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October 27, 2021

'Driftwood is timeless; its origin is unspecific and it relates its own history; it is autobiographical'

Words Lara Refalo

I take great pleasure in searching for distinctive pieces of driftwood that have been shaped by the sea’s patient hand. Every piece of wood has a story, from a gnarled root of an olive tree, to a piece of wood which once formed part of a piece of furniture. A lot of time goes into collecting wood which is why I tend do it whenever I’m on holiday. While walking on the beach I always see something in the driftwood: oh there’s a swan; oh there’s the head of a dolphin. I’m always searching for character pieces with twists and knots for ornamental purposes. This summer was no exception, but apart from looking for ornamental pieces of driftwood, I started to look for smoother pieces of wood which I could paint on. I started out with an idea, found a reference photo and painted to the shape of the driftwood using water colours which, although not ideal for painting on wood, with several coats, produced a finish as good as acrylic paint.

My first attempt was surprisingly successful, I painted a swallowtail butterfly simply because the piece of wood inspired me to do so. I’m not easily inspired, especially when faced with large pieces of blank paper or canvas, but driftwood is completely different and it gets even more interesting if the piece of wood has already got some paint on it. One of my favourite pieces of driftwood was once part of an oar that was painted blue, which created the perfect sky for my seagulls painting. Another favourite was a large piece of driftwood with fraying edges, which added real texture to my prickly pears painting. The paintings were sprayed with a coat of semi mat varnish to seal the paint.

One of my main focuses in my driftwood paintings is nature. The beach is the best source of inspiration, I love the smell of the sea and the excitement of what I might find washed upon the shore. It's like a treasure hunt and I love the fact that I’m making something out of natural materials. Some people see driftwood, some see waste, I see potential. Wood is fast becoming a scare natural resource so reusing it makes perfect sense, perhaps even essential. Upcycling is the new recycling and virtually anything can be upcycled. Painting, sewing, fixing and mending are not only good for the environment but they are also good for the mind. I paint to relax.

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