KATRINA WARD
New Zealand Artist, Textile Designer & Educator

Journal

Why I love to paint the Sea

We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken....
— Nichols, W. Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier...

Recently we moved back to Taranaki after some time away and seeing the sea every day and living back near the mountain is doing good things for my soul. 

The beach has always been important to me - even if it is just to see it rather than walk on it or swim in it. I just like to be near it.

When I was young I collected rocks because I loved how smooth they are after being turned and turned in the sea. I loved to stand on Back Beach and listen to the rumble of the stones being turned over as the tide went out. I love to take my kids to wade in the water and I love the fun of waves catching you by surprise.

Though I'm too uncoordinated for surfing and a little afraid of the immense power of the ocean, I have an immense respect for it and being near it is a way to ground myself in the world. 

We built our first house in Anawhata by the sea. We made our home in the Waitakeres, near Piha, and I only had to go for a quick walk along our dusty bush road to sea the distant blue of the sea peeking through the bush. I walked or ran in the bush every day, got muddy, explored waterfalls and delighted in the loud hiss of the ocean that filled the air on a stormy day. Oftentimes I even had the whole of Anawhata beach to myself after work where I could walk my dogs and I loved to let all of my worries be absorbed by the sweetly loud roar of the ocean.

Two years ago we had an opportunity to move North and we moved inland near caves. The sea was twenty minutes drive away and it was weird to me because our nearest beaches were calm East Coast beaches with shells, white sand and little lapping waves. I walked on those sands pretty regularly with my kids, but I missed the roar of the West Coast and I hated living inland more than I think I was aware of at the time.

Now, finally, we return to the coast again. We bring our children to the place I grew up and we are nicely near the mountain, the sea and are sitting pretty in a little in between place. I can't say why it is so important to me, this being near the sea thing, but even driving down the road towards the ocean and seeing its distant sparkle (even if truly distant and only just visible on the horizon) relaxes me somehow. And now that I am painting it, well, its mysteries are even more wonderfully enigmatic and I am loving my adventures in paint trying to capture the serenity.

It's harder than I thought, though, painting the space where water meets the air. But when I am painting, it's like I am floating above the ocean staring into it. I am flying in paint. I am swimming in paint. I am living in full colour and I see green, copper, blue and gold. I see white, I see silver. I imagine manatees and mermaids...

Something magic happens inside me.

And then, most wonderfully, the moment gets captured in paint. 

Layers and layers of glazes and glazes make up this watery painting. Sea II. It even has glitter!

Layers and layers of glazes and glazes make up this watery painting. Sea II. It even has glitter!

Ah the serenity. It takes me a long time to get the texture and the colour just right...

Ah the serenity. It takes me a long time to get the texture and the colour just right...

Sea II. Acrylic on Board. 2017.

Sea II. Acrylic on Board. 2017.

The great news is that I have ordered some more circle panels so that I can keep up the exploration. I've done two large 60cm diameter Sea Paintings so far, and I want to keep up the thematic journey. Some smaller ones will be added to my shop soon.

My daughter wants me to paint the ocean pink because she's noticed it change colour in a sunset. And you know what? I just might....

Sea II. Acrylic on Board. 2017.

Sea II. Acrylic on Board. 2017.

Sea I. Acrylic on Board. 2017.

Sea I. Acrylic on Board. 2017.