Harford Moor – by James Martin, artist

In the first of our ‘Spirit of the Moor’ series – reflections on what it means to live near, work on and be inspired by Dartmoor – local artist James Martin describes how the landscape of Harford Moor inspires his art.

For as long as I can remember I have had the inclination and urge to draw, paint and experiment with visual art, and I was constantly drawing as a child. 

I work from a purpose built studio at my home in Ivybridge, and also spend time outdoors often on Dartmoor, and especially my local area of Harford Moor, gaining inspiration from the landscape in all kinds of weather.

I’m fascinated and inspired by the ever changing light, colours and atmosphere, and how this sometimes bleak but solid, elemental landscape seems to speak to the spiritual dimension in us.

A track vanishing round the side of a hill. There are more hills in the distance and the sky is dark, with a bit of colour left from a sunset.
‘Puffing Billy track at dusk’ by James Martin

We know the physical appearance, shapes and patterns in the moorland landscape are not just the result of pure wilderness separate from human existence but show the influence and evidence of our activity over countless generations. But the stones, tracks, livestock and moorland vegetation all seem to blend perfectly into fascinating and balanced compositions; endless permutations of colour, tone and shape.

A pastel drawing of a stream flowing over rocks from a forest. To either side of the stream are rocks, grass and bushes.
‘Butterbrook’ by James Martin

Sometimes standing stones or sheep provide just the subtle accent or detail which gives an added meaning against the abstraction of the light and texture of the landscape. Sometimes I find enough fascination just in the clouds and contrasts with the horizon.

Moorland under a grey sky, with a track running across the foreground and a bit hill in the distance.
‘Puffing Billy track, towards Three Barrows’ by James Martin

When walking across the moor or climbing a Tor, or scanning from a high vantage point, there is something that connects and lights up within. And as many people commented and wrote during the lockdowns, the therapeutic side of being outdoors and immersed in nature is important, and a gift our local Harford Moor keeps on giving.

James Martin, March 2021

James Martin’s Facebook page

Paintings reproduced with permission

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