Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Imagining the Sea by Louise Balaam

Imagining the sea

I’ve recently (like a lot of other people) found myself confined to the house, through a horrible and stubborn chest infection. I couldn’t get out to my studio and paint as I usually do, but as I started to feel better I felt like getting off the sofa and doing something. I’d been thinking about why I find the sea, and coasts, so fascinating. The ocean presents a barrier to our own travels (unless you have a boat or a ferry ticket!) but invites the eye to roam across it, and to imagine. I was interested in the idea of the mysterious hidden depths of the sea, and of the way the fluidity and rhythms of the sea seem to affect us all psychologically. Maybe it’s to do with the potentially immersive aspects, the way we imagine ourselves to be lost, and drowning in the depths.

I found a beautiful quote by Helen Chadwick : “…Looking at the sea … the specifics of personality wash away… Our state of consciousness takes us out of our body into rhythms that are fundamental and primary.” The iconic blue colour of the sea seems important for these aspects – a colour which is essentially ungraspable, always receding from us, implying depth and distance. I suddenly thought as well of the Chagall stained glass windows in the tiny church at Tudely in Kent, not far from here – the main window commemorates the drowning of a young woman, whose family commissioned the window. It’s worth seeking out if you’re nearby – it’s the only church in the world where all the windows are by Chagall. To me, there’s a real sense of the sea as a different space, with the lost girl in the depths – and is there a more resonant blue than stained glass?

I took out a range of water-based media – old watercolour sets, gouache, acrylic, pastel pencils, oil pastels – and some off-cuts of mountcard I’d found when turning things out a few days before. I spread everything on the floor and started some mixed media studies on the theme of the sea. I swooshed liquid blue watercolour washes onto the card, then worked into it with gouache and white acrylic, scribbling with graphite or pastel, or splashing more fluid paint onto it. Using a different medium from my usual oil paint means that the work changes – some things are possible in watercolour and gouache which wouldn’t work with oil, and perhaps some of the ideas about the fluidity and indefineable nature of water are naturally more suited to water-based media.  I don’t usually do studies in preparation for painting exactly, but I do feel that themes and motifs which emerge in studies find their way into paintings as well.

Sea Study 1
Sea Study 2
Sea Study 3
Sea Study 4

"Snow.." by Pete Brown

11:53pm, Sunday, 27th January 2013
I love it!
It was going to snow all the previous night and all day on Friday 19th of January here in Bath and as we all know goddam everywhere!  It is such a transformational, transcient event that it simply can not be ignored and when it comes I can not get enough.  So that ‘eve of snow’ - the Thursday night - it was as close as it gets for me to the night before a major exam.  Replace sharpened pencils, the favourite ink pen, lucky gonk and last minute revision with a cleaned, feshly laid out palette, grounded boards and canvases of ALL sizes, a stock take of thermal layers, gloves, hats.. (with spares) and the gonk - my faded red cap.

Day one, as it was relentlessly snowing hard small icey crystals, was a complete write off and I returned home with 4 aborted attempts to soggy, cold, excited sledged out kids with stories of snowmen and collisions on the slopes, a grumpy dad.  I painted over the weekend and found myself more relaxed on the Sunday and when darkness fell took the little ones sledging on the pitch and put which overlooks Bath on the northern slopes.  It was fantastic but while I was there was taken by an amazing view of Bath I’d been told about by locals for the last 20 years which I had always dismissed and ridiculously or arrogantly never checked out. Well add a twilight extended by luminous lilac snow to it and I had a 20 x 40 painting in my head.  It was one of a few I worked on until this Friday just gone but the one that has stuck in my head.  I’d work on it early darkness/light in the mornings and late light/darkness at the end of the days.  Painting twilight involves mainly memory and anticipation and particularly trying not to do too much when it is dark!  The paintings are not yet photograghed.  Most of them need more work on architectural detail and drawing which I knew I could sort out on overcast days later on.

For now, here is a pic of my first day’s madness - the easel at the end of an attempt at early light on that Friday. The pallette is mainly snow, the turps is ice and the glaze medium - a slush puppy (the view incidentally is to left of shot):

The last day - snow had melted in Bath and I had to make a trip to Yeovil.  I drove through a winter wonderland and on the way back with a hour of light I was desperate to try and capture that amazing cold white and tried to paint a couple of fields of deep snow:

In Bath we don’t just knock up snowmen (no I did not do it - 3D and me do not mix well!):

I got very annoyed when I’d ask people how the snow was where they had come from.  They consistently got it wrong.  They’d say “Oh it’s really bad!” “You mean no snow””No tonnes of it””Well that’s GOOD not bad!”
I know it is dangerous for the elderly and for those who are self employed and are forced to look after the kids and lose work, it’s not great.  But particularly on those first two days I just met people who couldn’t stop smiling.