simon whitfield artist


simon whitfield


artists profile


These new paintings are for me both a fresh departure as well as a return to my roots as a mountain painter. They are inspired by subjects which are for me iconic Lakeland views: crags, rock studies; the wilderness of the high fell which awaits discovery quietly above the tree line.


These are the things which made me a painter, solid immovable motifs the artist returns to again and again, often rebuffed by the elements, but always to be discovered afresh in a different season or mood.


And there is much to paint and record for the first time. The artist, if also a walker is often a hopeless addict to novelty and exploration, and I was at one time worried that when the last fell was climbed in Cumbria, there would be no more worlds to conquer. Of course this is nonsense – a different time of day or year offers a completely new perspective on a landscape, so even a relatively small wilderness like the Lake District has plenty of secrets left to discover.


These past years have seen me build up a vital 'mental network' of knowledge necessary to being an artist – viewpoints, times of day or season, effects of light or weather, all of which make the lake country endlessly interesting, frustrating and rewarding to the artist. Even in a comparatively small Vale such as Grasmere the potential viewpoints and compositions are endless, and visitors will no doubt have their own favorites. Some are well known, such as the view from the lake shore or Loughrigg {though even this has its secrets, such as the bield or shelter on a small summit.} Some are more shy or inaccessible– the view from Tarn crag, or little Dockey tarn, offer startling and new insights. Only recently I was surprized by the remarkable view from below Fairfield – the coiled energy of the Langdales and deep arc of Easedale and Greenburn were fully revealed as sweeping empty glacial gouges for the first time. Such discoveries give fresh realization and enthusiasm to my paintings – and show how little I yet know. I still rate Black crag, on the way to Alcock tarn, White Moss common and Silver How as classic viewpoints, whilst the 'reverse of the medal' views, from Steel Fell or Fairfield are fine too.


They also illustrate a point useful to artists and tourists alike: the eighteenth century fossilization of viewpoints into fixed 'stations' was mistaken (and says more about the state of roads and lack of adventure in then), and has done much to harm both artistic freedom and public knowledge of the Lakes. Likewise, the modern tourist has his view of Lakeland restricted and defined by postcards and calendars. It is the artist’s job to break out of these conventions, and visit Lakeland afresh, as the first Romantic artists did 200 years ago.


For me, the mountains of Britain offer much of interest and beauty to the artist. They are relatively convenient to visit, not too high for the fearful mere hill walker such as myself, and, despite the vagaries of the weather; offer a quality of light and tone not seen in other more sunny regions. Leaden bruised blue-purple clouds saturated with rain, splashes of sudden orange across a hillside as the sun breaks through, intangible things hard to put on canvas such as the sweet scent of wet summer bracken, the blood like stain and smell of red earth on a scree scramble all inspire me onwards, even when the cold, clawing late winter wind, numb fingers and heavy pack dispirit, or cloud rolling in at the last minute frustrates and depresses.


What inspires me most is the combination of solitude, a primeval silence broken only by the iron clank of scree and boulder, skylarks wheeling and the hard metallic croak of ravens; exciting light effects (ideally in the magic hours of dawn and twilight) and particularly the rock which is the foundation of both my paintings and the lake district itself.


This is what first made me a painter of mountains – the skeletal aspects of the mountains, such as Swirral and Striding Edge in the lake country, with their coiled energy and jagged vertebrae of rock are what excite me most as a painter. They underpin and inspire it, from intimate rock studies to paintings of the towering Quiraing, Pillar Rock or Napes Needle.


It is their honest, truthful sparseness, immovability and uncompromising honesty which makes them heroic and sublime, and therefore worthy subjects for the mountain painter.


I hope that some of these paintings at least may help to show that even the most familiar view may be appreciated anew, surprised by joy, when seen afresh from a different angle.



Simon Whitfield