Dorset-based painter Angela Charles uses layers of colour to evoke memories of the Jurassic coast’s unique geology and landscape. The Chromologist caught up with her to discuss why the area is so endlessly inspiring.
What does Dorset and its coast means to you and your work?
“Dorset, in particular Chesil Beach and the countryside that edges it, is a constant source of inspiration. Living here has had such a positive effect on me and my work. I had no idea that my paintings would be so influenced by the landscape when I first came here, but you can’t help be bowled over by the scenery. Before I moved I rarely used green in my paintings.”
Tell us about the use of colour in your paintings.
“Colour is the most important aspect of my work. I painstakingly mix my paints to create my memory of colours I’ve seen. Often I’ll spend more time colour mixing than actually painting. The colours of the coast seem to be ever changing so I have an endless source of inspiration. You can visit the same spot along Chesil Beach each week and yet the colours will always be different. The sea will sometimes be an inviting pale blue with crisp white edges, another time a deep inky black that you know it’s best to steer clear of. The shingle changes colour whether it’s wet or dry, covered by clouds or in glorious sunshine.”
How do you like to work – do you sketch, write or photograph first?
“I’m not one to paint finished works in the landscape, my work is about the memory of a place rather than a direct representation of what’s there. I sometimes make rough pen sketches and colour notes on the back of old envelopes when I’m out. I have a real problem with sketchbooks. After six years at art college where your sketchbooks would be viewed and assessed, I now like the idea of sketching privately on something that can be discarded, something that is just a memory jogger for the final work. All of my large pieces are on aluminium panels, primed to create a perfectly smooth surface, similar to the finish of a car. I build up layers of acrylic paint – I’m too impatient for oils – which I then sand down to create a smooth surface. Sometimes the different coloured layers are revealed and sometimes they stay hidden, similar to the geology of the Dorset coast.”
Do you have anything from the local landscape in your studio for inspiration?
“No funnily enough my studio has nothing of the local landscape in it. It is full of man-made found objects, many from further afield, including eyesight charts from Russia, a medicine cabinet from a skip in Spain, an old train signal, a former Woolworths shopping basket, all of which I’ve collected because of their design and their colour.”
Can you tell us any local places that you like to spend time in for inspiration?
“West Bay is by far my favourite bit of coast when it’s out of season but in the summer when the crowds descend I’ll head for the countryside. Some of the countryside in both the Blackmore Vale and Marshwood Vale is, in my view, some of the most inspirational around. The view of Abbotsbury from the coast road as you drop down the hill with the view over St Catherine’s Chapel to Chesil Beach has to be one of the best in England.”
See more of Charles’ work and upcoming exhibitions at her website, here.