Nicholas Herbert Artist
Mixed media landscapes
About the work
‘Silent Spaces’ is a series of mixed media landscapes inspired by the chalk uplands, wooded hillsides and secluded valleys of the Chiltern Hills. "I use my physical and emotional experiences of this area to capture within these works the essence of the landscape, its enduring mass, transient atmospherics and ephemeral qualities of light, as well as to express my own meditative thoughts, personal memories and those subconscious responses that I inevitably take from having been there. Integral to these works are ideas of the ancient, the mythic, the residual, permanence versus impermanence, decay and renaissance. Solitude and exposure are intrinsic conceptual strands within many pieces. Creating these landscapes is instinctive and intuitive, a direct, visceral engagement. Through a process of mark-making, sedimentation of material, textural surface layering and modulated monochromes, I seek to interpret the fundamentals of the topography, in particular revealing its underlying, elemental nature:
ancient, primitive, immoveable, timeless, unforgiving. I deliberately use modest materials; a fusion of graphite, pencil, acrylics, gouache, chalk, soft pastel and soluble crayon on paper. My colour palette consists mostly of organic, neutral, desaturated and ‘unpretty’ pigments, which consciously de-romanticise the finished pieces. When I work materials into the paper, the surface sometimes degrades and scuffs, adding to the texture and immediacy of the work. I like the feeling of the unprecious and the worn. There is an almost casual rawness in the fact that the paper has to survive the creative process. Sometimes it doesn't. If it does, then, like the landscape, it carries a little of the physical history of its making within itself. I hope these predominantly small, intimate and self-contained landscape compositions invite contemplation and reward prolonged examination and deeper engagement."
Nicholas Herbert  Mixed Media Landscape L891 Near Bison Hill, The Chiltern Hills
Landscape L891 Near Bison Hill, The Chiltern Hills. 2015 18 x 13cm. Mixed media on white paper.
Exhibition Catalogue, 'Silent Spaces' 2016. Solo Show at Alan Kluckow Fine Art
About the artist
Nicholas Herbert (b.1955) is a mixed media artist and designer currently living and working in St Albans, England. From 1974-1978, He studied at the Central School of Art & Design, London, and at the Bath Academy of Art & Design, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in visual communication. During his professional career he has worked across a variety of creative and artistic disciplines, leading to valuable cross-fertilisation and interaction from one area of artistic activity to another. In 1995, he moved to the southern Lakes to pursue an exclusively fine art practice. During this time he made both large-scale paintings on canvas and small landscapes, showing at many galleries in the North of England and participating in a number of Opens. These included the University Gallery Newcastle upon Tyne, Middlesbrough Municipal Art Gallery, Castlegate House Gallery, the Coach House Gallery at Brantwood House and the Lyth Gallery.

In 1997, he was commissioned to make two series of large works in the Channel Islands. Many of his pieces, including hand-made books of drawings and landscapes, are held in private collections in the UK. Since 2012 he has been developing a new body of work called ’Silent Spaces’. This is a series of small intimate mixed media landscapes on paper primarily informed by his personal experience of the chalk uplands of the Chiltern Hills and combining his interests in the natural landscape, visual mark-making and history.

Nicholas had a solo exhibition of 25 mixed media landscapes at Alan Kluckow Fine Art during April and May 2016 and had a piece 'Landscape L763, The Chiltern Hills' selected for exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy Open 2016. A work from his 2016 series on Lake Garda will be shown at the Royal Society of British Artists 300th Open exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, from March 22nd to April 1st 2017.

