe a little later. Since Chissy's weather is very much like Portland, we never can guess what the weather will be like. One thing is for certain, it can rain and drizzle, but we sketchers are made of strong stuff!!

1 comment:

  1. sounds like a blast ... and a good time was had by all!