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Di Kirk – Caribbean Essence in Watercolor

Di Kirk’s watercolors capture the natural beauty of the sea, sky, and islands in the Caribbean. Painted in a relaxed style, they make you want to live in them—not just visit. An accomplished sailor, Di has been cruising with her husband Mike in the northern Caribbean for the better part of a decade.

Born in Leicester, England, the eldest of four, she started crewing on dinghies at Tynemouth Sailing Club on England’s NE blustery coast in the early 1970s. The couple moved to the United States in 1978 where Mike worked in the corporate world with General Electric. Settling in New York State, they purchased their first keel boat and began sailing on Long Island Sound with their two boys. 

Di began watercolor painting, taking classes with nationally-known artist and juror Barbara Nechis, known for her loose style in watercolors. The family joined Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, Connecticut where they spent weekends and holidays cruising to Nantucket, Block Island, Fisher Island, and the north shore of Long Island. In 1996, they started chartering in the British Virgin Islands and, in 1998, bought Ou La La, a Beneteau 38. Now retired, they divide their time between the BVI and Florida.

Di has painted weekly with a BVI watercolor group since 2002. Having watched her paint I am fascinated by the way she begins her paintings. “The colors of the Caribbean are so clear and the light is wonderful – because of this I prefer to paint outdoors. I tend to use a limited palette and have a preference for transparent watercolors rather than opaque, as these allow the white of the paper to show through,” she says. 

“I begin each painting ‘wet on wet’ with a lot of blues, and paint mostly sky, water, and boats—mood paintings that express a feeling. Paint is applied quickly so the picture will not be overworked. As the color is applied, the paint runs and does its own thing; the colors move and blend as they dry causing the painting to change. Because both my brush and paper are wet, the drying time is longer. As the paper dries, a suggestion of detail and some of the more definitive lines are added. I try to create an impression, or suggestion, so that the viewer can look into the painting and see what they want to see rather than a photographic image where they see what actually is there.

“Mike is an avid racer and for the last five years has competed in many of the major regattas in the northern Caribbean. I will assist by crewing for the race boat delivery and then provide support services during the regattas. The action of confrontational racing fascinates me and I try to get this feeling of movement when painting the fleet. I love the shapes and the contrasting colors of spinnakers when they are grouped together. When boats are racing there is often a lot of wind and the sky is constantly changing. My paintings of racing are done quickly to catch the essence of the moment – after the painting is dry I look at it again and may add the definition of individual boats.

“In contrast, when painting seascapes, I try to reflect the essence of what I see in a totally different way from the racing scene. The light, sea, and sky in the Caribbean seem to be constantly shifting and I try to capture the ever changing moods of the sea, the sun, and the sky within the natural beauty of the Virgin Islands—because of this each picture is unique and my portfolio, as a unit, is extremely varied.”

Di’s watercolors do indeed give one a longing to be a part of the scene. A popular artist, her paintings hang in homes throughout North America, the Caribbean and the UK. 

Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 21 years.  She holds an MA Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.

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