A few weeks ago a friend came to see me here in Southern Spain. She told me on her last evening that one of the highlights of her stay had been making her way up the dangerously windy, steep and bumpy track to my house, which sits on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, and seeing the view. It surprised me, although it shouldn’t have done, she’s an artist after all, and it’s true, the view from here is spectacular. Driving back down, what you see, although it’s a bit of a risk looking too much if you’re the one driving, is a huge uninterrupted expanse of blue sea and sky. And driving up it’s fields and mountains and on arrival the snow-capped Sierra Nevada. It struck me then, although not for the first time, how accustomed we get to the beauty all around us and how fortunate artists of all types are for having the opportunity to keep reminding people of beauty. We don’t see or even look properly a lot of the time.
My friend gave me a book, A Bigger Message: Conversations With David Hockney by Martin Gayford, which she said was good for those lack of inspiration, non-painting times. I haven’t ever really followed Hockney’s work, but she was right, what was said even on the first few pages caught my attention, and straight away made me want to paint. He describes how the painter’s job is to “flatten space” and how a painting “stops time” and how we are essentially not sure what the world looks like and how he believes that “pictures make us see the world”. There is just so much in every minute of life to absorb, I know exactly what he means, we constantly need to be reminded to stop and look. And he is right, pictures do help us do this, whether they are of something very normal or something very dramatic.
My studio is a little wooden house set apart from my house. I am constantly walking back and forth and looking at the same view. I never tire of it and I see it all the time. In a few hours at my house my friend filled pages of a sketchbook and the one I loved the most was that same view! What I realise is that it’s OK and valid to find yourself taking inspiration from the same thing again and again, even if it’s on your own doorstep. There’s always something new to see, and something different going on, whether it’s in the landscape or within the actual artist. But more often than not, it’s probably, and hopefully, a mixture of the two.
Annabel Keatley’s paintings can be seen at The Rowley Gallery.