IT’S A good question: which village in West Dorset has the highest concentration of artists?
I would have guessed Nettlecombe, or perhaps Symondsbury, or even Chideock; there is much more to Chideock than speed cameras, traffic fumes, and signs outside The Clock House advertising its “ugly landlord”.
But then, lo, over the hills comes another contender: Cattistock.
Or Tate Cattistock, as the cartoonist Merrily Harpur suggests it should be dubbed.
Merrily is one of the five Cattistock artists who’ll be taking part this year in Dorset Arts Weeks (29 May to 13 June), but they are also holding a special preview event – with wine – on Friday 28 May from 6.30pm – 8.30pm.
And yes, if you’re reading this, you are invited.
So why Cattistock?
Merrily Harpur was brought up in Surrey, but says “when I saw Cattistock I realised I’d been trying to get here all my life!”
She paints, although she has no separate studio: “I paint and hang my oil paintings all over the house, and the framing I do in the kitchen.”
I’ll let Merrily describe her Cattistock compatriots; I like her fragrant turn of phrase…
“Vanessa Bowman and Nicola Butler are West Dorset natives who have chosen Cattistock as the ideal spot to live and work, while Virginia Day, who was born in Surrey, arrived there after a lifetime of travelling around Europe and America.
Liz Somerville is from remotest North East Dorset, but settled in the village square in 2004, with her studio – a converted cowshed – next door.”
All paint, print, draw and sculpt in different ways and their studios are equally varied.
“You take a walk down a garden path to Vanessa’s spacious and cosy shed, full of her subtle and delicious oil paintings of interiors and landscapes; while Liz’s cow byre – now utterly fragrant – is full of far-reaching views of the countryside and architecture around her, depicted in coloured linocuts and inks.
“Nicola is famed for her award-winning botanical watercolours. She shows in London galleries, but you don’t have to go that far to find her small studio at the back of one of the most exquisite cottages on the village square. It looks over her well-ordered garden which resembles the Chelsea Physic Garden where she trained.
“Virginia’s studio and enchanting enclosed garden, a short stroll up the street, have the calm of a Tuscan atelier – where she learned much of her technique as a sculptor as well as in the more hectic bustle of New York.”
More information on the individual artists and their work is available from the DAW brochure and from their websites:
Vanessa Bowman – www.vanessabowman.co.uk
Nicola Butler – www.nicolabutler.co.uk
Virginia Day – www.virginia-day.artparks.co.uk
Merrily Harpur – www.harpur.org
Liz Somerville – www.lizsomerville.co.uk