Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Four fish out of water

The Lynn Painter-Stainers Fish
14" x 18", coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Following on from Jeanette's post yesterday about her fish, I thought I'd post a drawing I did recently while sat in the middle of the exhibition for the Lynn Painter Stainer's Prize! (see Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2008 and Exhibition)

It's very odd drawing a still life (involving what I think were herring) sitting in the magnificent Livery Hall hall of Painters' Hall - the home of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers in the City of London - but that's what I did.

I should explain - that I was trying one of the workshops run during the exhibition. It's really nice sometimes to turn up for a still life set up by somebody else and all you have to do is decide what angle you're going to draw it from!

I took one of the large pieces of paper on offer and used my own coloured pencils. I used my camera to work out the four lines for cropping the image and drew out a pencil 'frame' on the paper in which to work. I then adopted my normal approach to sketching plein air which is to scribble using an open hatching method. It's also a good approach when working on paper this big and in a limited timeframe (this took about an hour or so).

Drawing on paper you're not used to is always interesting with coloured pencils as I never quite know how it's going to react. With some papers the coloured pencils just sink in and on others it's really difficult to get good darks. This one was slightly veering towards the latter and it took some time to get darks associated with the scales and shadows of the plate down.

I wouldn't have chosen fish to draw as a still life but I really enjoyed this and I'll certainly do some more in the future.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

A fish out of water

Fish out of Water
5 x 10 watercolour

I received a book of handmade watercolour paper for Christmas. I love new paper, especially hand crafted, but am always loathe to start it. Its as if I need to make sure the first piece is fabulous and all the others follow suit, which, of course, never happens.

I also received a lovely new set of 36 Faber Castell watercolour pencils as well and they are the perfect marriage with the paper and my current set of old watercolour half pans. So then inspiration struck. I'll dedicate this book to Watermarks pieces.

I'm still refreshing my skills in watercolours so there will be the usual mix of good, bad and ugly, but they'll stay within the book and depending on how prolific I get, I may need a second book.

A brace of rainbows
5 x 10 watercolour

I've started out the book with a couple of watercolours which are indeed water-related. Fish! The first watercolour is a combination of a variety of fish species. To me it looks more like a mackerel at least in colouring and definitely more colourful than the average grey/brown tom cod that swims in local waters. The second is a pair of rainbow trout. Trying to capture the irridescence of scales and the sheen of the skin will take practice, but I love the colours that come through and that can be found in fish of all types.

Watercolour seems to be the logical medium for depicting water creatures or water itself. Even though I live on an island, I don't eat as much fish as I could and have a fairly severe allergic reaction to shellfish, which makes me wary of all seafood. I think the build up of toxins in the ocean play a strong role in the increased numbers of allergies experienced with shellfish and ocean fish at times too.

When John Cabot arrived on the shores of Newfoundland 500 years ago, cod was so plentiful that sailors could reportedly scoop them up into their ships with buckets. For Cabot and other early explorers and settlers, Newfoundland's cod was an oceanic jackpot that fostered a lucrative fish trade between North American and European countries.

In 1997, however, the Newfoundland fishery that once drove the province's economy is in a slump. In 1992, the federal government declared a moratorium on cod fishing because of devastatingly low cod stocks. Closing the northern cod harvest put 30,000 Newfoundlanders out of work. By 1993, all Canadian cod fishing was banned

There is, in most year, a week or two allowed by the Federal government of 'recreational' fishing in Newfoundland with a quota of 5 fish per day per person. This doesn't sit well with inshore fishers who maintain, as many do, that the death of the cod fishery lies in the hands of some countries who use large trawlers to harvest cod off Canadian waters as well as scrape up everything in their path, destroying habitat and other species.

Monday, 29 December 2008

The bull's hollow

One of the few ponds around where I grew up is really a rather small lochan - a little loch, if I stick with Scottish terminology.

It's the bull's hollow, a depression where a peaty bog developed along a small area of open water. It's in the middle of forests, woodlands, a bit of moorland and heathland, and like so many other landmarks it has a story, which I told a couple of weeks back in my blog [see here for the story].

