Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Moments from Mousehole

Whilst staying a Sennen we paid a few visits to Mousehole which is a beautiful harbour on the more sheltered southern side of the Lands End penninsula. It provided a nice contrast to the more wilder reaches of the north and west coasts. That said, I found it quite a challenge to tune into the mass of information that presents itself in the busy and bustling harbour. The tide and light have a strong impact on the subject and the water level moves quickly! There's a lot going on with buildings and boats which is quite different to the cliffs and beaches where broader, more general statements are often more appropriate. Whilst in Mousehole we chatted at length about Ken Howard who has a studio there in a converted school house. His masterful works are a constant source of inspiration and he had an incredible painting on show in a local gallery window. The kind of painting that demands your attention...just the shear beauty of the colours and tones was enough to make your jaw drop. Amazing!

'The Gap, Mousehole harbour' - 6x10in, oil on board

We all were drawn to 'The Gap'. It's quite a feature of the harbour but it needs the right light and tide level to make it worthwhile. The sun was high and the the colours muted so it was a delicate balancing act. I was conscious of not over darkening the harbour walls, want to leave some of the ground showing through to give a touch of colour vibration. I used a pinkish stain on the ground which ended up being too insistent so I had to calm things down in the studio afterwards.

'High tide, Moushole harbour' -13x10in, oil on board

All the basic tones and colours were mapped in on site with a bit of tidying up back at home whilst the scene was relatively fresh in my mind. The blue boat in the middle distance was added afterwards to help with the sense of depth.

'Receding waters, Moushole harbour' - 13x10in, oil on board

This was a busy scene with lots of detail. The key was to judge the tones and colours without getting too bogged down with anything fiddly. The buildings and trees in the background were hinted at rather than described in full so they didn't compete for attention with the rest of the painting. It was fun working with all those ropes and I love the way they catch the light against the shadowy wall in the distance.

'Late afternoon, Mousehole harbour' -10x8in, oil on board

This was the brightest day in the harbour and I pushed the colours a bit more. I had to tidy this one up in the studio as the boats were a bit scruffy. If I do need to make an adjustment I try to keep it minimal so as not to move away from the original moment that was captured. If it'slikely to benefit the painting then I think it's well worth it.


  1. You really did a great job handeling the lights and darks in these paintings.

  2. Waw... Well done for these ones David. I know exactly what you mean about the difficulty to tune in and cope with all the details of the harbour after having painted the sea and the rocks for days - indeed I actually binned my painting of the same view as I wasn't happy with it so I can appreciate the hard work you've put in these!

  3. Thanks Douglas. Yes, the tones needed some close attention in these. The light was neither gloriously sunny nor heavily overcast in a couple of them and I had to try to decide which way to push things. When there's so much detail to get down I still try to keep the 'basics' in the back of my mind otherwise things can drift away.

  4. Thanks Valerie. Yes indeed, we certainly tested ourselves with a varied line up of subjects. We'd move from a session in the wilderness with only the birds, waves and wind to busy places like Mousehole with buildings, boats, people, noise etc all thrown into the mix! It was asking quite a lot really. Shame you binned it but I do the same when I feel something hasn't worked out as hoped, otherwise it nags me :O) Besides, I'd rather spend time and energy on the paintings I do like rather than the ones I don't!

  5. ExcellentWork

  6. actually, I think these paintings are jaw dropping.
    It was the fantastic Trevor Chamberlain who turned me on to Mousehole and I've always wanted to visit the Mousehole/Cornwall area and when I do I'll call it "Muzzle" so no one will think I'm a dumb American ;)
    Anyway, you are a masterful painter of atmosphere and your palette is colorful but well balanced.
    I love your work.

  7. Thanks for the lovely comments Mary. For sure, Mousehole is a great place to paint. I've not seen Trevor's paintings but I believe Ken Howard has a studio there and he has done some beautiful work all around the area. I find the whole of Cornwall is a superb place to no other I've ever feel so in touch with the elements. I'd certainly recommend that you visit if you ever get the chance. May and September are pretty good months with a few less crowds and the weather is still reasonable!

  8. Thanks for the information of using acrylics on location. I've tried the slow dry version and was not pleased. I will try again with the WN slow dry gel. Have enjoyed the postings of you and your painting friends - am envious of your fabulous locations! Keep them coming.