Sir John Hurt Art Prize 2020

Susan Isaac - Washing in the Crew YardIt was lovely to learn that one of my paintings has been shortlisted for the Sir John Hurt Art Prize 2020, run by the Holt Festival.

“Washing in the Crew Yard” is one of a series of works I completed during lockdown, where I was seeking compositions at home to substitute for my usual landscape settings. In part I was exploring a hierarchy of marks to be made when recording moments in time – the results were very personal, intimate glimpses of my immediate environment.

The painting will be part of the shortlist exhibition in a Covid-secure garden setting near Thurning in Norfolk on 26-27 September – it will be open to the public for timed visits (that are free but must be booked via the Holt Festival website).

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Rabbit Hole Day (Harley Open 2020)

This piece was selected to be part of the Harley Open 2020 exhibition, which runs from 1 Aug to 1 Nov, 2020. It was amongst the first paintings I made during the Coronovirus lockdown days at the end of March and beginning of April.

Susan Isaac - Rabbit Hole Day
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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 8 (Trowse & Prizes)

Susan Isaac - Trowse settingA couple of day’s after the event (I was really tired when it finished), here is my account of the final day of the Paint Out Norfolk 2020 event. The painting locations for the last day were narrowed to the vicinity of the exhibition marquee at Whitlingham Country Park, with a further restriction of a 2pm deadline to allow for exhibition curation and judging in the afternoon and early evening.

A couple of us headed off past the suggested nearby Colman-family model village of Trowse, to the industrial area beyond the river Yare, where I scouted around the ‘Tarmac Trowse Asphalt Plant’ and spotted some abandoned shopping trolleys up an adjacent track. I thought I might find an interesting composition by conflating the metal gridwork of the trolleys with the girdered and gantried construction elements of the works. Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 7 (St Benets)

Susan Isaac - St Benets NorfolkFor today’s Paint Out Norfolk session, I went off-piste and followed my nose to a site called St Benet’s Abbey on the river Bure in the Norfolk Broads. Once again my Sat Nav was very ‘creative’ but I arrived eventually. The standing gatehouse to this monastic ruin had been requisitioned in the 18th century by a windmill enterprise and thus had been spawned a curious hybrid – half Gothic stone ruin (all arches and pinnacled pilasters) and half industrial construction (stolid, no-nonsense brick). The combination was extraordinary and irresistible, with strange juxtapositions of form and materials.

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 6 (Wells-next-the-Sea)

Wells-next-the-Sea is an old favourite of mine, with its many distinctive features and so I was delighted that this was one of the options for our sixth day of plein air locations.

Susan Isaac - Measuring the Tide (Wells-next-the-Sea)By the time I’d arrived the sun was high and second breakfast was well overdue. I made for the foreshore near the Tide Recorder Station, hoping it would be a less populous place (considering the swelling number of tourists channelling into the area). Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 5 (Burgh Castle)

My Sat Nav took me on a merry dance this morning, taking me over several rather daunting self-service level crossings and down a very long and unlikely single-track concrete road but, eventually, with the additional aid of an out-of-date OS map, I arrived at the most extraordinary site of the ‘Saxon Shore’ Roman fort remains at Burgh Castle.

Susan Isaac - Burgh CastleThe consistency and scale of the monumental flint & tile construction was unexpected and it certainly took a bit of time to develop a feel for the place and how to respond to it. I walked around the inner and outer areas of the enormous rectangular structure, struggling to find an obvious composition. Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 4 (Cromer)

Susan Isaac - Cromer set upThe weather forecast for Sunday (19 July) was unpromising but we were bidden to various parts of the coast regardless. I chose Cromer, arriving in inclement conditions, donning wet weather clothing and set off around the town to find an inspiring and sheltered location. However, the local fishermen foretold of fine weather and they were quite right and I soon found that the biggest obstacle to overcome wasn’t the weather, but being overwhelmed by the possibilities of what to paint. I’d arrived early enough to walk the course, but no sooner had I seen a spectacular view than I saw another. In the end I chose to reduce the main subject down to the scale of a pebble and, having burrowed down in a defensible space on the shingled beach, I began making sketches with the pier as a backdrop to the beach itself. Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 3 (Norwich)

Susan Isaac - Norwich set upToday’s cluster of Paint Out Norfolk locations were the ‘green spaces’ of the county town – I arrived in Norwich a little later than planned and headed for the Cathedral Quarter, knowing I’d find something of architectural interest. I settled eventually on the green of the Cathedral Close, which has enough beauty in its own right, but rising behind the fine Georgian housing is the spire of the cathedral itself.

I decided on a composition which made use of a Victorian style street lamp to emphasise the series of vertical elements of the subject matter. The lighting was pretty steady over the course of the afternoon as I built my sketch and modulated the paint. I’m always surprised and excited at how visceral the process of ‘sculpting’ a painting can be. Even a seemingly straightforward view can’t be taken for granted. That process can demand such a lot of effort, sometimes to a point of exhaustion! Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 2 (Winterton-on-Sea)

Today we journeyed east (from Norwich) and found ourselves amongst the sand dunes and marram grass of Winterton on Sea. I arrived early, before the beach car park opened for business and (parking temporarily in the village) set off to walked about the dunes noting possible areas for consideration. After a time the beach car park opened and was quickly filling up, so I broke off and moved the car there before resuming my search.

Winterton-on-SeaI was on something of a quest for the war time tank traps, imagining that they would make some interest and contrasting hard edged features amongst the softness of the abundant drifts of silica. As luck would have it there was a pair of these unassuming concrete blocks in the car park. The concrete was peppered with local flint pebbles which gave the surface a beautiful bejewelled appearance. They also neatly edged a view of the cliff profile to the north end and the beach spit as it was revealed by the outgoing tide. Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 1 (Surlingham)

I’m taking part in Paint Out Norfolk again. We arrived on site today at Whitlingham Country Park  for a 9.00am socially distancing meeting in the open air. Old acquaintances were warmly met and new participants greeted. New Covid 19 dictated rules and niceties needed to be established in order to make this a comfortable and successful event. And then we set off in the loose direction of villages along the river system to the south east of Norwich. As the first day, this was intended to have a gentle breaking in feel to it. There was, after all, some socially distanced socialising to catch up on as well as reminding oneself of the pitfalls and practicalities of a ‘wild paint’.

Susan Isaac - St Marys Church SurlinghamOf the destinations proffered, I opted for Surlingham as I knew it to have some interesting historic buildings with vernacular flint facing. I was pleased to find the graveyard of the church of St Mary’s both sheltered and deserted and set up my pitch. I wanted a full view of the distinctive Norman round tower, with its slightly ‘make do and mend’ appearance – brick patched openings and buttresses. I also wanted to include a rather fine Victorian tomb in the foreground – the dark weighty squareness and twisted iron railings seemed at odds with simple informality of the tower. It was an overcast day but there was a brightness in the sky that I also hoped to convey. This light remained pretty constant for the duration of the painting.

After 3 or so hours I felt I had said what I wanted in the painting and packed my bags to return it to the venue at Whitlingham and log it in with the organisers to become part of the event exhibition.

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