This week I am working on a painting of St Ives in Cornwall. I started out drawing onto the bright white of the watercolour paper, and actually began to add colour. Then, I went to make a cup of tea and I came back and realised I didn't like it, so I painted over everything I had done with Paynes Grey and then drew it out again. Much happier with this, working onto that dark background and seeing the coloured layers shimmer and bring the town to life.
I was thinking, that you might be interested to know how I am inspired, what influences my work, from colours to themes...
I love painting the sea, as those of you who have followed this blog or visited my website will know, its one of my favourite subjects and one I like to return to over and over again. I think if our souls have colours, I think mine must be turquoise or aquamarine - I am calmed, soothed and enraptured by all the various hues and I can sit watching the ocean for hours. I like the energy of the sea, I like its moods. I like how one day it can be a still, gentle body of water, shimmering jade green in the sun, and then the next a furious tempered beast, frothy and churning, dark and fearsome.
Most of my paintings seem to invoke the first description, I think this is because I just really like to work with those beautiful blues and greens so much.
I've been lucky to have a couple of visits to the coast recently. Me and my family took off to Northumberland for a couple of days during the last school holidays. I am always in awe of this place; miles of beach, untamed wilderness, unspoilt landscapes....there are islands and lighthouses and many seabirds who call out from the rocky shores...those calls tug on your heart somehow and make you feel wistful and euphoric all at once. I love to immerse myself in this landscape, to soak up the textures and colours, the weather and the energy of the place.
These are a few pictures which I wanted to share with you, little glimpses of things caught my attention.
Strewn seaweed and battered leather shoes...a pale winter sun mirrored on a silver sea....my daughter heading through the seagrasses in the dunes for the beach, she loves the beach as much as I do.
Signs that I liked, and I took pictures because something about them caught my eye, and made me smile.
While we were in Northumberland, we apparently missed the light show of the century! We were all so weary we went off to bed, and missed the Northern Lights which performed for seven hours or so. To say I was devastated to have missed them is an understatement, I have always longed to see them. Some things, it would seem, are not meant to be...
I awoke early that following morning and witnessed the most enchanting sunrise. The sky was the hue of a ripe apricot melting into lavender, and hundreds of crows winged their way across this beautiful backdrop for over half an hour. It was quite mesmerising, watching the dark silhouettes of the birds dance across the sky as the sun began to rise over the sea.
I always have a small camera in my bag that I take everywhere with me, to capture moments such as these. It is not unusual for a single element in a picture to be the catalyst for a new piece of work. I also clip images from magazines and onto my Pinterest boards for future inspiration and I write things down; I make notes of colours or memories, or descriptions of a place. I also find Instagram a useful tool for recording snap shots of life that inspire. There is something very instant and yet fleeting about this method of taking images and I've found it to be a great resource for capturing visuals that I might not otherwise have taken a picture of.
If you are a practising artist or just like making art for fun, I would urge you to start keeping a notebook of words, and to have a little camera (or indeed your smart phone) about you just in case you see something. It's not always about the perfect landscape shot you're after either, I like to take close ups of colour and texture that I find interesting. I will use images like this to influence my work:
(boat hull, paint and wood grain, Blakeney Point, Norfolk)
It's important to take notice of what lights you up, what grabs your attention. Once we become aware of colours and textures, shapes and words in our environment, the more we tend to notice them and the effect they have on our senses. Next time you are out and about, really take the time to absorb your surroundings, does the flash of colour from a Florists display make you stop and turn? Does the faded lettering on an old sign grab your attention? You'll start to discover beauty in the ordinary, and pleasure in the simple things. Allow your artist self to explore and be inspired.