In any case: it was one of our first destinations for an afternoon walk, and while the rest of my family continued walking, I stayed back and after a few sketches in the moleskine (some of which I posted in my blog here), I did these two pastel sketches, trying to capture the stillness of the water surface. It was so still and so clear you couldn't really tell what was the reflection and what the actual tree.

Water reflections #2
Water reflections #2,

pastel on board, 25x35cm

Water reflections #1
Water reflections #1
pastel on board, 35x25cm

And as a belated add-on: here are some photos from the day:

Sunday, 28 December 2008


This post showed you photographs of this beach through various times, tides, weather and lights - here are just a few of the sketches and paintings done in response to this - many plein air, others are large works on canvas 40ins+ and tiny aceo's done from sketches and memories. I like to work in a wide variety of sizes.

There have been several ongoing discussions here that are really relevant to this series - we've been talking about looking at the same place again and again through different light and seasons - and that is something that really interests me and that I often do - though not to the extent of visiting daily, more in bursts of lots of works over a whole day as the light changes by the hour (or minute with our weather!) on multiple occasions.

This series is about precisely that - the fantastic changes in colour, light, mood, what can be seen clearly and what is lost in shadow, vivid or dark, sunny or cold and breezy, the tide ebbing and flowing leaving pools and streams of glistening water, reflections and wet sand, sunsets, rainstorms. rainbows, wind, wild surf, calm days, blue skies and turquoise seas, silver or green or indigo seas - always different. Unfortunately this is 360+ miles away from me so I can't get there as often as I'd like :>( to do more plein air work there through the winter storms - which are spectacular down there and I would love to get down and paint :>) - so often I find 'bad' weather the most interesting to paint.

For anyone interested in colour, a sense of place, or the mood of a place on a given day, plein air sketching, revisiting a well loved spot regularly and observing the changes is essential. You learn so much and notice more and more. You see colours the camera can't catch. You see fleeting effects of light and colour that you try to fix in your visual memory. You feel the wind or the sun and hear the sea and the birds, which all adds to your memories for future paintings.

In the morning light the far cliff was brightly lit but by afternoon it became almost a silhouette with details hard to make out, backlit by the sun as it went lower in the sky, finally setting over the sea - sometimes in a vivid blaze of colour, other times in subtle silvers and muted colours.

Some people like to work with a limited palette. I find that within a painting I limit my palette but each painting requires different colours in the mixes to catch those fascinating changes. I like to have quite a variety of blues, reds and yellows and then colours like viridian, magenta, permanent rose and a range of colours that only get used occasionally but are perfect when needed, I always mix colours and rarely use them straight from tube or pan but within that mix need a specific blue for instance. So that means I have a wide range of colours to choose from.

Gesa has developed an interest in nocturnes and this is something that fascinates me as well and I've been working on a series, some are in the slide show above, I became really interested in the light on the beach at night and how very bright and light the reflections could be and the beautiful light in the sky just after the sun set as well as sunset itself.

I'm planning to continue this series from the sketches I have but will also think about a local area of water - maybe the local canal - where I can visit regularly at different times, catching the light and reflections and changes with the seasons.

If I think of somewhere local that will interest me enough to constantly revisit, I'll work in a variety of media - it may be that I base it on the canal at Aylestone, here, where there is a medieval packhorse bridge

- so - to stick to the same viewpoint on every visit?

which viewpoint?

or to simply look at a small area around there from whatever viewpoint appeals on the day?

I think it should certainly revisit the same viewpoint frequently, to investigate those fascinating changes in light and colour. Being me, I'm bound to end up loking at other views in the areas as well so I may as well be realistic and weave this mini project into the larger, slow burning (very slow at the moment - as in completely stalled!), waterways project on our local waterways.

I have to think about it. What do you think?

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Reflections on a Pond

I'm having a "ponder" (ouch!) about what's going in my plan for 2009 at the moment. I'm supposed to know and have a blog post written by 1st January!

Anyway, I've been thinking about maybe drawing the same watery thing throughout the year - as per Kevin McPherson's Reflections on a Pond project.

McPherson's project has been highlighted by some painters as a precursor of some of the painting a day projects - although interestingly he didn't actually paint every day.

