Camille Page’s Underwater Wonder
Camille Page’s underwater paintings blend a perfect amount of the figurative with the abstract. Painting with a palette knife in a kind of push-pull-combination of heavy applications of paint and fierce scrapings, Page creates large paintings that feel familiar and momentous.
In this series, Page captures her friends and daughter swimming and enveloped with water in order to paint from the images. With an underpainting below and the palette magic on the surface, she captures action, form, color, and light in a way that invokes a sort of contradictory feeling of both timelessness and yearning for time’s past.
On a recent trip to Kaua’i, I was able to visit her gallery and meet with Page, speaking to her about her underwater series, process, and inspirations. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor
Ellen C. Caldwell: When I first saw your works, they immediately captivated me. You capture underwater movement in such an appealing way. Could you discuss how you came to this series?
Camille Page: Living in Hawaii and being an ocean lover/swimmer/surfer, I knew I wanted to create art that captured the ocean lifestyle, yet I was so tired of the same beach landscape and surf images that seemed to duplicate themselves everywhere you went on the islands. I purchased a 1970’s era Nikonos underwater film camera, and after many trial and error photo shoots, I realized I liked the obscure and sometimes blurry effects I was accidentally getting with film.
EC: That’s great. Process-wise, you use a heavy palette knife application of paint to both disrupt and move paint through your swimming, figurative bodies. It is a really wonderful combination that makes your paintings both fluid and morphed in a compelling manner. What is your process, from the initial photographs to the end product?
CP: I’m usually pretty detail oriented, but being self taught was getting frustrating and I wasn’t getting the detail I imagined. After a few discouraging attempts on a particularly large canvas, I decided to scrape the paint off and start fresh, but as I did, I realized I liked the effect I was getting with the palette knife! So now most of my works begin with a pretty detailed sketch and underpainting, and ends up messy and chunky, in the best way possible.
EC: You mentioned to me earlier that you have been an artist all of your life, but you only really took that bigger leap to push yourself to produce and put in studio hours recently. What changed for you or motivated you to do so?
CP: I’m a single mom of two wonderful kids, and I was approaching my 40th birthday, still waiting tables and bartending for a living. Don’t get me wrong, this is an entirely acceptable form of employment, especially on the islands, but my creative side wanted more. It was partly for validation, and partly because I wanted my kids to know if they put their mind, time, and honest effort into something, they could accomplish whatever they wanted. The hardest part was giving up days full of beach and surf, and literally forcing myself to sit in front of a canvas in my garage for days and months on end, until I was happy with what I was doing. Now it doesn’t seem like work at all, but it took awhile to get to that space in my head. I’m very lucky to have super supportive friends and family, I wouldn’t be doing this without them!
EC: You live and paint on the south side of Kaua’i. Were you born there and has location played a factor in your work?
CP: I was born in California, and moved to Maui right after high school. I planned on surfing for a year, then going home to college. Over 20 years later, I’m still in Hawaii, and joke that I still might go to college when my kids go (maybe?!). I made the move to Kauai in 2000, and the ocean here has been an inspiration in both art and life.
EC: Are you continuing on with this series for the foreseeable future, or do you have something else in mind for now?
CP: I think the underwater series has been well received, and I’ll definitely be continuing with that for awhile. I do feel that I have so much more to learn, I’m currently working on three wood panels instead of canvas, and I really like the way those feel.
Camille Page lives and works in Kaua’i and is represented by Art House Gallery.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based writer, art historian, and editor.