These exquisite ink and dye paintings of Andalucia are the work of UK artist Ross Moore. Ross’s art captures the fierce heat and colour of the south of Spain, its azure skies and sun-drenched towns, and the dusty, rust-and-copper tones of the landscape. Working with inks gives the paintings a dazzle and vibrancy that would hardly be possible with watercolours or oils. Recently we had the pleasure of chatting to Ross and asked him about his life as an artist, his love of Spain and his unique painting style.
Ross, you clearly have a deep affinity for the landscapes of Andalusia, what is it about that part of Spain that attracts you so much?
I would say the colour of the earth…..does that sound odd? It’s that deep red when it’s being ploughed and sculpted like waves around the olive trees it becomes quite liquid. It also has an incredible scale, from El Torcal and Sierra de las Nieves down to a small olive grove and always an inspiration. Form and colour are so well matched. The whiteness of the buildings too adds a unique signature to Andalusia.
How long have you been visiting and painting Spain?
I was a fairly late starter in discovering some of the beauty and variety that Spain has to offer. My first visit was about ten years ago when I went to Bilbao and travelled along the coast to San Sebastian and some of the memorable places in between such as Guernica and the beautiful chapel on the islet of Gaztelugatxe. Since then I have mostly gone to Andalusia and although that’s quite a few visits I don’t think I have seen half of what it has to offer.
Did you start to paint at a young age? When did you begin to develop your own distinctive style?
My earliest memory is from primary school and (after some glowing praise from the teacher) I remember thinking ‘I want to be a painter.’ Whether it was the pedagogical encouragement or my own satisfaction with the antelope I drew, the delight in creating pleasurable things has always been part of me. I was also fortunate to go to art school at the age of 11 in Birmingham. It was a council run school, the only one of its kind in the country and you had to pass an art examination to gain entry to another seven years of a very broad arts education with the focus on the arts and crafts traditions. After school I went to Bretton Hall (Now the Yorkshire Sculpture park) in Yorkshire for a further 3 years of mostly developing my work and then the harsh reality of making a living in the real world was upon me! The styles and deviations in my work have since then been developing to where I am now and I can always follow a link to my earlier work, especially the landscapes.
What is it that attracts you to working with inks and dyes? Have you always preferred them as a medium?
I had been teaching West African drumming in schools and with businesses but as this work was slowly disappearing with cutbacks I decided about 6 years ago to devote my time fully to painting. I started small, painting at home and it was actually my working environment (a small table to work on) that dictated a more ‘intimate’ medium. I have variously worked with oils, acrylics, printing and mixed media, making large canvases and 50 foot land art pieces but the table top meant I had to work with what space I had.
I started with watercolour and found it too ‘washy’ and then I discovered inks particularly Diamine Inks made by a small and friendly company in Liverpool. Wow. I was bowled over by their intensity and immediacy and the love affair hasn’t diminished. Whereas watercolour sits on the surface, inks bite into the paper so you have very little time to play with the colour once it is laid down and this creates a tension to mould, imprint and alter the colour before it is dry.
I still work on a table (much larger now) and although my studio can accommodate larger paintings I enjoy working with inks for their glowing finish.
Could you describe your creative process when painting a new landscape?
Mostly I work from photographs on my iPad I have taken alongside colour studies and drawings. A particular photograph might hang around for a couple of years until I use it but once chosen, the first part of the process is the drawing stage. The drawing will change slightly to allow for focal points and the dynamic I want to create. Some paintings might have an underlying spiral shape or elements that draw the eye to the centre and so on. Once the drawing is complete, the first colour I apply is gold and every one of my paintings has a small piece of gold in the work, a sort of signature if you like. I usually have about 40 or so different colours to work from and I also mix on a palette, in the pot and on the page and using (and mixing) water, emulsion and shellac based inks means I have a huge armoury at my disposal. I never usually paint one painting at a time and will have 4 or 5 pieces on the go at the same time which means the ideas bounce of each other and the paintings stay fresh. I will often paint in one area of the paper then another……then another, balancing the colour and their ‘weight’ against each other.
Of all your Spanish paintings, do you have a particular favourite?
It has to be ‘Tapas at Papa Miguels’ which I painted a couple of years ago. It is of the village square in Alozaina near to Coin in Andalusia with the Tapas bar in sight. It was quite a challenge rendering the massive parachute-like cover over the village square into a painterly form but I was quite pleased with the result. It also has so many happy memories attached to it, eating and drinking with friends…….good times.
Could you share a favourite personal memory of Spain?
Hmmmm, it’s difficult to choose a single favourite but I would say being in Bilbao during Basque Day. The most amazing fireworks I have ever seen, witnessing thousands marching down the main street and partying until the wee hours. Truly marvellous.
Are there any parts of Spain you’d particularly love to paint in the future and when will you be back next?
Where to start! I really want to visit Aragón and particularly Ainsa, Catalan and also go back to the Basque region, just for starters! There are so many and varied places to see and be inspired by in Spain, it has a breadth of unrivalled beauty in its landscape, architecture and people. I shall be starting next Spring with a visit to some friends who live in Rasquera in Tarragona, somewhere I haven’t been to so it is bound to elicit a new wave of paintings.