ABOVE: ‘Of The Garden, In The Garden’, courtesy of Oscar Romp

Oscar Romp, Denmans Artist-in-Residence 2024: Winter into Spring

Figurative artist Oscar Romp is our current Artist-in-Residence. He began working at Denmans at the end of last year, creating some initial impressions, which you will find elsewhere on this blog along with an interview.

As the year goes on, he will be giving us insights and progress updates on his website (here) as well as seasonal quarterly updates for the Denmans blog.

This month the focus is on the change from Winter to Spring in a series of diary style reflections along with special insights into his working methods…


The sun is shining! So, I’m coming to Denmans to draw, observe and respond to the marching Spring…

The welcome sunshine promises Spring, but it’s cold in the shadows; air temperature about 8 degrees. As I cycle past the gutter-drain, I see water constantly gurgling upwards from underground, then flowing down the street into the new ‘road-pond’. It’s more like a freshwater spring than a drain now.

Action Stations on the sunny Grass Hump’, courtesy of Oscar Romp

At last, I turn into that enchanted lane, which crawls steadily upwards toward the entrance to Denmans. I always walk up the lane rather than ride.  Cycling a bike, you miss stuff which can be seen and felt when walking. It is a classic English country lane with a beautifully unkempt open hedge, ranks of oaks and ashes which are still bare against the sky.

But closer to the ground there’s plenty of new growth; sometimes poking through last autumn’s dead leaves. Walking also means, if I got cold feet from wind-chill, they will be warm again by the time I reach Denmans. On the way up, I hear a Chiff Chaff for the first time this year. A Blackbird, bathing in a road puddle, scarpers on my approach. I pass a big wet and rotten tree trunk full of holes. Could some of them become spring nest sites? Ahead there’s a flash of black and white in undulating flight, but I blinked and missed it. Possibly a woodpecker (?) Or did I imagine it? In another tree, 3 or 4 Jackdaws are cackling in dispute about something.

Not a silent spring then, and that is a relief. It would be awful if we were alone on planet Earth. We need other creatures around us to share this amazing, unlikely conspiracy against oblivion that we call life.

In my panniers alongside biscuits and a flask of mint tea, is my little sketchbook and an untidy zip-case full of charcoal and graphite drawing tools. In addition, a can of unperfumed hairspray for fixing chalk and charcoal. I have been allotted a handy storage and work space, in the Denmans storage room. Here I have a ‘pod’ of additional materials; larger sketchbooks, various grades of soft and hard pastels in boxes, and additional drawing papers of different sizes and colours. I have an emergency change of clothes stuffed in a shopping bag in case I get a complete rain-drenching. A constant hazard during these last months of record-breaking rainfall.

Once I’ve arrived, I’m impatient to get working as soon as possible, but I always stroll around the gardens first. Two stripey Long Tailed Tits flit through shrubs, pausing to nibble at buds. At one point I hear a blackbird, a wren and a robin all singing simultaneously, and breaking through the distant hum of the A29. Blooms are already breaking out in patches at ground level. The magnolias are nearly finished already. In late January I caught a too-early Red Admiral on my phone camera. And today I caught an early Peacock butterfly…

‘Pathway Through Nature’s Archways’, Courtesy of Oscar Romp

I usually find there are one or two little spots or corners which draw my attention particularly – spots which are full of visual incident, dramatic colour, light and dark. Even in a designed garden, nature throws chaos and complexity at you, and the eye tries to accommodate and organise it.

And so it was with the spot I chose today. A garden – any garden – is a fusion of nature’s pattern and habit with human desire, design and invention. As you walk through this garden along its green ‘dry riverbed’ vistas, you are aware of both powers. In my drawings so far, I’ve tended to engage with the complexity and drama of Nature, more than the designed aspects of the garden. Today I sat down with the aim to echo more of the human design element; the way the forms and spaces in between, are purposefully aligned to make shapes and patterns.  As I work, the work itself takes over as though it has a mind of its own.

‘Perusing The Garden Guide’, Courtesy of Oscar Romp

Most of the drawings I’ve made over the winter here at Denmans have been small and intense. I select from the things that interest me most from the phenomena in front of me and try find a composition which can fit them all yet still allow a feeling of space and depth. I cheat like hell in a way that a camera or ‘tech’ still cannot do; only an imperfect human brain can do this, and it is this that makes each human’s vision (imperfectly) unique.

I work small to fit the conditions. Small means fast and flexible. I can set up quickly, work fast to render a basic image, and then make a hasty retreat when a rainstorm hits, fading light or closing time stops play and names it finished.

For more information on Oscar go to https://www.oscarromp.co.uk/