Saturday, 24 October 2009

Bench of the Week - Houghall

This week's bench is also featured in my Autumn header, and is from the dim and distant past of last century - 1998! I've had to scan the photos as this was pre-digital for me, the camera used being a little Olympus Trip.
I find as an artist that certain locations recur again and again in my work, and this spot is one of those special places. The view is from the patio doors of the house I lived in while lecturing at Houghall Horticultural College. To me it was magical, and I used to gaze and gaze, and sketch, paint and photograph this wonderful place.


The garden was huge, and led out onto fields and the distant Houghall Woods. The shapes of the hedges fascinated me - I have always loved the light along the edge of hedges backlit by the sun, or moon. There was only one outside light here, and at night the stars shone undiminished by street lighting. Owls called, foxes barked and the air was redolent with the scents of trees.
The bench belonged to the college. I stood it among my tubs, and used it as a kind of focal point leading the eye along the garden. After trying to sit on it once and wobbling fearsomely, I decided it was too rickety to use as a seat, and that it's charm was visual!
In this last photo the bench gleams softly in the evening light and the overgrown Virginia and other creepers take on an Autumn glow.
'Bench of the Week' was started by RuneE of Visual Norway. Other participants include Barbara Martin, PERBS, Malyss, Ackworth Born , Your EG Tour Guide , Dimple and Dina - do visit their blogs to see their Bench of the Week on Fridays.

Durham Artist Ingrid Sylvestre, artists in Durham City.

36 comments:

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I love the rustic look of this bench. I really like how you used the bench as inspiration in your painting. I remember you saying something about the light on the edges of hedges, and I can see how you have done that in your painting. I really like your style of painting/art.

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you Catherine! I have been fascinated with the light around hedges for many years, which was triggered by another very special place I painted in.

Barbara Martin said...

This is a place I would have loved to be living near...to think you could step outside to be so close to a magnificent garden and WOODS! A bench to view has its own charm, as does this one in your photos and header. The country calls to me as I live in this metropolis of Toronto, and to escape I journey to a large park known as High Park where the energy from the trees provides solace to my soul.

RuneE said...

It had the charm of "an old wall garden". I understand perfectly that you enjoyed having it as a central point in your art and that you often used that garden as part of your art.

Even an amateur photographer like myself find that I often return to the same spot in the same area.

Malyss said...

Even every of your pictures looks like a beautyful painting.And the words describing your memories and feelings around this simple bench are so poetic! Finally, this simple garden bench, so rustic , was very inspiring!
It was a very delightful post.

PERBS said...

It makes an idyllic scene. . . so it is a lovely bench even if it is rickety when you sit on it. A bench adds warmth to the setting and makes a wonderful picture to paint if only in your mind.

Phoenix C. said...

It was total bliss to be living in such a place, Barbara. And I understand so much your need to escape to be among the trees - I have lived at times in treeless streets and cities and used to escape to gardens and woods whenever possible.

Phoenix C. said...

RuneE, it is interesting that many artists, photographers, writers, return to the same place for inspiration for their creativity, even years after they are no longer in that vicinity. It is as if the emotions and 'spirit of place' are carried and continue to inspire, and also to enable one to recognize similar places.

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you Malyss, I'm so glad you liked my post. I also enjoyed writing it as it made me re-live the memories of living in such a beautiful place.

Phoenix C. said...

It was a lovely bench, PERBS - I wonder if it is still there. Maybe it has been mended so it can be used as a seat, or to stand plants on.

Diane AZ said...

Such a charming little bench. I love the way it looks in your header painting. I wonder if it's still in the garden at Houghall or if anyone else could have possibly appreciated that old bench more than you did.

Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel said...

Wonderful to be transported to such a magical setting!

Alaine said...

In the second and last photos, you have two separate pictures in each of the door panes.

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

I would gaze and gaze too.

Love the header picture by the way.

Anna said...

Another great bench post Phoenix and great to see the inspiration behind your striking header. What a view from that window. As a matter of curiosity how do you pronounce Houghall ?
P.S. I saw a most interesting bench when we were on holiday recently - thought of you when I saw it and will do a blog post with photo soon.

Phoenix C. said...

I'd like to think the bench is still appreciated by someone, Diane AZ! Thinking about it, I guess it is now appreciated by more people than ever before as it is seen across the globe in the blogosphere!

Phoenix C. said...

Glad you enjoyed the magical setting, Alice. I'm sure you would love the grounds of Houghall - they are quite extensive and varied.

Phoenix C. said...

It is like two pictures in the door - I hadn't noticed that before, Alaine!

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you Rob!

Phoenix C. said...

Anna, Houghall is pronounced 'hoffle'!

I'm looking forward to seeing your interesting bench photos!

lynn'sgarden said...

Yes, I'm wondering if that view is still there, 10 yrs. later. What a great view to wake up to! Glad you found this to share ;) You were photographing benches way back then!

Gerald (Ackworth born) said...

a charming old bench and a lovely story told.

Bim said...

When I saw the bench in the first photo I thought 'very pretty, but surely it must wobble in a major way?' and so I was pleased to see that confirmed further down ;)
It looks like a wonderful place and its fun to compare the last view to your header (in which all the lines seem to have become a tad more dynamic)

Phoenix C. said...

I'll have to visit the view and see if it has changed much, Lynn!

Since participating in RuneE's 'bench of the week' I have realized how many benches there are around, and how often they occur in photos. I guess it's because they are often situated in scenic spots, and therefore become part of the photo. Prior to this I had not consciously looked for benches!

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you Gerald, glad you enjoyed the story!

Phoenix C. said...

Bim, I've always been interested in the way people see scenes differently, which becomes evident particularly in artwork. It fascinates me how a group of artists will all focus on diverse aspects of a place, and I've realized over the years that I 'see' the lines in a dynamic way. I love to look at a landscape and see the swooping lines all contributing to the atmosphere and energy of a place. Hope this makes sense!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Love your new header (very autumnal feeling) and the bench itself.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Lovely photos! They have a wonderful feel about them.

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you Monica! The autumnal feeling round here is intensifying at present, with such an array of colour in the landscape.

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you EG Tour Guide - I try to capture the feel and atmosphere of a place.

Prospero said...

What were you teaching at Houghall Horticultural College? Are you still there?

Phoenix C. said...

I was lecturing in Design, for course modules, Prospero. I left there about ten years ago - but I still like to paint from the images I carry around in my heart and in my sketch books! (And I'll never forget the huge glorious hearty meals in the canteen!)

Dimple said...

This is a beautiful essay on a place you loved. Thank you for sharing and thank you for linking my blog. After reading some of the comments, I am going to look more closely at the pictures...

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you Dimple! Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Pacey said...

I like that bench in the garden, so serene to be sitting there I guess.

Phoenix C. said...

It was very serene, Pacey - and most comfortable when sitting on a chair inside looking out!