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A Windy Day at Burghley Park

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Saturday 22 September 2012

A Windy Day at Burghley Park

The next workshop I have planned for my group at Easton Walled Gardens will be “Fill a Sketch Book in a Day”.. yes, it’s a daunting prospect.. but the sketchbooks I have in mind are just 12 pages and not too huge .. 10 x7 inches. The point of doing this exercise is to “get on”,  stop procrastinating , make some quick decisions and work in a focused way.

So to see how possible or impossible it is I took a sketchbook to Burghley Park near Stamford on Tuesday. I arrived at 9.45 and left at 4.45. had approx 2 hrs for coffee, lunch and tea break and to thaw out, which meant actual sketching time was about 5 hours.

The Problems

1 I don’t know the place very well, so spent too much time wandering about looking at things.

2 THE WIND. It must have been the windiest day of the year. It howled out of the north west, cold and blustery. The way the great building and the public access is oriented meant it was impossible to find shelter. It whipped around every corner, sought you out even in the courtyard where it turned into a spiralling demon.  It constantly found, lifted and flapped all the corners of the sketchbook, blew my hair into my eyes and knocked over the water. If you sat in the lee of a big tree trunk the wind just split and whirled round it, to assault you from both sides.  The only saving grace was that it was sporadically sunny and did not rain.

In short, it was a typical, magnificent British autumn day. Leaves and birds tossed high in the air. Visitors holding their hats and bent at 45 degrees as they struggled round the park.

So how did I do.. well ..OK. For me a hard working day is really 8 till 6 so time was very tight. I spent far too long wandering about trying to ignore the magnificent towering house whose complicated architecture was too overwhelming for today’s sketching. But it is mesmerising and demands your attention at every turn.  But that is for another day.. maybe.


Wind and petals 9.45- 10.00
Starting off and possibly the most poetic moment of the day. I am cold and hanging on to my sketchbook. The wind is whipping round my ears but as I sketch I am showered with petals from the rose garden.

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10.15 to 10.30 An old tree with wooden props.. nice curly shapes.


10.40 –10.55 The entrance to the Gardens. I liked the turrets and pennant.

11.00 to 11.30 coffee and warmth.


11.35  to 12.00 A rather pointless wobbly sketch of a bit of the building..but hey!


After too much wandering about I sat by a tree near Lion Bridge, 12.15-12.35 The couple walking reached the bridge and looked over while I sketched so I drew them twice. I liked the sweep of the land and the shapes of the trees.. could have done a bit more here. I also liked the lion at the end so walked on.


12.40 – 1.00 The lion from Lion bridge with dark cloud I have written. “Lion with Approaching Storm” this could be a “homage” to Stubbs.” (I do have delusions sometimes) 

1.00 to 2.20 hot soup and conversation.


2.20-2.30 A rather nice tree with  figure under it to give scale.


2.30-3.00 Some gorgeous fancy ironwork by the Ha Ha.

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3 –3.20  One of the magnificent tall chimneys and the statue in the rose garden.


3.30-3.45 some slightly more modest chimney pots.


3.45- 4.00 and I am running out of steam. Am sitting in the courtyard waiting for tea time but still being battered by the wind. These two men were waiting for their wives to come out of the shop

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4.00 last sketch …Tea and cake … everything stops for cake. :).

My friend Sue joined me for the day. We went off, did our own work and met for refreshments, show and tell, and mutual encouragement. She also made sure I did the 12!


This is a brilliant exercise for quick decisions, for getting down the basics, making notes, “seeing” many things and being inspired but I would really need longer than a 10 to 4 session especially if it’s somewhere unfamiliar. The pen is quite slow so I hope to try another sketchbook with some colour next week, do an 8 hour session and see how that goes. 

In themselves these sketches are nothing. Some have the germs of an idea and they will always remind me of an excellent day,  but as I have said many times the value of sketching lies in practising your artistic scales. It limbers up those stiff fingers,  coaxes the hand/eye/mind coordination to work a little better and fills you with ideas and possibilities.

It’s not about what you do,  it’s that you do it!
I was just clocking up some of those 10,000 hours that  I need.



Anonymous Mizz Winkens (AKA Karen) said...

Lovely sketches! I like your blog.

23 September 2012 at 13:28  
Blogger Maria said...

What a great idea! I can feel the wind in the drawings! Thank you so much for posting! Maria

23 September 2012 at 17:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely post. I grew up in Peterborough not far from Stamford; I'm familiar with Burghley House from the craft fair they hold every year - it's a beautiful place.

26 September 2012 at 11:41  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Hi there all and many thanks.

Maria and Karen: It was SO windy but the more I work outside the more I emjoy it. Drawing inside is just not the same!

Julia: I am a Lincs girl but had not been for years.It is a good place for sketching outside and the food fair last year was excellent :) Are you still local?

1 October 2012 at 06:08  

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