Final assignment – LANDSCAPES

For the final assignment in Painting 1, I want to continue my focus on The Garden. In the last assignment I found huge inspiration from this subject and felt to only touch on the creative possibilities which exist in this area. I also want to explore further my growing love of paint and its expressive quality.


To place the garden in a context of creative expression, I studied “The Garden in Art” by Debra Mancoff, professor in the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the Art Institute of Chicago. The book deals with the many different ways that artists have gained inspiration from the garden, from ancient Egypt to the present day.  The garden began from earliest times when settled groups of people began to work the land to provide food for themselves throughout the year, irrigating the land and cultivating it. Over the centuries the garden developed into a place to nourish the soul as well as the body, providing relaxation and pleasure. Plants began to be selected for their beauty and perfume and fountains  brought refreshment and the peaceful sounds of running water.  The arrangement of the plants selected for their colour and shape transformed the garden into works of art to bring delight to the viewer.

It is not known who the first artist was who chose to paint the garden. The German painter, Emil Nolde, wrote, “The colours of the flowers attracted me irresistibly and at once I was painting,’ putting into words the feelings which so many artists have experienced. The book includes the many and varied motives which have inspired artists from depicting the garden through the seasons, the garden as metaphor, pleasure gardens through to artists’ gardens…a huge wealth of ideas and creativity. The simplicity of Nolde’s remark sums up what I feel about the garden and what I’ve tried to discover through my work in this assignment.  It is that compelling need to try to express the extraordinary wonder of nature and what it signifies.  What we see must only be a glimpse of what is and I think this is where my work is leading. Obviously I am using our own garden as a starting point for the images but it is the concept of GARDEN as an abstract term which I am searching to express.

Visual journal

In preparation for the final paintings I’ve begun to experiment with the concept of ‘garden’ in a visual journal. I purposely chose to work in a handmade book of handmade papers because I wanted to work on a surface which would allow me to experiment with textiles and sewing. All of the images are abstract using different tools, textural mediums, colour combinations and collage to try to break through to the essence of the subject.  This was fun work but also challenged me to push ideas further.  I wasn’t thinking about composition so much as pure response to the concept. At the same time as this work was happening I continued to look at other painters’ work in particular those who had moved into abstraction. Ivon Hitchens continues to be a favourite of mine and I went back to a biography on Hitchens written by  Peter Khoroche. The description of the artist’s search/struggle for his own language I find compelling as he looked for a response which went beyond the representational while still retaining “the ghost of something seen”. (page 57) The following are pages from the visual journal.  I worked on these ideas for more than a month, each day absorbing myself in the garden and ‘listening’ for the reality behind what I was seeing. There were only brief moments when I felt to see beyond what my eyes were telling me and it will be interesting to find out if this is reflected in the final work.

The following images are from the visual journal:

  1. The ‘feel’ of the garden

In these images I experimented with surface texture to respond to the many different surfaces, feelings, touch experiences etc. This first page is experimenting with the surface of the paper to see how the paint responds and to get a feel for the colours….

This next image was a response to the texture of the wind moving across the meadow grasses.  I wanted to try different tools and experimented with the sewing machine to bring another mark.  I like the feeling of this mark but it was difficult to use the machine with a book as there was not much room for changing direction.  But it was a good experiment!

I love our small meadow at the bottom of the garden. It is left wild and I wanted to try responses to the textures and feel of the grasses as I walk past unlike the previous image which is about movement and sound. In the next two images I tried to experiment with different ways to express texture with the paint. In the first image I have experimented with glass beads and in the second image I worked grass seeds from the grasses into the paint along with tissue paper collage – there are also stalks from the grasses. I then painted into the tissue paper which softened it and I gently lifted of sections of it to reveal the seeds underneath.  Even though I’m not particularly keen about using too much obvious collage materials in my work, I love this image because it has managed to express a softness and beauty in the texture of the meadow.


Just needed to feel the pencil or rather the pen on the page after all this paint and collage, so took a moment to draw with pen and wash.  The handmade paper is lovely to draw on…


About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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