Recently I wrote about the process of painting to commission, using as an example paintings of Skidby Windmill located here in East Yorkshire, and Bardwell Windmill in Suffolk. I was asked to record a client’s memories of enjoyable visits to Bardwell Mill and the events that are held there and was sent a lively and colourful photograph to work from which captivated my imagination. I am delighted that prints from the painting have been able to help their fundraising effort, and I have been glad to hear of the successful completion of the various stages of the restoration.
If you are planning a similar restoration of a historic building, and would like to commission a painting to help with your fundraising efforts, please get in touch by email; art(at)stephaniehatley.co.uk (click)
It was with real pleasure and anticipation that I was finally able to see for myself this characterful windmill in its beautiful setting. As an artist I am aware of how misleading a photograph can sometimes be and there were many details I was anxious to check. Would the scale be as I had imagined, how would the various buildings relate to each other in actuality, would there be foreshortening of the approach or might the brick work perhaps be less rich in colour? It is always a challenge to discover the direction of the light in order to produce a factually accurate painting with light and shade in their proper places and I have many times had recourse to maps to check these details, would I have been correct in my deductions in this particular case? All these are questions the artist considers carefully when creating a painting from a photograph of a place she has not personally visited.
I need not have worried, walking up the lane to the mill was a revelation. The scene unfolded exactly as the photograph suggested, gardens to the left, appealing cottages to the right, workshops beyond, the Mill itself centre stage and utterly captivating. You could search the length and breadth of Britain and not find a more charming example of a windmill undergoing restoration, everywhere there was evidence of the tremendous dedication and sheer hard work that has driven the project forward since the 1970’s when the Mill came into the ownership of the Wheeler Family.
The restoration of Bardwell Mill has not been without major setbacks including serious damage sustained during the great storm of October 1987, but the primary aim of once again milling commercially has never wavered. New sails turn, each part individually sponsored by friends and supporters of the Mill and over the course of the winter each component of a new fantail has been engineered and constructed in the workshop. It is delightful that in the surrounding buildings a shop sells Bardwell’s own flour and delicious bread mixes and a bakery where highly successful bread baking days are held.
I took many photographs during the course of my day at the Mill, any one of which would contain ample material for an atmospheric painting of an attractive windmill in the rural Suffolk countryside, but the true charm of Bardwell is a little different in that, due to the foresight and dedicated hard work of one family through three generations it is a piece of living history in a modern world. My client had originally asked me to produce a painting that could have been at any time in the Mill’s long history and I was strongly conscious of a blurring of past and present standing in the courtyard watching the sails turn.
If you are in the vicinity, perhaps holidaying in the area, do visit, you can’t fail to be charmed by this beautiful landmark and it’s dedicated owner and should you be tempted to buy a bag of flour you will know that in doing so you are continuing a tradition that began when Bardwell Windmill’s sails first began to turn almost 150 years ago.