Enter the hidden world of nature and discover its secrets with me…
The natural world is a wonder to me and always has been since growing my very first packet of seeds on the shed windowsill as a child. I am fascinated by the miniature world around me, from the tiny flowers amongst the grass, to the scuttling beetle across the earth.
Since starting my career 20 years ago, I have been captivated with colour and patterns. In the last 10 years my work has focused on the fragility of the environment and how we all need to take steps to save it.
I live in a rural part of Sussex where the landscape consists of rolling hills, woodland, and large colourful skies. I am surrounded by inspiration daily, from the bluebells in the wood on the footpath behind the house to the cheery ox-eye daisies that flower in abundance on the grass verges.
This landscape inspires my oil paintings but so do the relationships that remain a hidden part of nature that are all around us, which are becoming increasingly fragile as a result of climate change. The rarity and extinction of birds and larger mammals are mainly due to dwindling habitat. Ecosystems rely upon even the smallest creatures and insects, which feed larger insects, pollinate plants and support the animals and birds that are higher up the food chain. I juxtapose different elements of nature to show these hidden precious relationships around us, with the hope that more of us treat nature more consciously. Instead of getting rid of the dandelions in the lawn with weed killer that can kill other plants and insects, let the dandelions flower. The bees will enjoy the pollen; the goldfinches will enjoy eating the seeds.
My oil paintings grow, just as my inspiration does. My artwork often begins with a seed in Spring that I plant in the greenhouse and blossoms as the plant matures. These plants are observed and documented by photography and drawing. I am always working in my sketchbook observing the minute details of the subject through small intricate drawings and paintings. These are then developed into ideas and compositions that finally become large brightly coloured oil paintings. The colours are chosen by me, and are inspired by dusk, dawn, how an insect sees, or the colour which best suits the shape I have painted. These paintings are not meant to be a photographic representation. They are recognisable as nature, but not as we know it.
I layer the oil paint thinly, so the colours have depth and vibrancy which appear to glow from the painting. This creative process takes months and sometimes years to complete, every element has been studied and researched. After the sketchbook research the natural forms are created from memory when I paint so that the paintings are created intuitively, with both accuracy, detail and imagination. The paintings grow themselves, using this process, each line and brushstroke has been painted and repainted so that it is at the perfect angle and curve. Some of my paintings are highly textured; this is to disrupt the surface beauty of nature and hint at the hidden and vulnerable natural world. Sometimes there are full paintings hidden below, never to be seen, or that partially show through.
If humanity protects the small, and work towards taking small actions in their local landscape, such as letting the lawn grow and be full of “weeds”, which are in fact wildflowers, the local ecosystem will become more diverse and healthier. These actions will not simply help nature, but ultimately humanity itself, which is just another large predator as vulnerable as any other.
I hope you enjoy your journey into the secrets of nature with me and share my passion and curiosity for exploration of the landscape. I hope these art works make you a little more conscious of the natural world and instead of squashing a bug, take a few minutes of your day to watch it walk or fly away.
© Claire Harrison, 2021