William Morris: Chaos & Colour

 
William Morris by Sir Emery Walker, 19 January 1889 © National Portrait Gallery, London

William Morris by Sir Emery Walker, 19 January 1889 © National Portrait Gallery, London

I only have a couple of months left to run before my forestry project comes to a close, so I thought I’d share a few insights into the creative process behind my final illustrated poem, which I’ll be submitting in early autumn. The poem will be accompanied by panel illustrations, painted in my favourite style similar to this one currently for sale in my Etsy shop. The inspiration behind this style of painting comes from the chaotic nature of the natural world - where everything appears to be in disorder whilst still following the same eternal rhythms, patterns and cycles. This, for me, captures the essence and raw beauty of nature - something uncontrollable but at the same time, a world that we all belong to, whether we realise it or not. Often, the more we try and deny our natural rhythms and instincts, the more unhappy and discorded we become. For this reason, the original title of the pitch I submitted was ‘The Tangled Web’.

As an artist, one of my greatest inspirations is the 19th century textile designer and poet William Morris. His life was a busy and passionate one, being a major contributor to the British Arts and Craft movement that fought for traditional craftsmanship in the face of the industrial revolution. Following on from Ruskin’s philosophies before him, Morris was passionate about both designing and manufacturing his creations, arguing that ‘without dignified, creative human occupation people become disconnected from life’. He was also intent on protecting the natural world from the ravages of pollution and industrialism, which has caused some environmental historians to regard him as a forerunner of the modern environmental movement.

Today, William Morris is best known for his nature-inspired wallpaper designs, and it is these that have directly inspired my own modern interpretations of the chaos of nature. His designs are bursting with life and colour, each leaf and flower entwined and infused together to replicate the tangled nature of the outside world. When nature was his subject, he chose to paint in the field, from real life, a fact that becomes obvious when you see the intricate detail of his work. He believed in bringing nature into the home in its simplest form.

It’s not only Morris’ visual creativity that I’m drawn to, but his passion for nature and his resistance to ‘progress’ at the cost of life on earth, whether this be natural degradation or a simple loss of human craft and skill. Over a century after his death, his voice has become more important than ever in the fight to protect the natural world and resist the blind consumerism that is leading to our own extinction and that of the other species with whom we share our planet.

‘Sweet Briar’, William Morris

‘Sweet Briar’, William Morris

‘Willow Boughs’, William Morris

‘Willow Boughs’, William Morris