Exmoor’s art trail

PUBLISHED: 13:39 05 September 2016 | UPDATED: 13:39 05 September 2016

Colours of the Valley by Helen Purrington

Colours of the Valley by Helen Purrington


It is a truth universally acknowledged that an artist is inspired by their surrondings - so it’s no surprise that Exmoor is so rich in creative talent

The concept of the treasure hunt has been put to amazing use in Devon’s art world with trails and open studio maps leading the art lover to an Aladdin’s cave of creatives. But if these events have a down side it is that they are all too often fleeting - offering a once a year opportunity to race around as many venues as possible in a short space of time. This means the Exmoor Arts Trail is a tiny bit different. Spread across a growing number of venues, from restaurants and hotels to the stone sea shelter on the seafront of Lynmouth, the Exmoor Arts Trail has become a permanent fixture in Devon’s blossoming art world.

Stretching from Croyde and Ilfracombe in the west to Watchet and Wiveliscombe in the east to South Molton in the south, the trail includes more than 40 permanent venues – featuring a changing exhibition of works by a huge range of artists including established photographers, professional painters and sculptors to jewellery makers and crafts.

Nutscale - Oils on Canvas by Melody HawtinNutscale - Oils on Canvas by Melody Hawtin

The idea for the trail came from Debbie Brannen – who came from the hospitality industry and discovered a love for art and who wanted to create permanent fixtures for engaging with the arts within the uniquely beautiful landscape of Exmoor. It began, she says, as a form of therapy – as all art should be.

“I have suffered from depression for approximately 20 years,” she tells me. “Starting Exmoor Arts was my way back into work as for me art is my ‘therapy’ and I wanted to help others who were in a similar situation.”

Exmoor Hedge by Derek G. SpencerExmoor Hedge by Derek G. Spencer

Exmoor Arts was founded in October 2013 to bring together like-minded people to pursue opportunities to showcase their work at exhibitions, art fairs, galleries and online.

“The first few members were in a similar situation,” she says. But today it has grown to become one of Devon’s biggest art groups with more than 20 members from all different backgrounds and through the trail there is a growing range of venues from hotels and galleries to shops and even a beach hut showing the work of members.

Valley Of The Rocks II by Derek G. SpencerValley Of The Rocks II by Derek G. Spencer

Work can be anything from a few pounds for a print up to £5,000 for original work by trained and self-taught artists, photographers, sculptors and artisans of all ages showing their work.

Debbie’s own work varies from monotone pointillism - the art of creating pictures from a series of dots and specialising in dog portraits - to making wire-wrapped jewellery from the sea glass washed ashore on the beaches which fringe the northern edge of Exmoor with fellow Exmoor Arts member Helen Purrington. They also use beads and semi-precious stones in their work. Other members include wood-turner Bryan Cath who creates intricate three-dimensional pieces and Helen Purrington, who has exhibited her work throughout North Devon. Trained in graphic design, she creates life studies, landscapes and animals. Other works to look out for include the gloriously textural abstract photography of Nick Simpson and the rather more-ish Moorland Felts which creates needle-felted animals that are inspired by Exmoor’s lovely wildlife such as the iconic red deer stag and Exmoor pony. No holiday will be complete without taking one of these lovely creatures home.

Silver Plated Blue Sea Glass Bangle by Treasures Of ExmoorSilver Plated Blue Sea Glass Bangle by Treasures Of Exmoor

“We want people to engage in art while exploring Exmoor,” explains Debbie. “The trail is something I thought about a couple of years ago and it has taken off better than I thought it would. I thought if I got 20 venues I would be happy but we have more than 40. We have members who have got lucky with galleries representing their work, but for those talented people who haven’t this is an opportunity to get work out and for it to be seen. The trail is there to encourage people of all ages to get involved.”

Exmoor Arts has also hired the sea shelter at Lynmouth where artists will be in residence each week until the end of September. This stone building sits near one of the trail’s permament venues Lynmouth Hotel which features a range of work throughout its public rooms. “I feel very strongly that when tourists come to Lynmouth, you might see the same sort of things you can see in other shops in other parts of the country – I think people want something more local, more unique and we can offer that.”

Stag on the Moor by Sharon Plant pointillismStag on the Moor by Sharon Plant pointillism

Artists or establishments can join the trail by contacting exmoorartstrail@gmail.com. To find out more about Exmoor Arts email exmoorarts@gmail.com. exmoorarts.com

Latest from the Devon Life