Road Trips

Christopher Corr’s vibrant, characterful paintings capture the spirit and energy of countries far and wide. We caught up with him to discover how his love of travel has shaped his practice, and which destinations he’s found the most inspiring…

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Canal in Kerala

When did your interest in travel first develop? Was there a particular trip that was a catalyst for you?
I started to travel and draw when I was a student, and I was inspired by people like Paul Hogarth and Saul Steinberg who drew and travelled for a living. I quickly realised how stimulating it was for me. It makes you think so much faster when you draw & paint on location. I hitched and train-travelled around Europe and Morocco and even though it was tricky and difficult at first, I really enjoyed it. You remember a place in so much more detail if you draw it.

I applied for travelling scholarships when I was studying at the Royal College of Art in London and I was given one to draw in Berlin and another to travel across the USA. Both were so inspiring and helped me to develop my work.

In the States I spent five months travelling and drawing and it became such a natural occupation. It was an amazing trip; so different to anything I’d seen before. I wanted to draw it all.

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Cow in Coat

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Comoros Island Fishermen

What's been your favourite place to visit so far?
India has made a deep impression on me and on the way I work. It is so stimulating in every way: noise, colour, the intensity of everything, smell, taste, life. I learnt about colour from India and I really learnt to love colour. There is so much life to see and draw in India, and those beautiful cows!

I’ve visited India several times and am planning more trips. It’s a difficult place to depict because everything is in a hyper state, like someone has turned up all the dials. I’ve never seen such colour and such vivaciousness anywhere else, and so much chaos! I took a break and went into Nepal and it felt so calm and serene but when I returned to India, right at the border it was crazy again. I felt I had come home. Once you start it draw and get to grips with the energy in India and you make it your own it becomes a joy.

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Indian Gentlemen's Auto Rickshaw

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Ladies' Rickshaw

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Sacred Cow and Hoopoe

What's in your kit bag when you travel—are there any tools or materials that you always make sure to take with you?
It’s important to be organised with your travel painting kit. It’s easy to overload your bag and bring too much so I’m careful with my packing.

I like to draw with black fibre pens and I bring different sized ones for line variation. I bring a tiny watercolour box with strong colours. I take a variety of paint brushes, just enough to use with a selection of gouache paints. I use gouaches most of the time for their strong colour and ease of use. I think about the colours of the place I’m going to and the colours I think I will need. I take some sketchbooks and some sheets of Khadi papers for painting on, plus some bulldog clips to keep my pages secure while I’m working.

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Barjac Brocante Hot Day

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Fish Plate

Talk us through your working process when you're on the road...
When I arrive somewhere new I go for a walk and explore the place and I look for interesting sites to draw. Once I’ve decided on a good location, I look for a spot to get to work. I work fast and I don’t get too comfortable. I don’t like to stand out and become a permanent feature.

The more I can get done on location I think the better the picture will be, but sometimes it rains or snows or something happens and I have to finish the scene elsewhere. In India I try to find a good viewing point and just wait to see what comes my way. It’s like watching a good film.

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Hot Sunset over the Nile

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House's Barber Shop

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Mosque in Dhaka

How has your experience of other cultures and landscapes influenced your own work as an artist?
I like to reflect the atmosphere and the feel of a place that I paint, and I’m very happy to absorb some of its culture and look. It’s inevitable that it will happen. I look at the art and  architecture and fashions of a place I visit and I’m very open to its influences. I think everywhere has its own colour sense too…you just have to be aware of it.

Some countries have a strong artistic history. India has an incredibly rich and fascinating art history; Mexico and Egypt too. It’s a joy to explore and use elements from other countries’ cultures.

In that sense I think I am a magpie when I travel, and I do look for new ways to draw and represent where I have been. I’m sure the way I see and work is inspired by what I have seen on my travels. My ‘Indian’ colour sense is with me forever and I hope I will keep adding to my skills and art senses.

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Mucem D and Fort St Jean

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Evening Walk by the Nile

Where's next on your travel itinerary?
My next trip is to France, to the south to explore summer rural life with possibly a trip to Marseille—a wonderful Mediterranean city with a rich colourful history, and I thank the Greeks who created it. In the Autumn, I hope to return to India and travel along the River Ganges from Lucknow to Calcutta.

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La Roque sur Ceze and a Dovecote

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La Grand-Motte

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Feluccas on the Nile

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Greenwich Village