The graphic qualities of snow-covered landscapes have always fascinated me. Clarity and detail appear sharpened when tonal polarities of intense whiteness and darkness sit side by side.
When I was studying at Wall Hall College I would often take a walk in the college grounds, clear my head, ready to tackle another essay perhaps. During all of the seasons the scenery around the college was incredibly varied. I would sketch and take photographs throughout the year in the orchards, the woodlands, open fields or Italian Garden. Like a number of teacher training campuses at that time in the 1970s, Wall Hall College had been built and expanded around a former country house in Hertfordshire, along with the estate’s wonderful gardens and surroundings.
Many years later, looking through old photos I came across some rather dog-eared images of the orchards blanketed in snow, and one immaculately dark and light image with not a footprint to be seen anywhere – on the day that I took the photo, I had definitely got there first! Looking at that photo once again, even in its forlorn state, it seemed a classic image and one that would lend itself beautifully to a black and white drawing – I was surprised I hadn’t used it years ago.
In the pencil drawing you see above, the density of tiny branches in the upper part has been deliberately filled out to the top in order to give greater contrast between the whiteness of the snow in the foreground and the almost total darkness of the trees above. In between lies the random spread of spidery, snow laden branches. I tried to give a sense of depth, as if the orchard just carries on endlessly into the distance.
Many other snowy and frosty subjects have caught my eye over the years – a snow covered pile of logs in the garden, icicles hanging from the edge of a thatched roof, different types of tracks left in the snow, hoar frost clinging to a tree and so white and crisp it looks like snow.
Perhaps this winter will make for some great snowy or frosty scenes…… who knows?
Profile of the Artist: Ruth Baron Ezra SGFA
Ruth lives and works in Test Valley in Hampshire. She creates finely worked graphite drawings, many of them reminiscent of etchings and illustrations. She loves to get into the detail of myriad subjects from nature, and natural forms. She enjoys exploring the shapes, contours and textures but most of all the tonal ranges in those subjects, highlighting the striking qualities of dark pitched against light. Sometimes the material is rendered in her own stylised way, resulting in strong elements of pattern and design.
More recently, Ruth’s art has been inspired by tropical plants and visits to botanic gardens during a number of trips abroad to Australia, Singapore, Israel and Peru. Closer to home she has enjoyed the wonderful attractions at Kew Gardens, the Eden Project, Cornwall, and oddly enough a local lavender garden with tropical plants. What appeals to her are the boldness and solidity of tropical plant shapes and masses, and the strong contours. Again, she particularly enjoys the contrasts made by intense sunlight, and darker, more shadowy areas, not forgetting those areas that reveal more subtle, intermediate tones.
Ruth studied Art and Design for a B.Ed (Hons) at Wall Hall College, Hertfordshire in the 1970s specialising in drawing and painting. During the 1980s she had a number of teaching jobs in the London area, always using art widely in her teaching. In the early 1990s Ruth gained an MA in Art History of the Modern Period from Goldsmith’s College, University of London. She taught history of Art during the 1990s, running a variety of courses for Artscope and at Adult Learning Centres in Kent. She has also written on art, and helped in setting up the Turner Centre project, now Turner Contemporary in Margate, where she provided the initial research on Turner’s connections with Margate.
For the last twelve years, Ruth has returned to her distinctive and intricate style of drawing that she first crafted back in the 1970s.
Ruth has exhibited in venues and galleries across the South of England, including the Oxmarket Chichester, Southampton City Art Gallery, Salisbury Playhouse, Project Workshops Quarley, the Allen Gallery Alton, Weyhill Gallery, Hackwood Arts Festival, and Sir Harold Hilliers Gardens, Hampshire. A number of Ruth’s works are held in the Hampshire County Museums Fine Art collection.
For the last ten years she has exhibited with 4Seasons Artists for all of the Spring season at the Five Arrows Gallery, sited within Exbury Gardens, Hampshire, and famous for the Rothschild collection of azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and rare trees.
Ruth was elected to the SGFA in May 2011 and has exhibited with them at Ilminster Arts Centre, R K Burt, Barbican, Menier and Bankside galleries, London.
Charlie Kirkham SGFA is Editor of the Society of Graphic Fine Art Journal and a contributing writer. Charlie’s studio is based in London where she draws and paints. For more information please see www.charliekirkham.com