I love experimenting with watercolour as there are so many variables – type of pigment, wet or dry surface, granulation and transparency, degree of drying-ness of the painting in progress, brushes, tools and masking. Many of my sketches and experiments focus on playing with any of these, but recently I’ve been drawn to observational work.
I can’t describe this direction with the same logic I do with technical aspects of watercolour as it doesn’t really have anything to do with that. The feeling I get is of a period of gestation, which I’m happy to embark on as I’m always looking at light and shade in our environment. It also feels like a time of consolidation of both skill and purpose.
My purpose, I think, lies in the direction of wonder, and vulnerability. I spent a lot of my childhood days lying in a field or on a beach or headland just looking at the sky and the light on the sea or landscape, marvelling at the varying tones and shadows and feeling in awe. My life at the time was very difficult and traumatic but this habit of staring became paired with expansive feelings and hope. I have always had a strong affinity with nature and being in nature felt like good medicine. It was a solitary habit but never lonely, and one which to this day replenishes me and reminds me that no matter how complicated and tightly knotted I might feel, there is some order of a fantastic nature out there, something like a good parent but one who also needs the same care I do.
I am drawn to big skies above landscapes with some man-made features – the chimneys and bridges by the Dee estuary, the windmills in Liverpool Bay, for example. I don’t deliberately try to send a message through my paintings, but I am aware of the fact that I choose tiny detail in a big open scene. The little things we do affect everything.
Painting from observation feels like praise, gratitude, curiosity, surprise and kinship.