My understanding is that he produced a painting of the alpine pond, which he could see from his home in the mountains east of Taos, New Mexico - for every day of a year - in different seasons, weather, light and times of the day. However it apparently took him five years to complete the project and he produced 368 paintings in total!

His aim was to capture the different effects of light as the seasons changed. Given the project was about change he held certain things constant - the subject was the same, he painted on small 6x8" panels and he used a limited palette. I gather he also made brief journal entries about each painting.

Subsequently, his paintings have been reproduced in a book about the project and some of the paintings now go on tour on a regular basis. It's now also got its very own Facebook Group! On Facebook, you can see photographs of some of the paintings in a recent exhibition in Pasadena - and see how the paintings look together. They seem to be arranged by seasons.

I don't think I'm anticipating such a big project - however I can see the value in drawing the same thing over and over again while varying seasons, weather and time of day.

The Ecology Park Pond - 26th December 2008
8.5" x 11.5" pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

My pond would either be the little pond in the Ecology Park (next to the Regents Canal) - which I sketched yesterday (see above) - or the lake in Victoria Park which I definitely have not drawn enough. Either way both are a jolly good excuse to take a walk and get some exercise as well and it could be that I could get both done on the same walk.

Above is the effort following our Boxing Day Constitutional yesterday - note the record of the date! The pond reflected the intense blue of the winter sky overhead which contrasted brilliantly with the low afternoon golden sunlight on the pollarded willows and the acid yellow of the dry grass beyond. It was however too cold to draw for long and the coloured pencil got added when I got home!

I like the idea of keeping to the same size and format and I think I want to make up a portfolio of loose paper for the project. I think it might be interesting to vary the media used a little. I know it's going to be easiest to use my coloured pencils so I think I'll see how that notion progresses over time.

Any comments or suggestions?

Anybody thinking about doing something similar? (We've already got Tina doing her Wave Mechanics - Thames 365 blog!)

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Mists of Avalon

Mists of Avalon
20 x 8 watercolour
From the sea to the streets runs the wandering fog,
like the steam from a steer interred in the cold,
and long tongues of water accumulate, covering over
this month that, in our lives, promised heaven.

- Pablo Neruda - Love Sonnet Number 85
There is something about an expanse of water that begets more water in other forms. Mist or fog obscures the view, taking away definition and draping itself over the rocks and trees as well as the water.

Living on the northeast Avalon Peninsula, fog is often blanketing the coastal towns creating 'mauzy' days. The small coves and bays where fishermen sought shelter and created homes still stand, untouched by time in terms of geography and the look of rocks and trees and water.
The peninsula was one of the first European inhabited areas in North America, with the first permanent settlement established at Cuper's Cove in 1610. Sir George Calvert was later given a large land holding on the peninsula. The initial colony of Ferryland grew to a population of 100 becoming the first successful permanent settlement on Newfoundland island. In 1623 Calvert was given a Royal Charter extending the Royal lands and granting them the name Province of Avalon "in imitation of Old Avalon in Somersetshire wherein Glassenbury stands, the first fruits of Christianity in Britain as the other was in that party of America." Calvert wished to make the colony a refuge for Roman Catholics facing persecution in England. In 1625 Calvert was made the first Lord Baltimore in recognition of his achievements.
Admiral's Cove is one of the small settlements on the Avalon, near Ferryland and it is here in the sheltered cove that this watercolour depicts. The fog is just starting to form on the horizon and is softening the headland. In an hour or less, the foreground starts to become hazy with fog, taking colour with it and creeping into your clothes and hair with cold and damp.

Twilight fog
oils 5 x 7

Capturing that magical form of water at its various stages is complex, as it changes before your eyes in both shape and colour. I love the softened look to the sea and land that fog creates and the mournful, incessant sound of the foghorn warning ships they are too close to land.

Many of the traditional lighthouses are now gone, replaced by fog alarms instead. The foghorn works with laser technology. Two laser-beams are transmitted far upon the ocean. If the beams can not intersect - the fog horn is triggered to sound-off. Huge, crashing waves, causing mist, can sometimes trigger a "false-alarm" sounding of the horn.

