Having begun this work with water based media on paper I decided to change materials for something more robust. I dug out some old oil pastels and A5 canvas panels and continued my nocturnal visits to the beach. The sense of place becomes increasingly familiar and as it is hard to see what I am doing, I focus on the view and ‘feel’ my way into the subject. The light levels are so low that it is beyond being able to read colour and the work is modulated in tone. As I select my materials in the studio and pack a minimal amount, you might think my selection would be monochromatic. Instead, I have selected a range of colours in three tonal ranges, dark, medium and light. I am enjoying the surprise of the results when I have earnestly drawn a cloud or seascape to discover later the unexpected hue of the work.
Over the last few winters I have determined to find an activity to see myself through these long hours. Last winter I focused on cutting lino blocks based on the decorated old Chinese porcelain inherited from previous generations of Norries family which I found stuffed into a cupboard. I became fascinated by how they told a story of their history and that of their previous owners.
When the clocks went back and what were already shortening days became long and ever lengthening nights, I embarked on a new project – painting in the dark!
The work started by going out onto the beach either before dawn and working until the light levels rose to be able to see colour, or in reverse, at dusk and working until it is completely dark. Sitting in the same place every time and with no light, I connected with an instinctive part of myself and my response when denied familiar references. Often it is unclear what colour or tool I have picked up but I am developing a second sense to having a limited number of tools around me and placing them carefully so I pick them up without having to check. I carry a small torch incase I drop something and to find my way home if it is too dark!
I started with work on paper and water soluble materials, pen ink felt pen watercolour but as the weather is so changeable have moved over to oil based pastels.
All detail and colour is lost in the darkness and the hills appear like huge whales rising out of the sea. The sea and the sky meet as I look south towards the isle of Lismore and the Firth of Lorn and onwards to the isles of Mull and eventually Jura. I know this because of familiarity with the geography but of course these masses are not visible in the darkness; I simply feel their presence. The subject becomes an emotional response to somewhere I inhabit frequently during the daytime and in day light.
Keen to increase the scale, I moved up from postcard to A5. On days too wet to go out, I have been experimenting with mono print on sizes up to A4.