Paint Out Norfolk 2019

This is my account of Paint Out Norfolk (Sainsbury Centre) 2019, which ran from 1-5 July, with the exhibition private view and prize giving held on 5 July, and the exhibition running from 6-7 July, 2019.

Monday (1 July) – Norwich

My first painting for Paint Out Norfolk 2019 was completed at the opening session in Norwich on Monday evening – looking across the River Wensum beside Bishop Bridge towards the spire of Norwich Cathedral (with the Red Lion pub close by on Bishopgate).

I had driven down through the afternoon from my home near Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire to join this first session. Having got lost a few times en route, and then needing to check in with my landlady, I arrived a little late and a little flustered to join a becalmed sea of painters.  I settled myself after a while, conscious that time would be short. All too soon the other artists were packing away to adjourn to a nearby pub, there to eat, relax and catch up. Paint Out founder James Colman now appeared at my shoulder and, probably recognising my look of worry, suggested working for another half hour and then calling it a day. With everyone gone I gathered my thoughts, made a few quick decisions and put down some strategic marks to complete the painting.

Susan Isaac - Below Bishop BridgeI stopped abruptly after the suggested 30 minutes and made my way to the Red Lion to join what was left of the group. On arrival, I made a fuss of a large Labrador belonging to a friendly looking couple. After a few vague niceties their conversation switched gear and with mounting enthusiasm they treated me to a lengthy and vitriolic diatribe against Jeremy Corbyn! Polite to a fault, I  could not seem to find the pause button and by the time I was driven to hold up a hand and declare that I was actually feeling faint with hunger, I was too late for food and had to make a meal of a packet of crisps.

Tip of the day (actually two) – give yourself plenty of time to find your destination and always have snacks in reserve.

Tuesday (2 July) – Wells-next-the-Sea

Susan Isaac - Wells viewFine weather was set for the entire week and the first full day of painting saw the artists head north to Wells-next-the-Sea. I arrived at the allotted car park, selected a long thin canvas, for an assumed marine orientation, and set off in search of a view.  I found a slightly neglected looking area along the elevated footpath beside the Beach Road, with temporary paling fencing strung across it to ward off exploration and notices declaring the presence of ground nesting birds. There was also a marina that looked off limits and therefore a little intriguing. Substantial mooring posts (with the lifeboat station beyond) processed in a line that seemed to continue that of the fencing. I also liked the swirl of the sand bank that stretched around the back, containing and protecting this eyelet of water, and the way in which the beach fanned out with many textures and sea sculpted shapes.

Susan Isaac - Fence and Defence (Wells-next-the-Sea)Tip of the day – A practical lesson re-learned this day was to always apply sun cream thoroughly. I had neglected to protect my feet, thinking them not exposed. By the end of the afternoon they were radiating back an alarming shade of vermilion and burning ferociously.

Wednesday (3 July) – How Hill Broads

On Wednesday morning I set my phone app co-ordinates for How Hill on the Norfolk Broads and struck out from Norwich in good time, with only about 15 miles to travel. We were meant to arrive for our day’s briefing by 9:15am. Sadly, I got lost – falling foul of Norfolk’s apparently thin satellite coverage and eccentric country lane signage and misled by the word ‘hill’.

Arriving late I parked the car and looked out to find myself on an area of gently elevated land overlooking a large, very flat expanse complete with watercourse and distant windmill. This is not my usual landscape of choice, with so much greenery and very little in the way of man-made structure. I marched down to the obvious bit of structure – the mill – where several painters were already stationed. The possible compositions here were tempting but in the end I decided to grasp the opportunity to explore the landscape a la ‘Grand old Duke of York’, and take in the fullest topographic aspect – so, I marched back up to the top of the ‘hill’ and set up adjacent to several other painters.

Susan Isaac - How HillThe sun, although present all afternoon, was often veiled enough to give a very flat aspect to the atmospheric perspective, making it hard to decipher. Nevertheless, I set about my view of the landscape that stretched out in front of me, using my own system of mark making and colour approximations to do so. The pastures were advanced by using a primary lemon yellow, whilst the vibrant blues of the sky, which competed for attention, were toned into oblivion through being rendered in warm blue greys – which further thrust the grasslands forward.

As the day progressed, glaring heat was mitigated by intermittently pouring bottled water over myself and at one point the itchiness of my burnt feet intensified when, too late, I realised I had been joined by some ants. Meanwhile as all of the artists laboured with weather, nature and pigments we were serenaded by resident American painter the statuesque and sonorous John Behm who was limbering up for his forthcoming role in “Anglia Square: a love story” (a piece of musical theatre opening the next day in the Medieval courtyard setting of The Garth at the Halls in Norwich).

Susan Isaac - How Hill (Norfolk Broads)Because the composition was broad in concept there was little in the way of fiddly detail to fiddle with and, fortunately, I had completed this quite large painting comfortably in the time available so that I was packed away and ready to leave by 4pm. Nevertheless, I took my time setting off, the intention being to head back to UEA for a 6pm talk, for which I had plenty of time. I then suddenly remembered that I didn’t have a route to follow back! Spotting the tail end of my fellow artists leaving the car park I set off in hot pursuit and am glad to say made it back in time.

