Painting in Hertfordshire

When I was nine my family moved to Colliers End in Hertfordshire. It was a bit of a shock to me at the time having lived in Hackney, London, up to that point.

I missed my London friends. We used to go out on the Red Bus Rover every weekend. You could buy a ticket for three bob (15 pence) and could go on any bus or any tube, anywhere you liked in London. It gave us great freedom.

My first impressions of the country was that it smelled of cow shit! There were only three buses a day to get from my village to the nearest town, Ware. That’s when I learned how to hitch hike!

I don’t think I really appreciated the beauty of Hertfordshire as a child. When I was doing some building work at my dad’s house in May this year I decided to spend the afternoons painting in the area. I returned to places where I used to play as a child to paint plein air. I’d spend about four hours on each painting. When you look at a scene for hours you notice the detail and the beauty. 

I painted the village of Standon from Barwick Road first. Then I found a lovely spot along the River Rib. There’s a big oak tree in the background that I used to climb when I was a kid. My third spot, and my favourite of this series of paintings, was of Latchford Ford. I then came across two lovely little tractors in a field between Standon and Barwick that I just had to paint. My next stop was Barwick Ford. I used to paddle there. After that I painted a beautiful view of the Rib Valley from the top of Dowsetts Lane. Then I spent time on my friend’s farm and painted his two vintage Farmall tractors. 

My final painting of this series was of the River Lea in Ware. I love how the river links my family history together; Hertfordshire where I grew up from the age of nine and Tottenham where both my parents are from and where I spent precious time with my grandparents as a child. I found a lovely spot where I could paint the gazebos that line the river, with the Maltings in the background and a long boat in the foreground.

What is so lovely looking back on my painting sessions is how very little has changed in the area since my childhood there. London, where I live now, changes so rapidly. It is nice that the villages, farms, fields and river banks are all pretty much as I remember them.

At the end of July I had the opportunity to paint at Standon Calling Festival. I painted in the days leading up to it while the production crews were setting up and continued throughout the weekend. 

I’ve been coming to the festival pretty much since it started so it was lovely to be able to paint there. The crews constructing the stages seemed to enjoy having me there. They played every song they could think of about painting to inspire me. Songs like The Rolling Stones’s Paint it Black, Painter Man by The Creation and Boney M and the Paint Your Wagon theme song. It was hilarious. So much work goes on before the festival goers arrive and it was nice to be able to capture some of that activity in my paintings.

There was so much to paint, day and night, a good mixture of natural landscapes and industrial which is something I like to get in my paintings. Seeing how the stage lighting silhouettes the festival goers was stunning.

standon stage.jpg
Article from Village life magazine July 2018

Article from Village life magazine July 2018

Article from the Hertfordshire Mercury August 2018

Article from the Hertfordshire Mercury August 2018

Craig Barnard