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.
December 2011 Vogue article on reinventing the Scottish company Pringle
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).
"White Cottage" the house we built with our own bare hands and a small crew on the caribbean island of St. John
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.
Waves in the Caribbean near "White Cottage"
Of course there were always endless variations, yet there was so much common ground…
Portuguese waves. photo by me
…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.
Cabo Fisterra, Spain, the end of the earth
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…
The lighthouse at Cabo Fisterra
…but how were the waves? Spectacular and strange – different from anything I had ever quite seen before.
The waves in Spain reach towards the west. photo by me
Wave painting by me. Private collection
The sun came out in Spain
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.
Pat at Capa Rocha in Portugal. The height of the cliffs overlooking the waves was frightening.
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.
The cliffs at Capa Rocha. Photo by me with assistance from MBB
More waves in Portugal. Worth the trip. Photo by me.
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.
Wave from the Portuguese cliffs, Gallery 50
I painted waves from Maine, and the Caribbean and Florida. I was in the studio for over a year painting waves.
The beginning of Wave #15, a caribbean wave
the caribbean wave in progress in the studio
Wave #15 finished
There was always another wave to explore.
Wave from Portugal, artist's collection
Wave #10, Caribbean, artist's collection
A Florida wave triptych, artist's collection
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.
the start of a new series...branches
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.
Branches in Maine at the end of a walk with friends
The start of "How Golden Branches Weave the Light"
Final version of "how Golden Branches Weave the Light", artist's collection
It keeps everything very exciting. There is always time for one more adventure.
One more wave