Talking charcoal on paper and coastal walks - an interview with The Auction Collective

'Sea-Fever' auction: 13 September 7 - 8.30pm
Show runs from 11 - 13 September

The Auction Collective follow up their hugely successful 'Far From The Madding Crowd' exhibition and auction with 'Sea-Fever', an auction of artworks inspired by the sea - 55 artworks sourced directly from 27 contemporary artists. I'm really excited to have submitted 'North Arran' charcoal drawing and 'Pebbles', four studies of - well - pebbles. TAC interviewed me about my working process, where I find inspiration, and music - on the eve of the show.

Please read the interview below! Original interview is here - thanks very much for the chat TAC, I could talk about music till the cows come home and the rooks roost.

Paul, we are so pleased to have you back after your involvement in Far From the Madding Crowd. You have two artworks in the Sea-Fever auction on the 13 September: Lot 33, the moody charcoal of North Arran, and Lot 50, Pebbles the group of four canvases. Thank you for getting involved again!

Tell us first about North Arran, it is an incredible picture so dramatic and such a beautiful composition. How did it come about?

The idea goes as far back as 2010! Paula, my partner who runs Film and Furniture, and I were invited to Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute for a function. To make the most of our time in Scotland we thought we’d ‘road trip’ it to take in the islands. As it was September the season was in full change mode, resulting in gorgeous sky formations and light.

I made several sketches of the views at Arran from the Firth of Clyde and took some low res reference photos, and really left the view in my memory bank until the moment came to create a more finished work capturing the feeling of the moment when we were there.

10-Scotland.jpg
 Sketching 'North Arran' in 2008

Sketching 'North Arran' in 2008

And what about the medium, why did you choose to use charcoal and what is it about the medium keeps bringing you back to it?

There’s a connection that’s ‘primeval’ in working with charcoal that I can’t really put into words. I hear it from potters, and woodworkers - it’s a sense of working an old craft that it is very absorbing. The process can be haphazard or enlightening depending on your mood, and I find it can be more evocative to express than a painting can sometimes be. The mark making almost feels like a signature with charcoal.

I use about five different width sticks of Willow charcoal for mid tones, compressed charcoal for the deep blacks, and charcoal powder for subtle shades. I’ve only been using charcoal powder for the past year and it’s allowed many different emotions to be recorded in a landscape drawing, for example if the powder is applied with cotton wool it’s subtle and silk smooth, with kitchen paper it’s more abrasive, or with finger tips it’s expressive.

Then come the different types of erasers which in turn create new textures. You can jump from graphic to gestural in a way that matches a mood you feel when you are working the picture. When coupled with the right music soundtrack, you never know where you’ll end up and that’s a creative situation to be in.

 Working on 'Wetland Boundary' in the Sheddio

Working on 'Wetland Boundary' in the Sheddio

So what music did you create North Arran too? Is there a soundtrack that viewers should plug into when looking at the piece?

With North Arran the soundtrack was Wolf Alice's Visions Of A Life album, in particular the tracks Don’t Delete The Kisses and Planet HunterAlso the Blade Runner sound track by Vangelis and Ambient 1: Music For Airports by ENO- I get rather absorbed about music when I’m in the studio and the atmosphere has to be right.

Quite the backing tracks! With something of North Arran's intensity, it must be addictive to work at. How long does it take to create and how do you know when it is finished? 

It’s taken a few years of trial and error to be able to answer this question (a lot of works have lost their spark when overworked in the past) and to be honest, you just know when a work is finished and when it’s time to walk away at that right moment.

However, Pebbles is very different indeed, not just as four acrylic paintings but also in style. What is the story here, how did these paintings come about?

One summer when I was walking along Warkworth beach in Northumberland, the shoreline was covered with the most wonderfully shaped sea worn coal and stone pebbles with the quartz lines running through them. I wanted to paint something graphic that combined that wonderful mixtures of graphite greys with an off-cream sand, but reverse the process of painting these small parts of our landscape ‘large’ rather than record a ‘small’ version of the landscapes I normally paint.

