This painting is a montage of views from Welford-on-Avon in the heart of England’s Shakespeare Country. Welford is a small community three streets deep and two blocks long. This pretty, quiet, Warwickshire village is only five miles downstream from the bustle of Stratford-upon-Avon.
My interest was to build a picture that demonstrates the romantic storybook feeling that I get in a small, chocolate box, English village. I was introduced to this burg when I stayed at Clifford Chambers, a village only two miles away, and I have returned several times to convince myself that its beauty that I remember is indeed real.
The Cotswolds area of England presents so many possible opportunities to paint that it seems almost like a movie set, given the number of thatched “black and whites” and cottages built of a softly faded Naples yellow-coloured limestone. Many of these cottages date back to the 17th Century when this area of England became prosperous from the rich farmland dotted with flocks of sheep. In fact, in the Middle Ages, 50% of England’s economy was based on sheep.
This village-studded agricultural area named after a 12th century landowner, Codwald, is sparsely populated. There are only 85,000 residents, but the tourist flood reaches 38 million each year. Walkways lace this part of the country and make available to the many visitors, beautiful views at every corner. I best be careful. I am starting to sound like a tout from the Chamber of Commerce, but it is difficult not to, because this area hosts beautiful scenery, idyllic architecture, and pubs like The Cottage of Content which is nearby Welford. For many years, my paintings were shown at a gallery in Broadway, a small town overrun by tourists during the holiday season. This personal connection gave me a perfect excuse to visit the district often.
I am amused when I hear from people, “I was just in England, and you know, it is just as you show it in your paintings.” I do not make up any of my subjects, whether from Mennonite Country or England, but rather hope to point out some features of those places that attract me.
To be sure, there are many aspects of the United Kingdom that I never paint. These places would however provide subjects for some other artist but not for me. All any artist can bring to a work is his own point of view. I find it difficult to imagine the kind of person that I would be if I had not discovered beautiful England for myself over thirty-five years ago. I have developed such affection for that sceptred isle that I watch British television, drink at the Duke, a British pub, and regularly read the Daily Telegraph on Sunday morning. I even eat British food, BSE aside. Frequent jaunts to the U.K. keep my painting imagination topped up.
I recently talked to a man who said, in jest I hope, that I must have a great deal of aggression bottled up inside to paint pictures that are almost unfailingly tranquil and pretty.