Capturing the Force of the Sea

The Grand Pier – Karen Stone


The approach to Aberystwyth from the east necessitates the crossing of twenty miles (from Llangurig onwards) of open, undulating hills sparsely dotted with signs of human habitation. These hills divide the mountains of Snowdonia to the north from the smoother landscape of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire to the south, dissecting Wales across her lightly populated middle.

The journey is at its most glorious in winter, the hills glistening with the whiteness of fresh snow. For me, the destination is a coastal university town that drops to the Irish Sea with a riot of architectural fashions and people. The seafront is predominantly high Victorian, a ghost of a late 19th Century tourist boom that left whisperings of grandeur in the architecture, and at its centre, Aberystwyth’s grand pier reaches out into the relentless waves.

Pleasure piers hold a fascination for me, both as an artist, with the marriage of manufactured engineering and earthly elements, and as a studier of people, desiring both the engineered fun and the wild experience. At this moment in time, it is tired and, like the hotels and guesthouses, echoes days of sunshine, ice creams, and pleasures, now long past. However, like vinyl records, I can’t help but hope that the seaside pier will one day have its renaissance!

My painting is captured during the winter – my favourite time, as the waves drown out the squawking of seagulls, and the structures of the pier brace themselves against the harsh elements. I don’t even contemplate setting up an easel, but follow Turner’s lead with a sketchbook. Luckily, there is a strategically placed pavilion that offers just enough cover to sit with my watercolours for a time.

Drawing is fundamental to all art, whatever the discipline. It makes you look, if you do it properly, and to study your subject, you must get inside its head. I must have stood and studied the grand pier many times, yet this is my first painting of it. The sketch was drawn on a relatively calm day, with the watercolour painted straight onto paper with no pencil (drawing doesn’t dictate the use of pencil) and the time period was decided by the attention span of a small terrier, apt to make mischief when bored.

The sketch sat in my plan chest for two more years of visits to the pier, each time making mental notes and repeatedly taking the same photograph from a slightly different angle. A visit in December gave me the sounds – the sounds to put into the paint.

The most difficult part of the artistic process is bringing the art piece to life – it is as precarious and ephemeral as conception, and its individuality and ability to communicate can be wiped out with just an overenthusiastic sweep of the brush or carve of the palette knife. I started with an accurate drawing, taken from a photograph, the purpose of which was not to collect a photographic representation, but because I knew if I messed up the proportion now, it would greatly irritate me later on.

When I transfer the drawing to canvas, I have an essence in my mind that is neither the sketch nor the drawing, but is an intuitive feeling formed from a combination of the sketch, the reference photograph, the experience of standing on the seafront, and my own identity This is the beginning. For the entire time I paint, I must be in the painting.

When approaching how to capture the sea, it’s hard not to think of the works of Joan Eardley and Dawnne McGeachy.


Joan Eardley painting the sea


Joan Eardley was a Scottish artist, born in 1921, and is noted for her portraiture of the street children of Glasgow, and for her landscapes of Catterline, a fishing village in north east Scotland. She stayed at a simple cottage in the village, with no running water and no flushing toilet! Her work seems to respond to her subject rather than representing it – she painted the sea directly from its source, often strapping her easel to large supports on the side of the harbour, so that the resulting works became soaked with spray, literally including the natural elements in the finished piece. Eardley died of breast cancer in 1963.


Dawnne McGeachy


Dawnne McGeachy is also a Scottish artist, who is currently working. She studies the forces that make waves, using mathematical equations and the Beaufort wind force scale. She sets out the working of each wave state using the scale, then paints directly on top, encapsulating the mathematics within. Her fascination with the sea began as a child, growing up on the Kintyre Cambeltown Peninsular in western Scotland, and hearing the stories of her fisherman father. However, McGeachy holds a deep fear of the sea, knowing its dangers from her father’s stories, so, unlike Eardley, most of her process takes place in her studio.

Drawing from Life

A small, friendly studio class developing drawing from life with classical drawing techniques. The class will take place at my studio, and subjects will be still life and live figure model poses. Suitable for a range of students, from beginners to experienced artists, this class is limited to 6 people to ensure safety. This class will take place every Wednesday from 7 PM to 9 PM, starting on Wednesday 12th January.

Purple Tulips – Watercolour on Arches Paper

Spring Term: The first session will take place on Wednesday 12th January, and will run for 5 weeks 

Price: £75 for the whole course

In The Gallery Window – Flowers

Watercolours of Flowers:

I always love to draw and paint flowers form life rather than photographs and it is often watercolour that I choose to work with. An unforgiving medium watercolour requires patience and best results are often obtained by spontaneity and minimal application. The simplest of brush strokes can give vibrancy and beauty that can be difficult to achieve in other heavier based paints.

