If you’re an artist living in a place called ‘Squalor Harbor’, it seems fitting for nautical themes to seep into your work at some stage or another. But for artist Derek Nobbs, his homage to the sea runs deep and his artwork is heavily influenced by a genuine affinity with the ocean. Working with watercolour, gouache and ink, Derek’s pieces have an old-world aesthetic that capture the mystique of the ocean and the living creatures that dwell within.
We caught up for a chat with Derek, who gave us some insight behind his work, while maintaining a sense of elusiveness that left us even more intrigued about the man and his work.
All images are property and courtesy of Derek Nobbs.
Where are you based out of and what does your studio space look like at the moment?
The official answer to where I’m located is Squalor Harbor. My studio space currently looks like an old longshoreman’s garage, but with windows, and two cats to throw the fish heads to.
I usually seek out coffee, maybe some food depending on how I feel, then I get to work on painting or whatever needs to be done. Then lunch, then painting. Then most days I go for a walk, drive, hike, or some combination of the three. Then get back to work until dinner or late into the evening. Not very eventful.
Can you summarise your work for us in one sentence?
No. I wouldn’t even know how. So much thought goes into my work that if I was to summarise my work in one sentence I would be leaving something vital out.
Your artwork is heavily centered around nautical themes. Why do you find yourself gravitating towards the ocean for inspiration?
The ocean has endless history, folklore, superstition, and mystery that keeps bringing me back. It’s beautiful, brutal, and mysterious; it’s natural that I love it. The theme was inevitable as I’ve always lived near the water, up and down the west coast, and there have been more than a few sailors going back through my family line. I’m also concerned with the fragility of the ocean and I try to speak to that in my work as well.
Mainly nature and history in some form or another. Whether it comes from a walk in the woods, old photos and ephemera, or stories of man taking on nature—true or mythical.
What are you listening to right now?
At this moment, Bob Dylan.
When do you find yourself to be most creative?
I don’t really know. I suppose that depends on how I define my own creativity and honestly creativity is such an intangible, encompassing, and fleeting word that I never give it much thought.
When was the last time you were truly stoked by what you’d created?
Right now! I’m totally stoked on this piece I’m working on!
What keeps you sane?
Am I sane? I’m not sure if I’m qualified to say that I am. But for the sake of argument here are some things that keep the gun out of my mouth; painting, being in nature, being with friends, my family, Jessica McCourt, my cats, whiskey, being surrounded with objects that inspire me, and Tom Waits.
What was the last artwork you saw that blew your hair back?
Whatever it was it was by Peter Ferguson, Walton Ford, Andrew Wyeth, or Rockwell Kent.
What sort of stuff do you get up to when you’re not making art?
Pursuing all the other things that keep me sane.
What are some of your plans for 2015?
More fires, more exploration, more inspiration and less stress.