Tip of the day – always carry some paper OS maps when you are in Norfolk.

We were privileged to be given the evening talk by Professor Paul Greenhalgh at the Sainsbury Centre including a preview of their upcoming exhibition, ‘Monet/Hockney: Modern Landscapes‘ (running from 19 Nov, 2019 to 1 Sept, 2021) of a rarely seen, privately owned, and influential plein air work by Claude Monet (‘Allee de sapins a Varengeville’ of 1882) together with several large prints of digitally-made landscape works by David Hockney. Following this, we were treated to an exclusive viewing of a high resolution digitally reproduced painting by Francis Bacon. This was wheeled out of deepest storage (making me think of a doned body part awaiting its recipient), allowing us to ponder the future of how galleries might display internationally renown collections without the originals themselves ever again seeing the light of day!

Thursday (4 July) – Houghton Hall

Next day we headed north to Houghton Hall, a real change from yesterday’s informality and openness in the working landscape at How Hill, to this cloistered formality of a grand 18th century Palladian pile. We assembled in the car park and were given our remit for the day. Not knowing the venue, I spent some time wandering over the site with a small sketchbook making notes for prospective compositions.

Susan Isaac - Houghton HallSusan Isaac - Houghton HallThere was a great deal of architectural interest and a temptation to try and find a ‘classic’ viewpoint. However, I am more driven to an interesting arrangement of elements and eventually found what I sought alongside the southern wing, focused on chunky rusticated masonry rising like a pair of totem poles and topped by feathery acanthus leaves adjacent to the tall arched opening. Beyond, in the distance was arcading running to the north wing from the far corner of the main house.

Susan Isaac - Houghton Hall setupOnce again, the temperature was high and I backed myself into the shelter of a yew tree, its shadow dwindling as the sun rose higher. I had laid down my shadows early on and mainly concentrated on the complications of the columns enjoying the effects of impasto paint as I tried to describe the façade in more detail.

On this occasion I was last but one to tidy away. We adjourned to the house of one of the participating Norfolk-based artists, Karen Adams, where her husband Tim, in pure white linen apron, cooked sumptuous food catering to veggie and carnie alike. I then drove back to Norwich and my peaceful Airbnb with Liz, adjacent to the cathedral, for a peaceful night’s sleep to restore myself in readiness for the final session the next day.

Tip of the day: get to know Tim – he’s a really good cook!

Friday (5 July) – UEA Campus

Susan Isaac - set up at Sainsbury CentreThe last day was at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art on the UEA campus starting at 8am. The sun was out, the grass was a zesty lemon, the shadows were made of deepest purple and the grounds were full of sculptures. I was immediately caught by a Henry Moore figure, ‘Draped Reclining Woman‘, just next to the Centre’s café and I came up with an idea to describe the figure from a series of viewpoints.

I chose three stations and revolved around the statue, building my three triptych images by turns. The tonal nature of the bronze worked well for the limited palette I had chosen to work with, concentrating on the mass of the form through tonal mark making. The deadline for submitting work was 11am and the heat of the day built along with my studies. At literally the eleventh hour I gathered up my three paintings on a sheet of cardboard (abandoning my materials) and headed back to the event marquee, passing James herding the artist stragglers with his van.

Susan Isaac - Sainsbury Centre figures1-2-3

With the deed done I made my way into the centre of Norwich to find my just-arrived-by-train partner, Michael, for a relaxing lunch. The private view and awards event started at 6pm and we made our way back to the Sainsbury Centre to see everyone’s work.

By the time we regrouped for this last gathering the temperature was high both outside and within the exhibition marquee. For a time we drifted in and out of the heat, occasionally taking refuge in the air conditioning of the Sainsbury Centre and catching glimpses of the judges making their perusals of the works. The judges on this occasion were Professor Paul Greenhalgh (Director of the Sainsbury Centre), celebrated impasto plein air painter George Rowlett (whose work I have long admired and whose coinciding exhibition at the Garden Museum in London I was coincidentally booked in to visit after finishing this event) and Dr Francesca Vanke (Senior Curator: Norwich Museums & Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art at Norfolk Museums Service).

KJW02583b Artist Susan Isaac winning first prize in Oil Painting at Paint Out Norfolk, presented by judge Francesca VankeThen came award time and I settled myself at one side, with no expectations, having sent my husband away (assuring him I was not about to win anything) to buy refreshments for our journey home later that evening. After various awards had been given, the final winning announcement was made and it turned out the judges saw things slightly differently to me, so that I found myself called forth with much astonishment to gratefully accept the oil painting prize. Michael was a bit put out on his return to find he had missed the announcement!

Final tip – Don’t tell your partner that you are not going to win something and send him away to buy food so that he misses you winning something. It won’t make him happy!



About Susan Isaac

Contemporary Artist - painter and ceramic sculptor
This entry was posted in Awards & Prizes, en plein air, Events, Norfolk, Norfolk Coast, Norwich, Paint Out, Wells-Next-The-Sea and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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