It’s big, it’s bold and it’s been running for 35 years.

It’s the Oxfordshire Artweeks festival which springs into life this weekend.

Oxfordshire artists are proud to have started the modern trend for art trails in the UK, and over three weeks this month they entertain thousands of visitors with amazing art in wonderful places.

What is it about the concept of an open studio, when an artist’s private space is open to the public and in which you can meet the artist, explore the creative process, and see the art produced, that makes it so special and worthy of visiting? Why, 40 years after her death, does the St Ives studio, home and garden of Barbara Hepworth draw nearly 50,000 visitors a year?

The artist’s studio is the equivalent of that much fabled writer’s garret, a prized and mythical space that can be a place of quiet meditation or a hive of industry and energy. It is where great ideas and private reflection, the real and the imagined are captured on canvas or in a design; where thought and talent, and often much meticulous activity, bring forth the marvellous, the unique or the unexpected. It is a privilege to be allowed in, to have a chance to see the tools and materials laid out, to see and understand the way an individual artist works, and maybe take the chance to have a go yourself.

The focus of the first week of the festival is Oxford itself, with 200 studios and pop-up exhibitions around the city – and there will be some surprising finds.

Pop into any library, information centre or Blackwell’s Art shop for your festival guide, which you’ll find alongside abstract paintings and sculpture by Garford sculptor Beatrice Hoffman, who has been carving the perfect man for 25 years, or so she tells me, laughing.

With so much on show, it can be hard to know where to start. For working studios, head to Edith Road Workshops which overlook Hinksey Park. They started life in 1893 as punt builders’ workshops, using the stream that runs behind it to reach the River Thames, and now house airy studios in which you can meet a photographer, two jewellers, and several painters, and see their creations.

Over at The North Wall, in Summertown, is a retrospective exhibition of sculpture by the late Hugo Powell, who died in 2014, aged 94. The exhibition brings together work from his n n career for the first time, from early abstractions in wood, through to the magnificent bronze ‘Dancing Phoenix’ completed two weeks before his death.

“Hugo Powell combined an analytical approach to object making with a real feeling for the poetry of form. His abstract wood sculptures are feats of technical virtuosity, developed across four decades of studio practice. Whilst his earlier carvings are elegant, interlocking structures, transferred ingeniously from plan to block, his later works are more complex and fluid, with forms that seem to emerge from but ultimately transform the organic material.” says Sophie Raikes, Senior Curator, Henry Moore Institute which has selected Powell’s work has been selected for acquisition by the Henry Moore Institute.

Alongside his sculpture, which explores themes of spirituality, symbolism, nature and form, there are sketches from his time as a field nurse and conscientious objector in the Second World War, maquettes and papers demonstrating his rigorous working practices, and documentary footage of his studio.

The exhibition has been curated by Ruth Powell, who says: "Hugo Powell was married to my grandmother, a printmaker, and lived and worked in Oxford for 45 years. My father Andrew Walton who lives in Littlemore is an artist too, and his portfolio of his paintings of Oxfordshire’s Otmoor, the moorland and the murmurations, have been selected to be on show at Art Jericho throughout Artweeks, accompanied by poetry written to match these accomplished oils on canvas and board and watercolours with a calligraphic element and huge skies.

“The exhibition,” says gallery owner Jenny Blyth, “captures the ever-changing beauty of the moor, as Walton pitches us from daylight to dusk in oils and watercolour, and across moonlit reeds hatched onto paper.

"Walton, is as strong in monochrome as in high colour, articulate in abstraction as in figuration, a truly gifted and inquisitive artist with his heart immersed in landscape.”

With landscapes from Otmoor to Asia, misty mountains and sunlit valleys, there’s a picture to transport everyone to a wonderful place this Artweeks.

For Esther's top Artweeks picks, see today's Limited Edition