Daffodils — a yellow that can’t be ignored.



Winter brought a new set of colour relationships.

Six months have elapsed since taking on the challenge of painting in Denmans Garden.

I have been there during the winter months in gloves and lots of layers, but only for short periods, as I am a bit of a ‘fair weather’ painter!

I am still recording my visits and now starting on sketchbook number 3. It has been interesting looking back to the first 2 books covering the periods from September to February. I think there is a definite change in approach and the development of ideas. Some of these have been carried back to the studio (also extremely cold and requiring gloves and layers). But the sketch books have become a piece of work in their own right and will be part of the finished exhibition in September.


I have also prepared some screens ready for making silk screen prints and am using some of the finished paintings for a series of greetings cards.


Winter statue against a wintery background.

It soon became apparent that winter did not mean a dying of colour, just different colour relationships. Greens in particular are problematic and I spent a lot of time colour mixing. I tried to visit earlier some days and experience the softer light, which affects everything. A couple of frosty mornings gave a rather ‘ethereal’ atmosphere, especially when no-one was about. This I have tried to capture in two or three paintings. The many textures and details are still a bit of a problem for my general style of painting. It can be overwhelming – too much, too much to look at! But as the philosopher David Walden Thoreau said ‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see’.


A study of Joyce Robinson in the garden based on old photographs.

I am still mixing up the representational with moving towards the abstract. But I usually pull back from total abstraction. Giving some hint of representation helps anchor the work and gives a viewer a signpost as to where the inspiration for a particular image has come from. Receiving some old photographs of the two previous owners of Denmans Garden, Joyce Robinson and John Brookes, made me think I would like to hint at their physical presence in the garden, almost like benevolent ghosts! As usual this is proving easier said than done. Sometimes shapes and shadows appear of their own volition and then I try to retain them in the painting, but sometimes they just drift away. Bare trees are always worth recording; their skeletal structures are so different than when in full leaf and some of the silver barked trees really stand out against the darker winter shades. These have proved of particular interest.


Early spring was soon apparent through February and into March. The yellow aconites under the large tree near the cottage were fabulous. I tried to paint them several times without success and had to give up and move on. Sometimes you just have to let things go and paint over! Then of course came the daffodils, an acid yellow that hurts your eyes in bright sunshine, but not to be ignored. Again, being in the garden at different times of the day changes how you perceive the colours. I spend a lot of time just walking around and looking.


An explosion of colour – the magnolia.

And now it’s the time for the magnolia. Such a cliché to try and paint! I always think of chocolate box covers and usually resist this sort of predictable imagery. BUT how can they be ignored? What a challenge to try and capture their transient beauty, but in a looser more spontaneous way. Hmm…still working on that one. The change in colour palette is very enjoyable and I hope viewers will be able to respond to the different ‘moods’ created at different times of the year. Every week is so different. I look forward to recording my ideas as spring marches into summer and hope that I can find new inspiration in the explosion that will be the flower borders.


A year will not be enough. There is enough inspiration in this garden to last a lifetime.


Sue is recording her experiences and observations about her work at Denmans and elsewhere on her blog and we will include further updates on the garden’s website blog as the year goes on.

For more information on Sue go to www.sueengland.co.uk @28sueengla0547


You can read more about Sue’s experience as Artist in Residence in a recent interview with the local Sussex Expressand Observer series: https://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/whats-on/things-to-do/denmans-garden-announces-first-artist-in-residence-3591441