Painting dunes: art inspired by Studland

By Nina Squire

I grew up in North Devon so the dunes have been part of my life for many years. Firstly with Braunton Burrows and then Woolacombe, both magical places. My childhood summers are memories around picnics in the dunes and long balmy evenings watching the sun go down with friends. The hillocks of dunes topped with marram grass are evocative of Devon, they are so much a part of the character of the coastline we all love.

I’m well known for my animal portraits and I started 25 years ago, a hobby that led into job, one portrait leading to another and from that, people who wanted to learn to create their own. I love animals and I have found that people have a dog or horse in their life are usually my sort of people, walkers and lovers of the countryside. Before Lockdown, I ran Art Workshops, a popular series of workshops in a gorgeous village Hall with a lovely pub over the road. I now know they were the best of days, so easy and relaxed, creative days with fabulous food just a few minutes walk away.

4 nina

My days off are beach days, boat days or a muddy walk and I have often visited Studland, by sea and on foot. Lockdown meant I could not do either, my workshops stopped and my coastal days too. I was determined to continue to provide art workshops for my students, so we explored all sorts of online platforms and I started to create a series of time lapse demos for them to enjoy and inspire them. My own inspiration in those early days was to revisit old holiday photos, ‘view’s I’d like to be in’, like a ‘holiday from home’. I hoped that it would inspire my students alongside providing me with an escape from my own easel. Creating a view is similar to visiting a view, through the process of creating it, I am reminded of blissful days. It was a sanctuary, a break from the media and what was happening around us.

5 nina
3 nina

With lockdown upon us, it’s no surprise to me that I was drawn to create artwork around the dunes. The Studland Bay National Trust (@Studlandbay_NT) Instagram posted a photo, which said, 'I know, you'd like to paint my picture’. It was a simple view, sea through the dunes and I thought it would make a gorgeous pastel and gave me an opportunity to show how some simple tricks and tips can help you create a view. We’ve inspired each other and I hope we will create some images from life very soon.

Learn to paint your own dunescape with Nina's tutorial

I’d love to inspire people to create their own dunescape, it’s the most rewarding of views for a beginner, there’s no right or wrong, you can add tufts of grass where you fancy. My tips would be, to take your time drawing out the plan of the view and then to pick your colours ahead of creating it, like a recipe, you need to know you have the right ingredients. I hold the colours against the colour I’m trying to create, that way I can tell if I need to blend two together or lighten one with white.

Being an artist, I’m fascinated by details, the little things and so learning more about the dunes through your work has helped inspire more work, most recently the trees that are part of the character of the landscape and then noticing the wildlife around the heathland, butterflies and moths are my latest interest. I’m just in the process of creating some artwork around these beautiful creatures.

Find out more about our Dynamic Dunescapes in Studland, on the Dorset coast.

About the Author

Nina Squire

I have a travelling studio – an easel, set of pastels and a flask of coffee and I’m happy. I’ll draw in an open field or warm cosy studio but prefer the bustle of people and the conversations they bring.  I’ve enjoyed working at local events with my work displayed and working on a recent commission whilst people potter and chat. I’m pictured here at The New Forest Show, I was invited to draw in the show ground during the show. I’m well known for portraits of people’s pets but for me, it’s all about capturing a personality, creating something that looks real. With everything I paint I want the viewer to feel they can walk in or my subject is just about to jump out!