England in Watercolours

British landscape artist likes Milton
but her heart remains in England

By Barbara Fluegeman
Staff Writer

MILTON, Ky. – There are many beautiful places to visit throughout the world, and those fortunate enough to spend their leisure time traveling have found several different ways to preserve the memory of their visits.

Veronica Foster

Photo by Don Ward

Veronica Foster of Milton, Ky.,
poses with her model of an English
country cottage. The window boxes
and border flowers accurately depict
the Brit's love of gardening. English ivy
lends a finishing touch as it climbs
the chimneytop.

Some take photographs, some paint the scenery and some even take the time to learn about the architecture indigenous to an area in the hopes of someday building models of their favorite structures. And some do all three.
Multi-talented Veronica Foster of Milton, Ky., is one of the latter. And although she and her husband, Emberson, live in a beautiful river valley, Foster exclusively paints watercolors of her native Great Britain.
"I tried to paint things around here," Foster says with a laugh. "And people have asked me why I don't do more locally. But I always felt that what is in your heart is reflected in many aspects of whatever you are painting – the light, and things like that. My heart belongs to England."
And, indeed, her paintings, which preserve the scenery of many different parts of her native land, speak strongly of her sense of place. Subject matter, which ranges from a thatched-roof cottage in the village of Thornton Dale and a Medieval church in Biddenden Kent to pastoral scenes and village life, has generated from several trips the couple has taken over the last several years.
One lucky find that served as her greatest inspiration occurred about three years ago when she located a book by P.H. Ditchfield and illustrated by A.R. Quintan, a landscape artist. The pair had teamed up to travel the country early in the 20th century in order to preserve, through narrative and art, some of the highlights of the island nation.
Foster bought the book, and she and Emberson forthwith set out on an adventure: They decided to see if they could locate the scenes that Quintan had painted so that she could attempt to paint them as they now appear, nearly eight decades after the book was first published.
"We didn't hit the high road but instead took the little hidden lanes," Foster explained. "We followed their steps and stood where they stood and saw what they saw. We only missed two sites that had appeared in the original edition, and that was because they had been destroyed."
Highlights of their trips include locating a swannery where the marsh reeds used for thatching grow, and viewing enormous chalk drawings that are believed to date back to Roman times. These are line drawings cut into the underlying chalk on the hillsides and are so huge that they must be seen from several miles away in order to be properly viewed.

Veronica Foster Painting

Photo provided

An ancient tree shades
a farm gate, the work
of British landscape
artist Veronica Foster
of Milton, Ky.

In addition, jousting posts, called quintains, used by knights to demonstrate their skill, are still standing in many parts of the country.
Much of the long history of Great Britain appears in her paintings, including walls built during the Roman occupation, Stratford-on-Avon (William Shakespeare's birthplace), and even the inlet to the harbor near Tintagel where King Arthur's castle is said to have stood.
Some of the villages she has painted date back thousands of years and are still in existence, as are some of their traditions. Foster explains that the town blacksmith was the recognized head of each village, and that his duties included settling disputes between villages. Each village had its own dialect and market, and trade was carried out between several villages networking together to ensure everyone's survival.
"We met one lady who showed us a photograph of a man walking in front of a cart, transporting people from one village to the next," Foster recalled. "She told us that her father had made his living doing that."
She also constructs models of the various types of dwellings that dot the English countryside, and can even explain the many regional differences of Tudor homes, as denoted by their framing patterns. These patterns serve as the dominant and readily recognizable decorative motif of that architectural style.
Foster, who has received no formal art training, has been painting for about seven years. She complements her watercolor work with directional drawings, which require the artist to execute all the lines in the work in one direction only, be that vertically, horizontally or diagonally. She also dabbles in scratch-board art, done on black paper with a fountain pen dipped in white ink. The resulting work resembles a negative of a pen-and-ink drawing, and allows for absolutely no mistakes by the artist.
Her work has been featured in at least two art shows in Madison, one at the now-defunct Main Street Gallery, and one at Serendipity on Mulberry Street.
"What attracts people to her work is the British scenery, which takes to watercolors well," says Susan Cole-Janes, co-owner of Serendipity. "It's soft. What most people think of, when they think of Britain, is the rain."
Foster's work is indeed evocative of rainwater softness.
Dr. Lloyd Holm of the Madison Clinic agreed. "There is a softness in her work that is very pleasing to the eye," he said. "My wife and I went over to their home one spring day and saw one that we loved of a rural country home. We bought it and have always displayed it. "

• Foster rarely displays her work at shows, however, preferring to rely on word-of-mouth and repeat customers to sell her work, all of which is available for less than $100.

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