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Seaford continually delights and inspires. I have a walk to get bread, newspaper etc. that takes me up the cliffs and down again along the beach. In December last year I took a series of snapshots of the setting sun, glorying in the outrageous colours (making the header for this piece). I have been abstractedly playing with the photographs whilst getting nowhere, with little sense of purpose other than printing out some quite dramatic bits of the images.

Having had enough (for the time being) of the Honeysuckle series of images, I figured it was time to give some impetus and direction to the fumbling, so I started to work in the sketchbook, trying to interpret the colour. I wanted to explore again the relationship between making drawings and the photographic image they came from, a relationship I have been grappling with for over 50 years since I started photographing Brighton.

One corner of hte studio

One corner of the studio

From the sketch book I moved into larger oil pastel drawings focusing on the sea, surf and shingle, eventually narrowing it down to primarily the wave and the shingle edge. The first efforts were rather literal, the colour too brash, and it wasn’t until I started enlarging sections of the photos that I really started to see the colour. It is much more subtle than the first impressions, full of lavenders and pinks alongside a range of yellows and deep Prussian blues.

Sunset Wave 5 - oil pastels on 250 gram cartridge paper, 30 x 22 inches

Sunset Wave 5 – oil pastels on 250 gram cartridge paper, 30 x 22 inches

Gradually I have narrowed and focussed my understanding, through a range of a dozen drawings – some of which are on their way to the council incinerator! I work on paper on the wall using oil pastel, and the scale is important as it has to be large enough to contain the energy of the stroke of the arm and the intensity of the colour application. Using pastels enables me to mix colour in an almost pointillist way in the sense that the marks mix visually rather than a physical blending.

drawing alonside phtographic print, each about 16 inches square

drawing alongside photographic print, each about 16 inches square

The studio is now full of colour, and I am reaching the stage of producing collage drawings mixing both elements of the imagery, the drawn and the digital, grappling with scale and the mechanics of cutting – if there is a way of melding the images digitally I haven’t yet figured it out. Anyway the mechanics of cutting can be considered a part of the ‘mythmaking’ process, producing pieces that will determine the way forward with paint.

Going forward I have a series of small canvases ready to produce more of the Wave paintings, turning the singleton from last year’s exhibition, considered by some there the most successful piece, into the precursor to the series. As with that first painting I may also explore the mix of oils and acrylics, but that depends what happens as I move forward.

Oil pastel on Bockingford 36 inches square

Oil pastel on Bockingford 36 inches square

My admiration for the artists of Impressionism who worked outside ‘en pleine aire’ grows daily. The fleeting nature of the sunset images makes me think that many of they too, must have used photography, but then I remember they did not have colour film. Their visual memory or imaginations must have been fantastic.

Without the photographs as reference I could not work quickly enough, especially in December with the cold. The low level of the sun in winter is what gives the reflections their power and colour on the waves.

I hope you enjoy the results, let me know below in Comments.


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