Cherry Blossom
Faded Tulips



In The Gallery Window presents different works every few weeks in the window of t the gallery at  York Place for passers by to enjoy.

Classical Oil Painting

This course is a step-by-step guide to the traditional techniques of oil painting as has been practiced for centuries by the great artists. It is an on going course suitable for beginners and those who want the challenge to learn and progress with oil paints.

This class will be split into two groups: beginners and improvers.

The course will be held at my studio, fortnightly on Saturdays at the following times:

Improvers – 10:30 AM to 1 PM.

Beginners – 2 PM to 4:30 PM.

Pear – Oil on Board, Karen Stone

Spring Term: The first session will take place on 15th January, and will run for 6 sessions until 26th March.

Fee: £120 for the whole course.

Lunchtime Life Figure Drawing

These classes are on zoom and will be offered weekly. They will run 2 PM to 3 PM on Mondays and provide the opportunity to practice drawing the clothed figure from a live model.

Reclining Figure – Karen Stone

Spring Term: The first will be on Monday 10th January, and will run weekly.

Price: £10 per session

Friday Projects Group

This course runs on Fridays from 10:45 AM to 1 PM via zoom session, with a feedback portion from the previous session’s work at the start, followed by the lesson. The lessons cover a range of subject matter and materials.

There will also be an in-person workshop on Friday 28th January at my studio, from 10 AM to 3 PM. This will be a great opportunity to meet other students, benefit from individual tutorials, and learn from various workshops practices. Refreshments and a soup lunch will be provided.

Still Life with Spider Plant – Mixed Media on Paper

Spring Term: The first session will be on Friday 7th January, and will run for 9 sessions on the following dates: 21st January, 4th February, 18th February, 25th February, 4th March, 18th March, 25th March, 1st April.

Price: £20 per session in advance (or £180 for the whole course), which includes a recording of the zoom session if you miss it, plus £25 for the in-person workshop.

In The Gallery Window

This week the gallery window at 16 York Place is showing Beach Huts a small oil painting by the late Ruth Burden.

Ruth had her studio in central Worcester and I am privileged to both have known her and hold two of her small paintings. Ruth studied in Birmingham and Bath under such greats as Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon and William Scott and her work is still in galleries and collections.

She had the ability to capture everyday life, including people, with a humour and sensitivity that made the stylised forms utterly familiar.

Beach Huts (I have named the painting as it came to me after Ruth’s passing) captures the sun and the sea and the vast expanse of the coast, making us, the viewer, feel so small. I love the simplicity of the figures, small yet gestural and the warmth from the Naples Yellow sand. The beach huts grounding the painting, informing us that this is a landscape that we choose to frequent. The painting is simply lovely.

Ruth lived and worked in a large house on the edge of Britannia Square in Worcester and at the end of her life moved to Windmill Close which culminates York Place. Beverly Schofield’s account of Ruth Burden’s life was recorded in The Guardian in 2012 you can read it here

Clearance Sale of Works

In order to free up space for new work I am clearing out some drawings, paintings and prints. Most have been produced as demonstrations to classes but some are pieces from ideas that I no longer wish to pursue.  I have tried to price them very reasonably (most between £5 and £30) and on the more expensive I’ve added a ‘make me an offer ‘ tag.  I’ll add them as I sort them so watch this space!

‘Cottages on Hill’ 24cm x 11cm Watercolour £25
‘Dandelion Patch’ 15cm x 20cm lino cut £15
‘Three Pears’ 16cm x 13cm watercolour £10
‘Pink Flowers’ 20cm x 15cm Watercolour £10

Paint With Me

Paint With Me is a series of designer colouring packs and kits that make fantastic stocking fillers or small gifts.  From Funky Pheasant to the delicate Rudbeckia sunflower there is something for everyone – perfect festive holiday entertainment.

Karen has developed them specifically as an activity of creative fun for all ages. Absolutely no artistic ability is required as all drawing, colour choices etc are supplied. Full instructions are provided in an attractive colour brochure with a little twist at the end for the more adventurous.

Funky Pheasant
Robin With Rosehips

Packs contain 2 A5 preprinted sheets and 2 greetings cards to colour, envelopes and full instructions.

Kits contain the above plus set of watercolour paints, brush, water containers and mixing palette.

Ordered direct from Karen Stone Art the packs are priced at £10 each and the kits with paints, brush and all materials at £25 each.