Sprawling across northern Lancashire into the western edges of Yorkshire, The Forest of Bowland is a rather forgotten landscape to all except the more adventurous locals. The name is rather misleading too, as much of this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is no longer covered in woodland, but rather gritstone fells and open moorland warmed by a blanket of heather.
It is also home to what artist Norma Stephenson rather poetically calls “a moorland community of scattered farms and barns, crisscrossed by a pattern of dry-stone walls”. Her own home and studio are here too, from which she also hosted workshops for 30 years until she took the decision to retire in 2018 and concentrate on her own art.
The Scottish artist’s expressive, pastel-based paintings are fascinating for a number of reasons, not least the ways in which she interprets the landscape on her doorstep. “My paintings recognise the location, but perhaps not photographically,” she says.
“I do enjoy being out in the landscape, but this is almost always just to sketch. I almost never pre-plan a painting. I mostly have my attention captured by the unexpected or brief glimpse. The sudden burst of yellow of spring gorse spotted on a daily walk or the rich burnt sienna in a moorland view often draw me back to investigate further.”
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