I prefer the romantic notion of rotating lights and humans manning lighthouses, perched on a rock face in the fog.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The water of fountains

It's the bleak midwinter and yet I have visions of waves and rivulets, spray and froth dancing in my head. No time to work on my rock and water paintings until the new year, unfortunately. I'm leaving for Paris (and Bruges) next Monday for a short trip and this has made me think of fountains, a subject of many of my travel sketches there and elsewhere. With these memories in mind and with anticipation of seeing a wintry Seine and the frozen canals of Bruges, I put together a slideshow of fountain sketches from the past two or three years.
It's interesting to note that the change in my drawing style over this period of time. Practice makes better. Happy New Year to us, one and all!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Summer sketches of the sea

My most concerted effort to date of working with seascapes have their origin in a week this July spent on the isle of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides off the West Coast of Scotland. While the weather was largely overcast, cloudy, foggy and rainy, I nonetheless managed to fill plenty of pages in my sketchbook as well as a number of sheets with plein air pastel drawings.

I have started to take a rather limited palette as well as small sheets of 25x35cm pastel board (in shades of sand, hazy blue and my favourite aubergine) with me, and they work so well for drawing on location. Here are some of the pastel sketches.

Above Kildonnan Bay
Above Kildonnan Bay,
Pastel on board, 34x24cm

Singing Sands
Singing Sands,
Pastel on board, 34x24cm

More Singing Sands
More Singing Sands
Pastel on board, 34x24cm

For the full set, see here.

Much of my circling around these sketches - both in sketchbook and as pastel drawings has been to take them elsewhere as abstractions. I had been writing about this process of abstraction as a way of avoiding some of the obvious pitfalls of turning what we see into a landscape.

Here, my reasoning was that 'landscapes' do not exist but are in fact made by the painter, viewer or author - much of cultural studies therefore talks of the production of landscape.

For me, adding distance thus is a form of trying to avoid such obvious framing devices - and once I started to look through more reference on abstraction and art history, I found more and more thoughts, debates and links on this. Funnily enough, though, my sense of unfamiliarity with the sea, beaches and oceans means that I'm struggling to add distance deliberately, if that kind of makes sense. With much of my previous work based on woods, fields and more woods and fields which are much more familiar to me, such distancing through abstraction seemed more easily achieved.

Here are some of my posts I had written on this

I'd be curious how others approach this:
  • How familiar or strange does something have to be to be represented abstract or realist?
  • How strongly do you rely on conventional framing devices, e.g. for landscape compositions?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Swaying grass in the Loire

I'm wishing you all a wonderful Christmas with this post. As from today, I'll be spending some time with my family and I'll see you back after Christmas.
A while back I took some photo's and earlier last week I played around with it in front of the fireplace. First started off with watercolours and then an oil. It is some swaying grass in the water, in case you don't recognize it!

I painted study 1 from a few photos and wasn't happy, so I did study 2 , using only the first watercolour as reference. And then I did quite a few trying over and over to get to something that made that "click". The first two were the best efforts. I completed the oil painting using all of the first. I would love to redo this again some time.
What was I trying to achieve? I don't really know. Sometimes I start working without knowing exactly what I'm after, but I can recognize it immediately when I see it. When I saw the grass in the water, I was struck by the colours and the gentle swaying as well as the graceful up en down waving, like a dolphin. I felt like touching it.

I find I always tighten up when I use a photograph as reference. It is something I'll need to work on, especially doing waterscenes, since it isn't always possible to be out. Or maybe I shouldn't be choose the cosyness of the fireplace to do waterscenes.

I would love to know what your opinion is on doing waterscenes from photos?

...swaying grass, watercolour study 1...
...swaying grass, watercolour study 2...

...swaying grass, oil on linen, 40X40cm(15.7x15.7")...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Des Plaines River Trail: Lake Street Bridge November 08

25" x 17"
64cm x 42cm
oil on paper

I'm moving into my third year of working on my Waterways Project and each year something new comes up for me. During the first year, I fumbled around with media and finally settled on oil pastels. In January of 08, I discovered the linear qualities of winter and fell in love with painting snow. This year, I'm wanting to add a more evocative tone; express the perils the waterways face due to the carelessness of human encroachment.I also want to move into oil paint as this gives me the most amount of freedom with colors.

