My name is Chloe Jayne Waterfield and I’m from England, but have been living in Malta for the past 13 years (follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and visit my website!). Digging into the source of passion is a fruitless task. Some questions don’t deserve an answer; why questions like why does the universe exist, why was I born a woman, not a man – and, more personally, and equally un-answerable: why do I paint? It’s just not a question I can ever answer, nor have I ever sought to.
There are many questions that deserve an attempt at answering, and indeed, most of my passion for art originates from my curiosity. My aesthetic wanderlust which works from the outside in. I expose myself to the world around me, its incomprehensible beauty, and I am driven to present it, to myself and others, in a more human, relatable way.
And if there is any one person, any one single source that provides me with an unceasing font of inspiration, I’d have to say it was David Attenborough. Like so many children of the 1990s I was captivated by those breathtaking wildlife documentaries and couldn’t help being absorbed by them. His bright, visual masterpieces led me to immerse myself in the aesthetic delights of the natural world; from a young age I surrounded myself with encyclopedias, videos (yes, videos!) and of course, pets!
And though I’ve been primarily an oil painter for the last eight years, watercolour was in fact the first medium I indulged in. I used it to recreate book illustrations, highlight my favourite species, or to illustrate the covers of the story books myself and my twin sister (now a nature photographer!) used to write.
Watercolour has the unique ability to capture an instant feeling of light, or dark, peace, or turmoil. It’s effect is more spontaneous and more fluid than oils, so for me it was only natural that I started using watercolours again after so many years. Particularly now that I suffer from a condition which hampers my ability to slave at an easel for hours at a time, I’ve turned to watercolour painting to explore new themes and to flesh out ideas for larger canvas paintings. In fact, many of my watercolours, instead of becoming stand-alone pieces, become stepping-stones to new oil paintings and concepts. It is a fluid medium that effortlessly captures a bespoke, specific emotion, a certain light, an expression. It can focus on the intimate minutae perhaps better than any other medium.
My favourite collection of watercolours are my ‘cosmic paintings’. The inspiration for these is my greater appreciation and understanding of the solar system and the universe. Initially, I was no more fascinated in this subject than anyone else, but as I got older I discovered a new desire to learn as much as I could about the cosmos, in the same way that, eight years ago, discovering Palaeolithic rock art fuelled my desire for oil painting.
Cosmic paintings in watercolour are the perfect medium for creating dynamic and unique effects; start with a plan, and let the paint do the rest. Of course, each cosmic painting is chosen carefully and logically; Aurora Borealis over the Norwegian tundra, southern penguins illuminated by the glow of Andromeda, as much our neighbour to them as our modern world must feel.
In my own, humble homage to Sir David Attenborough, I also turned my attention to anthropology, and the heart-rending plight of what I call the Endangered Peoples; those marginalised tribal minorities whose natural climes are being sacrificed for the sake of modernity and migration into the human zoos – cities. The watercolour here is a sketch for an oil painting depicting the Nenet people of Siberia, a people whose traditional way of life is as threatened as the habitats of jaguars or coral reefs.
And if there’s one vital thing that I have learned from Attenborough it is not to preach conservation. It’s easy, very easy, as a chronicler of the natural world, to fall into a didactic tone. To tell people what to think isn’t the artist’s role. The artist’s raison d’etre is to inspire. Our world, be it natural or otherwise, is beautiful and tragic in equal measure. But as writers, our sister artists constantly harp on; you have to show don’t tell!
To ask myself what lies in store for me in the future is another un-answerable, almost laughable question. There are so many things I’m still curious about. So many real questions I want to tackle – how did Paleolithic man view their world, what colours dominate the ocean depths, can the music of the rainforests be painted… and the rest, I hope, will be history.