Painting on found wood: Graham Rich

Sailing artist/sculptor Graham Rich paints pictures of water and boats from driftwood found at water edges.  Their surface recalls memories and prompts a painting idea, which is painted and scratched onto the surface, with a resultant sense of texture.

Video by Topsham TV found on Youtube

“A Visual Correspondence with Ian Hamilton Finlay”

Devon-based Graham maintained a mail art correspondence with the poet/artist Ian Hamilton Finlay in Scotland – you can find a delightful recording of Graham’s generously illustrated talk on this at the Arnolfini here, and my thoughts on viewing it here, together with my account of a personal pilgrimage to Little Sparta, where Ian Hamilton Finlay lived and worked.

Some thoughts on Painting:

During the videoed process of making one boat image, Graham mentions some of his viewpoints on the art he makes:

“Journeys are supposed to change people – paintings are never the same at the end as they were at the beginning….”

“Paintings are not so much making something as overcoming a difficulty”


Painting as Meditation/Response

The Edinburgh Fine Art Society provides this information on how Graham began this style of artwork:

An artist with a passion for boats since the age of ten, Graham Rich uses marine paint on wood and boat fragments he finds during his voyages along the coast of Devon and Cornwall. The sailing boat in his paintings has become a metaphor for existence, ever since his wife was dangerously ill in hospital. “I began cutting the boat into found wood as a result of this medical emergency. The eidetic image of the boat was accompanied by a repetitive mantra in my brain that said, ‘I must sail my wife safely home’. I cut the image of the boat into pieces of found wood day after day until my wife returned to me safe and well.”

Working with Nature

Having located his surface, Graham sets to work in his studio, overlooking a river. Screen shot 2019-03-13 at 10.10.11

Graham paints an impasto layer                          Screen shot 2019-03-13 at 11.17.24


Graham Rich
cutting the wood surface

pencils the position of the boat, then scratches its outline into the surface of the wood, using a surgeon’s scalpel.  At this point, he’s cutting through the surface of the paint already on the wood when found, “the ground”


Screen shot 2019-03-13 at 10.13.07
etching tool

He then uses an etching tool to flick away the layers of the ground, to reveal the wood itself underneath.




Survival Hut

(See video talk)  During one of his searches for raw materials, Graham came across a shelter on a patch of deserted ground by water.  What he found inside showed a great attention to detail, with careful thought for warmth, cooking and even completing the crossword.  He showed its construction to various survival experts, who were impressed and moved by its design.  One day, Graham returned to the shelter, to find it had been trashed, and the tree which hosted it had had its branches removed so that the habitation could not be used again.

However, Graham received an offer to exhibit at Bond Street, at Christmas, and used this opportunity to display the inner pieces of the derelict hut and what he had made with its surfaces, in a modern, white gallery, in the most luxurious neighbourhood in London.

Screen shot 2019-03-13 at 11.36.53
“From the Hut to the Fine Art Society in Bond Street” Video by Topsham TV

See more of his works at:

Belgrave St Ives Gallery 


Screen shot 2019-03-13 at 11.52.42
Screenshot of part of the website


  1. Dear Heather

    Thank you so much for this Blog which was sent to me by Michael Gacca. I was delighted to receive it and to see how beautifully you had put together my you tube videos with your very clear and engaging text!
    There is only one thing that concerns me – I would prefer it if you could delete the reference to Alfred Wallis. I of course love his work – but my boats are a consequence of an involuntary action and I wouldn’t want anyone to think that they are derivative of his work.
    I can’t thank you enough for your interest in my work!

    Best wishes


    • Thank you for taking time to comment! I have removed the Alfred Wallis comment, to clarify. Hope my blog brings your work to attention of even more people. Will keep an eye out for your next exhibition at Edinburgh. H.

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