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)
- The gallery of the English Coast series so far, including map of my journey!
- My blog, where I share tales of the journey and work in progress
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)