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Trip Blog

The Swimming Artist

By Olivia Weatherill , 01 February, 2019

Swimming provides so much for so many; a source of inspiration, a challenge to take on, or form of solace. Here SwimTrekker Jane recounts how her time aboard the Lady of Avenel heightened her experience of a swimming holiday and allowed her to also indulge in her other hobbies of drawing. She talks about her swim locations as her inspiration, taking her art in different directions and embracing all the elements of liveaboard trip in the British Isles.

Immersion: that’s the important thing – to be here in the present moment, and not lose any of it. Swimming is a sure way of experiencing the here and now. Especially when the water is cold, or I have to catch a breath between sloshing sea waves, the water brings me into the present.

Surrounded by water, there’s no-where else for my mind to go.

jn 2.jpg Swimming at Cleveden, Bristol Channel, November 2017. That’s me on the left.

For me, drawing is immersion too. It’s another, more cerebral and gentle way of noticing where I am. Usually I draw cityscapes, urban sketches but I took my sketching kit aboard the Lady of Avenel on my Outer Hebrides swimming expedition. Water – watercolours – moving ship – paper – wind – rain – would it work?

jn 3.jpg Hotel Columba, Oban, waiting for the Lady of Avenel. In the rain (see how the “waterproof” ink has run?)

Miraculously, it did. I found that if I was quick, I could paint as we moved along. The islands made good subjects. This one was painted in the rain, using rain. I had to run indoors before the image became too “abstract”.

jn 4.jpg Islands in the rain.

Sometimes I drew pictures in the cabins.

jn 5.jpg Rainy day in the cabin.

But I also discovered that I could paint a picture outside from the benches at the back of the boat.

jn doubled page ship Three square sails set, drawn on a double-page spread of a notebook.

There are convenient heavy weights in front of the wheel. They are supposed to be used for holding the chart in place. But they work quite well for holding the paper down.

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Bracing myself against the wood of the ship, being aware of the movement, and being even more aware of the need to catch the moment before the sails were struck, this was my journey on the Lady of Avenel. The islands disappeared and the rain came down and I was working with watercolours and permanent ink. These are hard things to manage when everything is moving around. But it’s possible. I found it was possible. The important thing, for me, was simply to do it, to put pen to paper, to put the colour down, to look up, to look out and to see.

I draw pictures. And I swim. These are my journeys.

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Jane has an upcoming exhibition at the Barbican from February 1st- 27th 2019. Further details of the exhibition can be found here and you can also find more of her work on her website.

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