Artist profile - MJ Forster

Yorkshire Dales - MJ Forster

Yorkshire Dales - MJ Forster - Credit: Archant

Watercolourist MJ Forster is inspired by the diversity of the Yorkshire landscape, as Justine Brooks reports

MJ Forster at work

MJ Forster at work - Credit: Archant

‘Yorkshire is geographically amazing,’ says watercolour painter MJ Forster, who says he can think of little else that pleases him as much as a day walking in the Yorkshire Dales. ‘I have a particular affection for the western dales, which are remote and dramatic, with similarly dramatic weather conditions.

‘I took my two young daughters up to Swaledale just recently and a previously fine day turned to snow. They weren’t happy.’

But it is this diversity and perhaps the unpredictability that attracts Forster, whose process involves mental distillation of his experiences of the Yorkshire landscape - Dales, Moors and Pennines.

‘Some parts of Yorkshire, particularly the Pennine region, are a wilderness. The Pennines are stunning: there are parts that are empty and remote, despite being only twenty minutes from civilisation and I imagine that there are parts that don’t look much different today to how they looked thousands of years ago,’ he added.

Pennines - MJ Forster

Pennines - MJ Forster - Credit: Archant

Combining broad sweeps of colour and bold washes, Forster creates striking watercolour paintings that are strongly evocative of the landscapes that inspire him. He describes watercolour as ‘the most underrated, misrepresented and misunderstood of all the painting mediums’, yet it is his chosen one. He relishes the immediacy of watercolour, the challenge and the spontaneity it offers, and he has developed his particular watercolour style over many years, refining and developing his technique to create stylised paintings full of depth and vibrant colour.

‘I’ve always tried not to fall back and become comfortable with a way of working,’ he says. ‘This coupled with constant experiments in technique and subject invariably lead to new and often fantastic discoveries. A good day’s work is where incremental improvements suddenly burst into a whole new realm of possibilities I’d never thought of before. It’s the ideas that make me want to paint. When these ideas shift from the three dimensional to the two dimensional plane and become real, that is the moment of greatest satisfaction. Or is that finishing the painting? In truth it’s really all about the next one.’

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The combination of his strong style with the dramatic subject matter he portrays leads to powerful pieces that are collected on a national scale.

MJ Forster’s latest work, which includes his most recent paintings of Yorkshire, is exhibited by Helmsley Galleries at the Feversham Arms Hotel in North Yorkshire from May 9th.