Art inspired by the moors

Rosie Jewell 15 March 2014

I grew up on Dartmoor in Devon and ever since I can remember I’ve been climbing trees, getting lost in swathes of bracken and rambling over the moors. I used to spend hours in the evenings poking my head under Mum’s arm whilst she painted these scenes for local customers around the village, and my own poster paints and crayons were soon abandoned for her watercolours (with or without her permission).

I’ve always been obsessed with horses, so they often feature in my work, but I have mostly drawn inspiration from my ancient and wild surroundings on the moors. Watercolour is the perfect medium for expressing the rich textures, colours and fluid shapes of Dartmoor: my favourite subjects are gnarled trees, stormy skies and huge expanses of granite-flecked moorland. I usually play around with wet-in-wet techniques, and thick layers of paint that I scratch into it while wet. I also enjoy painting in acrylic – preferably large canvases, with strong and dramatic compositions.

After an operation to correct scoliosis, a spinal deformity, in 2009, I took more of an interest in painting the body, doing a few abstract pastel pieces exploring the emotional impact of deformity and also a large acrylic painting about the operation itself. Since then I have dabbled in life drawing, particularly with the female nude, and recently decided to make a return to this theme in time for the King’s Women’s Day exhibition, titled ‘Women in Conflict’. I have approached this theme through thinking about the female body and how we relate to it, under modern pressures of image and beauty, but also with regards to natural changes we undergo such as puberty, pregnancy and old age. It’s about overcoming a conflict with the skin that we live in which many women including myself have had to confront.