The swimming artist

Immersion: that’s the important thing – to be here in the present moment, and not lose any of it. Swimming is a sure way of experiencing the here and now. Especially when the water is cold, or I have to catch a breath between sloshing sea waves, the water brings me into the present.

Surrounded by water, there’s no-where else for my mind to go.

WhatsApp Image 2017-11-20 at 17.17.09
Swimming at Cleveden, Bristol Channel, November 2017. That’s me on the left.

For me, drawing is immersion too. It’s another, more cerebral and gentle way of noticing where I am. Usually I draw cityscapes: urban sketches.

Hotel Columba, Oban (2017)
Hotel Columba, Oban, waiting for the Lady of Avenel. In the rain (see how the “waterproof” ink has run?)

I took my sketching kit on the Lady of Avenel swimming expedition. Water – watercolours – moving ship – paper – wind – rain – would it work?

Miraculously, it did. I found that if I was quick, I could paint as we moved along. The islands made good subjects. This one was painted in the rain, using rain. I had to run indoors before the image became too “abstract”.

Islands in the rain
Islands in the rain.

Sometimes I drew pictures in the cabin.

Rainy day in the cabin
Rainy day in the cabin.

I discovered that I could paint a picture from the benches at the back of the boat.

3 Square Sails Set (2017)
Three square sails set, drawn on a double-page spread of a notebook.

There are convenient heavy weights in front of the wheel. They are supposed to be used for holding the chart in place. But they work quite well for holding the paper down.

Bracing myself against the wood of the ship, being aware of the movement, and being even more aware of the need to catch the moment before the sails were struck, the island disappeared, or the rain came down, this was my journey on the Lady of Avenel. And it was watercolours, and permanent ink. These are hard things to manage when everything is moving around. But it’s possible. I found it was possible. The important thing, for me, was simply to do it, to put pen to paper, to put the colour down, to look up, to look out and to see.

I draw pictures. And I swim. These are my journeys.

From some of these pictures, the Lady of Avenel made postcards:

Here are more pictures from these travels: