Contemporary Scottish Seascape Artist
Born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1968, Senja began life by the sea, before moving to The Lake District to grow up surrounded by mountains and lakes. Daughter to the outdoor adventure author, Colin Mortlock, her unconventional childhood was filled with exciting expeditions; hiking, kayaking, climbing, cycling, sailing and camping. This is where her love of the Scottish coastline took root, as every school holiday involved escaping north to backpack around practically every island in Scotland, travelling by foot and wild camping by the coast. Her mother was the creative force in the family, always encouraging drawing and painting or using natural materials to make sculptures and models when out on an expedition.
Senja moved to Edinburgh in 1986 where she completed her degree. At this time she also attended Edinburgh College of Art and Leith School of Art, exploring stone carving, life drawing, illustration, watercolour and the development of oil painting. It was in these latter classes that Senja found her preferred medium, loving the bold, textured brush marks of impasto oil paint, and enjoying the expressive nature of moving paint freely around the canvas, blending and mixing colour in unusual patterns. Recently, Senja has also been exploring a variety of charcoal techniques to capture the raw, dramatic power of the ocean. Splitting her time between her home on Arran and the Kintyre Peninsula, you will often find her perched on the shoreline, using a pochade box of oil paints with a primed board slotted into the lid. These plein air studies are then worked up into larger paintings in the studio. The richly textured, dynamic brushstrokes often bely the accurate detail of these real locations, and those lucky enough to live by, or visit, these striking Scottish coastlines will vouch for the dramatic light and colour at play.
A keen surfer, Senja has a deep, emotional connection to the sea and a healthy respect for its many moods. Her paintings often convey this understanding of her subject, inviting the viewer to engage with the elements and to share in the spirit of the ocean. Her paintings can take you for a quiet wander along peaceful sands or plunge you shamelessly into the heart of powerful, crashing waves. Early influences include the brooding stormscapes of Emil Nolde and the solitary figure of ‘The Monk by the Sea’ by Casper David Friedrich. These works embody the immensity and elemental qualities of the ocean in all its raw and untamable beauty. There is a love of Turner’s loose brushstrokes and dramatic skies and, recently, Senja has followed the footsteps of her favourite artist, William MacTaggart, recreating some of his plein air experiences, painting on the beaches of Kintyre.
Senja has completed artist residencies across Scotland, has exhibited in mixed and solo exhibitions and has undertaken large commissions for both private and public customers. Over the years, she has formed strong and lasting relationships with galleries both on business and personal levels. Her work is gathering a loyal, and increasingly international, following of lovers of Scotland, art and the sea.
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