It is interesting that just after I finish mentioning Pringles of Scotland as one of the 10 design firms sited in my post “British Fashion…’tis the season“, I came across an article about the company.
In the December 2011 issue of Vogue (American) there was an interesting story in the “View” section about the traditional Scottish sweater company reinventing itself to stay abreast of modern fashion, while still being true to its core identity. It started me thinking of how many times over the years I needed to reboot my life or work or art to keep it fresh and exciting without losing what was “me” about it.
Now, I can definitely be a creature of habit. But, I also get bored if I let things stay static for too long. It was with that in mind that My Beloved Brit and I sold our house and I sold my business in Washington, DC and we picked up everything and moved to the Caribbean for 8 years not knowing anyone there or having a clue as to how it would work out (it worked out great).
And of course for many years I had my design business which I found I had to periodically tweak or twist in order to keep things current. But the core values and style of the company remained the same.
My art is like that. I know artists who find a style and subject they are very comfortable with and keep it for ages. Part of me envies that. But I could never do it. I tend to work on a series for at least a year or two and then start looking for a new viewpoint or subject or technique or color palette. New horizons.
For example, when we first moved back to the states returning from the islands, I had the luxury of spending a year exploring a new direction of painting. That is when the wave series began. I had realized that all over the world (and we were always searching out the sea no matter where we travelled) the waves were in many ways universal.
Of course there were always endless variations, yet there was so much common ground…
…but I was wondering how much the appearance and feel would depend on the waves geographical location. It became a game. We spent a few weeks searching the western most coast of Europe looking for the edge of earth closest to the Americas. Would a wave on the extreme east of the Atlantic be similar to the waves on the extreme west coast? Someone told us the most western coast was in Spain, so off we went to look for waves.
After a stop for a few incredible days in Santiago de Compostela, Spain (a UNESCO world heritage site and the pilgramage destination featured in the current movie “The Way”), we set off with our Michelin Tourist and Motoring Atlas to find Cabo Fisterra, a small point of land jutting out into the sea.
It was amazing. After driving through tiny villages with mussel farms in the bays (they look like rows of swimming floats) we found what we were looking for. The monument wasn’t totally impressive…
…but how were the waves? Spectacular and strange – different from anything I had ever quite seen before.
Truly magnificent waves stretching their white foam in beautiful patterns, and bits of almost Caribbean blue water near the shore, but the furthest west? We headed to Portugal.
Another friend mentioned that they were sure the furthest coast west in Europe was north of Lisbon, and that there were incredible waves. And sure enough, it was spectacular.
After a night at another great hotel (we lucked out on an internet travel site and found a great rate at the Penha Longa Hotel which turned out to be a Ritz Carlton as well as a bargain) near the town of Sintra, we set out for the coast for a day of exploring. The cliffs were so high it was frightening, and to get the perfect angle on the waves I had to lean over the edge of the cliffs laying flat on my stomach with my camera. I am petrified of heights, so MBB agreed to hold on to me. Now that is trust. But I got the shots. Enough for many paintings.
We finally headed out after two days of incredible vistas. We were guests for a night at the home of MBB’s British expat friends living south of Lisbon in Batlha. After a wonderful dinner buffet (despite some mystery things that looked like a tiny octopus) at an atmospheric restaurant in a nearby village, MBB and our host decided the only way to solve the problem of which point was the furthest west, was to run a GPS on the computer. The men gathered around the screen with great intensity. Portugal won, but I painted both country’s waves…and then some.
I painted waves from Maine, and the Caribbean and Florida. I was in the studio for over a year painting waves.
There was always another wave to explore.
I couldn’t stop painting waves.
Until one day I did. I was surrounded by the most gorgeous trees at our house in America, and soon we went back to England for another short summer. As I have said before, there is no better way to appreciate a good garden than to see it dripping in mist and hugged by fog. I was off. It was now branches…and woods… and fields.
I guess what I am trying to explain is that exploring new worlds is good. I loved the waves, and sometimes return to that subject with great joy. But I am always curious about the next series…what is around the next corner. And I think with life, and work and a truly good relationship, it can make all the difference in the world. Just stick to the core values, but look at it with a fresh eye and add a new twist of color.
It keeps everything very exciting. There is always time for one more adventure.