Artist learns to sketch the sea from underwater angle

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A Borders artist is learning to dive and paint underwater so that he can depict marine wildlife off the coast of Northumberland.

Chris Rose of Newtown St Boswells is keen to witness the wonders beneath the waves first-hand, in particular, in the Coquet to St Mary’s stretch along the Northumberland coast, where he may expect to see beautiful nudibranchs (multi-coloured sea slugs), lightbulb sea squirts, sun stars and diving sea birds – sights which have inspired 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 Abbs Head to watch guillemots swimming. “The experience got me thinking; I would love to attempt the underwater environment,” he said. Now, thanks to a bursary, he will.

“I had a couple of great practice dives on Sunday at the St Abbs Marine Reserve – only an hour’s drive from home,” he continued. “Although at first the sea was a little choppy and it was touch and go whether we would get out on the boat, the decision was made to dive and off we went.

“This was my first boat dive, but it was easy; you just hold on to your mask and regulator and jump in. We descended to about 16m into a fantastic world of soft corals, starfish and sea urchins.

“We were blessed with great visibility of around 10m, which I’m told is about as good as it gets.

“I was able to try out my new sketching kit to see if it worked; a permanent wax crayon on plastic-laminated paper, tied to my person by various bits of string to stop it all floating off into the big blue yonder! It seemed to work fine and has the benefit of being indelible so it doesn’t rub off.

“I took another practice dive at Loch Long on the west coast – this time with an underwater camera.

“I have realised that the restrictions of time, due to a limited air supply, and the practical problems of painting under-
water, I will have to use some photography as an aide memoire for the dives I will do.”