Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Cornwall rocks!

I recently got back from a return trip to Sennen (Land's End) with fellow painting pals and we had a great time. This time round I booked the two adjoining properties and this meant we could invite more people than last time. Thanks for everyone for coming :) The weather was mixed but I wasn't going to let that get in the way of some coastal plein air action. On the whole we didn't fare too badly, a couple of wet days but the rest was either sun or cloud (or both...which can make painting very tricky!).

I was conscious of not painting the same views I've painted before so I tried to find some different spots at favourite locations. The great thing about the West Penwith Peninsula is that there's such a variety of subjects, ranging from sheltered coves and fishing harbours to wild rugged cliffs and sparkling beaches. There seems such little time to take it all in when you're only there for a week but we just had to pick our spots and get stuck right in.

I got up at 5am on the Saturday for the long drive down and arrived in Sennen just after 11am. As soon as I saw the sea I thought...right....a quick brew then it's time for some action. I headed onto the beach and ran down to the shoreline with my kit. It seemed the best spot but really I should have know better. The waves were but a few metres away...was the tide going out of coming in? What the heck, lets just have a go. Needless to say within minutes the waves were lapping up around my easel. I think I moved about 6 or 7 times, passers by must have thought it was very amusing. Funnily enough, I think I ended up painting one of my favourite pieces from the trip. Maybe it was all the adrenalin and excitement that helped spur things along. It seems to capture the essence of the moment. Anyway, here's the painting as it ended up (you should be able to click on the images to view them larger):

'Gathering clouds, Sennen'  - oil on board (6.5x14in)
Later in the day the others arrived and pitched up along the sea front, eager to get stuck in and seize upon the sunshine before it disappeared.

It doesn't take Roy Connelly long to get stuck in

David Bachmann and Mike Richardson in full flow!

The Sennen lifeboat house and jetty is very paintable and I attempted to capture it in a different ways:

'Into the light, Sennen' 8x10in oil on board

 'Early evening light, Sennen' 6x8in oil on board

'Evening sparkle, Sennen jetty' 8x10in oil on board

'Fading light, Sennen jetty' 6x8in oil on board

In this one above, every I time I looked up this scene had changed. I was also holding an umbrella in one hand as the heavens opened sveral times. Perhaps a little ambitous but good fun with the others battling away alongside. We were right in front of the pub the 'Old Success' on the seafront and they must have found it very amusing watching us getting drenched!

Behind us, a beautiful rainbow emerged! On the clifftop on the left you can just about make out the place where we were stayingfor the week.

The rest of the seafront at Sennen has some great material for painting too:

'Lifeguard hut, Sennen' 8x10in oil on board

I was pleased to keep the colours fresh in this one above and tried to make use of both transparency and opcacity,

'Towards Cape Cornwall, Sennen' 6x10in oil on board

The sun kept coming in and out on this one above but I tried to keep to some sort of plan and kept it as simple as possible. The rocks at low tide can look 'messy' so less if often more.

'Lively swell, Sennen' 6x10in oil on board

I had a bit of a nightmare painting this one above. I ran out of medium, my easel fell over in the sand covering EVERYTHING and the sun was full on the board, bad news for judging the tones. Still, having got a few expletives off my chest and having gone to the trouble of finding a half decent pitch I decided to see it through! There are a few grains of sand in stuck into the paint but I think it's quite nice to have a bit of Sennen preserved in the paint :)

Of course, we wanted to branch out from Sennen and a favourite haunt was Pendeen and the old Enys rock that just out majestically into the Atlantic. The wind was up so I painted this one sitting down with the pochade on my lap:

'Enys, Pendeen - late afternoon light' 10x13in oil on board

Getting the aerial perspective right can be a challenge as often the distant headland is quite dark, there are subtle shifts in tone and temperature needed to make it read in the distance. Also, when the distant headlands are green these need to be played down quite a lot otherwise they lurch forward and ruin that sense of distance/atmosphere in between. The Enys is such a unique, identifiable shape and it's important to get the drawing right. There were some handy shadow areas that serve as useful anchors in constructing the basic shapes of the composition. I find it's better to get the overall shapes pretty accurate but not to get too fussy on details otherwise the painting becomes too fussy and loses its sense of energy.

Whilst painting up on the slopes of Pendeen, Michael Worthington stumbled across this adder which was only a few metres from where I was painting. Yikes! Apparently it hissed as Michael took the shot. Needless to say I trod carefully after that!

This next little study was done in the morning at Priest's Cove, Cape Cornwall. It was a tricky session and I found it diffuclt with the sun coming in and out but that's the way it goes sometimes. I thought the jutting rock in the foreground and the rhythms of the lines on the cliff were worth examining anyway.

'Priest's Cove, Cape Cornwall' 8x10in oil on board

Porthchapel Cove is another favoured spot and I was pleased to get the chance to visit on a sunny morning. I found an interesting perch on the slopes down to the beach and the tide was at just the right level. Enjoyed painting this one and I used my own cast shadow to shield the paint surface from the sun.

'Porthchapel Cove, morning sunshine' 10x13in oil on board

More paintings and action shots from the cliffs and harbours to follow shortly in the next posts!


  1. Never knew there were snakes in the UK!!! Again, some real great paintings here, especially the sparkle one!

  2. Welcome, Tim King and David Bachmann! Here providing nice art scenery and photographs are really nice. I want to collect them. Thank you so much for interesting contribution.

  3. Cheers mate. Yeah, there's snakes alright...they love the gorse....I trod VERY carefully after seeing that!

  4. Enjoyed seeing these paintings very much too. It does look pretty chilly based on the coats and jackets. I didn't realize that you had venomous snakes in Britain. Are they very numerous and dangerous? We have rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water mocasins. I've not seen that many of them though although our dogs sometimes were bit. Their heads would really swell up, but they always survived.

  5. Thanks Douglas. Yes, adders are the only venomous snakes we have but you don't see them very often. Rattlesnakes! Yikes! Now that really would make me think twice about going out in flip-flops!

  6. Great post David packed with beautiful paintings, great photographs and event a snake! I agree with you, your first painting is truly amazing; it was worth getting your feet wet;) All the beach ones have a lovely loose brushwork and subtle change of tones; you really kept it simple and I like it that way. Good work!

  7. Thanks Valerie. I was so excited when I first arrive I think it all just flowed out into that initial painting! I was able to burn off some of the excess adrenalin too by running away from the waves several times with my easel. It must have looked ridiculous! I'd only been in Sennen for an hour and already my kit was covered in sand and sea water :) Less is more with a subject like that. I tried my best to be as accurate as I could with the tones and colours without getting too descriptive with detail.