Seven Seas: The influence of the sea, an interview with Kathryn Matthews and Katty McMurray
The influence of the sea has inspired many great artists, writers and musicians. It provides our daily view from the Two Kats and the Cow gallery and each day it provides an ever changing backdrop. This week on Instagram using the hashtag #sevenseas we’ve been posting a picture a day looking at Kathryn Matthews and Katty McMurray’s approach to capturing the sea throughout their oil paintings, resulting in a quick Q&A with the two Kats below.
See the full collection on Instagram
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What drew you to painting the sea?
Kathryn: I first started painting the sea when I lived and studied art in Rotterdam in 1991. I had a studio which overlooked the docks. That is when I also first started to paint boats and enjoy all the shapes and paraphernalia of dock lands and harbours.
Katty: I grew up in London but my mother is Italian so I spent every summer as a child on the coast in Italy. The sea has always given me a sense of calm and space, whatever the weather. An art school trip to Cornwall really embedded the influence of the sea in my work when I discovered the work of the St Ives painters, and the similarity their drawings had to my sketches. Now I seek out the coast wherever I go.
How has having a studio by the sea inspired your work?
Kathryn: I have lived and painted in a variety of homes since moving to Brighton and they have all been along the seafront, from Kemptown to Shoreham. I think I’m addicted. The sea is so close to my home now that I can hear the waves crashing from my bed. If I’m feeling stuck with a painting, I’ll take myself off for a brisk beach walk. My favourite view of the sea though is from Two Kats and a Cow. It’s different everyday.
Katty: I've been painting and working on Brighton beach for 23 years now, 16 years in Two Kats and a Cow and before that I was next door in the Open Studios for 7 years, so over the years the sea has just become my wonderful everyday vista.
What piece of music reminds you of the seaside?
Kathryn: Last summer my cousin played cello on every pier throughout the British coast (about 51 I think). He is in the extreme cellists and they played ‘I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside’ on Worthing Pier, which is possibly about as sea-sidey as it gets! I also have amazing memories of driving along the coast with my husband in his big Citroen DS listening to The Cinematic Orchestra and the Gotan Project.
Katty: When I first walked into the Open Studios to see if there was a space available there were these wonderfully haunting Bulgarian voices playing ‘Le Mysteries des Voix Boulgares’. Every time I hear it, it brings me straight back to the early days in the arches, we were in our 20’s and just starting out on this big adventure…
How do you approach painting the sea?
Kathryn: I start with a very wild and colourful palette and use broad, free brushstrokes. Even if I end up covering it all with one flat colour it adds a secret, subtle depth. Lately though, I’ve been experimenting with keeping it a bit more expressive and free.
Katty: I always start with a wash of colour and work up the layers until I get it just as I want it, I like my colours to be even, subtle and calming.
How has Brighton beachfront changed over the last 20 years?
Kathryn: My first studio on Brighton Beach was a tiny arch in the artist’s quarter. We had no heating or even electricity, I see the lovely new arches that have just been renovated and think how easy they have it now! They’ve even got their own toilets… The Mayor at the time had a vision to give the seafront a makeover and make it a safer, more vibrant and family friendly place. It used to be a bit of a no go zone after nightfall.
Katty: Oh dramatically, it was a different world, it was like an island full of artists and pubs! You had to be pretty resilient to work down there, no heating or facilities of any kind, we used to paint in fingerless gloves and balaclavas! We didn't even have windows for many years, we were completely open to the elements, some arches didn't even have water!. I would start at 8am and work until got dark then head to the Fortune of War Pub. Over the years, the seafront has become so much more of a family destination, the landscaping is fantastic, it used to be just a straight path and the sea, now it's a an absolute hive of activity at all times.