Taking A Leaf Out Of Wordsworth’s Book

Alongside looking at manuscripts I have been drawing in Dove Cottage garden (William and Dorothy Wordsworth’s home at Grasmere) which is an interesting experience. This is fuelling so many new paintings. In my head they are queuing up to be painted! Noticing details and subtle shifts of light, charting the changing season, watching shapes fade into the shadows, taking time to think and observe – relating the minute to the universal. Dove Cottage garden seems to facilitate the creative process extremely well.


It is a magical space… walking through the gate is like stepping onto platform 9½… or some kind of portal to the Romantic Age. Shadows dance across the wall, sunlight flickers through the leaves, the last rays of light catch the top branches, smoke rises from the chimney… those chimneys! This place is very special and I am thoroughly enjoying absorbing it.

I have been using mostly watercolours in the garden to make sketches – slowing down, observing.

In the studio rhythms and colours appear. Sometimes passages of paint emerge with their own direction and pace – quite musical – like the flowing script, blots and smudges in Wordsworth’s notebooks. Things really come alive when ideas seem to paint themselves. Here are some close up details from different paintings, passages of paint, each with its own direction and speed. I think it’s fascinating how your eye ‘reads’ marks and charts a route through them. I want to investigate this further…

Visits to Grasmere have been interspersed with drawing at Derwentwater and Rydal. I am learning how to bring various sources together to create paintings which explore Wordsworth’s writing process.

There are some great passages in Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals where she describes inanimate objects ‘coming to life’ because of the light or the weather. This strikes a chord with me as these are often the moments that inspire paintings… slightly intangible and barely there, perceived and felt more than seen.

“I sate a long time to watch the hurrying waves & to hear the regularly irregular sound of the dashing waters. The waves about the little island seemed like a dance of spirits that rose out of the water, round its small circumference of shore”

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal, 2nd June 1800.

“Asrai’ Oil , Acrylic and Spray paint on Canvas 90 x 100 cm



This painting has several thin layers of oil paint beneath a layer of spray. There is an ambiguity to it and a slightly other worldly feeling. The shapes I sprayed on were in fact a tangle of vinyl words. I helped to curate an exhibition in the summer at the Wordsworth Museum which involved a wall of Dorothy Wordsworth’s ‘weather phrases’… quotes from her writing. When we uninstalled the exhibition I peeled off the letters, they seemed interesting as words but also because of the context – I liked the idea of reusing these ‘museum words’, stretched and twisted up as forms in their own right.

Her writing and observations were often the inspiration for Wordsworth’s poems. I think a fundamental part of the creative process is ‘mulling over’, talking about ideas and rolling them around between like minds until they gain clarity and find a form.

I am taking a fresh approach to my painting… I wonder where it will lead… time to step into the inventive territory of questioning and experimenting, learning and establishing new methods of working. These 18th and 19th century manuscripts are helping me to take a fresh look at the landscape on my doorstep.

I’m working on several pictures at once in the studio, building them up slowly in layers and trying things out. I am delighted and excited by these new challenges… they are firing up my imagination in all sorts of ways… so many experiments going on!