Time & tide

Kent Life - - Art Life - WORDS: Diana Cramp­ton PIC­TURES: Manu Palomeque

Rom­ney Marsh artist Cather­ine Farr’s sub­ject mat­ter

is a very per­sonal re­sponse to her sur­round­ings

Cather­ine Farr moved from Spain some 11 years ago to the Rom­ney Marsh and loves its great light, big skies and prox­im­ity to the sea.

A Lon­doner by birth, she took a BA Hon­ours in Fine Art at Wim­ble­don, then did a PGCE at Gold­smith’s Col­lege so that teach­ing could help sup­port her grow­ing pas­sion for paint­ing.

Cather­ine used to draw a lot as a child and then saw an ad­vert for a Paint­ing by Num­bers set.

An only child and of­ten lonely, the metic­u­lously or­gan­ised paint­ing by num­bers of­fered her an es­cape. “I just loved the smell of the paint,” she re­calls.

I ask her if she still paints to a de­sign, or whether her can­vases

evolve. “I have an im­age and I may think I love the light, or I love the colour. But it never comes out as planned,” she laughs.

“The dis­ad­van­tage is if you have a plan. I tend not to think about it, I just go with it.” She de­scribes her sub­ject mat­ter as ‘a per­sonal re­sponse to my sur­round­ings, places of es­cape or respite, safe and peace­ful ar­eas.’

Her art train­ing, she adds, helps her to un­der­stand her craft. How then does she know when a work is com­plete? “When I re­alise I am just fid­dling about and not in­stinc­tively mak­ing marks any­more! I re­ally think when I am plonk­ing bits of colour on, I don’t know what I am do­ing. But other times the mark­mak­ing is pur­pose­ful.”

For­mal train­ing gives you ac­cess to a group of peo­ple off whom you can bounce ideas. “How would you get that on your own?” she asks, although ad­mit­ting that this might cre­ate con­tra­dic­tions.

Her train­ing at Wim­ble­don taught her ev­ery­thing she needed to know, from how to stretch a can­vas to mak­ing paint. “When I teach, I try to get peo­ple to know about their ma­te­ri­als.”

Cather­ine al­ways uses oils. “I do two things, small mixed me­dia with tis­sue and oil pas­tel. Oil has an in­ten­sity and depth of colour: there is a whole lus­cious­ness to it.”

She uses Sen­nelier oil pas­tels, light sticks of oil which melt onto pa­per or card. “I love oil but some­times this may be slower: oil pas­tels and tis­sue are quicker and cap­ture the en­ergy.”

So does in­tel­lec­tu­al­is­ing lessen the power of a work? Cather­ine pon­ders this. “There is noth­ing wrong with lik­ing a piece of work and not know­ing why.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if you don’t know why you like it, but some­times in­tel­lec­tu­al­is­ing can lessen the power.”

Cather­ine of­ten paints at the late Christo­pher Lloyd’s gar­den at Great Dix­ter, but she also loves the beach. “I al­ways want to cap­ture a qual­ity of light,” she says.

How­ever, she ad­mits it is dif­fi­cult to be truly orig­i­nal, and just tries to paint what works for her, her in­stincts finely honed by her train­ing and prac­tice.

The process in­volves tak­ing lots of pho­to­graphs and do­ing draw­ings, though she may work di­rectly from her sub­ject, for in­stance at Great Dix­ter, where the dahlias can grow very tall.

“There is a whole lus­cious­ness to oils that I love”

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