Karen George’s stormy seascapes

Bracing Stroll © Karen GeorgeAutumn’s rain and wind are definitely enhanced by a coastal backdrop. That raw, reckless energy smashing itself against the rocks – extraordinary.

Karen George manages to capture the feel of this in her seascapes. Far from tranquil, these beach and headland scenes are moody and wild – and I love them.

Unexpectedly, Karen’s interest in art began in far more academic and scientific grounding, as she studied architecture before moving onto product design.

“At school I enjoyed Biology and Art in equal measure,” she explains, “When I was looking at courses to study I found a ‘Landscape Design and Plant Science’ course at Sheffield University, which then led me to an MA in Landscape Architecture.”

Release © Karen George

The leap into product design came about from a practical prompt when she had her second daughter, and began taking her baby with her to the allotment. “I was inspired by necessity to create a sunshade that met my needs,” she recalls. “I was always making things at home so it seemed a natural thing to do. It was only when people stopped me in the street to ask where they could buy one that I decided to launch the BuggySail – so the move into product design was accidental.”

With the product an instant success, Karen embraced product design for a time, before realising she relished “the creating’ more than the marketing. After attending an ‘Experimental painting’ workshop I spent more and more time painting.”

Crofter's cottages © Karen George

These two elements of Karen’s experience feed into her fine art in subtle but far-reaching ways.

“It’s not something I’ve really thought about before, but with Landscape Architecture you have to be able to imagine the end design and transpose that onto paper,” she says. “This really helped with the product design – creating a mock up of the product to create a pattern. How my painting has been influenced is a little more ambiguous. I enjoy leading the eye through a painting with the use of light and capturing an energy into a painting – both aspects of which are important in design.”

Coastal-flats © Karen George

I think that may be why and how Karen’s paintings offer up an almost visceral sense of being close to the power of waves and tides. “In any environment it’s good to give a space a sense of belonging – being a place you enjoy being in and travelling through,” she says. “I hope people enjoy my paintings much the same way.”

For Karen, however, the perfect day at the beach is a lot more serene than you might think from gazing at her paintings. “Not many people.  Not too windy.  Not too hot.  A bit of rock pooling and a good book with the sound of the waves in the background.”

Karen will be exhibiting her artwork at in the Jarman Hall of Totterdown Baptist Church as part of Totterdown Front Room Art Trail 2014.

Find more of Karen’s art at www.trenjorydesigns.co.uk.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Sail away with Michael Praed

Arrival by Michael Praed

There’s a postcard that lives on my mantelpiece in my bedroom that I find myself gazing at from time to time. It shows a few curiously upturned triangles of boats set against a misty background. When I look at it, I find I almost hear the sound of lanyards ringing together, and the lap of waves against hulls. I breathe in and almost catch the scent of salt on the air. It’s a magical painting that can achieve that, and this is only a small reproduction of Michael Praed’s work.

“My grandfather was a fisherman, operating three boats, including luggers, from Mousehole,” he says. “My son, Nicky (also a keen painter), has continued the family tradition and skippers netters out of Newlyn harbour. My own interest was sparked partly by the numerous handmade models of fishing boats that adorned the family home in my childhood.”

For more than forty years Michael has lived in the heart of Newlyn, Cornwall’s last major fishing port, and the preservation of the county’s heritage is very important to him, says Matt Piper, who runs Eleven and a Half, the gallery that shows his work. “This is most evident in the frequency with which his painting focuses on the old harbours of the region, notably at Lamorna, Mousehole and Newlyn. The small fishing boats that once worked these ports have been rendered obsolete by large modern trawlers. The harbours themselves have lost their importance: in Newlyn a more modern harbour engulfs the old quays while in Lamorna the pier is gradually collapsing into the sea. However, they retain their appeal to Michael, in their rounded shape and in the manner in which they interact with the natural contours of the coastline to provide protection against the elements.”

I find myself drawn to the stillness of the paintings, and the light he captures in the water. There’s a sense of stealing down to the quayside early in the day, before anyone else is awake.

Harbour Shapes, Morning Light by Michael Praed

Matt tells me that Michael’s ‘nascent talent’ was discovered by watercolourist Sheila Cavell Hicks when he was eleven, and it was she who bought him a first book of watercolour paper and encouraged him to continue drawing.

Michael attended Penzance School of Art, then Falmouth School of Art (now University College, Falmouth) where he studied for a National Design Diploma. “The experience instilled a discipline and an academic approach to his painting that he has retained throughout his career,” says Matt. “In particular, the training he received in etching and engraving continues to play an indirect part in his work. Michael attributes his interest in paintings with strong linear qualities back to the techniques learned in these courses.”

The strong though delicate lines of the harbours and boats in Michael’s artwork stand out against the dreaminess of the sea, sky and fog, offset further by the bright crimson of several of the boats.

Harbour Light by Michael Praed

“The view from his former studio window is the single most important influence on my work,” he says. “From halfway up Paul Hill in Newlyn, the house in which my wife Margaret and I lived for many years perches above the roof-tops, looking down to the port, fish market and old harbour, along the seafront to the Jubilee Pool in Penzance and across the bay to St Michael’s Mount and the Lizard peninsula. It offered me all the content I need for my paintings: the variety of boats, the effects of light and reflection on the sea that create every shade of blue, the rusty orange-brown of the granite piers.”

He adds: “In addition it’s an ever-changing panorama. Changeable weather patterns, the height of the sun in the sky, shadows cast by clouds on the sea, and the incoming and outgoing tides all generate different and rapidly evolving moods.”

Full Harbour by Michael Praed

Matt says that Michael tells of starting a painting one Monday morning in calm, bright sunshine. “By lunchtime the scene had completely changed and he put the painting to one side. The next morning, with overcast conditions, he started a second painting, only for the weather to change once again. By the end of the week he had seven paintings, all unfinished, and each almost unrecognisable from the others.”

Local artists who have had a major influence on Michael’s work include Alexander McKenzie, John Tunnard and Jack Pender.

He describes his own work as striking “a careful balance between realism and abstraction: my paintings are descriptive enough to generate a broad appeal and yet stylised enough to satisfy my own quest for simplification and lack of detail.”

Matt comments: “Michael’s paintings often have an eerie calm, and a sense of foreboding about what may happen next. The landscape is usually devoid of human form and generally of all living things. However, this also gives them a timeless quality, and a sense of detachment from much of modern life.”

No wonder they’re so alluring. Looking at them, I want to dip a toe into that water, feel it cold against my skin, and swim listening to the lanyards’ song.

 Find more of Michael’s work at www.elevenandahalf.com.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Traditional Fishing Craft, Low Water cr Michael Praed