Scottish Artist finds a Derbyshire Welcome at Blackbrook, and space to work on 7ft Peregrine Falcon painting during Lockdown

Scottish Artist finds a Derbyshire Welcome at Blackbrook, and space to work on 7ft Peregrine Falcon painting during Lockdown

Scottish Artist John McDonald, the Butterfly Cry Artist, usually lives on his narrowboat moored in Derbyshire.  At the start of lockdown however, he was living and working in Andover, Hampshire, with over 30 local people, as Unlimited CAS: AIR Themes of Life artist in residence.

The artist had just started a huge 7ft square painting of a peregrine falcon, in the beautiful Chapel Arts Studios in Andover Cemetery.  John chose this subject due to the link he felt between the peregrines nesting at St Mary’s church Andover, and those he knows best, which nest at Derby Cathedral.

Both as a metaphor of spiritual flight, and freedom, and as a celebration of ecology, the painting was to be part of a passionate and ambitious exhibition due to open 11th April.

On 23rd March 2020 the UK government announced a full lockdown, and the artist drove home up a near empty motorway, with his over-sized canvas in 2 parts in the back of his van, along with a 6ft canvas still blank, for a full length portrait John was planning.

The trouble was that Banks Mill Studios in Derby, where John usually paints, was also locked down, and the artist had nowhere to work.  His narrowboat is not much over 6ft wide and 6ft high; the canvases would not even fit through the door.

Support came from Derbyshire Art lovers Vic and Jules Hyland, whose campsite near Turnditch, Blackbrook Lodge, features an intriguing trail of outdoor sculpture, from a wicker doe, to a life-sized carved wood crocodile that floats around one of the ponds.

On hearing of John’s predicament the Hylands immediately offered the artist a place to work, a temporary studio space, in a separate building with its own entrance for safety and social distancing.

The impact of lockdown isolation on John had reminded him of the isolation he experienced when he first lost his hearing 20 years ago, and being unable to continue his work as an artist was also taking its toll.

Since being invited to paint at Blackbrook in May the energy and passion, and sense of connection, have come back stronger.  The site reopened on 4th July, with covid-secure measures, and visitors from all over the UK are enjoying the unusual spectacle of the artist working on his huge falcon, with his customary tiny brushes.

John is so grateful for the warm Derbyshire hospitality from Vic and Jules, and the chance to finish his peregrine painting, titled Andover’s Angel, in time to return south for his Exhibition in September.

To see more of the artist’s work look up Butterfly Cry Artist on Facebook, or get in touch with John, who is always happy to meet and talk about art, and a great inspiration to those taking their first creative steps.


Facebook htttps://               Butterfly Cry Artist

Blackbrook Lodge Caravanning, Camping & Glamping site welcomes not only artists, but tourers, tents, seasonals, and you can even go just for a day’s fishing.

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