I was appointed as Artist in Residence on the Cleveland Way by the North York Moors National Park in early 2018. A long distance walk of 109 miles, the Cleveland Way begins life in Helmsley at the heart of Ryedale, rises up to meet the escarpment of the Cleveland Hills above Kilburn, then hugs the western edge of the Moors until it drops down through woodland land to join the coast at Saltburn. It follows the cliffs and coast through Staithes, Whitby and eventually Scarborough before reaching its conclusion on Filey Brigg.
As a contemporary landscape painter based on the fringe of the North York Moors, The Cleveland Way has been a constant presence in both my artistic and personal life for over 30 years. I first completed the walk in its entirety some 20 years ago.
The landscapes encountered along the length of the route possess very distinctive personalities, having been shaped by their geology and man’s exploitation. From farming through to alum production, the mining of iron ore, and now tourism, the landscape is always evolving and adapting to changing times and climate.
I chose seven different sections from the route on which to focus and in each location allowed myself to respond to their distinctive atmosphere. Working in place is an important part of my practise. I began my exploration of each location by completing a walk without stopping to draw, allowing myself to respond to the feeling of passing through the landscape and silently allowing my senses to be open. I then revisited locations to make sketches and to work. I allow myself to ‘tune in’ to a place by picking up and using natural materials such as local earth and plants, or use found natural drawing implements such as feathers and grasses.
The paintings and drawings created for the ‘109 Miles’ exhibition vary widely from simple charcoal drawing through to collage compositions. In each case I have allowed the location to dictate the means of expression, rather than begin with any preconceived notion of what I might ultimately create. The resulting works are an intuitive response to the varying landscapes encountered along The Cleveland Way.