March 22nd, 2016

Return to the Howgills ~ Jan 2016

I returned to the Howgills in late December 2015 to stay for 2 weeks in Kelleth. This was to spend some quiet time on Spring Festival planning and to embark upon a longer period of drawing. My focus was the northern flanks of the fells, running from Harter Fell, Knoutberry, the Knott and Greenbell round to Weasdale, Hooksey and Bowderdale. I preferred to draw in the rain and also at dusk. Rain softens the paper and adds ‘bite’ to the graphite, allowing marks to both spill around and penetrate the surface of the paper to produce an etched or lithographic effect. Drawing at dusk as the light falls can be a fascinating time of day to be outside: as detail fades away, the landscape becomes softer, reduced to silhouettes and shadowy forms. It was also cold, which can help add to concentration – as ones fingers become numb, the marks have to become stronger and more strident.

The appearance of the fells from a distance – from across the Lune Valley – was often dramatic. At times the tops were shrouded in shifting mists and clouds. When there was sunlight above, the boundary of the mist sometimes  seemed illuminated from within – it was as though the hidden volumes of water vapour somehow held on to light within themselves, dropping it on to the hillsides.

On the last afternoon of the last day of drawing something at last shifted and I made some sketches of Harter Fell that seemed both loose and light – the paper wetted with water from a small spring that gurgled through rushes along minute, muddy gulleys in the soggy peat.

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