I stand on a low man made ridge with the sun rising behind me, sending a sharp December light over the long grass and brambles that are all around. It’s cold, but not freezing as I look at Newhaven to the west across the salt marshes and inlets that make up the old tide mill site between the A 259 and the sea. This old industrial site is only discernible by a criss cross of ruined flint walls and low earthworks, part of which I now stand on.
My task is to paint, to extract an impression of what it is to be here and then place it on a piece of cardboard, one of four I have brought with me. The infinite sky beyond and an expanse of land that stretches five miles or so to the south downs is to be compressed to 14 x10 inches. I seek not exactitude but sensation, some distillation to communicate the experience.
I stand, relaxed, every antennae open wide receiving sensation.
I have a small portable easel, some compressed charcoal, water, white gesso, rough brushes and rags. Experience of winter painting insisted I bring some matches and a gas torch to dry my work at intervals as needed, and my chosen spot is a compromise between comfort and alignment. At 72 I need comfort - I also need the aspects before me to present some balance and co-ordination.
The cold brings an urgency to the work, an urgency that assist directness in the application of charcoal, water and gesso. The ruined flint walls that still enclose space feature strongly in my thinking. After 30 minutes I review the work - my presentation of thought in those moments that were electric . . . . and have now run their course, I move on to a new place.