Alone at sea, returning to creativity

This post is more about sailing than painting but I'm posting it here because it tells the story about how I found inspiration to paint after a serious crisis. Without inspiration you can't paint, well you can go through the motions, but your work will reflect your state of mind and that will become a barrier which is hard to climb over.
This video is the English version of a lecture I gave in Swedish for an audience of creative people at the town theatre in Landskrona,  November 2013.



At last I've had time to update this blog with a couple of new activities. My time has been totally taken up by preparing work for two exhibitions, one in Sweden in September  the other in Finland in October.
From my exhibition in Sweden  at Galleri Pictor , together with Vibecke Fischer .

This is a 5 minute video from my exhibition at Gallery Vihinpuu , Kokkola, Finland

Porto Heli (πορτο χελι) Greece

Porto  Heli  watercolour   copyright Elizabeth Tyler 2013

The subject for this watercolour painting, I have just finished, is unusual for me in that it is seen from a further distance than I normally choose. I've taken a pause from the close up, in detail, frogs eye views I often become totally absorbed in.
As the view is seen from a boat the sea makes up most of the foreground as opposed to more traditional paintings of coastal towns where the sea is in the background.
Painting in a boat has it's problems of course. The repetitive rocking motion of the boat isn't a great problem as long as it is caused by a light breeze with soft small waves. Your body and brain compensates so you don't even think about it. When the wind really gets up to something near gale force or when a motor yacht charges by at full speed ploughing through the water like a bulldozer, that's a problem.
The other problem in this case was a very high motor boat that moored in front of me, taking my view. I had to wait for the wind to change direction before I could get a glimpse of my subject again.
Sitting in the cockpit trying to get the last details done.

My subject on th left, the obstruction in the middle, my boat "Aquarella" on the right.

Near and far.

 Pebble shore                                             watercolour 36 X 46 cm                  © Elizabeth Tyler 2013
The muddy water of the harbour, where my boat is moored right now, isn't so inspiring so I took a long walk on the beach far away where the water wasn't so polluted (as it unfortunately often is here in Greece). At last both the colour of the pebbles and the water itself was clearer and all the colours came to life. It was late afternoon, the wind had dropped and the waves had turned to ripples, slowly washing ashore. I chose a very low viewpoint in order to get a close look at the stones at the same time as being able to include the sea as a backdrop.
The challenge here was to be able to create the impression of depth and distance. I wanted the background very soft and diffuse but still keeping the foreground extremely sharp and detailed. I often try to use this effect when painting both watercolours and acrylics but it's equally challenging every time.
The water was very shallow, barely covering the stones, but even so the blue colour was really intense, reflecting the late afternoon sky.
In the painting all the stones and the foreground were masked first with Art Masking Fluid so that the water could be painted freely. Prussian blue and Winsor blue (red shade) were used, plus a touch of burnt sienna where the waves stir up the sea bed.
At first I had painted the stones in the water too clearly and defined so they looked like they were lying on the water instead of in the water.
So I went about scrubbing all the edges with a trimmed, wet hoghair brush. The streaks of white in the water were done in the same way. I finished off by drawing lines with a white aquarelle pencil. These lines were also scrubbed to soften the impression and create distance.
Softening edges with a trimmed hoghair brush


Same, same but different.

Pebbles           watercolour 25 x 45 cm                        © Elizabeth Tyler 2013
A pebble beach with multicoloured stones can be found anywhere in the world and it is a favourite subject I often return to. In Greece the water is so clear it's almost invisible, resulting in soggy, wet sandals when I'm walking along the waterline. It is of course right here the wet stones are at their best and most colourful. Many is the time when I have collected a few, only to be disappointed on getting home to find them dry, dull and non-descript.
In this watercolour I wanted to show the enormous diversity of the pebbles and stones. Not only in colour but shapes and sizes, surface textures and markings. Even the sand under the ripples of water is not just yellow but has it's own special character and is after all a compromised collection of minute and microscopic pebbles with similar colours.

The Net

"The Net" acrylics on canvas    180 x 110 cm    © Elizabeth Tyler 2004
I found the subject for this painting on the quayside of a fishing harbour on the island of Corsica some years ago. The contrasting colours of the net against the sea made a dramatic effect which appealed to me.  It was really a challenge though to keep track of all the lines, ropes, floats and the net. The underlying shadows of the criss-crossing lines help to give the impression of depth. You can see that some of the ropes are stiff from the salty water of the Mediterranean, so they don't fall in soft uniform curves but have their own stubborn will.

