The Edges Of These Isles

Manchester artists Simon Bray and Tom Musgrove are working on a new side project, 'The Edges Of These Isles', taking weekends out to travel to some of the UK's most picturesque landscapes and capturing them through photography and painting, respectively.

Simon is a freelance photographer in the city, with a number of great side projects as well as managing The Anchor Coffee House (arguably the best coffee on Moss Lane East.)

I taught myself the basics of exposure with a film SLR that I got off eBay.

Simon: "I started taking photographs when I first moved to Manchester as a student, it helped me assimilate. Having lived in the countryside for my whole life it help me understand this exciting and busy city and adjust. I taught myself the basics of exposure with a film SLR that I got off eBay and began to understand what I enjoyed taking pictures of, which is mainly landscapes, but I've also started telling stories through documentary work."

Tom has been an artist from an early age, and now specialises in creating pieces using wax and natural homemade pigments.

Tom: "First thing I remember enjoying at school was going to see the Roman Walls in Chester then doing a really good drawing of a Roman Soldier, then when I discovered aeroplanes they were all I did. I was in a constant state of copying pictures from books, building airfix models or staring into space following some jet stream.

The academic subject 'Art' was the only thing I really focused on and so it was through to the end of my degree in 2006. After that I got a job in retail and the art seemed to dry up. It was only in the September of 2012 at the birth of my son Jody that I made a commitment to pursue my passion for making art again and so that's what I'm doing."

The project

The idea for the project first came about as the guys were doing the UK's three peak challenge.

Tom: "I had just started to make more firgurative pictures about various landscapes and had done some sketches when we did the three peaks together with a couple of mates. It started there really."

Simon: "We went for a coffee one day and we'd both independently decided to focus our artistic efforts on landscape work, so it all suddenly clicked into place."

Tom: "We shared ideas on locations, then decided to let other people suggest locations for us via Facebook. We decided 6 was a good number to target."


Tom: "So far we've done 4 locations, Buttermere/Crummockwater, Lindisfarne, The Brecon Beacons and The Gower Peninsula."

Simon: "We want to visit a couple more locations, probably Scotland and Ireland and then we'll think about publishing it and exhibiting the work, the idea being to present mine and Tom's take of each place side-by-side. "

My own finished pieces are the best I’ve done and they’re really stretching me technically.

Tom: "I'm very pleased with our situation and the work that is coming through. My own finished pieces are the best I've done and they're really stretching me technically as I'm upping the scale of my paintings.ith the amount of work that i'm getting done on location in sketchbooks I have such a rich reservoir to draw from when back in the studio, and that only adds to the challenge of getting the final ones right."

Simon: "It's been really fun so far. For me, there's a lot of anticipation, because we never know quite what we're going to find, especially having never been to most of these places before and with the British weather being what it is! The journeys give us a lot of time to talk and share our ideas, which is really nice, because I don't think either of our wives would put up with our pretentious artistic ramblings."

It’s certainly aiding my perspective and encouraging me to take my time.

"In all seriousness, those conversations really help us understand not only each other others approach, but also refine our own approach to each location and how we will capture it through our separate mediums. I'm certainly learning a lot from Tom, even the amount of time he will take in each spot to understand a place and also what he sees, something as simple as a ridge, reflection, a group of trees, where as I'm used to searching for light and seeing the whole scene, so it's certainly aiding my perspective and encouraging me to take my time. We also get to listen to lots of avant grade instrumental music, visit pubs and eat fish and chips, which is all very fun!"

I think we’re all creative beings that need to express ourselves.

Simon: "I've been extremely fortunate in my life to be able to explore lots of creative options and land on photography as something that allows me to celebrate nature and people and express myself. I think that the mindset of the artist is often to get into a place of comparison and ask whether someone else's work is better, but actually we've all got something to offer and my work is simply a means of self expression through imagery.

We’ve all got something to offer.

It's up to the individual to then decide how that work is formulated as projects, personal work, commercial work, how they're going to use their God given creative abilities in a pure form of art, or whether they want to create for other people. I like to think that some of my other documentary work helps participants and viewers in various ways and actually the landscape work I do could purely be for my own enjoyment, the fact that it allows me to celebrate some of the amazing places in the UK and share those places with people who enjoy engaging with the images and seeing a place maybe for the first time or represented in a new way is a real bonus!"

Tom: "I'm driven by my imagination & senses I guess. I just have to respond. I have to make something in response. I used to think I could reach God through art, or something, but as I've grown up and matured I've changed my mind - I don't need to do art or work to reach God.

Like most people, I’m just curious.

I see/feel something, imagine it, imagine understanding it, then through drawing/painting/sculpting I try to understand it further by bringing it into the world as a thing. A real existing thing. So really what drives me is a desire to know what's going on inside of me, so my external senses can experience my thoughts."

To find out more about The Edges of These Isles, check out their website. And we'll be looking forward to seeing the published work next year!

Jonathan Ogden

Creative director at Set Sail, lead singer in Rivers & Robots.