In the early days, by which I mean my first efforts at underwater subjects, I did not gather reference from first hand experiences. Instead I sketched from programmes from the TV or used photos i'd seen in fishing books as reference material. One of my first efforts was a painting of a Pike which I'd taken from an old photo from a fishing book. I obviously didn't want to copy the photo as it was in black & white for one thing & I also wanted to change the light on it so it would fit into the surroundings that I had planned for it. It was a hideously ugly painting & never even got as far as being framed. The problem was that I hadn't had any actual experience of seeing Pike underwater & personally I think the painting failed because of me trying to run before I could walk. I have some slides somewhere of another Pike painting that did make it into a frame but as it was such along time ago I look back on that one & cringe with embarrassment.
Many moons ago I used to exhibit in Fountain Fine Art gallery in Llandeilo. It was when Gillian Still owned & ran it, the glory days of the gallery & some very happy memories of those times. Gillian put on a themed exhibition one year, the theme being water. This was my first opportunity to paint a series of paintings underwater. I chose this as I knew that all the other Artists would be painting above the surface & taking a more traditional view. Its still one of my favourite exhibitions that i've ever taken part in & although technically i'm a much better painter now, I think for ideas & subject matter & composition then it was one of my early successes & people seemed to enjoy the unusual little paintings that I did for that show. Some were of Ducks & Grebes diving, many were of stones falling through water, twisting & turning as they fell, leaving a trail of mercury like bubbles behind them & the others were of views through water into rock pools.
It may surprise many of you that know my paintings, the way I try to portray realistically the subjects that I choose & how I like to ( if I can ) infuse my paintings with light, that I do enjoy other forms of painting. I used to paint in a number of different styles & over the years I have honed my skills & the paintings you see today have developed over time to become identifiable to me. Although I don't always see it, people will often say when viewing a painting something like " thats a classic Cowdry painting." So I must be developing an identifiable style. This little painting below is an early one & was a painting loosely done, quickly with no emphasis on light or detail but rather to just get an impression of the scene. Its of a diving Grebe which I sketched from a TV programme & although it would never win a prize, I still like it & it hangs on my own wall.
|A very early impressionistic Grebe diving underwater.|
|'Curious Perch' oil on linen|
|'Sunlit pool, River Sawdde' oil on canvas|
|'Into the depths, diving Otter' oil on canvas|
|'Playful Otter' oil on board|
A painting of diving Guillemots & a Razorbill in the beautiful emerald & turquoise waters around Skomer island. I love this painting, not because I think its fab or anything like that but rather for what it represents for me, how it makes me feel. So many magical, delightful hours spent hanging around, bobbing & floating in the salty water watching these graceful birds doing their thing. On land they are not so full of grace, looking more like a drunk negotiating their way back to the bar, but in the water... Wow! thats the element they were born to. As I hang in the sea gazing in awe at these birds I find myself feeling somewhat self conscious having just about squeezed into my wetsuit & flailing about like a one legged Frog. As the birds become bolder they swim nearer & at times they dive all around you, enveloping you within a cage of silver bubbles & each bird jacketed in mercury. As they dive down below & out of sight they have to beat their wings much harder in order to stay down to find some food. Slowly & with lazier wing beats they spiral back to the surface.
I do like this painting for some of its other merits too. The illusion of space & depth I feel has worked ok & the light below the water i'm happy with. Cant quite believe that I painted this over six years ago.
|'Diving Guillemots & a Razorbill' oil on canvas|
|'Diving Razorbill' oil on canvas|