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Picture of the Month

My choice of a picture this month is very unusual--in fact, I've never done this before. I am not displaying a finished piece ready for exhibition, but a sketch made in the field. The reason for my decision is that behind the public face of any artist is typically a body of material consisting of preliminary ideas, reference pieces and (sadly) ideas considered but never brought to completion. This material often plays a very important part in the creative process.

Additionally, sketching plein air, particularly for landscape artists, is invariably a vital part of the creative process. These sketches don't consist only of rough or preliminary stages in the development of a specific idea, which might then be worked up in the studio. Certainly they are not just failed ideas begun in situ which never reached a satisfactory resolution. They are rather important exercises in the process of observing the world, training not only the hand but also the eye.

I have to admit that I don't do enough of this, so that my decision to elevate one of my sketches to the status of "picture of the month" can be considered to be a kind of "New Year's Resolution".

The image in question was made during a recent stay in Arkengarthdale, in North Yorkshire. The field in front of our cottage sloped down to where the River Arkle ran, bordered by large, ancient beech trees. My work was interrupted by a flock of sheep being driven to new pasture, and the shepherd's dog paused to give my drawing a brief critical appraisal.