Painting the Agricultural Landscape or coming to terms with monoculture

East Yorkshire is a predominantly flat and agricultural part of the country—especially around the Holderness area of the north bank of the River Humber—so it takes more effort to find a scene that is not agricultural and I realised some years ago that it is the flatness that stimulates me. There are the big skies, yes, and they can be a subject in their own right, but it’s also the challenge that the flatness presents—what do you do with a landscape in which the only vertical accents might be the telegraph poles, a hedgerow or the occasional copse of trees?

Early Rape at Sunk Island. Acrylic on paper, 22x15 inches.

The names of the roads and farms—Marsh Lane, Marsh House Farm—reflect the origins of the land.

Spring Rape at Sunk Island. Acrylic on paper, 22x15 inches.

The conventional thing to say about painting the landscape would be that it’s about capturing the changing light, the fleeting clouds etc. but in painting the agricultural landscape there is also the longer-term change of the crops as they change from grass-like shoots to ripe crops, to cut stubble and back to bare earth and beneath this seasonal change there is the annual change as the crops are rotated year on year.

Wheat Field at Marsh House Farm

The paintings have been made by a process that I have come to see as echoing the changes in the land itself. Their starting point is always pastel sketches made in a specific location and usually this location will be one I have sketched a number of times and have visited on many, many more occasions.

Oat Field at Auster Grange Farm. Acrylic on paper, 22x15 inches.
Wheat Stubble at Newlands Farm. Acrylic on paper, 22x15 inches.

I am not aiming to produce an accurate representation of that location, my aim is to recreate something of the experience of being in that landscape at that particular time of year.

Late Afternoon sky in December from Stone Creek Cottages. Acrylic on paper, 22x15 inches.
Winter Sky from Cherry Cobb Sands Road. Acrylic on paper,
Created By
john humber

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