Aelbert Cuyp was a Dutch painter in the 17th century and his landscape paintings of cattle on pasture at the water’s edge with delicate golden light illuminating the scene really caught my eye when I studied art history. Some painters and artworks I have indeed forgotten over the years, but for some reason I never forgot learning about Cuyp.
When I started making photographs seriously 7 years ago, what I learned in those art history lecture halls as a student informed how I saw the world through my camera. Occasionally I’d notice Jacob Van Ruisdael clouds in the sky or I’d take a portrait using “Vermeer lighting” but I never encountered a scene or a moment that reminded me of Cuyp. His scenes were of a bygone world, somewhere so different from where I grew up in suburban New Jersey with a kind of light that I never had the pleasure of witnessing.
On a walk across the dunes in Northumberland in England this winter, we followed a public footpath that required us to hop a turnstile and enter the pasture of a herd of cattle. I was stunned to find myself in my very own Cuyp moment – the breathtaking light, the cows, the water, the pasture, with nothing to inform me if this was the 17th or 21st century! What a thrill. I feel lucky that I was able to capture and preserve this moment, an art history souvenir that I will treasure.
Spring will soon invade with its beautiful pastels but I thought why not take a moment and indulge in some winter colors – or colours as they say in England! When I was in England for the holidays I fell in love with the wonderful winter colors around me, especially the cinnamon-colored dead bracken and fallen larch needles, and the glowing chartreuse of the ferns, mosses and grasses still hanging on despite the cold. It was a gorgeous landscape to get lost in!
In Growth and Decay, above, the colors combined beautifully, and I loved the touch of pale blue lichen on the stones and on the tree trunk to set it off. The growth of the tree and the decay of the dry stone wall was a perfect complement to the growth of the moss and ferns and the decay of the bracken. Growth and Decay is available on my Etsy shop, though here are a few more colorful favorites from the same day’s walk.
After a couple of weeks of being sun-starved by cloudy and rainy December in England, we were treated to a spectacular sun-drenched walk on a beach in Northumberland on New Year’s Day. It can be quite cold and very windy as evidenced by this wind-sculpted tree, and this day was no exception. The wind tossed the dune grasses this way and that, and it made the loose sand on the beach take flight and form sand waves before our eyes. We tucked into natural windbreaks carved out by the dunes to be fortified by flasks of tea and coffee, and a Swedish rolled sandwich of meatballs and coleslaw. Some made sandcastles, others played hide-and-seek in the dunes, some took pictures, some walked the flat beach admiring the patterns in the sand – by the end of the day we were all exhausted by the blinding sun and constant wind, but we were energized and satisfied, and it was a great way to welcome a new year.
My husband grew up next to this forest in rural England – not a bad spot for an idyllic childhood! He’s a photographer too, and the forest no doubt informed and inspired some of his best works. Whenever I visit this magical place, it is transformed. It may be a different season or a different time of day, with different light or different weather, but there’s always something new to see, touch, smell, hear and even taste! Sometimes when I go through the forest I leave my camera behind. My motivations for doing so are usually for foraging purposes as I am busy scanning for blackberries, bilberries, nettles, ramps, or mushrooms, depending on the season. I was pleased, however to be lugging my camera with me on our Christmas walk in 2012, so I was prepared to capture the painted sky over the silhouetted forest that appeared toward the end of our walk.