An Immersive Topic: Abi Whitlock’s Underwater World

Abi Whitlock has spent a lifetime observing the attract of water and now plunges others into the underworld of placid weightlessness.

As seen in Artists Journal, July/August 2023

British artist Abi Whitlock as soon as dreamt of changing into a marine biologist. When describing her relationship with water, it’s apparent that she has been entranced by its thriller her total life. The science of an ocean’s ecosystem held her spellbound as a baby, and it’s water that maintains a maintain on her creativeness as an grownup.

Solace II (acrylic on canvas, 31½x31½)

As a college pupil, Whitlock had no thought simply how highly effective the position of water would determine into her life. On the precipice of taking exams that will full her matriculation, she turned in poor health. She needed to withdraw from college to give attention to her well being and by no means accomplished her meals science diploma. Serendipitously, her time in restoration served as a catalyst for her artwork.

“Once I needed to drop out of college and return dwelling due to my sickness, I didn’t know what to do,” Whitlock says. “I wanted a goal, and I remembered that I used to like artwork and was good at it as a baby, and I discovered it once more.”

Working full-time in acrylic since 2015, Whitlock has developed a charming oeuvre that depicts underwater swimmers afloat in colourful ribbons of water. The work maintain the viewers’ consideration because of the anchoring components of motion, gentle and shade. However above all, it’s the relatability to the swimmers that creates a connection. “Lots of people affiliate being in water with their childhoods … studying to swim and occurring household holidays,” the artist says. “It brings up a childlike sense of reminiscence.”

Comply with the Stars (acrylic on canvas, 31½x15¾)

Answering the Name

Sarcastically, Whitlock didn’t develop up close to water. She was raised within the county of Surrey, in England, the place her publicity to shorelines was restricted. Nonetheless, she discovered to swim at a younger age and, because of the affect of her father, who beloved to be in water, she took to the depths with ease. It was solely when she reached maturity that she relocated to a coastal neighborhood.

Within the county of Devon, the shorelines and cliffsides are lauded as a few of the most stunning in England. Known as the English Riviera, it’s right here that the artist made a house as her full-time artwork apply developed. The relocation turned her creative eye to swimming swimming pools, seashores and different water sources that will feed the catalog of pictures in her thoughts.

Taking Flight (acrylic on canvas, 27½x39¼)

That focus was to depict the magical aquatic world that transforms the human expertise. “There’s one thing about portray folks underwater,” Whitlock says. “They’re weightless and silent in their very own little worlds. It’s an escape for me as properly, simply to color them.”

Whitlock admits that starting an artwork apply with out formal artwork coaching has been trigger for some anxiousness and self-doubt, and he or she has needed to work to beat back this imposter syndrome. “Initially, I didn’t consider myself as an artist,” she says. “It feels purposeful once you’re placing one thing into the world that may change somebody, however I undoubtedly didn’t consider it as a job. I simply knew I wanted to be making one thing.”

From the Depths (acrylic on canvas, 30×20)

The Energy of Letting Go

To be submerged in water can invoke a sense of blissful isolation, and a Whitlock composition expresses this and extra. There’s an urgency to her work, a message of joyful spontaneity that comes from diving in with a way of belief. “I’m attempting to seize a way of freedom and ‘letting go’ in my work, so I don’t need something to look stiff or pressured,” she says. “I need a sense of looseness and rest within the swimmer’s physique. Typically, I desire to color ladies within the water as a result of, conceptually, I really feel each water and femininity are tied collectively,” she continues. “Most of my work are of myself, or of my two sisters or my feminine buddies who kindly permit me to {photograph} them.”

So, how does Whitlock seize her underwater scenes? “First, I all the time decide a sunny day to go to the pool or the ocean, because it’s vital that vivid daylight is current to get good reflections and distinction between gentle and shadow in any pictures I take,” she says. “I’ll take pictures from above the water’s floor [at the pool’s edge] utilizing a DSLR digicam.” On the whole, she positions the mannequin in order that she’s dealing with immediately into the solar. To seize pictures beneath the floor, Whitlock switches to an underwater digicam. “The digicam angle is vital for capturing each the swimmer and the reflections above her, so I put on a diving masks in order that I can see what I’m doing when submerged,” she says.

