A Conversation with artist, Nina Brooke

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A conversation with artist, Nina Brooke

We caught up with dear friend and artist, Nina whose aerial sea scapes have taken her all over the world. From painting crystal clear waters in the Caribbean to the point breaks in Sri Lanka and finally at our local in North Cornwall. We chat about our childhood (sorry St Enedoc!) and why there is no place like home.

Nina! How are you? What have you been up to?

Hello! I'm sitting at home having spent the day at Joy Editions, my gallery in Bude. Over the past few weeks I have been working on a 4 metre commission here, as I don’t have the wall space in my Rock studio. I’ve really been enjoying venturing to a different part of the coast line everyday.

Set the scene… where are you?

I’m in my new house surrounded by lots of clay plastered walls and bare beams! I have been renovating it over the past year and a half, so it’s nice to feel settled now. Last summer I moved eight times which was pretty hectic! It’s in a tiny village called St Teath, which is surrounded by beautiful countryside and only a short drive from the coast.

We both grew up in North Cornwall and our childhood was spent on Daymer Bay - sandcastle competitions during the summer and sledging down Brae Hill during the winter! Tell us about your favourite childhood memory here…

We had the best time! We spent our summers on Greenaway swimming and jumping off the big rock into the pool below, whilst our parents would hang out and fire up the barbecue. It was a massive part of our lives, and it was the place that we would all naturally congregate.

I also remember learning to surf at Polzeath, when I was really young in the Surf Life Saving Club. I initially hated it and was scared of the water! They gave me a board and told me to get on with it - I had no idea what I was doing. But once my brother had learnt, he began teaching me aged 13 and I began to love it.

And last but not least, we used to cycle across the golf course from our house in Rock to Brea Beach, which we call the Caribbean because of its white sand and crystal clear waters. But on our way we used to cycle across the greens and make music videos on our bikes!

I remember your early paintings exploring the beauty of old, worn paint on fishing boats. I have one of your early abstract paintings hanging at home! Could you tell us a little more about your story and how you got to where you are now?

I love that painting! I have a fascination with history, how things evolve and how humans immerse themselves in nature. I’m interested in how people spend their lives and how they behave and react in nature - it’s all about stories. When I was painting the old boats, every layer of paint was a story that told a different voyage or passage of time. The boat would be repainted every year, and as it weathered you could see all the layers of paint, and its history.

The aerial paintings are inspired by my love of flying. My mum is from the Caribbean so when we visited I would stare out of the plane window and was fascinated with seeing people and their lives from a birds eye view. I wanted to figure out a way to paint that. I didn’t know anyone that was painting like this, so I was really making it up from my head. At the time, I was surfing a lot and I would notice birds swooping over me as I was sitting out back, and i’d wonder what we would look like from up there... some surfers chatting, some on their own and each with their own story. My work is mainly about the human study in the natural landscape. I find it so interesting!

I studied set design at Leeds which was really informative. I learnt about colour, light, space, objects and characters and how they all move together to create a scene that is forever changing. The world is a massive stage and we are all playing a part.

What does a typical day look like for you? Is there a sacred painting time for you?

I enjoy a slow start… shower, coffee, breakfast but then I like to get out of the door as soon as possible. I'll head to the studio for 4 hours. I do my best work in a 4 hour window and anything after this you may as well forget about! I’ll have a long break and sometimes I will go back. It’s actually really tiring, and I can go stir crazy looking at the canvas for too long, like I did today!

The second part of my day doing the admin. I will drop off any deliveries and start packing and shipping for any online orders. Then I'll go through emails, plan future shows, organise commissions - there is a lot of admin. It’s currently 7pm and I've got to do 2-3 hours of packing to get some paintings ready to be shipped, so I'll be here until 9pm. It’s really full on. It might look glamorous from the outside, travelling around the world painting, but it’s a real grind and takes a lot to keep it all going.

And what’s next?

I’m going to be working in my gallery in Bude for the summer. It will be open 4 days a week, and i’ll be painting up there, as well as showcasing work. I’m also doing a group show with the North Coast Asylum, which starts in July followed by a solo show with the New Craftsmen in August. I am also at the Henley Festival, which is a week after the regatta, showing a 60 sqm stand in the Arts tent, so come and say hello if you are around!

For commissions and other works for sale, visit Nina's website https://www.ninabrooke.co.uk