On my blog today, I've listed a few links to the artist's I'm looking at lately. They are not necessarily working in landscape but I admire their work greatly.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Mawgan Porth, Cornwall

Light changes a scene dramatically and is one of my key interests - the particular colours that it creates, the way the sea changes from indigo to lavender to turquoise to jade.

In the mornings the far cliff is bright, lit by the morning sun and shining. Below it the small stream that comes down the Vale of Lanherne (or Mawgan) trickles to the sea, shining and reflecting sky and cliffs.

This is the wild Atlantic coast. The tide ebbs and flows leaving deep pools scoured in the sand, in drifts across the wide beach, with intricate patterns of wriggling ripples between. As these dry out a little the wind across the surface creates a series of neat tiny steps leading down to the waters edge. The beach shelves more steeply than the Norfolk coast and so the tide doesn't go out anywhere near as far and therefore moves a bit slower in and out, giving the surf time to carve deeper. In Norfolk the pools and strands of water are very shallow and dry fast on the almost level surface, the sea is calmer and ebbs rapidly for a mile or more, here water remains until the next tide. Down at the waters edge the waves loom high, the horizon isn't straight but a mass of heaving swells and it's noisy with the waves crashing on sand and rocks.

As the day goes on the far cliff becomes a silhouette with little detail, backlit by the afternoon sun and then with evening the sun sets over the sea in a spectacular variety of colours and clouds.

The colours change constantly, the clouds change, the reflections in the pools change - the tide ebbs and flows. Rain approaches across the sea and I watch the approaching edge cross the cliffs, obscure them and a rainbow moving forward with it appears to end on the beach below, in front of the cliffs, then the rain reaches me and the rainbow is gone and there's just a silvery haze. Nothing remains the same. If only I could paint faster ......

In another post I'll show some of the paintings and sketches done there and studio works from them.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Studying lines and squiggles

Kew Watermarks #1 - a study
coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've always liked the sort of squiggly lines you get with reflections of straight lines in water which has air movement across its surface.

I started the above drawing about two years ago after a visit to the Kew Gardens. I found some water which was obviously designed to pick up reflections from the glass house - which it did beautifully - and I was transfixed. It became almost meditative to watch how they changed with very slight changes in the airflow across the otherwise still water.

I tried to do a picture afterwards but couldn't get anywhere with it.

After nine days of watching eight other people talk about water and show me water I picked up my pencils yesterday and finished it. I'm calling it a study as I want do more and to try and improve it!

Maybe in pastels?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Introducing Ronell van Wyk

I feel honoured and priviliged to share this journey with eight very talented artists, Vivien, Lindsay, Katherine, Tina, Jeanette, Laura, Gesa and Sarah, whose experiences with and connections to water are each so unique.

As a little girl, the sun and water were my constant companions and it has been that way ever since. I've always been around and/or close to water.

I did my final year research on sea life in the tidal reefs of Tsitsikamma, SA. With its rugged coastline and protected wild life and abundant marine life, it will always be my most favourite place.

...movement, oil on canvas block, 45x20cm...
I then married a man who was an avid snorkeler and scuba diver. Even our honeymoon was spent in a real cave on the rocky side of the Elandsrivier canyon, swimming in the dark pools and basking in the sun like lizards on rocks.

In the Cape winelands, we had a home where our two little girls splashed in the water canals that ran by the garden, losing shoes and hair bands. They ran barefoot off to the Eerste river a few metres further, collecting pebbles and pick nasturtiums.

We lived on a farm with a stream flooding the road to the house every winter, with marshes providing arms full of Arum lilies for our house. A high swing over the stream echoed constant shrieks of mixed fear and delight across the valley on weekends.

We had a family home on the south coast of Natal where endless days were spent on the sun drenched sand beaches; skimboarding in the shallow waters, diving in the clear waters between the reefs, fighting to keep the children from swimming in the warm lagoon and failing, giving medicine at night for upset stomachs and fighting again the next day.

The memories of experiences are vivid: caught by high tides on huge boulders, rescued by helicopters from drifting in to deep at sea, sandboarding down sanddunes, picking mussels from the rocks, diving for abelone and pulling lobster from a dilapidated canoe, watching the play of animals in the bush by the waterholes, swimming under waterfalls, catching fish with handlines...

