Billed as “a celebration of rural England”, this utterly charming collection achieves exactly what it sets out to do.
Richard’s watercolour style is very loose and makes extensive use of washes and spattering to create an impression of a scene rather than record it in detail. With only a few exceptions, that impression is of bright sunlight and quiet calm. Figures do not appear and this is more about an idealised than a working landscape. It’s none the worse for that.
Given the subject matter and that Halsgrove is a West Country publisher, I initially assumed that these were the lanes of Devon and Cornwall. Although it’s not explicit anywhere, there are hints in the introductory material that I’m right. Some of the titles give hints to location (“Down Surrey Way” is perhaps further afield), but most don’t and that’s right. Although Richard is painting in specific places, they stand for anywhere and this is as much the creation of an idealised countryside as it is the record of a real one (though it performs the neat trick of being that too).
You’ve probably gathered that I like this a lot. It’s a joyous book that makes you smile and feel that all things are not completely wrong, even if the politics currently are. If you love the English countryside, I think – I hope – you’ll agree. If you want to paint it, there’s plenty of inspiration in Richard’s excellent work.
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