Llwyn Celyn Walk and Visit

October 30, 2017



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In late September 2017 I did a circular walk to get a different view of Llwyn Celyn from above.  I walked eastwards – over the Honddu river, past Strawberry Cottage, through Strawberry Hill Wood.  The leaves were beginning to turn golden and the bracken a deep rusty orange. You get a great view from there of the field shapes all the way up to the Gaer hillfort.  What looked like bundles of hay were gathered in the Orchard field by the house, in the shadow of the giant conifer. The drawing will form part of my ‘map’ piece, with a description of the walk.



Llwyn Celyn is beginning to look amazing with the new plasterwork and newly crafted windows being fitted. I made a site visit on October 26th. I love the detail of some of the latches which have been  used from the original windows, in the form of a fist:


There have been two exciting new discoveries at Llwyn Celyn recently. One is that the oldest part of the building dates back even further than previously thought, probably to the early 1420s (see Landmark Trust blog). The other is the discovery of a medieval archway in the Hall, underneath brickwork and plaster. It was most likely the entrance to a stairway winding up to the first floor, though no evidence of the top of the stairs has been found so far.





Llwyn Celyn Visit 25th May 2017

May 26, 2017

It’s Volunteer Week at Llwyn Celyn – students and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are busy with activities such as re-ponting walls of the outhouses, dry-stone walling and carpentry, using traditional tools and materials.  In the searing temperatures, the atmosphere there today was very relaxed and congenial.



The tarpaulin has been removed to reveal the main building in its re-pointed and limewashed splendour


Re-pointing the South Barn

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Removing old beams from the Beast House, swallows everywhere



Inside the house,  I took a rubbing from the material called wood wall, made from layers of recycled thin slices of wood, which acts as insulation, sound-proofing and allows for air circulation, like the old wattle and  daub. Amazing stuff. I like the pattern of it, and the round rivets which pin it in place. One to add to the big drawing no.2.

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Pattern from the new plaster walls


A different type of woven wood panel with larger pieces. A rubbing with chalk onto black tissue paper


The colours of traces of old paper and plaster on the bedroom wall upstairs


Still Life with Digger

Excavating the west wall behind the Solar Range part of the house

Llwyn Celyn Visit 22nd Feb 2017

March 3, 2017

Things have moved on considerably inside the house since I last visited a couple of months ago. The beautiful arched roof support beams are being replaced where needed, and new windows are being made, all with locally sourced materials wherever possible. I was able to sit in a corner and sketch the craftsmen at work. The bats are being encouraged to return to a new home nearby instead of the main building (Has it got WiFi and BT Sport??)


Making a new window in the downstairs area

In the main entrance hallway and in the living room,  layers of old wallpaper and paint are exposed. There is an amazing cobalt blue coming through, and earth pinks and pale ochres. All my colours! I have started using them in my two big drawings, along with some fragments of the wallpaper. I’ve just made some bold marks so far on the drawings, to cover the paper and make it less intimidating, so I have something to work against instead of having to stare at unsullied white paper. My studio wall is covered in sketches, written ideas, maps, rubbings, prints, poems and quotes. Some will be incorporated into the drawings over the next few months as the drawings develop.



Like abstract paintings!

Prompted by a suggestion from Rebecca Spooner from the Peak project at Arts Alive  to make use of materials on site to draw with, I picked up some fragments of the purple stone roof tiles and some white limestone and have been experimenting with grinding them into dust and making  pigments. I added gum arabic and water, resulting in a rough sandpapery ‘ ink’ in off-white and pale sepia colours. I’ll try it with other materials I find next visit.



Detail of Drawing 1 with tile pigment


Detail of drawing 1 with blue of the wall and some wallpaper fragments


Detail of Drawing 1 – A field named Meadow by House in the 19th century tithe maps


Detail of Drawing 2 with rubbings of old machinery from the site, the cobalt blue and pale ochres and pinks


Detail of Drawing 1 with rubbing from signpost, part of the River Honddu and quote from poem by Brian Aspden




Welsh Landscape – Tirlun Cymru

July 22, 2016

To co-inside with the Eisteddfod taking place in Abergavenny this year, I am showing a group of work at the Artshop and Chapel Gallery, Cross Street, Abergavenny, with three other artists: Dan Llywelyn Hall, Sarah Thwaites and Kumar Saraff. I’m showing large paintings, prints and drawings of the Black Mountains. It starts on 26th July and runs until 20th August.IMGP1530

From the Blorenge, charcoal on paper, 59x41cm




Llwyn Celyn Update May-July 2016

July 22, 2016



New scaffolding was put up in April/May and the site is now going through the next phase where building work is beginning and suddenly the place is busy with the transformation. I will use the colours and shape of this bit of tin roof from the back extension of the main building.


The back of the main house


The Cowshed with impressive cracks and corrugated iron sheets in front


Llwyn Celyn from Bryn Arw

On 14th July, the other Artists in Residence and I gave a presentation to members of the Arts Alive Creative Network and a representative from the Llanthony Valley history group. With sculpture, soundscape, film-making,photography, printmaking and drawing, we each have a different take on the subject using diverse media. It’s exciting to see all the work unfold.  I showed my sketches to date and talked about my plans for my large drawings which I will start in September. Three main themes are taking shape. The first is the idea of maps. I want to use my drawings from above and take elements from old maps I’ve researched to indicate the changes of agricultural use,  field names, pathways, and to devise my own map which would include quotes from writers and poets, illustrating some of the flora and fauna.

In the second drawing I want to make prints, or one big print, with monotypes, gum-arabic transfers, rubbings etc. of some of the found objects on the site such as bits of old farm machinery with the names of the makers, tools and kitchen items.

The third drawing will be about the occupants of the house – a kind of time-line including memories of the place from people I have met, with a drawing of the house from my sketches.