..castles in the sand, oil on linen, 73x60cm...

We lived a short while in an old watermill in Wickham Market, and then a flight of stairs away from the promenade on the seafront in Felixstowe, Suffolk.
We lived on a lake with magical views and sailboats on sunset cruises.
We had a home high on a cliff, overlooking the Vienne river down below. And now we are living at the foot of a cliff in Montlouis sur Loire, right next to the river Loire. And the cherry on my cake is our small house in the mountains of Corr├ęze, facing south into the sun and looking down on yet another stream.

My connection with water has a very physical element to it and I can see every day here by the Loire continuing this element; animating an activity, telling a story: the birds nesting on the islands in spring, just to suddenly have it all swept away by rains. The violent floods in winter. The melancholy flow in summer, exposing the treacherous sandbanks. Cyclists. Photographers. Kayaks. Gypsies. Determined fishermen early mornings. Strollers. Powerwalkers. Picnickers. Coffeedrinkers(me).

...a corner of the Loire, watercolour, 30x23cm...

I'm not a landscape painter. I enjoy capturing, with exaggeration on certain aspects, a corner of a scene, a colourful detail of a story, a frozen moment of an activity, I'm not interested in a realistic rendering, but rather a reflection of reality, a suggestion of stillness or energy and movement .
With sketching I hope to capture the spontaneity of a water related moment in studies, and then work that into more defined oil paintings. We regularly return to most of these places and experiences and I'm looking forward to capturing some moments.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Introducing Sarah Wimperis

When I was little, a very long time ago, there were two certainties in my mind.

The first was to "be an artist when I grew up" This cunning plan came from the fact that my family was peppered with artists all bearing the name Wimperis going far back into dusty history.

So it was a given, Sarah was going to be an artist. I was encouraged in this endeavor by my hugely enthusiastic mother, given little easels and paints and brushes on every gift giving opportunity, allowed up into my Grandmothers attic to draw using my Great Grandfathers ancient art materials.

So that was that and that was what I became.

The other must for me was that I would live my life in the place of my heart, Cornwall.

During my childhood, my folks had moved all over the country, it felt like every two years. This transitory life turned me into a clown at the various schools I went to. How to make friends: make them laugh, be good at drawing and be very very naughty. My despairing parents decided, early on, that what was called for was a sense of place, somewhere that we kids could judge how we were growing by our changing height compared to things like rocks and big cedar trees. Well that's what I thought they were doing as every summer, without fail, we spent weeks camping by the same beach in Cornwall.

That was it, I was smitten by the light, the sound of crashing waves and the iodine smell of the sea. As soon as my destiny became my own I ran away to sea...well not really I chose to go to Art School in Falmouth, in Cornwall, by the sea. After college I stayed on for a few years until the travel bug hit taking me all over the place, Israel, China, Norway (for 6 years there), always returning to Cornwall.

Five years ago I thought I could leave for good, so I packed my bags, the last remaining child, (I had five by then) my very patient and supportive other half, and moved to Brittany in France. It was lovely, a lot like Cornwall, I loved it. But maybe not enough because I came home.
Now I am staying, here in Cornwall, for good.

I have a lovely little house, twenty minutes walk from the sea and the Helford River and every day I walk the shore and along the creeks and I know that I am home, and happy and so I paint.

Now why do I need to make art? I don't really know, there is nothing really profound about it. I have always done it. It is my language, how I understand myself. I like to record the tiny things that slip by, like the light on the water, a cloudscape, the way the trees look at a certain time of day. I also like paintings, as things. It seems to me that they are a magic window into another world, put one on your wall and, for your lifetime, you have a glimpse of somewhere else. Plus I like a challenge, I never know if I can pull it off, if I can take the materials that I am using and work that alchemy, make the magic happen and capture what I want to. So I suppose I like the craft of painting.

