Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Callum shows Wales no mercy…
The Tempest of Aberystwyth 4' x 4' oil on canvas
Storm Callum is on its way. The Met Office issues an Amber Warning as gale-force winds hit the country, consequently issuing a warning for flooding. Most of Wales will experience increased travel delays, power cuts and the potential risk to life and damage to property. Severe weather will continue hit Britain this Friday, bringing with it a month’s worth of rain in just two days.
The weather system currently gathering over the Atlantic will hit Wales especially hard. Storm Callum will be the third named storm of the season. It will sweep across the country bringing gusts of winds up to 80mph in coastal areas. Disruption is certain on Friday as Storm Callum hits Wales along with the rest of the UK. It comes on top of a yellow Met Office warning for high winds and heavy rain across most of the country.
Arriva Trains Wales are amending services, therefore there is a warning in effect. There are no ferry crossings because of the storm threat.
The Met Office issued a warning from the early hours of Friday into Saturday, and many flood alerts in place across South and West Wales, in addition to, the worst of the rain will be on the south and south-facing hills, with 120mm to 160mm (4.7in to 6.3in) predicted, according to the forecaster.
Advice is to heed any warning or caution issued regarding hurricane and gale force winds. There is no need for alarm but use common sense when out and about.
Inspired To Paint A Storm
An Expressive Oil Oil Painting of a Storm Wave Hitting Aberystwyth Wales
Last season, two storms, in particular, battered the Welsh coast in succession with little warning, hence they left considerable carnage weeks later. Storm Brian, followed within weeks by Storm Ophelia, hit Aberystwyth and the Welsh coast without mercy. Both were ferocious and as disruptive as storm Callum. Breaking waves towered over the five-story buildings all along the promenade. Some thrill seekers risked being swept away by the sea because they gathered to dance and dodge the incoming storm surge.
I was in so awe of the power of these destructive storms that I was inspired to paint an interpretation on a 4’ x 4’ canvas. The painting featured the Aberystwyth seafront, the Aberystwyth Pier, and the Old College, which was formerly part of the University of Wales.
I produced several sketches which I turned into several study paintings. Ideas began to flow spontaneously onto paper and canvas, therefore, I soon began experimenting with texture.
During the sketching process, several words came to mind such as alarm, warning, chaos, power, carnage, surge, destruction. It seemed to me that incorporating texture into the painting would add a much-needed quality and dimension into the artwork because I wanted to capture the essence of this storm in its raw state. I wanted to connect with the violence and the anger of this tempest, in all its rich textural qualities.
Prepping the Canvas outside my Aberystwyth studio and gallery
I began by adding a layer of white texture to the canvas. I added grit and sand from the beach into the mix. I wanted to take a physical remnant of this gale and place it into the heart of the painting. It was important to me to have that symbolic connection embedded into the canvas as a record for years to come. My secret mix began to shrink and crack under the stress of heat from a hair dryer I was using to blow the mix around.
The painting felt organic and alive, as the ingredient literally ran its own course, therefore, like this tempest, I could not truly control it. The art was in control. All I could do was suggest the general direction where the mix should flow. I had a white canvas covered with a variety of lumps, bumps and cracks. I liked it just as it was.
Drying the Texture
I then layered blocks of vibrant colours on top of this. I began to smear and scrape a base of burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, and orange. This added contrast and complimented visible underpainting. I used hints of purple for distant landmarks and sap green for the sea.
Underpainting with Blocks of Vibrant Colours
A technique I have been working on this year is to lay a base of burnt umber and ultramarine blue. This foundational layer of blackness seems to add a certain richness of depth when it comes through the additional top layers. It also serves another purpose. It helps me during the painting to gauge values such as contrast and subtle colour changes.
A lot is going on underneath this painting. On the surface, I am aiming for simplicity, but like all storms, there lies within a multitude of complexities.
I muted the top colours significantly. This unified the body of the underpainting. I scumbled layer upon layer of thicker and lighter paint while allowing the underlying tone and the darkness within to seep through. I have found this adds to the richness of dimension and depth.
I wanted to communicate a sense of anger, violence, despair, chaos; that an unwanted tempest can bring into our lives.
Simplicity within the Painting
Ultimately though, I intended all along to simplify the image on the surface. I deliberately encourage the viewer to take a closer look and analyse the underlying layers of paint by discovering for themselves a treasure of hidden complexities, buried within the structure of this oil painting.
The Aberystwyth pier and the Old The Old College formerly Aberystwyth University, are vaguely recognisable in this otherwise featureless landscape. I left a small explosion of colour still exposed in the body of the wave. The tone communicated strength and power, so clearly it had to remain visible.
The overall tone of the painting was too dark and oppressive therefore taking the focus away from the energy of this work.
I reworked the sky by lightening the tone from the horizon up. I darkened the contrast of the Old University College building and Aberystwyth Pier. This added a dimensional depth and acted as a focal point to draw the eye in.
I highlighted some of the natural textures underneath the work, by contrasting the highlights or lowlights here and there, depending on the tones within that particular area.
My recent work has become way more abstract and expressive, which may look easy, however, it is not as straightforward as it seems. Other’s may think it’s rubbish. I have to let that go. The older I get, the more straightforward and simple my life gets. I reflect that in my art. I strip away the details. All the fluff. I begin to get to the essence of the subject. It becomes an expression of me.
I completed the painting by gently working out the edge of the breaking wave, thus featherlike brushstrokes were needed to capture the softness of the power that had now dissipated because this highlighted a sense of hope for us all perhaps? That no matter what life has to throw at us. No matter what circumstances attempt to destroy and steal from us, if we stand firm, it will pass, because we shall overcome.