Caroline Bailey Painter

What led you to take up painting full time?

Was there something or someone who gave you the motivation?

The motivation was always in me, I always drew and painted as a child, my father was an amateur painter and encouraged me and he was also the one who supported me when I chose to go to Art College rather than study an academic subject at university. Although I always painted, I was also interested in other artistic disciplines and I studied Printed Textiles at Manchester Polytechnic where the course involved a lot of drawing and painting.  After leaving with an M.A. I decided to work freelance painting and producing painted and printed fabrics. Over the course of the next ten years I worked on both but gradually over the course of time I found myself doing more painting and less textiles and have been painting full time for the last thirty years.

Lemon Lilies and Sea 30 x 32 inches

You comment, ‘Colour is still the most obvious and fundamental element of my work.’ Discuss

Colour is the first thing that people mention about my work when I meet them and when I contemplate a potential subject it is the mood and colour that fascinates me. I spend time thinking out the composition and simultaneously contemplate the colour that will create the feel of the painting.

Camasunary Bay 30 x 30 inches

You segment, your work into three areas, Landscapes, Seascapes and Still Life painting.  Can you discuss these three genres?

The landscape and seascape is just one category, I only tend to use both terms to convey the fact that much of my work is coastal in one way or another. Most of the places that I choose to paint are on or near the coast, so much so that I moved to the Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland to live by the sea and in a landscape that I love to paint. I am permanently fascinated by the weather and its effect as it moves across the water and the land, it is ethereal, always changing and never the same from one day to the next.

Still life painting goes back to my college days and I just love the concentration of colour that flowers provide. I set up still life paintings in my studio and can quite literally compose the layout of thing on a table. I have lots of different coloured fabrics which I also use and make carefully considered colour choices to create the feel that I want. More recently I have found the land and sea that I can see from my studio window is starting to infiltrate into the background of the still life   paintings so the edges between still life and landscape are starting to blur a little.

Landscape  – Many of your landscapes have a hint of the sea or a cove, discuss this element.

Snow Fields Harlosh 32 x 32 inches

I love working in coastal areas at the meeting point of land and sea, I am also attracted to  harbours and boats, especially working boats and love the associated  buildings and paraphernalia lying around them. Piers and jetties that reach out into the water are one of my favourite subjects as are the ferries that serve the area in which I now live.

Seascapes – Comment on two paintings one in a harbour and one with the majority showing the sea.

Stornoway Fishing Boats  30 x 32 inches.

Stornoway in the Western Isles is one of my favourite locations to paint with lots of fishing boats. It also has lots of buildings of differing colours and sizes and is rich in colour and texture I have worked there many times and never get tired of visiting it.

Fiskavaig Last House 31 x 33 inches

I don’t think this is more than half sea, but it exemplifies another aspect of my love of coastal locations. A small croft house at the end of the road and perched high on a hillside surrounded by a panorama of sea and islands, somewhat at the mercy of the north Atlantic winds. I am fascinated by the power of the sea and the human relationship with it. Again, it is a view that I see every day, the rapidly changing weather conditions mean that every day it is different.

Still Life – Colour just flows out of every vase, discuss.

Still life is a wonderful opportunity to design colour within the painting. I search for flowers that inspire me and then build my still life around them. Sometimes the flowers are white and then everything else carries the colour. The colour is not always bright and strong although it often is, it can also be subtle or dark at times.

Pink Table with Night Sea 28 x 28 inches

How does, your physical environment influence your paintings?

It greatly influences it; I now live in the place that has been my biggest influence since I first visited in my teens. I am now surrounded by the kind of landscape that I paint; I see it every day as I move around the house, what I see permeates deep into my consciousness.

Misty Morning on the River 13.5×13.5 inches

Your outdoor paintings, are these plain airs or painted in your studio?

They are mostly done in the studio; I do small sketches outside and then work from those. The work done outside is generally chaotic and I find back in the studio I can take time to select which elements are going to figure in a larger painting.

Cullins from the beach 13 x 13 inches

Can you comment on how a planned exhibition for the 4th – 12th April altered due to the pandemic?

The exhibition was hung but not yet open when lockdown happened. This meant no preview and having the chance to talk to visitors and buyers, so the work just had to speak for itself online. In some ways that wasn’t as bad as it sounds as I believe that painting is a visual medium and although it is interesting to hear the stories behind them, they should be able to communicate as they stand and I paint them on that premise so I don’t think I would have done things any differently.

Afternoon sunflowers 30 x 32 inches

In 2018, you exhibited at Stafford Gallery, London.  This was different as it was made up of only Scottish artists.  Expand on this experience.

Sunflowers and Summer nights 28 x 28 inches

As an elected member of the RSW (Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour) I exhibit with Scottish artists frequently, so I feel among friends and very much a part of the Scottish  painting tradition despite being English! I have taken part in the Scottish show at Stafford gallery for the last few years now and really look forward to it. I will be sending work again for the 2021 show. that has been done over this year.

Can you expand on colour within your skylines?  Take two painting that show a very different colour palettes and explain the choices you made and why?

Whitby Fish Quay 10.5 x 10.5 inches

I have chosen these two paintings because they are the same view. There are many different things in any view and paintings are a distillation of these things. I find that there are many ways of seeing things and different approaches to painting it. Trying to include too many aspects into one work simply doesn’t work for me hence two paintings which are very different. I am not a sky painter in the traditional sense and I consciously decide whether the sky should be light or dark in contrast with the land. I tend to regard it as a part of the painting which works with everything else. The fish quay painting has lots of saturated colour on the land and quayside so the fading into the sky works well with that whereas across to the west cliff has much darker areas on the land and the use of the very strong blue works as a contrast to that darkness.

Across to the West Cliff 10.5 x 10.5 inches

Discuss the size of your work.  What restrictions do you have.

I tend to work both large and small although they are relative terms really. 10 x 10 inches is usually about the smallest, the largest can go up to 38 x 40 inches of even slightly more although they are more often around 32 x 32, 30 x 30 inches. My limit on size tend to be more practical than artistic. I work in mixed media which is generally a mix of acrylic, gouache and watercolour so framing behind glass is generally required and the larger the work the heavier the framed painting and the greater the logistical problems so that tends to be the limiting factor on size. Having said that I prefer to paint big than small but nevertheless I am fairly content with my large sizes although things never stay exactly the same so it is not out of the question that sizes could increase as time goes on.

Take one of your paintings that make your sense of smell come alive and why?

A Patch of Sunlight 31 x 35 inches

This painting is from a small line sketch done on the beach below where I live, the view is one I see every day from various angles however the painting takes me back to a day early in the year when the land was still dressed in winter colours and I was stood in the shallows watching the sun through a gap in the clouds course it’s way across the hills on the opposite side of the sea loch. The blustery wind was full in my face and the waves splashing on the beach and the rocks were heavy with the smell of salt spray. Looking at that paintings always invokes the smell of the sea water and the salt laden wind.


Caroline Bailey

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August 2020