In 2006, while still in France, my youngest left home. I began a blog Muddy Red Shoes to keep in touch with the kids and our folks back in England. The title came from a love of shoes, (I buy ones with heels sometimes because I like them as objects but only ever wear flat, clumpy and utilitarian ones) plus a life long love of fairy tales. There is a fairy tale "The Red Shoes" where the little girl who put on the red shoes couldn't stop dancing, until her feet were cut off. I feel a bit like that about what I do, I cant stop even if sometimes I think I might like to. That's the Red Shoe part and Muddy because my shoes usually are. This has become the blog where I witter on about my daily life and occasionally talk about how I sketch and paint.

Six months into the world of Blog and I was hooked. I had been watching the progress of the best (in my opinion) of all daily painters, Julian Merrow-Smith , as I had always maintained that practice was the key to good painting (can you guess that I used to teach!) I thought I should take my own advice, up my painting a notch or two and join in with the Daily painting movement on the Internet. A second blog for me then, a gallery blog, The Red Shoes where I would post all my paintings, day by day. Blogging became a really good incentive to working hard. I have always supported my family by illustrating but now I had committed to a daily painting as well. I love it, I love the record of the changing seasons, I love the way everything that I see becomes a painting, it has highlighted to me the need to have projects and passions in paint. Best of all it has introduced many people to each other. To share an interest, an obsession is great. No longer the lonely artist, there is a whole community of like minded people...

I am very happy to be invited to join this group of artists who also have a thing for water. I love seeing how other people interpret a subject, I am looking forward to seeing what I and the others produce under this subject heading, although I feel this is more that just a subject, it is a bit of a passion, or even a possession.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Introducing Tina Mammoser


I first learned to paint here in London so my water paintings used to be of the dark, gloomy Thames river running through the city or rivers and coast in Scotland (where I first lived here in the UK). In fact I remember my very first attempt at painting the river - it was awful! Until then I had mainly painted figures and still lives, but soon became obsessed with the structures of bridges and piers along my shoreline. It was a seascape teacher at a local conservatoire who showed me how to paint light and shadow and colour of water, not lines and not what you think you see. But still, the objects and buildings were my focus.
(Hay's Gap, London Oil on board, 2001)

A few years later I spent time painting in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland (hi Jeanette!) which changed my work, in technique and vision, completely. I was snowbound on the seafront surrounded by the reflection of blue and lavender. How different was that from dark grey London? Light was like a revelation.

Now light is what my work is about. The first project really exploring the idea in depth was my Lake Michigan series, since I was born and raised in Chicago. (hi Lindsay! my parents live in Algonquin so I still visit often) The paintings first grew from studies I'd done plein air on the lakefront. But then the series became based on memories of seasons and times spent at Foster and Oak Street Beach, Belmont Harbour, and runs home from the Loop to Lakeview. This memory based work focused on mainly on light and colour more than any of my paintings previously.
(Lake Michigan study of Navy Pier, acrylic on paper, 2007)

Of course Lake Michigan is far away... and my nearer water provided a wealth of inspiration! I went to the Kent coast cycling for Christmas one year (to Deal) and realised how much subject matter was on my doorstep! Almost all of the Kent coast is within a couple hours on the train. But me being me once I have an obsession that's it, so I had to cycle and paint the whole UK coast. In time. So far I've done Kent, Sussex, the Isle of Wight, and parts of Hampshire, Yorkshire and Essex.
(Photo of studio and cycle assistant the Lt Col., at Scarborough beach on Yorkshire ride)

Rather than paint a representation water I try to capture the way light and weather affects and reflects the water surface and sky. Part of that is because of the scientist in me; I'm fascinating by optics and colour theory and the way light works and reacts to mediums and surfaces. How movement and depth of water changes the reflections or colours seen through the surface. Unlike some of the other artists in Watermarks I'm not aiming for a sense of place, but more a sense of space.

(Slideshow: The English Coast series)

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Introducing Jeanette Jobson

I live on a farm on the northeast coast of Newfoundland and you may consider that to be a strange bedfellow for an artist with aquatic leanings. However, even in farm life, the sea isn't far away and it pulls me like a magnet and has done since I was a child.

I was the water-wrinkled child pulled unwillingly from the seashore, teeth chattering with cold but still unwilling to let go of the water. I was the child unwilling to be removed from the cocoon of a warm bath, as the water had much more appeal than a towel and bed. I was the child scouring streams and rivers, 'rescuing' tadpoles and frogs and lugging them home in jam jars.