 'Pebble' series

'Pebble' series

 On Warkworth beach with Poppy my jumping Jack flash

On Warkworth beach with Poppy my jumping Jack flash

It is clear that the British countryside plays a very influential role in your work and often we see the sea inching its way over a horizon into your pictures. How important is the sea in your life and how does it impact your creativity? 

Growing up in Dorset I’ve had a close relationship with the countryside and the sea from the earliest age. My memories are running wild in the woods (literally), and walking the coastline from Burton Bradstock to Charmouth over Golden Cap while seeing Lyme Regis sweeping round the corner. To anyone who HASN’T done that Jurassic Coast walk - you must! It’s breathtaking.

 Eypes Mouth, looking towards Golden Cap (Lyme Regis in the background). See that solitary tree on the first cliff? I can't tell you how many years I've loved that tree.

Eypes Mouth, looking towards Golden Cap (Lyme Regis in the background). See that solitary tree on the first cliff? I can't tell you how many years I've loved that tree.

In Northumberland my favourite walk is a country path from Warkworth to Alnmouth, flanked by the North Sea where you often see the beautiful squall showers far away on the horizon like a mist. Very emotional stuff, which I keep with me.

 One of a thousand views from Warkworth to Alnmouth that I treasure.

One of a thousand views from Warkworth to Alnmouth that I treasure.

And finally, in the words of John Masefield himself, if you could “go down to the seas again to the lonely sea and the sky” which sea would it be, what time of year would you go and why? 

Lyme Bay in winter. Those seaweed-green waves lashing the coast by Golden Cap is a sight to see - and I’d be totally alone listening to December by The Waterboys with a pint at The Anchor in Seatown at the end of the walk. Simple pleasures.

That sounds like the dream! 

Paul West - thank you very much!

If you would like to bid on Paul’s artwork then please register here. You can either join us at Hoxton Arches on 13 September at 7.00 pm or leave an absentee bid by heading to the artwork pages: Lot 33 North Arran and Lot 50 Pebbles.

New Northumberland: A joint exhibition

Runs from 28th April - 9th June 2017
The Old School Gallery, Alnmouth, Northumberland

Born and raised in Dorset, I never thought another county could come to mean more to me than my own, 
until I first visited Northumberland in the mid nineties staying with Paula's family in Warkworth.
We've been back every year since.

In 2013 I painted this 12" landscape of the nearby barley fields. It was the first plain air painting
I created where I saw the glimpse of a style I wanted to develop.

 Field, Northumberland 2013

Field, Northumberland 2013

Since that time Northumberland has become my main source of inspiration - I find the I find the huge spaces, incredible skies (as the winds of the North Sea clash with the rolling hills of the Cheviots along the Anglo-Scottish border) and the rugged, hewn landscape is overwhelmingly inspirational.

In the local town of Alnmouth there is our "go to" The Old School Gallery we visit each time we're here.
The standard of work is always excellent, with talented painters, printmakers and illustrators on show. I was contacted by Dale and Penny from the gallery quite out of the blue late last year, asking if I'd like to take part in a joint exhibition with fellow artist Gillian Lee Smith an opportunity I jumped at - and as I write I'm finishing off paintings and looking to
get them framed next week to ship to the gallery for the 25th.

I'm incredibly excited to be participating, the fact I'm exhibiting in one of my favourite areas in the UK feels like the joining
of a circle that started almost 20 years ago with the first visit.

I hope you'll visit the show.

The Other Art Fair

30 March - 2 April 2017, Victoria House, Holborn WC1A.

I exhibited at an excellent TOAF last week. Met fantastically talented artists and really interested and interesting art buyers.
I managed to sell a total of nine etchings from the Silent Voices series, seven paintings and two framed etchings.

One of the reasons exhibiting at art fairs is such an important experience is the feedback you get from public.
The response to my charcoal work in particular was really positive so guess what I'm going to be getting on with after my next show
('New Northumberland' at The Old School Gallery running from April 28 till June 9 2017).

Very much hope to see you at TOAF this October.

