The lily ponds in the gardens at Sheffield Park: beautifully reflective on a summer afternoon. Going here will always make think of my friend the late artist Adrian Berg RA who painted them many times over the years.

A day out on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, 20 July 2014 (but so vintage it could have been the 1940s)…

A visit to the workshop of the Potter Phil Rogers: A few weeks ago I was in Wales and stopped off in Rhayader, where Phil Rogers has his pottery on a farm on the edge of the town. He has converted a series of barns into a productive workshop where he throws, decorates and fires his stoneware vessels. Phil was preparing for his current exhibition at the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham and all around there were tea bowls, jugs, and other vessels coated in slip and waiting for a second firing. It’s always interesting to see that moment in the process of creating a pot before the alchemy takes place in the kiln. Once fired the ash glazes give his vessels a subtlety and elegance, em phasing the forms which have much in common with traditional Japanese studio pottery.

http://www.philrogerspottery.com

Stoke Edith is a strange place. This Hereford village is perhaps best known for the grand Queen Anne house that burned down in 1927. The gardens were recorded in some wonderful tapestries that are now in the V&A, but all that really remains is the church of St Mary outside the gates to the house. The church dates back to the 14th century, but was given a radical 18th-century revamp, with an upper gallery, box pews and a colonnaded high altar. One of the most extraordinary things is the cadaverous medieval tomb effigy of a lady with eyes almost half-open and a high forehead that has been inscribed with graffiti. Outside in the graveyard is a one particular tomb that is overground with ivy. It recalls a green man and seems appropriate to the eery atmosphere of Stoke Edith - nature reclaiming man’s structures.

From World of Interiors: 
‘Museum director Simon Martin and his partner, the artist Ed Kluz, are captivated by their proximity to Brighton’s seafront. Illustrating a shared love of 20th-century British and folk art, their Georgian town house seen in the July issue of The World of Interiors is a mix of high style and flea-market finds. Simon, who wrote his thesis on Philpot’s representation of the black male form, is “99% sure” that the figure by the living room window is “one he sculpted in the early 1930s, often based on his Jamaican manservant.” Photography: Jan Baldwin.’

From World of Interiors:
‘Museum director Simon Martin and his partner, the artist Ed Kluz, are captivated by their proximity to Brighton’s seafront. Illustrating a shared love of 20th-century British and folk art, their Georgian town house seen in the July issue of The World of Interiors is a mix of high style and flea-market finds. Simon, who wrote his thesis on Philpot’s representation of the black male form, is “99% sure” that the figure by the living room window is “one he sculpted in the early 1930s, often based on his Jamaican manservant.” Photography: Jan Baldwin.’

In an increasingly digital age there is something very satisfying about direct stone carving. It takes time, thought, skill and will be around long after we have left this mortal coil. In Brighton the May Festival is the time of year for heading to the Artists’ Open Houses & studios. I only managed to make it to two of several hundred this year, but I’m particularly glad I saw the sculptor and stone carver Jo Sweeting’s home, studio and recent work. She cuts well-formed lettering into a variety of woods, stone, slate or even the humble pebble. She also takes commissions: beautiful objects that will last the test of time. http://www.josweetingsculpture.com

The studio walls of artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins are covered in various studies and sketched ideas for paintings and projects. I visited him for lunch this week and was completely charmed by his home, in a Georgian house on the edge of a hillside in mid Wales. All around are small still-lives of Staffordshire figures on mantelpieces and interesting objects that find their way into his paintings, and in one room he has hand-stencilled wallpaper of birds. Clive began his career as an actor and dancer, before becoming a choreographer, director and stage designer, in recent years developing a reputation as one of the leading figurative painters in Wales. The two worlds of art and theatre come together in his work: amongst the drawings on his walls are studies for Equus - his illustrated version of Peter Schaffer’s play, which he did in collaboration with the Old Stile Press. Over a delicious lunch he told us about his macabre Mare’s Tale drawings based on his father’s nightmares about the Welsh folk ritual of the Mari Lwyd - a horse’s skull carried from house to house with a ghostly shroud. His background in the theatre is evident in his art, and appropriately he has been working on designs for a new dramatic presentation of the Mare’s Tale. Clive currently has a show at the Martin Tinney Gallery http://www.artwales.com/exhibition-ot-en.php?locationID=104

Arthur’s Stone stands on the edge of a field in rural Herefordshire: a Neolithic burial chamber where King Arthur apparently fought a giant. It would have been covered in a mound of soil, but now is in surrounded by a grassy circle and wooden fences. Very English Heritage.

