Sailing South

We left Plymouth harbour at the end of March with the looming threat of snow and headed in rough and cold seas, fast South at the mercy of the winds. Although the exact route is as yet undecided a circumnavigation is the goal on board the 43 foot cutter rig. This way of travelling lends itself to portraying the slowly changing landscape and colours in paint. Frequently the wind blows from the wrong direction or a storm blows from the right direction but shelter and sketching are better at these times than sailing South. This collection of work is based on some of Europes ports and towns that we visited and which have welcomed and sheltered sailers through the centuries on their way to the discoveries of the ‘New World’. France was the port of call to avoid a storm rolling in we crept up a river and waited it out amongst the trees drifting to point up and then down slowly as the tides changed then onwards across the infamous Bay of Biscay to the rugged North coast of Spain and to Portugal and the jump to the Canary Islands.

Although space is at a premium on a boat, there are always places that artwork can be easily stashed and weight is not an issue when your house is 17 tonnes, this means that more than adequate materials can be carried and other media salvaged. I’ve collected materials, sketches and photographed en route and then set about putting the pieces together. I nearly always paint directly from a place. Porto however, I have in the past painted a number of times but only from photos so I was definite that I wanted to stay for a while even if it was the ideal sailing conditions! We anchored in nearby bay and it was exciting to go there for real and track down the buildings and churches that I had previously worked from and really look at all those details that make a place what it is.

‘Porto High Rises’ Mixed media on board, 2013

 

‘Porto Church’ Mixed media on board, 2013

I did a mini art residency here in the ‘Oporto Lab’ which is a design studio. In the early evening I would wander the streets and look up at the elegant elongated buildings with extravagantly detailed and yet understated doorways. Streets of tiled buildings all of a different design were very distinctive of Portugal and above all the ornate tilework on the churches was incredibly inspiring. Due to having studied pictures and read about Porto, for a previous collection of work shown in the South, it felt like I had visited Porto before in a dream, strongly recognising landmarks and certain key streets while not quite orientating what was where or those other senses of spell, touch and sound. The sound of people in the streets and music drifting from open windows. This was how the piece ‘Porto Layers’ started to come into being taking some of the key buildings and overall layout as the sun went down and then merging them together. From Lisbon we made the big jump South with five days and nights at sea.

I was really stuck by The Canaries Islands a recognisable culture yet exotic land of dramatic volcanic activity of lava flows and black rock that has been catapulted from the craters. You almost get the impression they could erupt again at any moment! The piece ‘Gran Tarajal at Anchor’ are based on the incredible mixture of blacks, browns, reds and yellow ochre colours which stand out in such a contrast behind the stark white buildings of the town. Athough this piece had already been prepared with a mixed media background it was started in earnest during the ‘Golden hour’ before the sun sets and all the colours draw the warmth of the day to them. Families and friends frolic on the waterfront making the most of the last light before another day draws to a close, which I tried to depict in the foreground. In the background can also be seen the illusion of cultivated land. I’m often most creative in the evening and at night when the activity of the day draws in but for this piece it was essential to work on it with natural daylight to ensure the balance of the colours so I stopped work earlier than usual to ensure the balance wasn’t messed up and left the buildings in the background merge into the earth as they did into that night.

The Collection:

Light on Santiago Cathedral_ 2018_ Mixed media on board – 42×56.5 cm

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela looked at its most dramatic in the evening light highlighting a labyrinth of details, grand arches, pillars and rooftop features. For some this is the end of a pilgrimage of a very long journey perhaps hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres and the feeling in the huge square outside, even without this incredible journey, is one of awe.

Sailing South_2018_Mixed media on board_56.5x43cm

 An amalgamation of several ports and towns visited in the North coast of Spain, a rugged coastline but   with opulent buildings from sailers on the return from the ‘New World’ who had made their fortunes and were keen to show it. The ghostlike reminients of buildings that have been and will be, memories fade in and out of each other. Although one clear memory had been sketching the tower centrally located, the skies behind it were darkening and we left it just a little too long before making to the dingy as large drops started to fall and mid crossing the large river to the boat a storm came down in full force, but this is on the verge of green Galicia where we realised you always needed to be ready for rain.

 

Porto Contours_2018_Mixed media on board _56.5x 43cm

A portrayal of Porto, Portugal as seen from the bustling waterfront, the layers of buildings crossing, merging and layering like the urban contours of a map. Some of the piece is representational, some fictional and others parts an amalgamation of different scenes such as the Clerigos tower rising proudly from the other buildings. This is in part a paper cut intertwined into mixed media of other papers, gold leaf highlights and acrylics on board. It was a fascinating experience as having studied and painted Porto a number of times before this was the first visit in person and I recognised parts of it.

 

Porto Layers_2018_Mixed media on board_42.5×52.5cm

A dreamlike representation of the Portuguese town which I have been very inspired by. One of the dramatic bridges in the background is what I was stood on to get this view point, buildings of interest bought into the foreground, the elongated houses and air of old architectural elegance portrayed.

Gran Tarajal at Anchor_2018_Mixed media on board _42cmx52.5 cm 
The Eastern Canary Islands are made up from dramatic volcanic activity of lava flows and black rock that has been catapulted from the crators. You almost get the impression they could erupt again at any moment! The colours are incredible a mixture of blacks, browns, reds and yellow ochre and add to this the white buildings stand out in contrast to the backdrop. Athough this piece had already been prepared with a mixed media background it was started in earnest during the ‘Golden hour’ before the sun sets and all the colours draw the warmth of the day to them. Families and friends frolic on the waterfront making the most of the last light before another day draws to a close, which I tried to depict in the foreground. In the background can also be seen the illusion of cultivated land and infact the high nutrient content of the volcanic soil means that crops and wine benefit from some good growing conditions despite virtually no water being available. The higher of the buildings merge into the earth as they did into the night. I’m often most creative in the evening and at night when the activity of the day draws in but for this piece it was essential to work on it with natural daylight to ensure the balance of the colours so I stopped work earlier than usual.
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