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, completing a degree at Edinburgh University and a postgraduate teaching qualification at Moray House. During this time she never lost sight of her creative side, attending numerous evening classes and summer school modules at Edinburgh College of Art and Leith School of Art, covering everything from stone carving, life drawing and illustration, to watercolour and the development of oil painting. It was in these latter classes that she was to find her preferred medium, loving the bold, textured brush marks of impasto oil paint, and enjoying the way that she could move the paint freely around the canvas, blending and mixing colour in unusual patterns.
A keen surfer, Senja is inspired by her love of the ocean, painting outdoors on location whenever she can. Engaging directly with the elements, Senja aims to capture the spirit of the ocean and her emotional connection to it. Splitting her time between the East Lothian coastline and the Kintyre Peninsula, you will often find her perched on the edge of the land, using a pochade box of oil paints with a prepared board slotted neatly into the lid. These studies are then worked up into larger paintings in her Edinburgh 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 coastlines will vouch for the dramatic light and colours at play.
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 in Dornie and Kintyre, has exhibited in mixed and solo exhibitions across Scotland, and has undertaken large commissions for both private and public customers. Her work is gathering a loyal following of lovers of Scotland, art and the sea.
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