Painting the sea from an entirely new angle

Chris Rose painting with penguins.
Chris Rose painting with penguins.

An artist has won a prize which enables him to learn to dive so that he can paint the underwater wildlife off the Northumberland coast.

Artist Chris Rose has won The Wildlife Trusts’/Society of Wildlife Artists’ Undersea Art Award. The award provides a bursary that will enable Chris to learn to dive.

Chris is an established wildlife artist based in the Scottish Borders. His aim is to dive in the North Sea near to his home.

He is very keen to witness the wonders beneath the waves first-hand, in particular, in the Coquet to St Mary’s stretch along the Northumberland coast.

In this area, he may expect to see beautiful nudibranchs (multi-coloured sea slugs), lightbulb sea squirts, sun stars, diving sea birds – sights which have inspired many great artists including JWM Turner and LS Lowry.

Chris has snorkelled in warmer parts of the world before and, closer to home, has swum off the Outer Hebrides to watch seals underwater. Last summer he snorkelled at St Abb’s Head to watch guillemots swimming.

“The experience got me thinking; I would love to attempt the underwater environment,” he said. “I’m approaching the diving with an open mind – it’d be amazing to see a porpoise, but I’ll be happy to see anything.”

The area that Chris will be diving – Coquet to St Mary’s – is one of the places that the Government is currently considering for designation as a Marine Conservation Zone this year – a type of protected area at sea where human activity is restricted to protect wildlife and habitats.

The Government is creating these zones in the seas around England, following the passing of the Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009).

Chris said: “I have a particular fascination with painting water and in recent years have been drawn to the beautiful Northumberland coastline for my paintings.

“The seashore has provided me with a wealth of inspiration, but the next step has to be to venture beneath the waves and I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to try to capture the beauty and magic of the underwater marine environment. I can’t wait.”

Aurelie Bohan, Northumberland Wildlife Trust Living Seas Officer said: “People are often surprised that our seas are teeming with the most amazingly colourful, iridescent and extraordinary wildlife – the North Sea can rival any ancient woodland when it comes to diversity and habitats.

“The underwater world is a habitat that we rarely have a chance to experience first-hand. I am sure Northumberland’s iconic undersea landscapes amongst seagrass meadows and soft corals will prove to be a rich vein of inspiration for Chris and I am confident that his paintings will be spectacular.”

Chris Rose’s work for the Undersea Art Award will be exhibited at the Natural Eye, the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists, in the autumn of 2015.