From the Studio

I don’t know if its just artists’ minds that stumble haphazardly upon ideas, or indeed, whether its just how my mind works, but this post will illustrate an example of how things get made less by planning than by accident. 

A recent tidy up in the studio brought this A3+ size sketch to light.

It was a quick response made last year to the fire at Southwold harbour in Spring 2023. The event was quite dramatic, involving exploding gas cylinders and destroying one local business and severely damaging another. 

In an earlier post on this From the Studio page I shared a large oil on board I painted recently, made to capture the gritty, dark nature of the old harbour buildings that are so loved by so many people. So on coming across this sketch I decided I would make a few changes to see whether I thought it too would convey the same dark notes and hint of damage. 

The sketch is simply worked in a grey watercolour and ink wash, on a lightweight Two Rivers hand made paper. The strong lines are created using an old metal nail file. Denting the paper surface means that when a darker wash is added, these lines pick up and hold onto the pigment. 

It may also prove to be a poignant statement of affection for this great workplace and scene of many marine comings and goings in all weathers. At present discussions are once again being planned to “develop” (tidy up) this friendly, messy environment. Shopping centres may be developed!! 

Below is the update I’ve made, simply adding a dilute ultramarine wash here and there, and similarly dilute ochre and umber washes. This is the finished piece with a mount card placed over it. Mount cards often really ‘make’ a painting, somehow bringing it to life.


I like its brooding qualities and feel that the loose style of this work conveys the damage and detritus that the fire left. There’s also something really important for me about North Sea ports and their feel of the dangerous power of the sea always close by.

The large (76cm square) oil on board of the harbour will soon be featured in the June Holton exhibition (See more here). This watercolour will be available to see in the studio and possibly at the May Pond Gallery show.