Painting and Exploring

A profile of Richard Paul, exploring and painting Britain

I began painting at roughly the same time I began exploring.  Fresh out of university I was living in Cambridge and looking for something new outside of the office job to give meaning to life.  I found this sitting on the banks of the Cam, sketching the boathouses, carefully avoiding anything other than the architecture!  I tried an evening class and discovered pastels.  With pastels I found I could portray colour and light, but resolution was limited - even with pastel pencils.  It helped to adopt a impressionist approach.


Atop a remote munro on a six day backpack - 2011

I discovered oils at about the same time I found out about the Munros, getting hooked on climbing British mountains and of course painting them.  I worked then as I do now, straight from the tube, working raw pigment into the picture, only rarely pre-preparing a shade (for small details).  My pictures were a little rough at first, but with time I began to master the colour to create subtler hues and finer textures.


I got to the point where mountains were beginning to look alike and realised the potential audience was quite limited.  After climbing 700 peaks I began to change focus - to beaches.  You may think you know the British beaches - full of lobster red bodies, children running around building suncastles and dropping ice-creams - but these make up only a tiny proportion.  There are far more quiet and remote beaches, many stunningly beautiful, but too far from a carpark or facilities to draw the crowds.  Its these that I like to paint.


On Tiree - May 2017

I began with the stunningly beautiful beaches of the Outer Hebrides (or Western Isles if you prefer).  In particular the area near Luskentyre (Losgantir) on Harris.  I've been there seven times now, and never cease to find a new angle or lighting that I want to paint.


In 2017 I discovered that the island of Tiree is just as stunning too.  With a dozen unspoilt beaches around its shore, you'll more than likely have them to yourself.  Only the kite-surfers seem to know about this place.


There are also some very nice beaches a bit closer to civilisation.  Try Priory Bay and Colwell Bay on the Isle of Wight, Monkstone beach near Tenby (or indeed on Caldey Island nearby), Sandy Hills in Dumfries and Galloway. The extensive sands of Formby, or the North Norfolk coast make good subjects too.


Soaked at remote Shenavall Bothy

Over the years I've diversified into many other subjects too.  In the animal kingdom I've done a series of British butterflies, which I've achieved through very subtle additions of colour from an almost dry brush; and my miniatures of highland cattle. Their thick coats particularly suit an impasto technique, laying on ever more layers of pigment to create that lovely texture.


My industrial landscapes have proved popular too.  Few people paint what most see as ugly industry, but look closely and there is a hidden beauty - particularly where a little rust and grubbiness starts to take over.  I'm not the first to notice this of course, as the impressionists did many an industrial scene.  What would be the modern equivalent in terms of unlikely subjects - I guess painting the office!


In late 2017 I fell seriously ill, escaping an early demise only thanks to the health service and my underlying fitness.  The year that followed has been a year of recovery and a year of painting subjects closer to home, or from my photo archives.  During that time I started exploring darkness with more dusk, dawn and night pictures.  Some such as my small picture of a footpath through a dark tunnel of shrubbery at Morfa Nefyn can be related to my traumatic experience - or they can be taken at face value if you prefer.


Southport 2017 - shortly before my illness

2018 has also seen a rare snowfall where I live in Romsey (the last was five years previous).  It gave me a couple of opportunities to get some fresh views of the town, first in daylight, and on the second fall, at 5:30am on a March Sunday morning, pre-dawn.  That has led me on to try a few nocturnal paintings of town and city - they have gone down well with the public.  Finally, in 2019 I've tried my hand at scenes with people - its not a subject I find easy (particularly getting the scale right), but I think I've cracked it.  Why not pop along to one of my events and see what you think?


On this site I can give you a flavour of my work, but as always with art its best to see it in person.  If you are in the area, please feel free to pop into any of the events I'm taking part in.  You can find a list of them on my events and exhibitions page.


If you want to follow what I'm up to outside of events, then take a look at my blog.

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© Richard Paul