Landscape, history and archaeology inspire me. I am fascinated by what has gone before. I also love walking and exploring. A few years ago I had occasion to spend some time on the south coat down in Dorset. We were staying in Weymouth with a group of scuba diving friends. I’d go on long walks along the cliffs with my dogs, while my friends were off exploring underwater. As I am much more of a warm water person, the diving was not for me, being too deep and dark to interest me. On these trips I was more interested in seeing what was above the surface of the sea and spent my days exploring the coastline.
One of the walks I enjoyed was on Portland. Portland is an island near Weymouth. Four miles in length, it has three light houses and numerous quarries for the limestone used by Christopher Wren in the building of St Paul’s cathedral. As a result, the coastline of Portland is very interesting. Not only are there a series of low cliffs and small bays along the coast, but also industrial archaeology. Circumnavigating Portland was one of the many walks in the area I enjoyed. I can remember absolutely blazing hot sunny days when I was very grateful for a cooling breeze off the sea and lots of chances to paddle and cool off.
On the walk I came across a tangle of metal cables, a beam and ironwork on the cliff edge. Research following the walk explained it was called Red Crane, used to lower boats into the water. With this information my imagination took flight. Fed during childhood and adolescence on a steady diet of Georgette Heyer, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Daphne Du Maurier, I like to wonder about the people living in cottages along the coast. How they lived, worked and died. I’m endlessly fascinated to see the signs and marks they have left behind them. It may be in the ridges in a field suggesting a medieval field boundary or like the crane sitting on the cliff edge, above the sea on Portland.
It is these experiences that inspire my work. My visits to Dorset took place about eight or nine years ago. When I was painting Digging Deep I didn’t have an idea of the crane on that hot summer’s day in mind. The industrial shapes only emerged during the process of the work towards the end. I work intuitively applying paint, making marks, experimenting with texture, surface and colour until something catches my interest. Then I want to develop it further. The lines and marks at the top of the painting, reminiscent of industrial archaeology, caught my attention. From there the work became about land, excavation and edges.
I think in the case of this work the title Digging Deep is also a metaphor for the experience of completing the painting. This piece has had several iterations. I had worked on it over several months, finding and discarding ideas throughout that process. There were a couple of times when I thought it was finished. And then decided that maybe it wasn’t. Sometimes we fall in love too soon with an idea and do not give ourselves the space to dig deep to find what else there might be to express. If I continue with the metaphor of digging deep within, then I think this piece also reflects how as artists we might need to dig deep within ourselves to find confidence to continue, to find energy, inspiration, motivation and ideas.
How does your inspiration show itself in your work? I’d love to hear from you.