Solar Soaked (acrylic on canvas, 24×30)

Though Whitlock might use a photograph reference to create a composition, she solely makes use of sure components. “I don’t prefer to be inflexible with my references,” Whitlock says. “I’ll add shade, gentle or distinction; there usually aren’t sufficient reflections, so I’ll add extra of these, too. It’s not nearly getting the pores and skin tone proper, neither is it simply concerning the gentle within the water. I’ve to get a lot extra into one composition.”

Whitlock has discovered inventive development within the solitary elements of portray. “Being in nature and in that quiet house is so helpful to my artwork,” she says. “Being round folks doesn’t work. I’ve to be in my very own little bubble to create, and Devon was good for that.”

Underneath the Rainbow (acrylic on canvas, 11¾x23½)

Breaking the Guidelines

Whitlock describes her method to the acrylic medium as intuitive and, when reflecting on her personal evolution as an artist, says, “It comes naturally to me, which is odd. I’ve all the time discovered it so instinctive to combine colours and find yourself with precisely what I need. Once I must determine unfavourable house, I accomplish that intuitively.”

Her method to a piece begins with a pencil drawing define of the composition. A build-up of shade follows, normally Liquitex heavy physique acrylics and Golden acrylics. The darkest of colours are addressed, adopted by the lightest. She provides particulars nearly instantly. “I’m obsessive about particulars,” she says, “and relating to them, I’m going exhausting. I get carried away and put a great deal of element in a single reflection, after which I work round that.”

Acionna (acrylic on canvas, 27½x39¼)

Whereas Whitlock’s work has been described as hyperrealistic, her brush aptly depicts the abstracted nuances of water. Actually, the artist’s favourite elements of the work are the highest reflections on the water as a result of “I can actually go loopy with shade and light-weight,” she says. Whereas she admits that she’s extremely self-critical, that trait has served her properly as a self-taught artist. “I don’t know any guidelines,” she says, “so for me there aren’t any guidelines till I discover them.”

One instance is using black paint—and the necessity to keep away from it in her work. “Black doesn’t serve me in any respect,” she says. “It may well muddy issues, which I found by means of trial and error. As an alternative, I combine Prussian blue with cadmium purple. That’s the darkest paint I’ll use.”

Blowing Bubbles II (acrylic on canvas, 23½x23½)
Solstice II (acrylic on canvas, 23½x23½)



It’s All within the (Acrylic) Particulars

Whitlock locations nice emphasis on minute element to impart each side of a portray with worth and depth. She begins every composition with an in depth pencil drawing after which begins a build-up of acrylic, working from darkish to gentle. “I actually just like the richness of shade and the opacity I can get with acrylic,” she says. “A pop of vivid, daring shade is what I goal for, and acrylic is the right medium for attaining this. Additionally, I’m a really impatient painter. As a result of I like with the ability to layer paint shortly and get element on immediately, not having to attend days between layers is a giant plus.”

It’s All within the (Acrylic) Particulars

Soul-Soothing Work

Now a resident of the Bristol neighborhood, Whitlock has surrounded herself with our bodies of water, simply as she did in Devon. Lately, she takes a every day stroll alongside a river that results in a lake, and her contemplative eye takes within the watery reflections that function inspirational fodder.

A latest winter journey to Spain has yielded additional seaside concepts—and delivered an sudden bonus. “The standard of winter gentle is far softer there,” the artist says. “In the summertime, the sunshine might be so harsh, however I discovered this good comfortable, winter gentle within the ocean there. I can’t wait to see what comes from it.”

With Whitlock as our information, we’re immersed—very similar to the human figures earlier than us—and revel within the languid actions that propel us into an ever-eternal summer season. 

Creator Bio

Jenn Rein is a author and editor who covers artwork, design, structure and way of life. She makes her dwelling in Teton Valley, Idaho, nestled within the wild of the Rocky Mountain West.

Meet the artist

Abi Whitlock is an award-winning acrylic artist specializing in hyperrealistic work themed round water. Her inspiration comes from life on the coast and journeys to the seashore and outside swimming pools. Her works have been exhibited all through England.