This is the plan at the time of writing – all subject to change!

IMGP1534 One of the Artists in Residence, Toril Brancher, trying out Stefan Caddick’s prototype sound-sculpture

Portfolio Year 4 Students Workshop at Llwyn Celyn 20th July 2016


A scorching day !

I was one of the participating artists in this workshop along with sculptor Matt Caines. It was part of a week-long project devised by artist Morag Colquahoun funded by Powis Council and Arts Council Wales. The aim is to give a group of 15-19 year-olds from local schools  who have an interest in pursuing a career in the arts some extra insights into art practice, including a visit to studios and to a public art gallery. For our day they were ‘Artists in Residence for a day’. With Matt they produced imaginative sculpture out of found objects from the site. With me they sketched from the buildings and fields, jotting down their ideas and colour notes. They produced paintings on discarded fragments of roof-tile, wood and other flat objects, leaving some of the interesting patinas of the surfaces to work with their paintings. The lovely enthusiastic group produced some inspiring work which will go on display when the Beasthouse is ready to be a permanent exhibition site. The artworks will adorn a specially commissioned Welsh dresser made by a local craftsman using some materials employed for the renovation of the house.













Llwyn Celyn Visit 18th March 2016

April 4, 2016

A still, grey day, cold that reaches the bones.  I sketched from the outside of the Beast House,  attracted to the dark interiors with small shapes of light from slits in the walls. Doors are hanging at strange angles and there are bits and pieces left in the space such as a wheelbarrow or corrugated iron sheeting blown and bent.  The metal roof has weathered and corroded into bright orange, earthy reds, light grey and yellow-green. I will use those colours in a large drawing –  on fragments of map, perhaps.









Llwyn Celyn Visit 11.11.15

November 18, 2015


From the south looking up to the farmhouse and cowshed to the left. Ferocious wind causes the torn and taut plastic sheeting to whip and writhe, almost breaking free, making an eerie drumming echo as it smashes against the scaffolding. Corrugated iron rooftops are lifted and then crash down . Fast-moving clouds sometimes stretch thin as lace to allow a few spotlights of sun to highlight the  surrounding mountains. I love the line of the crack in the sheep pen wall (right) and the dayglow orange line of the ladder in the middle.



Later I walk in a north easterly direction, over the beautiful Honddu river, and upwards to get a view of the farm from above.  I stop here, mainly as there is a curious and threatening bull in the next field. But it turns out to be the ideal spot; the farm in the middle, with an interesting shape of deciduous conifers on the side of Bryn Arw.  The weather begins to close in and I just have time to catch the darkening purple/blue of the distant mountain and the deep earth-red bracken on Bryn Arw.



This is an exciting find, discovered during the recent stonewalling and hedging event held at Llwyn Celyn. It is probably (yet to be professionally verified) a quern stone, used for grinding corn, from the Neolithic age up to Roman times. It has a lovely smooth bowl shape within the squarish stone. As to the metal object found, on the left, so far it remains a mystery!


Llwyn Celyn Residency – Visit 9th September

September 14, 2015

The Landmark Trust, in collaboration with PEAK, an initiative devised by Arts Alive Wales, invited local artists to apply for residencies during the restoration of Llwyn Celyn, a 15th-century farmhouse and outbuildings situated in the Llanthony Valley, near the Black Mountains. I have been chosen as one of the artists, which is very exciting, and I’m looking forward to working there periodically over the next year and a half, as the restoration progresses.  As I’m interested in the layering of landscape history and recording traces and marks, I will be there when archaeologists are present, to see what is unearthed on the site. There’s also traces of ancient farming, which agricultural specialists will investigate. I’ll be attending meetings of a local history group where I’ll be able to talk to experts about the changes in the landscape, access old maps and records and hear memories and recollections of local residents.  I intend to produce a group of large-scale drawings of mixed media which will develop organically over time: things added, taken away, traces left, connections made.  I would also produce at least one large-scale painting alongside the drawings to exhibit on site when the building work is complete.

Our first visit since the residencies were confirmed took place last Wednesday 9th September, where we had a meeting with the other artists and re-acquainted ourselves with the site. Building work will commence in April 2016.  I made some sketches of the surrounding farmland fields with rusting old machinery and the hills behind.


Standing in the far corner of what was an orchard looking towards Skirrid with outhouse and sheep


Looking towards Black Mountains


Looking towards Bryn Arw



September 11, 2015

After recently attending an experimental printmaking weekend at my local arts centre Arts Alive in Crickhowell, I have rekindled my love for monoprinting and drypoint, and learned a new method of printing – collagraph.  I now want to get myself a mini press so I can make it an integral part of my working pratice alongside painting and drawing.  We have a small press on loan to Arts Alive, so I’ve been making use of that and will facilitate some printmaking sessions there during the Autumn term (see Arts Alive website http://artsalivewales.org.uk/wp/events/category/eve).

I have a couple of prints in the Summer Show at the Art Shop Gallery in Abergavenny, alongside a watercolour and small works on canvas until the end of September.


Buteo Buteo  – drypoint and monoprint


Buteo Buteo  Drypoint


Blorenge Walk

March 30, 2015

I am working on a a series of paintings and drawings of stops on the way to and on top of the Blorenge, which is my local mountain. Here are some sketches and work in progress:

On top of the Blorenge - very cold and windy, grey slagheaps, pockets of snow

On top of the Blorenge – very cold and windy, grey slagheaps, pockets of snow

Splashes of light, remains of drystone walls

Splashes of light, remains of drystone walls

Keeper's Pond - the dark pool

Keeper’s Pond – the dark pool

The Farm bordering onto moorland

The Farm bordering onto moorland

Buteo Buteo painting in progress

Buteo Buteo painting in progress