Living on this rocky island in the Atlantic, I'm surrounded by many forms of water. The landscape is dotted with ponds, lakes, rivers and streams and the ocean holds it all together. There are 29,000 kilometres of coastline in this province - enough to cross the continent four times and back.

Less than five minutes from my house I can stand at the foot of the ocean. I drive past the Atlantic every day, close enough to see it, hear it and smell it. Its funny how being surrounded by it, I take it for granted and it becomes part of my landscape without me realizing it.

I lived previously in a house in Pouch Cove that was overlooked the water, almost on the cliff edge. I could watch whales from my kitchen window or deck. On stormy nights, the sound of the waves hitting the rocky shoreline would vibrate the house gently and I always found it soothing while it worried others.

I still look to the sea to predict the weather and watch the changing light on the water and cliffs. I watch small and large boats come and go and marvel at sea life from tiny capelin to giant whales. Even the work I do is related directly to water, so something is telling me to stop resisting it and 'go with the flow'. My Piscean nature can be blamed for moving up and down stream at the same time - or at least trying to.

My background in art pushes me towards dry media as a first love, however, oils and watercolours are playing a more prominent role and often waterscapes beg for colour. Water is conducive to being reproduced in many forms from quick sketches to complex paintings, all of which capture the movement, transparency and life that makes it such a unique element.

The oil painting at the left shows an outcrop of jagged rocks in Logy Bay that are synonymous with Newfoundland's coastline and that have spelled disaster for many ships whose navigational ability was inadequate in either equipment, skills or being unable to manhandle a ship through severe weather conditions.

The movement of water around rocks is one of its most compelling features. Without the relentless waves and tides brushing against the shore, how else could we measure the ocean's strength? The ripples and light reflections created by skipping stones on ponds and lakes is measured only through the effect the stone has on the water.

I have threatened for some time to capture some of the island's watery charms and Watermarks is the push for me to do so. Newfoundland's coast and inlands are ancient, pure and full of secrets to be revealed through my eyes and hands. The pieces that I will undertake will be as much my discovery as that of those who follow me.

While my work will predominantly be based in Newfoundland my travels pull me to capturing other waters such as this sea arch in Laguna Beach, California where I visited last year. The sea arch here is similar to those found in Newfoundland and many other parts of the world. It will be interesting to compare the geological makeup and colour changes from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean.

I have been bound to detail, being a realist, and that may come across in some pieces when I choose to intimately examine a small part of ocean life. I also want to explore the painterly side of me that will work on larger, looser pieces, perhaps finding a new style or niche as I explore the water around me in colour.

A lot of the water around me will be in a frozen lockdown for the winter, depending on how the weather decides to treat the island, so I'll be almost like a diviner, searching for pockets of open water. Or I will be exploring ice and how to capture water's frozen essence.

Spring provides crops of icebergs that float by or come to rest in bays and coves, grounded on the ocean floor. Sometimes, depending on the direction of the wind, sheets of pack ice push into the same coves and bays and bring with it seals who surface and bask in the sun. There are so many possibilities.

My blog, Illustrated Life, gives a sampling of my art, my thoughts and my life in rural Newfoundland. The creation of Watermarks and its talented members will provide room for exploration and learning.
Many thanks to its founders Vivien Blackburn, Lindsay Olsen and Katherine Tyrrell, who made this possible and invited me to join in.

There is something hypnotic about the ocean and its ceaseless movement. It is vast and cold and ever changing in terms of light and colour.

I want each piece to tell its own story, from 16th century shipwrecks to modern waterways.

I want to show you the seasons as they are reflected in the water.

I want to introduce you to other local artists who also share a love for the seascapes and coastline of this rocky place.

I want to take you to places with names that link the sea and history. Names such as Tickle Cove, Heart's Delight and Cupids conjure images of happy times while Wreck Cove, Bleak Island, Famine Point or Mistaken Point tell a different story of hardship and death. The water around me maps the roots that stretch from 15th century Europe to Newfoundland and plots the success and failure of life on this island that depended on the Atlantic ocean to exist and still does in many ways.

I hope you'll join me on my journey.