Salcombe | Elaine Jones

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Foreword I wake up every morning to Mountain View, from Elaine’s South Devon series. Its almost pearlescent palette of pinks and blues, made lucid with splashes of bright white and gold, stirs curiosity for the day ahead. Like much of Elaine’s work, it offers escapism as well as being deeply grounding – depending on my mood, its energetic softness can transport me around the world or draw me to that peaceful place within.

see. Her with a paintbrush, me with a pen. With this latest work, Elaine brings that sense of wonder closer to home, settling on the effervescent seas of Salcombe. A landscape of cliffs and trees and sandy bays. Overwhelmingly for the artist though it is looking out at the sea, green-blue or grey, that moves her: ‘It is the large expanses of quiet and space that I love; a sense of infinity that is so much bigger than ourselves.’

So when Salcombe appeared on my desk, during the Coronavirus lockdown of spring 2020, it felt like perfect timing. Our worlds had suddenly become much smaller and many of us, on our daily walks, had begun to reconnect with cherished places nearby. Elaine, of course, had already begun to hone in on her favourite spot, observing the changes in colour and light in each season. Her meditations on some of South Devon’s most dramatic scenes – pleasingly in words as well as images – conjured the scent of pine trees and the feel of sea spray. Reminding me, during great uncertainty, of the power and tranquility of nature.

Acutely aware of the growing threat to the planet’s climate and biodiversity, Elaine has always felt compelled to immerse her art in the precious splendour of the natural world. Yet there is something different here. An urgency, perhaps, together with a new appreciation of detail born from her experimentation with drawing. Even the tree-lined journey to Salcombe, via the M5 and Devon Expressway, which would typically remain out of view, has been sketched from the passenger seat on an iPad.

When I first met Elaine some years back, interviewing her in the cafe next to her sunny studio in Bristol, we connected over our love for travel and desire to interpret what we

Salcombe is a book that feels to me like the eye of the storm; it is for being still and taking stock. Finding grace in the particular swirls of the sea in summer evening light or celebrating that beloved place that draws us back again and again. For no matter what lies ahead, nature – as long as we protect it – will always be our sanctuary. Hannah Stuart-Leach Travel Writer

Introduction Travelling to diverse and often remote landscapes is at the heart of Elaine Jones’ painting practice, creating works that are atmospheric, sensitive and that tap into our emotional response to place. Throughout her career Elaine has travelled across the world translating unforgettable experiences, such as trekking through Costa Rica’s cloud forests, or the dramatic, changeable weather of the Arctic, into ethereal, abstract paintings. Working closer to home, the inspiration for her recent collection of paintings has come from exploring the rolling hills, unspoiled beaches and hidden coves of Salcombe and the South Hams. Each return visit to Salcombe fosters a desire to experience the surrounding landscape and coastline more deeply, and Elaine often heads out onto the water to sketch. Working from a boat offers new perspectives on some of Elaine’s favourite spots, such as Snapes Point, East Portlemouth and Soar Mill Cove. There are dramatic shifts in scale as the boat hugs the headland or drifts further out to sea. The ebb and flow

of the tide adds a sense of movement and rhythm to the sketches and subsequent paintings. It is these intimate and physical experiences of sea and land that Elaine takes back with her to the studio. At her studio in Bristol, Elaine’s sketches are just the starting point for her paintings, as she is interested in pulling the landscape out of the painting process itself. Working instinctively, Elaine balances serene expanses of space with thicker, gestural marks to evoke the contrast between sea and sky with rugged woodland and rocky outcrops. There is a luminosity in the works that captures the play of light on the water, and Elaine’s energetic handling of the paint gives a sense of the shifting tides. In the act of painting Elaine subconsciously distills the essence and rhythm of Salcombe that she experienced onto the canvas. The paintings therefore provide much more than just a visual representation of the coastal town; these are landscapes that are felt as well as seen.

Mothecombe Bay 90 x 80cm Oil

Pathways 140 x 120cm Oil

Seafront with Sunlight 90 x 80cm Oil

Pink and Grey Over the Horizon 80 x 80cm Oil

Sea Spray with Prussian 100 x 100cm Oil

Sunset Over the Water 120 x 110cm Oil

View from Above 60 x 60cm Oil

Hillside with Trees 80 x 80cm Oil

Pale Sky and Sands 80 x 80cm Oil

Interview What continues to draw you to the South Hams and Salcombe in particular? I find the South Hams breathtakingly stunning. Whenever I return, I always feel a renewed love for the beauty of the land and coastline here. I get a lot of inspiration from exploring the beaches; there are beautiful walks that lead you over the top of the cliffs to places such as Gara Rock, which has dramatic cliff edges. In contrast, there are beaches such as Bigbury, which are vast and great for rock pooling as well as the beautiful Mothecombe Bay and Hope Cove. This part of Devon has a softness to it in contrast to some parts of Cornwall which are more rugged. I love the pine trees behind the cliffs near the beaches, they provide a lovely backdrop to the colour of the sand and the sea.

The changing seasons with the huge difference in the hours of daylight between winter and summer also provides me with a rich supply of inspiration. The dark, brooding skies and the skeletons of bare trees in winter, yellow oilseed rape fields and bluebells in spring, lush greens against the blue sea and sky in the summer and of course the rusty oranges of autumn give a constant supply of fresh ideas and colour palettes. I am very passionate about our environment and I find it increasingly valuable to become immersed in the natural world. With the current climate threat and biodiversity loss I think it is important to get back into nature; to be in it and to love it makes you want to save it.

