Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

A Plein-Air Artists’ Manual

Holkham Beach Winter Walk by Sophia Williams

One of the great joys of natural navigation is that it intrigues such a wide variety of people, something it shares with food. We can’t be human without eating or navigating, so we all form our own personal relationships with these two activities. Food and navigation are both fundamental experiences and they make better sense if we understand nature.

People from almost every professional or personal background have found that looking for clues and signs in nature has added something to their world. I am always especially delighted when I hear from artists who have found my work helps in some way. My books are appearing in a growing number of art supply shops and artist gallery bookshops, which is heartening because a close study of the land, sea or sky is something I’ve always felt I share with landscape artists. I once wrote,

“Taking the time to note the character of the less prominent landmarks is a habit that takes effort to cultivate. It is only common in three groups of people I have walked with: artists, experienced soldiers and indigenous peoples. It seems to me that studying the more intricate character of a landscape is something that the modern mind finds difficult and strangely unnatural.”

From The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs (UK) / The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs (North America)

I was so happy to hear from the artist, Sophia Williams, who found that my book helped with reading clouds. Please see her wonderful painting above.

From Sophia:

“Tristan’s book, The Secret World Of Weather, in my opinion is a Plein-Air Artists’ Manual on how to be in-tune with nature. It enables an artist to pick the right spot to paint the landscape.

The chapter on Clouds, has been of most use as to plan my days, with the Seven Golden Patterns** becoming a tool of assessment that has woven into my morning routine, afternoon routine and evening routine!

A fine and crisp January morning after assessing the clouds the previous day, led me to bundle my Labrador in the car and head off to Holkham Estate’s Beach. The sky had been telling me that this was the window of opportunity as the weather wouldn’t be great in the coming hours. Too many cloud types were present. The afternoon was awash with rain, which continued for 36 hours.”

** The Seven Golden Patterns are in the ‘Talk of the Skies’ chapter. It’s the part of the book where I explain the broad quick signs that help explain and foretell the weather. The golden patterns are all simple and this is no exception:

“The more different cloud types you can spot, the worse the forecast.”

Thank you Sophia for your kind words, your beautiful painting and permission to share it here.


You might also enjoy:

When Clouds Appear Like Rocks and Towers

What are Crepuscular Rays?

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