(A Sanity Project)
Normally at this time of year I would be travelling much further afield painting ‘en plein aire’, usually around Ireland, especially to the West Coast and possibly over to Wales, England or the occasional trip to Europe. Spring for me being the time to close up the studio and start afresh on that difficult period of re-learning the essential skills of speed, close observation and visual memory in order to paint outdoors successfully.
By nature I'm a restless person but I've surprised myself by managing to continue to work within the limitations of (even enjoy?) the various ‘lockdowns’. I’ve found that the boundaries enforced on me have actually served to focus and concentrate my vision on areas that I’d previously taken for granted.
The germ of this idea was planted very early in the initial lockdown of 2020 when the pastel artist Kerstin Birk challenged me to a 10-day Facebook posting. I thought it would be great to do a series of Pochades (small scale oil sketches mostly 6"x8" or postcard sized) of my lockdown environment.
One of the most surprising and thrilling aspects of art is focusing on a subject previously overlooked and finding (sometimes through a lot of hard work and focus) a connection, inspiration and beauty.
The first painting I tackled for that 10-day challenge was the view from my attic bedroom looking out at the sea. What caught my eye was the stunning slimy green of the sea, something that I had often observed and filed away at the back of my mind to paint at some stage (Someone mentioned Joyce’s ‘snotgreen sea' which is a perfect description) I felt it really epitomised those early days: the fear of the unknown and being forced to stay indoors for the first time in my life for an extended period. The painting, although tiny, is dominated by the architecture of the attic with the tiniest corner of sea visible in the bottom of the scene, which is just how it felt during those first few days.
I live right on the coast and despite half of my permitted circle of movement being taken up by an ocean, the mental relief offered by that vast expanse more than made up for it. I started to slow down and focus on every small section of unique coastline rather than always rushing through it en route to a different ‘destination’.
April 2021 I thought might bring freedom to travel around the country but unfortunately the easing has only extended to the County. It was at that point that I thought it might be an idea to expand this project and paint the entire coast of Dublin (and 20km up into Louth as I live on the border of Dublin) and assemble all the paintings into an exhibition or display of sorts. A selection of these works will be assembled for a (previously postponed) exhibition at the united Arts Club in Dublin now set for Autumn 2022. Do check back and view the latest additions as I continue my journey through the spring and early summer.
© Copyright David West