Have your paintings, or perhaps the way you approach your paintings, changed at all as you’ve become more familiar with the landscape and coastline of the South Hams? I think that the colours that I have been using are now more reminiscent of this part of the world. I have always used a lot of blues in my paintings, but unlike some of my previous Arctic paintings, these blues form a much warmer colour palette as they are injected with reds and greens. I like to keep my paintings quite abstract, so that they are not reminiscent of any one place as such. Having said this I do return to some places in my paintings fairly frequently, with the view towards Mill Bay from East Portlemouth and North Beach Sands being a particular favourite.

You’ve travelled to many different countries with different landscapes, what is it about the sea that inspires you to paint?

Your paintings aren’t literal translations of particular locations, can you tell us more about the motivations for your paintings and your painting process?

I think that it is the large expanses of quiet and space that I love; a sense of infinity that is so much bigger than ourselves. I have always been fascinated by the sea because it can evoke such contrasts and changes in mood, both inviting and frightening. The sea is permanently in a state of change. Vast areas of soothing, inviting turquoise blue waters can quickly become violent, swirling grey stormy seas. My art is about evoking that feeling and I like to create calm and the illusion of space in direct contrast with something that is much more chaotic and complicated.

Nature, particularly the sea, form my initial motivation for painting and drawing. I often go out on location to sketch and get compositional ideas. When I paint in my studio though it’s more the essence of a feeling that I try to convey, that of space or light or drama. My work is made up of a series of layers that evolve slowly over time. I like to pour paint over the top of figurative marks, rubbing bits away and leaving it to dry before beginning again. Each piece goes through many stages of development and obliteration before reaching its final form. You can look through the paintings and sometimes

glimpse their history through the ghosts of previous marks and splodges that have become covered or removed. My practice is about abstraction and the paint itself. I like the sense of chance that this can create. I like parts of my paintings to be totally spontaneous, where throwing and pouring paint across the canvas can totally change the dynamics of the picture. It either completes it or destroys it and I like this element of danger in my work

What role does drawing play in your practice? Recently you’ve also been experimenting with drawing on an iPad, what have you enjoyed about using that as a drawing tool? Drawing is a really important aspect of my work and although my drawings are totally different to my paintings they

hugely influence each other. I find that if I take a photograph of a place I very rarely capture the bit that was interesting to me, I much prefer to draw it and record it that way. I have been really enjoying experimenting with drawing on an iPad. It’s great when out on location to use a program that can combine the textures and effects of oil, watercolour, pens and pencils all together. I am using it as a new tool for experimentation and it is a great way of getting information down quickly. Recently I have been drawing lots of trees, which I am starting to translate into paint. This is a new approach for me as I often omit details and choose to suggest rather than depict what is there. Drawing is starting to play a greater role in my finished paintings and I am starting to layer drawn marks over the top of abstract shapes.

Panoramic with Red and Blue 170 x 90cm Oil

Swell 60 x 60cm Oil

Waters Edge with Blue and Green 90 x 80cm Oil

To the Beach 60 x 60cm Oil

Shoreline with Rocks and Pools 60 x 60cm Oil

Waves with Pink and Yellow 150 x 130cm Oil

Trees at Mill Bay 140 x 120cm Oil

Bay with Ochre Headland 82 x 82cm Oil

Devon in Blue 80 x 80cm Oil

Yellow Bay 80 x 80cm Oil

Sea Spray at Dawn 100 x 70cm Oil

Shallow Water 60 x 60cm Oil

Mill Bay 80 x 80cm Oil

Headland with Red 120 x 100cm Oil

iPad Drawings

Drawing plays a fundamental role in Elaine Jones’ practice and in recent months she has started to experiment with using an iPad as a tool for documenting her travels. The versatility and immediacy of the iPad enables Elaine to combine the textures and effects of oil paint, watercolour, pens and pencils in one place, providing an even stronger link between her drawings and paintings. These digital drawings have been hugely influential on Elaine’s approach to painting as she has been translating the exciting new language of marks and textures discovered through using the iPad into paint.

Coastal Treeline

Devon Expressway II

Devon Landscape

Batson Creek

Hedgerows (Devon Expressway)

M5 Study South IV

Collapit Creek

Mantlepiece with Cat and Grandfather Clock

Open Fire, Batson Creek

Blue Water 80 x 80cm Oil

Mountains with Sunlight 80 x 80cm Oil

Low Haze 120 x 100cm Oil

Orange Stria 90 x 80cm Oil

Red on the Horizon 80 x 80cm Oil

Into the Distance 150 x 130cm Oil


Sketch at Hope Cove

View from Gara Rock Beach

Trees opposite Salcombe Harbour

North Sands Beach

View from the back of Island Street

Trees on Island Street (Salcombe)

Elaine Jones was born in 1975 and grew up in the Midlands. She studied Art and Design at Newcastle Under Lyme (1994 - 1995), where she was awarded the Fine Art prize for painting, and at Loughborough University (1995 - 1998), which included a year at Granada University in Spain. Elaine now lives and works in Bristol, and her paintings are collected throughout Europe and America.