The artist Nicholas Herbert photographed by Annie Herbert 2016
Portrait of the artist Nicholas Herbert photographed working near Bison Hill, 2016
Materials
For the current drawing series, I have deliberately chosen a rather pared back range of materials and colours. With this highly edited palette I can achieve all I want to do in terms of mark-making, layering, tonality, texture, coloration and structural delineation. The materials work well together. Combined they have an almost limitless expressive capability. The colours, organic, neutral, subtle, desaturated and un-pretty help to de-romanticise the drawings. I work on Italian-made white 200gm (94Ilb) ecological artist's paper by Fabriano. It is not too white and has a reasonable tooth. When I work materials into the paper, the surface sometimes degrades and scuffs, adding to the texture and immediacy of the work. I like the feeling of the unprecious and the worn, of rough edges. There is an almost casual rawness in the fact that the paper has to survive the drawing process.
Here are some of the materials I use. Six artists acrylic paint colours: Davy's Gray, Payne's Gray, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Mixing White and Zinc White. Twelve different greys from the Caran d'Ache Neocolor2 crayon range, ranging from warm earthiness to dark stormy blue-black and steel. These are water soluble and have a special feel on the paper. I also use Permanent White gouache, a Grafstone 6B graphite pencil, plus 9B and 8B lead pencils. I have a few coloured pencils, including a parchment colour, a pale brown that is almost an ochre, a lincoln green and one called green earth, all by Derwent. Then I have some sticks of white chalk and my favourite, an eraser. If I want to scumble over the surface, I use old worn brushes, my finger or anything else that is useful at the time. If I want to seal a layer to preserve it from future workings, then I carefully use a large, soft, flat brush so I don't disturb the surface.
I have had these brushes for 18 years. The large one is worn to a stump. It feels like an old friend.
One of the most essential colours is Davy's Grey. This acrylic paint has translucency and subtlety. I use it to glaze over areas that I wish to gently colour or preserve from subsequent workings.
About the Chiltern Hills
Little more than thirty miles North of London, the landscape of the Chiltern Hills is one of the finest in England. Rolling chalk uplands, densely wooded hills, secluded valleys, dry grasslands, undulating downs and steep escarpments stretch in a northeast to southwest diagonal for forty-seven miles across four English counties: Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The northeasterly boundary lies just to the West of the Hertfordshire town of Hitchin, while the most southwesterly extent is more decisively bounded by the arc of the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, known as the Goring Gap. The northern edge drops down steeply in a classic escarpment slope. This chalk scarp has been sculpted by the action of water long ago and long gone, leaving behind distinctive dry valleys. The plateau behind declines gently to the South. In total, the Chilterns cover three hundred and twenty-two square miles. The highest point is 876 feet above sea level at Haddington Hill. The oldest rocks in the Chilterns and surrounding areas were deposited as marine sediments about one hundred million years ago; the youngest about two million. Subsequent tectonic forces tilted these deposits and brought them to the surface, where weathering and erosion, mostly by glacial meltwater during the Ice Age, has resulted in today’s soft, hilly terrain. Ivinghoe Beacon shows where the approximate southern edge of the ice sheet of the last glacial period would have reached. The relatively hard chalk deposits, being more resistant to erosion, eventually formed the elevated ridges and uplands. A characteristic feature found in the Chiltern Hills is the presence of chalk streams; important habitats for wildlife and some of our most rarely seen flora. Found only in northwestern Europe, more than three-quarters of these unique habitats are found in England. Their future preservation is an important conservation project. Ancient beech woods are a predominant part of the ecology of the Chiltern Hills wherever the chalk has been overlayed by softer deposits of clay. Here one finds the most extensive area of native beech woodland in England. In spring the woodland floors are covered by a continuous carpet of bluebells, a slow process of expansion that takes hundreds of years and a tell-tale sign of a woodland’s age. Beech woods are quite often interspersed with other species of tree, with ash, white beam, cherry and oak. A network of sunken lanes are found throughout the plateau and along the valley bottoms. Known locally as ‘hollow ways’, These hidden lanes give the Chiltern Hills its sense of place; sheltered, veiled, protected and secluded. On the exposed escarpments, remnants of open chalk downland support scrub, grassland and rough pasture, rich in calcareous plants such as horseshoe vetch, purple milk vetch, field fleawort, pasque flower and fly orchid.
The land encompassed by the Chiltern Hills has been settled and worked since prehistoric times. Humanity has played an important role in the evolution of this ancient landscape from the Neolithic onwards. The area is rich in archaeological sites. Mesolithic camps, Iron Age forts, Early Bronze Age barrows and field systems, Later Bronze Age hill forts, various pits, quarries, tumuli, earthworks, ditches and sarsens all bear witness to the earliest settlers and their societies. Residual traces of the past are to be found everywhere. Prehistoric, Roman, Medieval and Post Medieval sites have been documented throughout the Chiltern Hills. The earliest evidence of human activity comes from Caddington, where extensive flint working sites have been discovered dating from the early Palaeolithic (125,00 - 70,000 BC). Upon the escarpment ridges, travellers have walked the network of braided footpaths and greenways that run along them for more than five millennia. Initially, these exposed high-level tracks would have been informal and ill-defined, with many subsidiary paths diverging and coming together. Their precise routes varied, dependant on the season and weather conditions. They link numerous archaeological sites and settlements. The Enclosure Acts of 1750 meant that these ancient ways finally became more permanent and eventually, their routes constricted, better defined. One of the most mythic of all trackways, the Ridgeway, begins on Ivinghoe Beacon, seven hundred and fifty-seven feet above sea level. From the summit of the Beacon, the Ridgeway passes westwards along the Chiltern Hills and then traverses the North Wessex Downs before finally ending ninety miles away at Avebury and Overton Hill in Wiltshire. Eastwards from the Beacon, the Ridgeway connects with another well known long distance path, the Icknield Way, that runs deep into East Anglia via Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk. Archaeological evidence from the Iron Age (750 BC - 43 AD) confirms its growing importance as a line of communication. In 1973 the Ridgeway became a designated National Trail and is a public right of way. Modern archaeological theory suggests that as the majority of early settlements were in the river valleys, the rivers themselves would also have provided our ancestors with natural routes through the landscape between settlements, but the escarpment paths would have offered several advantages to travellers making journeys over longer distances. On the 16th December 1965, just over 300 square miles of the Chiltern Hills were designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), preserving by law its distinctive landscape and biodiversity for future generations.
Schematic diagram of the Chiltern Hills showing the East to West extent.
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