I saw once in Paris an enormous painting of the sea stretching 5 metres high and 7 metres wide. In the centre was a tiny head of someone swimming. This painting has stayed with me and ever since seeing it I have always wanted to paint the sea. Working out how has taken me 25 years to work out.
Typical paintings of the sea are as it is seen from the shore looking out across breaking waves. I don’t like to approach any painting from a typical view I always search for something else and most importantly my own connection with a subject, parody is not an option.
So to attempt the sea I had to feel my way through it. I knew it would come one day and it was when I saw some photos on twitter from a friend in Essex. He had taken what he calls danger shot up to his chest with an eye phone and the close up, close to submerged view of the surface of the sea inspired me. He allowed me to use his photo for a painting; I’d never painted the sea before and so worked my way into the colours and patterns of light with a very open mind.
Taking further inspiration from this approach to capturing the water i invested in a waterproof camera and as a sea swimmer, began taking photos in the water. It was the revelation I was looking for all that time. A viewpoint from within I was able to capture the feel the sense, cold, swell. movement, subtleties, colours, power, danger, energy, beauty, subtleties and essence of this incredible force of nature. It told of my love of it, my respect and deep connection.
When taking the photos I have to rely on instinct as I can’t see the preview of images I am taking. For one I am trying to survive the waves and cold, secondly the camera preview screen is tiny and I don’t have my glasses on! All this adds to my instinctive photos where I am so in the moment and immersed in a mindful experience.
Once I reached 1000 photos I began to draw from them in charcoal. At first I was being quite abstract, working quickly in directional movement to represent the multiple facets of swell.
Returning to the subject was driven by photos of waves from within. It is quite a challenge to photograph a wave when it is about to engulf me but that is really what excites me; I like that people have said the photos make them uneasy, you should try taking them.
I got to grips with drawing waves: I used three different types of charcoal manipulating them with water, erasers, brushes, fingers and sticks for the textures tones and movement. Resulting in beautiful immersive drawings.
To depict the sea you need to feel it, smell it, swallow it and dream it. Let it take you, engulf you and freeze you near to death. Only then will its essence come out of the hand. The Sea. The Sea.