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Gallery Twelve

Question & Answer

Questions by Sarah, country England, for her school art project.

#1.Question: How did you come to start painting underwater?
Answer: During my first couple of years of SCUBA diving, just being underwater exploring and observing the marine life was enough. Later on I wanted to expand the experience by going from an observer of the scene to one of a recorder of the scene. My first effort to record an underwater scene was with a drawing I did in my studio. Needless to say it looked like what it was, a lifeless, drab, stiff drawing done in the studio, devoid of the marine experiences is was having. As a result of this disappointment, I started to think of ways to paint underwater, which led to experiments in the kitchen sink with various materials.
#2.Question: Why is the subject matter of your work important to you? E.g. does it highlight a political or moral concern about nature and the environment or do you just find it aesthetic?
Answer: Since the age of ten I have been keeping and breeding tropical fish,you might say an aquarist for life. Depicting the beauty of the marine environment is what I initially started out to do. Then along came the idea of incorporating story telling, to enhance the viewing experience.
#3.Question: Are there any hidden or not immediately apparent meanings within your work?
Answer: There are no hidden meanings in the work, only pictures and true stories of the pictures.
#4.Question: How do you feel when you are painting underwater? What do you like about painting underwater?
Answer: I feel great, excited about what sort of critters will appear on the scene, with the possibility of a dive story. The thing I like most is just being able to be there, in an alien world with its inhabitants.
#5.Question: Do you use deliberate distortion, exaggeration or abstraction, or are you forced to stray from photographic realism because of the difficulties of painting underwater?
Answer: The most important element of the work is to capture the feeling of the aquatic world,( a camera is much better at photographic realism ),then the action going on around you and trying to keep focused on the process. At times I am forced into abstractions and distortion by all the action around me, you can't draw individual members of a school of Silver Sides, what you can to is represent then with dots (.) and (<), like those in Gallery Nine on my net site. I have done a few drawings using bits and pieces of a fish or coral, all mixed up to create an Environmental Abstraction.
#6.Question: Who do you paint for? Who inspires and influences your work? In what ways have your own experiences influenced your work?
Answer: I paint for myself, with the hope of finding a audience for the work. The inspiration for doing the Aquascapes underwater on location, came from Vincent van Goghs, working outside at night with candles attached to his straw hat. My experiences while diving have the greatest influences on the work. Example, While diving in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles a Scorpion Fish get into the habit of perching itself on my lap while I stroked it on the head, trying to get it to turn over so I could draw its underside,( a Scorpion Fish has bright yellows, oranges and a deep violet underside ). The resulting drawing was a quick study as it is not wise to agitate this fish, especially when it has the power to send you to the emergency room of a hospital.
#7.Question: What materials do you paint with underwater and what tools do you use?
Answer: I have tow sets of material and tools, one for drawings and one for oil paintings. The drawings are done on acid free water color paper with sticks of oil pastels or colored pencils, sometimes both are used in the same drawing. Paintings are done on raw lenin or canvas, that I jesso in the studio before a dive trip, using oil sticks. As for the tools, they are quite simple, fingers, sticks, dive knife, plastic eating knife, in short anything that I can use to create the desired effect in a painting. I do not use tools when drawing.
#8.Question: Do you use supporting studies, such as photographs?
Answer: The drawings are completed underwater, with the exception of adding a watercolor wash to the background, after they have been desalinated in fresh water. Some of the drawings end up as collages like those in Gallery One of my net site.
#9.Question: How long does it take you to complete one of your paintings?
Answer: The time it takes to complete a drawing varies in direct proportion to the dive site. example. (I did a drawing in Roatan Honduras of an ell garden at ninety feet, since my total bottom time at that depth without a decompression stop is thirty minutes, twenty of which I had already used just looking around, leaving ten minutes to get the drawing done.) An oil painting can take up to three hours to complete. After being refreshed from a nights sleep, I usually do a morning dive of two to three hours, which can be from the surface to fifteen feet, completing seven or eight drawings. John Stoneman of Mako Films once asked me, "Arnt you worried about saturating you market?" An artist can never have enough pictures to work with, some of which can be used in collages.
#10.Question: Where do you exhibit your work? (My Uncle lives in California and he might agree to go and take some photos for me if it were viable and within a reasonable distance.)
Answer: The Aquascapes are not being exhibited at this time.
#11.Question: Anything else interesting!
Answer: On surfacing from the ninety foot dive on the ell garden in Roatan, another diver kicked over to view the drawing and asked, "Did you really see that?", referring to the bright colors, my answer was "yes". I could see the look of disbelief on his face. At ninety feet without a dive light, all you see are shades of gray, which creates the problem of what colors do I pick the match the colors in the scene. What I do is grab a handful of colored pencils, hold then out at arms length in front of what is being drawn and pick the gray pencil the best matches the subject. I don't see the true colors of my drawings until I surface, every drawing is a revelation in color. I can understand why he did not believe me.
Answer:Sand tends to stick to the oil paintings that I do in shallow water, an extra added dimension to the work.

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References:
Gallery Nine,( http://www.angelfire.com/ny/aquascapeart/page8.html )
Gallery One, ( http://www.angelfire.com/ny/aquascapeart/page1.html )

Sara, Nick Peters, Dec.2, 2000 aquascape@angelfire.com
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Gallery Thirteen (Sarah's Art Paper )
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