The homeland

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nathan Gambling, who lives in Suffolk County, England, shows off some of his paintings and his dog. Gambling incorporates soil from Suffolk in his paintings.

Artist’s paintings incorporate British soil

If you’re longing for a piece of the old country, it can be yours if you purchase one of Nathan Gambling’s paintings.

The artist from Suffolk County, England, incorporates soil from the county in his abstract paintings. It’s the grown-up version of playing in the dirt, he joked.

“As a young child, I was allowed to make pictures with mud and water,” he said in an email. “This possibly was the beginning of the idea.”


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Gambling started painting when he was a child. When he got older, he lived near Hingham, the village where Abraham Lincoln’s ancestors came from.

He sometimes would place a leaf from Hingham into his paintings and call them “Lincoln leaf,” he said. Then he began mixing soil into his paintings. He found that the paintings were great conversation starters about history.

“I liked the fact that the soil in the paint had engendered a good conversation,” he said.

Gambling uses small amounts of soil and makes it more visible by using layers of transparent mediums.

“I refer to them as windows, as you can see the soil,” he said.

In his Suffolk series paintings, the area of the square with the soil compared to the area of the full painting corresponds to the area of Suffolk and the British Isles. He mostly paints in blues and reds.

“Blue is synonymous with Suffolk because of its association to the county town’s sporting colors,” he wrote. “Also, however, we are famous for our expansive skies. It is also the most eastern county of the British Isles and sees a sunrise first, hence the oranges and reds I use.”

Gambling said it is especially meaningful to incorporate soil into paintings.

“Soil is essential to life,” he said. “No life would exist without it. It’s a physical reminder of ancestral or historic lands.”

Gambling has had an interest in America from his school days, which was heightened when he discovered he had been christened on July 4.

He later worked on an American airbase and listened to American co-workers tell stories of their Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh ancestries.

“People feel attached to ancestry and history,” he said. “And the history behind some of the place names in America with their origins from the British Isles is fascinating.”

To see his website and view his paintings, visit