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An interview with Tricia Taylor

20 February 2016

Between Heaven and Earth
Your seascapes are a major part of your work, what first drew you to paint the sea?                                                               

We lived near the coast, and I grew up going to the beach. Then I moved away for about seventeen years to a place where it was nearly calm water, north near the islands. When we moved back, to be near the ocean and the crashing waves, they just hit my heart, like going back to when I was young. Because I live near the ocean it's so easy to get there and walk on the beach. So I am constantly inspired.

Do you paint on the beach, or do you take photographs?

Both, I do a lot of plain air painting on the beach, because photographs don't give you the same light or the same colours as painting on the beach. So I paint outdoors a lot. But I take photographs too, mainly to inspire me as to where I was.

Light Force

Your paintings really capture a moment in time, so how do you do that, watching something that is moving? Or using a photograph which is already still?

When you are plain air painting the ocean, the waves are repetitive. A wave comes through and there is a pattern. If I wait for a wave to come in and I look for the dark tone where it hits the ground. I watch a specific spot, a deep part of shadow, or part of the foam. As the wave repetitively comes in, you just paint that part. Before the next wave comes in you've got time to paint. You watch the wave, capture the memory then paint. You have to catch it within an hour, because then the tide will change.  You have to be quick!

You describe painting  the sea as your passion, can you pinpoint what it is that keeps bringing you back to it?

You have all of it at once, the sound, the smell, the feel of the water, the texture of the sand. It's constantly moving, which is mesmorizing. I recall a quote from Max Lucado about the ocean relating to God. "It's always here, It's always deep and it never ends." There is something very spiritual about the ocean that draws me back. I feel connected to God.   

Sound of the Sea
What would you like people to experience when they see your work?

The heart of it! I would like them to feel what I felt. Sometimes there is a lift, it is just lifting you up, the crystal in the top of the wave, and it can actually give you  a lift by watching it. Or sometimes it is more about the crash of the wave, the feel of it  really crashing on a rock, with such power. Water against rock.
Even still water, with reflections, can make you feel so quiet and stop. There are different emotions for each one. But that is what I am trying to get across, how I felt at the beach. I am hoping they can even hear it.

You often capture the moment before a wave crashes, so then you can imagine the sound?

Yes it makes you breath in! And then you exhale.
Rise and Sing
You describe the serenity of the creative process, which appeals to you. Do you always feel serene when you are painting? 

It depends what I am painting. Sometimes there is just this energy. Some waves have so much energy. Or a gentle wave, if I am just needing to escape from the world, that is where serentiy comes in. It is such a fluid thing to paint. I don't have to worry about buildings, lines, perspective, all those left brain things. I just leave them out! I am moving with the water as I am painting. It can't help but calm you down.

Is that why pastel works so well for seascapes, with that fluidity of movement?

I believe so. Plus there is layer upon layer. Sometimes there is wet sand underneath the colour of the water, then there is the white water, and then the sky reflected above. They are all different layers of colour and texture, and because you can lay down all those different layers in pastel one over the other, if you are gentle, they don't mix like mud, and you can see through all those different layers. That is why water is captured so well in pastel. The eye does the mixing,  rather than mixing a  colour on the palette and then putting it on the page.

Crystal Blue
How did you go about creating the Unison Seascape sets?

I have a general way of thinking. There is a base of general blues and greens in there, but then you need to get the range of tones, from  deepest dark, blues and greens, both tone and temperature, all the way up to the lights.  Then for the white waters, there is a range of pinks, purples and apricots in there, which will balance the greens. In the tricky area of shallow water there are so many neutrals, and greys, where the sand comes with the water. So those are there premixed, so you can put them on fresh. There is so much happening in shallow water, so I just want to be able to pick up the right colour and put it on.

How many colours would you use in an average painting?

It depends, if it is only water, and there are no rocks in it, probably about thirty to forty. Those thirty to forty would change according to if it was deep, dark water, or a lighter toned.

Ocean Light
What your top three tips be for someone trying to draw water?

First, it is the tone that will make a wave turn. So you have to have, shadow, a middle and a light, to make it feel three dimensional.

Second, every time you change tone, you should change temperature. Say with the blues, it starts which a French ultramarine, and then it would go to a cerulean blue, then to a turqoiuse, to a green, and then to a lemon, following the colour wheel.

Third, you have to be moving, a lovely big sweep of the hand. If you try and paint in a linear way from a photo, it will stop still.  You want  to let it flow, so you need to paint with a free flowing hand. 

So that would necessarily be rapid?

Confidence is more important than speed. You can spend time thinking about the marks you want to make but I apply the pastel in a confident fluid movement. And less is more. If you over do it, it will stand still. 

Sydney Seascape
Have you painted seas other than Australian ones?

Yes I have been to coasts in the United States, Fiji and New Zealand. Of course, Australia has a variety of oceans. Tasmania has the deep Southern Oceans of dark grey-greens, then right up to the crystal turquoise of the Islands.  The United States was different, over on the coast line of Monteray, and Fiji different all together, and New Zealand was probably the most different of all! Some of the water there is glacial run-off, and it turns into a pale green. That's why my sets have such a big range, to suit many different locations. They are not just for my beach just down the road here, but anywhere. Also for different days, there are a lot of pinks in there for late afternoon sunsets, and early morning sunrises.
You have won quite a few awards  over the years, how has that affected you?
There is a balance in it. I remember early on, when I was just starting out, when I won the Pastelist of the Year Award, before I had become a Master Pastelist, and you wonder whether you are good enough. It was right at that point when I was deciding to remain as a hobbyist, or to become a professional artist. The judge was someone I highly respected, and that pushed me over the edge to go for it. It gave me the courage. But also awards aren't everything, just an encouragement at certain times. They can't be the reason to paint. 

Gone Fishing
Do you think you have to be a business person to be a successful artist?
There is a business side to being an artist. If it's not you, you need to know someone, have contacts, or people won't see you. You can have brilliant art work at home hanging on your wall, but people won't get to appreciate it. You can certainly paint a successful painting, but unfortunately unless you add some marketing to it, then how are people going to see your work? Someone can do it for you, you don't have to be the marketing person, just to know that it needs to happen. I was fortunate that I was an administration marketer some years ago, and that has helped. But you have to remember your an artist first.
Do the two come into conflict?
Yes they do in a way. A marketer has to stand up and say, 'This is good, I am good.' Whereas for an artist, our work is like our children, we have put our hearts into it. So then how do you turn that into marketing? It feels totally contradictory to market your own work. But there is a balance in there I guess. I have a story to tell and have been blessed with this gift to tell that story. I am grateful to have opportunities to share my art and thankful that people appreciate the artwork! It has a life of it's own really and I am just enjoying the ride! 
Ocean Dance
To look at or buy Tricia Taylor's Seascape or Sand sets click here.
To watch Tricia Taylor demonstrating how she uses the sets click here.
To find out more about Tricia Taylor click here
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