 Instagram video - colour works

Instagram video - colour works

 Instagram video - mono works

Instagram video - mono works

Spaces - a commission for British Airways

I was contacted by Cedar Communications in October '16, asking if I would be interested in working on a magazine cover for British Airways First Magazine issue 6 - a new magazine for First class passengers. Each issue offers readers an in-depth exploration of a single concept, this issue being Spaces.

Paul West BA First.small.jpg

I was sent examples of my works that the team liked, and I was given a free reign to create a cover interpreting the idea of 'spaces' which had to be eye-catching, original and bold.

I created the painting during a week in Wales, surrounded by the beautiful layered countryside. Wherever I looked I was very much aware of the physical depth of the landscape from background to foreground which inspired the painting I created for the issue.

PaulWestWales.jpg

Ahh, those tractor trails...

 Incredible vibrancy of red clay soil

Incredible vibrancy of red clay soil

 Paula, rocking a "You Shall Not Pass" groove on Arthur's Stone, a Neolithic chambered tomb, 3,700 BC

Paula, rocking a "You Shall Not Pass" groove on Arthur's Stone, a Neolithic chambered tomb, 3,700 BC

Thanks very much to Henry at Cedar for the opportunity to create this cover. Enjoy the video interview and content below.

 Soaking up the colours of the countryside

Soaking up the colours of the countryside

 Prelim sketch

Prelim sketch

 Brief interview for the magazine

Brief interview for the magazine

Byam Shaw Art Summer Show. 30 July - 2 Aug '16

Really happy to be exhibiting as one of four artists at the Byam Shaw Summer Show 2016 (Old Brompton Gallery, 238 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0DE). The exhibition runs from 30 July till 2 August. 9am - 6pm.

I'm exhibiting alongside talented artists Kerr Ashmore, Rose Arbuthnott and Arthur Laidlaw. Please pop down if you are near. The exhibition was even recommended by Harpers Bazaar in its "What to do in London this week".

The private view on Friday 29th July was great fun!

  Exhibition cover 1 / 4  (we all had our own covers - nice idea) and invitation

Exhibition cover 1 / 4 (we all had our own covers - nice idea) and invitation

For sales enquiries please contact Byam Shaw here: http://byamshawart.com/contact/

Standing Stones and Viking Runes in Sweden

In March I went to Sweden for a weeks break. Part of my stay involved visiting some enigmatic standing stones while walking the Lyckåleden (lyckeby trail) on a beautiful sunny winters day.

 Three standing stones on the bank of the Lyckebyån

Three standing stones on the bank of the Lyckebyån

The area was incredibly atmospheric - I assume the three stones by the Lyckebyån (stream) had to have an association with a water deity, and stopped to draw them.

Elsewhere clusters of forest (and long deserted house ruins) gave way to individual stones, standing silent and powerful in the landscape.

Paul-West-Lyckeby8.jpg

Two days later we drove to Hästhallen ("Horse Hall"), to see the a rock carving area, hidden in the pine forest. Hästhallen consists of over 140 carvings divided into seven groups. The petroglyphs consist of people, ships, horses and riders, deer, soles and sun wheels, dating around 1000BC (Bronze Age).

Once again, the surrounding area only added to a sense of awe that you could feel about the place.

The sheer number of figures carved into the rock shows that the place must have been an important gathering spot for worship in the first millennia.

 Boats (voyaging to the underworld) the 'soles' of a gods feet (top right)

Boats (voyaging to the underworld) the 'soles' of a gods feet (top right)

 The horses have given their name to the rock. Their extended bodies and stretched necks are typical and believed to have been used in religious ceremonies

The horses have given their name to the rock. Their extended bodies and stretched necks are typical and believed to have been used in religious ceremonies

 This looks like a boat being supported by some supernatural deity - carrying the travellers safely to new lands

This looks like a boat being supported by some supernatural deity - carrying the travellers safely to new lands

The final stop of the day was to the stone at the island of Sturkö (on the archipelago of Blekinge).

 "Gude's skipper raised stone"

"Gude's skipper raised stone"

The runic stone dates back to the Viking Age, at the end of the 11th Century, when the County of Blekinge belonged to Denmark. The inscription translates "Gude's skipper raised stone". Gude was a server to the king. The text is shorter than the typical rune inscriptions.