Martin Beek: Painter in Residence

Category: General, Art, Events

Oxford based fine art landscape painter, Martin Beek, joined the Marlborough College community to work on location within prominent areas of our campus, throughout the first week of February. Invited to work ‘plein air’ within the College grounds as part of Visual Arts Week, Martin was particularly inspired to study the texture, colour and changing light upon the St Michael and All Angels chapel and surrounding landscape. 

Of importance to the ‘plein air’ artist, is the often, engaging interactions made with passers-by, who stop to ask questions or discuss painting techniques and chosen viewpoints. Martin received many repeat visits by students and staff who were keen to view his progress, whilst taking the ever-changing February light and inclement conditions within his stride.

Martin states:

“For my art practice it important to thoroughly immerse myself in any location where I work. I usually set up a sort of mobile studio with a full array of brushes and paints at my disposal. From Monday through to Thursday I spent approximately six hours outside each day, pacing up and down and analysing what appeared important to record. To those not familiar with this approach, it might appear strange that anybody would wish to paint outside in this way, in the depth of an English winter. 

GALLERY: Click here for a selection of images

"For my principal painting, a 30 x 40 inch canvas, I chose a horizontal format view close to the path on the south side of the chapel looking towards Court, glimpsing the edge of the Bradlian; my choice was made because it provided a relatively sheltered spot that gave some characteristics of the College, but also a natural element of trees and foliage.  Compositionally this provided a strong set of receding verticals against the looser interplay of branches and shadow. My normal practice is to paint plein air from the motif; I paint ‘alla prima’; that is without studio retouching or intervention. My colours were strong and saturated and reflect the highly contrasting light I experienced during these bitingly cold February mornings. My colours are emotionally expressive and often high key. On Wednesday 7th there was a light dusting of snow, the water in my paint pot was frozen in places. I also painted a 36 x 24 inch canvas of the old tree with its galls and burls at the end of the Chapel path, looking west."

The work and interactions with those at the College, students, scholars and staff have been very positive. Another joy of the Visual Arts Week was to share experiences with other artists who are similarly minded in their approach to plein air painting and drawing. On Thursday evening Jonathan Parnham, Edward Twohig and myself gave illustrated talks on our practice and our influences. Whilst each of us differ in media and favourite locations, we found that we do share a great deal in common.  I would like to thank everybody in the Art School for their support and making me so welcome for this visit”.

We have greatly appreciated Martin’s dedication and full support of our first Visual Arts Week. Photographs of Martin’s progress can be seen within our gallery of images.

Jonathan Parnham
Head of Visual Arts Promotion

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