Cley artist’s snake encounter during year painting in the forest

Artist Rachel Lockwood at work in the woods. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Artist Rachel Lockwood at work in the woods. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Red and golden autumn colours in a local woodland caught Rachel Lockwood's artistic eye, and drew her, in armed paper and paints.

Rachel Lockwood - A Year in the Forest - Hidden Forest Pool

Rachel Lockwood - A Year in the Forest - Hidden Forest Pool - Credit: Archant

But it turned into a year long 'stake out' charting the forest as the russet leaves, turned to a snowy white winter wonderland, a lush green spring canopy of foliage then a sear summer of yellowing crops.

Artist Rachel Lockwood at work in her Cley studio. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Artist Rachel Lockwood at work in her Cley studio. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

What started as a day daubing oils on her easel ended up as an exhibition of 70 pictures inspired by her time in the woods, which has also been captured in a linked book.

Ms Lockwood, who lives and works at Cley, said: 'The autumn colours were so enticing - the reds from the beech trees and fallen leaves across the floor. I just wanted to go in and paint.'

The 47-year-old has been a professional artist for 23 years, always focusing on nature in a contemporary linear style, but had never painted in a forest before.


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'It was such a magical place I wanted to go back.

'As soon as you step into a forest there is an air of church calmness - like walking into a natural cathedral of towering trees.'

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She did not plan the year-long project at the outset, but after three months her business partner, Sarah Whittley who runs the Pinkfoot Gallery at Cley, suggested a forest exhibition - so Rachel visited the woods many more times over the seasons.

'When you spend time in a place like that you realise how dramatic the whole year is - from nude trees of winter, to the closing canopy of spring when it can get dark underneath - and those special mists and shafts of light.

'I was really excited by the snow, when my inner child comes out. You could see the wildlife more clearly, indents in the snow where they slept, and even a patch of blood - which told an imaginary story.

'I wore gloves - two on my non-painting hand - and a thermal suit, going to the car or a friend's house to warm up every now and again.

'In spring I had a muntjac deer barking at me to warn others I was there.

'Summertime saw the grass turn a pinky, creamy yellow - but I spent half my time fending off flies.'

Ms Lockwood was not alone in the forest.

In spring an adder slithered past, 2ft from her feet, on its way to a refreshing pool of water. 'I could hear it coming, but was excited not scared,' she added.

In winter, a passing motorist, caught short on his journey, had a call of nature a few metres from where she sat in her thermal camouflage suit.

'I thought 'shall I cough?'. But I didn't. It shows how well hidden I was.'

The 58 oil sketches done 'live' in the forest, are augmented by a dozen larger paintings completed back in her studio including some of deer.

A Year in the Forest by Rachel Lockwood, is at the Pinkfoot Gallery, High Street, Cley opens at noon on Sunday August 25 and runs until September 15.

Rachel will also be signing copies of the specially published Forest 13 book by Red Hare Publishing that accompanies the exhibition.

For more information call the gallery on 01263 740947, email infor@pinkfootgallery.co.uk or visit www.pinkfootgallery.co.uk

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