ALL that York artist Carolyn Coles needed was the right opportunity to use a very big piece of high quality watercolour paper.
"When I took on a studio at the Stonebow House it was top of the list. I'd been waiting for years to find the space to start painting it," she says. "The first mark can sometimes be the hardest. One drip, two drips and I’m committed. A sense of a new world being created. My space.
"It was so pleasing to watch paint fall on its own guidance, landing on the floor in pools of green. The paper so thick, taking all the water I could throw at it. Wanting to create distance, I started to form hills. Mountains. Anything horizontal. Linear paths creating trees."
So began Carolyn's journey to the Blossom Street Gallery, where her exhibition of four landscape paintings goes on show from today until March 19 under the title of Horizons.
It was not a straightforward journey, however, as Carolyn recalls the stuttering start. "Casual conversations with other studio artists, loud music, classical mainly. My environment directly affecting every move. Thick brushes, more water. Rest.
"I loved the effects I’d created, but my space had become lost. There was no distance in sight. Something just didn’t seem to fall right. I left the studio challenged."
Take two. Carolyn started again. "The air was warm. The skies clear. Walking to the studio felt exhilarating. I had new purpose. The absolute pleasure of a day ahead devoted entirely to creation. I knew what I had to do," she says. "A 90 degree change. Turn the paper around."
A detail from Horizons, watercolur and pastel, by Carolyn Coles
And so Horizons was born. "Several horizons in one. Where sky starts and ground ended could be defined in so many different ways. Such a metaphor to my new life. With renewed gusto I worked on. The odd splash of pastel here and there, new lakes, a moon, and hey presto. I put my brush down and left it. No more additions to make, just time to reflect."
Certain areas of her work "really excited" Carolyn. "Especially where the paper had made its own marks, steam trails, water, clouds, trees. Light greens creating the special feeling of light bouncing off hills in the distance.
"I love it, especially the watermarks and effects from the paintwork. Drips, those steam trails, deep colours, it gives me strong feelings. As soon as I look at the images, I’m transported to a wilder landscape; it could be anywhere in the North York Moors or Northumbria, places where I spent many happy days; or Somerset, Ilkley, an endless list."
Now, Carolyn's enormous watercolour painting, painted mostly in watercolour with "a bit of pastel thrown in for good measure", can be seen at the Blossom Street Gallery, or rather, four parts of it can be seen. "I decided to separate the painting into five pieces, and four have been beautifully framed by a genius guy called Graham Durant at the York Framing Workshop at Shipton By Beningbrough for the show," says Carolyn.
"Horizons was a huge piece of work, and separating it was a difficult but sensible decision. I chose four pieces, and now they hang in glory within their own right. It will be interesting to see how far apart they travel.”
Carolyn is a former graphic artist at The Press who studied art and illustration in the early 1990s and has exhibited her artwork in London, Derby, Manchester, Hereford and Leeds. Her past commissions include seascapes, landscapes and portraits in oils and acrylics.
“I’ve been labelled a prolific worker, and that's probably because I don’t always worry what direction a painting takes, I just go with it," she says. "I can become a little crazed at times; I’ve a lot of energy when it comes to brushes and paint”.
Carolyn Coles's Horizons, four new landscapes in watercolour, can be viewed at Blossom Street Gallery, Blossom Street, York, March 3 to March 19. Opening hours are Monday,Tuesday,Thursday and Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm; Wednesday and Saturday, 9.30am to 4.30pm.