The small cathedral at Brecon In Wales features some remarkable carvings. There is an early stone font with a green man and stylised birds; the Games Monument (c.1555) - an unusual carved wood effigy; and a Flemish wardrobe with a series of heads and figures presumably representing vanity (a lady holding a mirror and a skull), amongst other more traditional monuments.

The timber-framed Gregynog Hall was once home to two of the richest ladies in Wales: the Davies Sisters. They established a printing press where leading artists of the 1920s worked, and authors such as George Bernard-Shaw came to stay. Their collection of Monet’s and other Impressionist paintings is now in the National Museum in Cardiff, but the printing press continues and now they hold residential courses - what an inspiring setting in which to learn! http://www.gwasg-gregynog.co.uk

A spring visit to Powis Castle in Wales: here are some photographs of the inspirational terraced gardens beneath the castle. Particularly memorable are the once formal topiary hedges which have been allowed to ‘go natural’ and now punctuate the terraces with sculptural forms.

A great little find in a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, ‘Pottery and its Making’ was the 71st of the Puffin Picture Books published by Penguin Books from 1939 onwards. These non-fiction books for young people were all produced in the same landscape format and edited by the artist Noël Carrington. The books had original lithographed illustrations and were printed at W.S.Cowell Ltd of Ipswich - which specialised in lithography. I know nothing about John Thomas and Mary Sikes, the author/illustrators of this book, but the images are charming - colourful, crisp arrangements of different kinds of pottery and the factories where they are made. The items depicted range from primitive and Ancient Chinese pottery to Dutch Delft, Staffordshire figures, Bernard Leach pots and plates designed by Eric Ravilious. Even though brief these little books are immensely informative - as interesting to adults as they were to children for which they were intended.

I took these photographs in the studio Brighton-based Dennis Creffield (b.1931), who was once described by the American artist R.B. Kitaj as ‘one of England’s most closely guarded secrets’. A pupil of David Bomberg, Creffield studied at the Borough Polytechnic where he established his expressive approach to drawing. Later, he attended the Slade where he was a prize-winner, becoming a teacher himself and a substantial artist in his own right.

The charcoal drawings are now mounted and framed and feature in an exhibition at Pallant House Gallery which showcases the artist’s celebrated charcoal drawings of English medieval cathedrals. These powerful drawings were commissioned in 1987 by the Arts Council, and in the show are placed alongside his later series of French counterparts for the first time.

Dennis Creffield: Cathedrals of England and France, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester UK, 15 Feb - 22 June 2014 , www.pallant.org.uk

(Source: denniscreffielddrawings)

The studio of the artist Clare Woods gives a fascinating insight into her distinctive mode of image-making. An industrial scale workshop, you might expect it to be in East London, but instead it’s in rural Herefordshire where she relocated several years ago. The drive to the studio through the countryside must inform the organic forms in her paintings, which seem to have metamorphic qualities. Like the best of automatic Surrealism, these are sophisticated and ‘multi-evocative’ works, with their power and meaning located in between the definite forms that the viewer can identify. The studio reflects her way of working: photographs and drawings of source material are pinned to the walls- often unsettling images, or paintings and sculptures by artists she admires: these include Henry Moore, Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash and others. One of her paintings on the wall is her response to a Paolozzi sculpture of a Shattered Head - transformed in Clare’s hands into something suggestive of a weathered rock form.

The huge space has enabled her to work on large scale. She paints the works flat on trestle tables, often painting in series and reworking until a painting finds resolution. Drawing is evidentially an important aspect of her process, but so too spontaneity and taking pleasure in act of moving paint across the surface. It’s an inspiring space and a privilege to see new work taking form.

The star-spangled rood screen in St Andrew’s Church in Aysgarth is an extraordinary architectural element for a church in a small village of the Yorkshire Dales. Carved and gilded animals run along the top in a frieze incorporating foxes, elephants and castles, deer and mythical creatures. The screen wasn’t original to the church, but was removed from Jervaulx Abbey at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII and installed in the side of the chancel of St Andrew’s, which was owned by the abbey. Although just a fragment it gives a snapshot of the extraordinary artistic richness of England’s medieval abbeys which we now know mainly as ruins.