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Inspired by the Downs

By Steve Brookman, Eastern Area Volunteer Ranger

The South Downs have always been important to me for exercise, solitude and to connect to nature. I wanted to give something back to the National Park on retirement. 

However, by volunteering I soon began to  acquire new inspiration and heightened appreciation for the natural world.

At the same time I became interested in expressing myself through art. I had dabbled with artistry, as a hobby throughout my life. Only when I retired did I take to it in earnest.

Volunteering for the National Park and picking art back up as a pastime proved to be a happy coincidence. Some of the new experiences morphed into inspiration for creativity. Art is about self expression as much as technical skill.

Print making makes me think about shape and colour. My first print was inspired by the Seven Sisters. It is a reduction lino cut print. Using a single block the colours are cut and printed one on top of the other.

Sometimes volunteering activity itself inspires creativity. In another work, ’brush cutters,’ I’ve tried to capture the energy and physicality of what is quite a common activity for volunteers.

‘Long Winter’ was inspired by a cold winter’s day working at ‘The Long Man of Wilmington’, scrub bashing. It was bleak even in the winter sun. I feel connected through bad weather to a base instinct. The printed colours designed to give a sense of the season. There is artistic license in that you can’t see the sea and the Long Man without being airborne. The print is about capturing the emotion, not the reality.

I don’t always print, I also draw or paint. I start with a vision that I want to capture and then decide which media will work best. I’m moving to acrylics from oil paints, because they are water based and less environmentally damaging. I’ve painted numerous scenes from the local area.

The wintry sun over Belle Tout, the light house at Beachy Head and an intriguing path across the hills all inspired by emotion, expressing itself in oil paint.

The beaches along the Sussex Coast help define this part of the world. I am often drawn to the detail of a scene. Recently I was looking at the way the beach groins had been worn by the waves. The character in the worn wood seemed to call to be recorded and so I drew in ink.

Our life experiences frame our world view. And so my continuing life journey, including volunteering influences what I create.

My latest work, in progress, is a commentary on consumerism. Ostensibly an image of a knickerbocker glory, the image is full of concealed dead animals. The principle being that the more we consume the more we destroy. The work is intended to be thought provoking rather than decorative. Volunteering has given me a heightened connectivity with the environment.

I like to think that when someone gives my art a new home, they take a little of my world view with them.