If you look closely, the intricate network is tied and sewn together with small knots. The fisherman's patience for this tedious, time consuming work must have been far greater than mine when I painted it all.


The watercolour "Helenium" found a new home in Norway

Helenium 95 X 40 cm © Elizabeth Tyler 2011
  The open studio event went well this year with lots of positive visitors, enthusiastic art lovers and interesting people. One painting was sold to a family living in Norway. A problem arose though when they tried to fit the rather large painting into the car's roof box to transport it home. They had taken measurements and thought it would fit, but the streamlined roof box had rounded corners and no matter how they squeezed and tipped and turned, they just couldn't close the box. In the end they put it diagonally over the back seat. I hope both the painting and the family arrived home safely.


Open studio event

The painting I was working on previously is now finished and framed. As the subject was seen in the warmth of the late afternoon sun, I've called it "Evening Glow". It is now representing me in the group exhibition for all the artists participating in the annual open studio event "Konstrundan" here in southern Sweden. The exhibition in the Landskrona Art Hall opens Good Friday along with all the artists studios. We are 148 artists here working with many different techniques so the event is usually quite popular. I have been taking part in this event since 1997 and the number of visitors has increased every year. Normally over 2000 in my living room during the 10 days so I won't be painting for the next couple of weeks and tomorrow I'll go to bed early.


Painting magpies in the snow - or not...

I photographed these two magpies from the kitchen window earlier this year when there was a lot of snow. At first I rendered them as they were, surrounded by white snow. Afterwards I felt the the background was rather boring and nondescript. So I started letting a blade of grass or two peep through the snow in places. Then I went on and on painting grass, blade after blade, day after day. Different shades of green, yellow and blue were added. On and on I went, almost like the sorcerers apprentice. Painting shadows between grass straws, lightening up, toning down, overlapping in places and finally adding the taller grass and twigs in the foreground.
 In the meantime the snow has slowly vanished from the garden, the days are longer and spring is almost here. The magpies have moved up into the pear tree where they're building a nest. I'd like to paint that too but it's way out of reach, they know what they're doing so I'll leave them alone now.
Magpies   acrylics on canvas 35 x 110 cm                                                                                               © Elizabeth Tyler 2013


Garlic           acrylics on canvas    90 x 120 cm                                                                     ©Elizabeth Tyler 2002
Sometimes inspiration comes from an unexpected source.  Making dinner one evening, while I had my reading glasses on to look at a recipe, I took a closer look at the garlic I was holding in my hand. I had just broken some cloves off and what was left was some thin transparent flakes of skin, the root and the rest of the cloves. The garlic wasn't just white but many different colours ranging from yellow ochre, pale purple, blue and brown. I've never been much good at cooking so the dinner was no success, my mind was elsewhere as it usually is. I couldn't wait to start painting the garlic. The painting was much larger than life so I could render the garlic in every detail. I chose complimentary colours for the background in order to bring out the pale shades of the subject itself.
The painting was sold a few years ago but the other day I was glad to have the opportunity of seeing it again in its present surroundings, a beautiful private home in Helsingborg, Sweden.


Step by step painting rocks

Painting "Rocks", acrylics on canvas 150 x 110 cm                                                         © Elizabeth Tyler 2013
Step by step, week after week I worked on this painting and now almost 2 months after I started, the finishing touches are added. At least I think these will be the finishing touches, the last brushstrokes, the final blobs and the umpteenth layer. I just have to leave it now for a while to let it rest and mature by itself.  I might contemplate picking up a brush again to do some small adjustments but right now I need to do something else. It's often necessary to turn your back to work that has demanded so much attention for so long. In a few days I'll be able to see the painting in a new light and decide if more has to be done.


New Exhibition

Entrance hall of the Assa Abloy company Landskrona.
At the moment I have a small exhibition in the beautiful entrance hall of the Assa-Abloy company, (entrance systems) in Landskrona Sweden. The architecture of the hall comprises a decorative pool through which underwater stones can be seen. This happens to be exactly the same subject I chose for my acrylic painting "Over and under".
Although my painting is from the Mediterranean, the subject is universal and coincidentally matches almost as if tailor made for the hall.
"Over and under" acrylics on canvas 150 x 110 cm © Elizabeth Tyler 2009
Apart from this acrylic painting on canvas, the exhibition consists of watercolours, etchings and lithographs.