Eleanor Ludgate has been drawing and painting since the age of three and has always had a particular interest in nature. She was born in Surrey where she grew up in an artistic family. Her grandfather, father, uncles, aunts, cousins and brother all were talented artists and therefore it was only natural that she followed in the family footsteps. Whilst in Surrey Eleanor was fortunate enough to have had the world famous bird artist Basil Ede as a neighbour. He has been described by Prince Phillip as, ‘must rank amongst the world’s great bird artists‘. In the early 1970s Eleanor was introduced by Basil Ede to the Royal Greetings Card Company which in effect began her professional career as an artist. Since then her work has been exhibited widely and many of her paintings hang in private collections around the world.
In 1969 Eleanor moved to Devon where she soon found plenty of inspiration from the varied fauna, flora and landscapes that are to be found in the county. At first her interests lay in depicting the flora of Devon and it did not take long for her works to appear on greetings cards, calendars and book illustrations. In 1987 she launched the ‘Ludgate Studio Card and Publishing Company’ and two years later in 1989 opened the Ludgate Gallery in Sidmouth.
In 1999 Eleanor and her husband decided that after the hectic life of running a busy gallery they had earned a quieter lifestyle and so moved to the French village of Roussillon. Once again the flora and fauna of Provence soon became the subject of her paintings. One year later she opened ‘La Galerie d’Eleanor’ where once again her work was exhibited. But clearly the calling of Devon became too much and in 2008 Eleanor returned to live on Dartmoor. Last year saw the opening of a new gallery called, ‘Ludgate Fine Art’ which is situated in the busy market square of Chagford. It is here that Eleanor’s latest venture called, ‘Devon’s Nature in Art’ can be found which will consist of a permanent exhibitions of her numerous paintings of Devon’s fauna and flora. This exhibition is planned to open this year and further details will be found on her website nearer the time (see link above).
As with many nature lovers Eleanor has become extremely concerned with the rapid decline in many of the butterfly and insect populations. In light of this she has concentrated her recent efforts on building a collection of insect and butterfly paintings. She hopes that this will focus some attention on the drastic losses in many of the natural habitats where these creatures live and which has led to their decline.
When asked how she found her inspiration on Dartmoor, Eleanor replied:
‘Nature is my inspiration therefore I am never at a loss living in such a beautiful place, in fact I usually have so many ideas of what I want to paint my problem is having time enough to put them all down on paper. I am often triggered off by something I have seen on one of my walks wether it be an animal, butterfly, bird, wildflowers or scenery‘.
Probably the hardest question to ask anybody who knows Dartmoor is, ‘where is your favourite spot on the moor?’ To this question Eleanor replied:
‘It is just so difficult choosing just one favourite place. I love the wildflower meadows around Widecombe in the spring, the moors around the Warren House Inn at heather time, the leaning cross at Week Down & walking along the beautiful river Teign. But I suppose one of my favourite spots is the area around Kestor with all the pounds, the magnificent stone rows & the start of the North Teign river at Scorhill.’
And nobody can argue with that, there is certainly something about the Kestor area that makes it special, probably due to the fact that it is an ancient landscape that echoes with the past. One thing that intrigued me was the logo that Eleanor uses for her ‘Devon’s Nature in Art’ enterprise. As can be seen below it depicts the famous tinner’s rabbits of Dartmoor.
© Eleanor Ludgate 2009
But look carefully because there is a lot more to it, firstly each hare is different which, as Eleanor noted, is a lot more difficult to achieve than it looks. Behind the hares are four scenes; Widecombe, Fingle Bridge, Haytor and Week Down cross. which are set on a granite circle along with its various types of lichen. To Eleanor the three hares are a symbol of hope and good luck whilst the granite circle represents the granite of the moor along with the four famous Dartmoor landscapes. Personally I would love a dinner set with this design on it.
There can be nothing more magical than taking an early morning walk beside a Dartmoor river or leat and hearing the tuneful chirping and chattering of a dipper. Immediately you stand still and try to get a glimpse of this shy bird, soon you spot a small white chest bobbing up and down on a nearby rock. If you are lucky the Dartmoor Dipper will allow a brief look but before long the little bird will fly off down the river with a soft whirring of its wings. This is an occurrence that stays in the memory until time gradually fades the image from one’s memory. However, as an example of Eleanor’s exquisite talent take a look at her work entitled, ‘Dipper’ below:
© Eleanor Ludgate 2009
This has captured the very moment when one first spots a dipper who is perched upon a small rock midstream of a river. You can almost hear the ripple of the water flowing past the bird as warms itself in the rays of early morning sunlight. At any moment one expects the dipper to start it characteristic bobbing prior to darting under the water to catch its breakfast. This is but one example of how the artist can make the subject come to life, many more can be seen on her website.
But Eleanor’s talents do not stop at fauna and flora, no not by a long chalk. Dartmoor is an ancient landscape where over the millennia the weather, nature and man has shaped everything within it. Below is a magnificent work entitled, ‘Gateway to the Moor’ which portrays how exactly these things can encompass the spirit of the moor.
© Eleanor Ludgate 2009
The twisted tree reminds us of the ability of nature to fashion in unorthodox ways the normal into the strangely artistic. The old granite wall with its time weary gateposts reminds one of man’s effect on the landscape, it is as if it makes a statement which says, ‘I have tamed the untameable’. But the various colours of the mosses and lichens on the granite seem to be nature saying, ‘yes but I am living and you are long gone’. And do those two pillars not draw ones attention to the weathers’ contribution to the vista. The ice eroded granite mass of Vixen Tor seems to stand sentinel over all as it looks one way onto the far tors and the other towards the green fields and woods of the ‘out country’. Behind the tor the sky warns of a coming rain storm as blue melts into a threatening grey. This is truly a Dartmoor moment captured forever in a painting.
So, if you would like to see more of Eleanor’s works you can visit her website at the link above or even better go and visit the Ludgate Fine Art Gallery in Chagford. Finally my thanks must go to Eleanor for kindly allowing me to publish this page and for the use of her paintings.