Friday, 5 June 2015

Cornwall (part 3)

Here are the remaining paintings from the recent trip down to Cornwall. First up, a slightly larger piece (10x18in) from Sennen beach when there was an enticing mix of rain clouds and bursts of warm evening light. Within minutes of starting the sun disappeared so it was a case of half working from memory until the sun popped back again. It took me a while to find a spot where I thought the composition worked with the rocks and I wanted to try and emphasize the way those houses on the hilltop made a dramatic punch against the passing darker cloud. I was quite pleased with how it turned out given the conditions with the light at the time.

'Early evening, Sennen Cove' - 10x18in, oil on board

This was a bigger piece (12x16in) attempted in the force 7 winds we enjoyed down by the jetty in Sennen. After a little surgery back in the studio it seemed to hold up and capture something of the energy from the moment. I really liked Tim's and Mike's paintings of this subject.

Force 7 waves, Sennen jetty - 12x16in, oil on board

Before returning home I happily spent a few days with family up near Padstow and enjoyed exploring new terrain along that stretch of the coast. I was perhaps a little ambitious attempting a 16x20in at Bedruthan given the speed at which the tide and light were shifting but I got the essentials down and tidied things up a bit afterwards. Those rocks can be tricky in oils (I was conscious of not making them too dark so they they end up drab/murky) and they are quite distinctive shapes too. 

'Bedruthan Steps' - 16x20in, oil on board

Port Isaac was a pleasant find and once I'd negotiated the Doc Martin crew (they were actually filming about 50 metres away) I found a spot standing rather precariously on some slimy seaweed down in the harbour. Luckily it was low tide and there were a couple of nicely placed boats to work with.

'Boats at rest, Port Isaac harbour' - 10x14in, oil on board

My least productive day was when I ventured to Polperro. It was quite a long drive and we had that sort of 'in a cloud' sea mist/drizzle most of the day. Greeted with hoards of tourists I struggled to find a secluded spot and after a couple of wiped efforts settled on this arrangement, attempting to hone in on the subtle shifts in tones and colours. At least I could to head back to camp with something worth keeping anyway!

'Boat study, Polperro harbour' - 8x16in, oil on board

I had a very pleasant morning painting at Portcothan Bay and despite the sun not making much of an appearance there was a nice offering of subtle colours to work with. It's a popular spot and the bustle of people brought lots of energy to the subject. I was standing on some elevated dunes to paint this (you can see the fringes of grass in the foreground).

'Portcothan Bay - 10x13in', 10x13in oil on board

Another one from Portcothan Bay, this time pitched up against the headland in the painting above and looking across to the other side of the bay. I liked the shape of the rock and the surfers were very obliging in bringing a bit of interest to the subject. I made use of the reflection of the headland in the wet sand in the foreground too. I quite like the simplicity and directness of this piece and I'm tempted to leave those grains of sand in the foreground too!

'Surfers at Porthcothan Bay' - 6x14in, oil on board

A very enjoyable trip, painting with pals and spending time with family down in Cornwall. Itching to get back there already!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

More from Cornwall

It's always a challenge to try and paint those dramatic zawns from a lofty perch on a cliff edge and this was no exception. I was safely within range of the footpath but the high wind meant I couldn't even use the tripod sitting down so I had the paint box wedged in my lap. Even then it was a bit of a struggle and I was pleasantly surprised the final result wasn't full of wayward marks. Needed to pitch the tones of the water and rocks as accurately as I could in order to make it work and avoid ending up with drab/muddy rocks. I'd been hunting for a spot to paint for about an hour and had almost given up the hunt before settling on this spot. Almost threw it in the sea at one point, convinced it was a wiper but looking at it now it seems to hold together.

'Pendeen Zawn', 8x10in, oil on board

Some respite from the elements was found over in Mousehole but in actual fact the painting was in some ways more challenging with a mass of detail, tourists and the ever present danger of a descent into something twee to negotiate. I chose to tackle the cottages at the far end on the wharf as I was drawn to the range of tones in the flat light.

'Cottages from the wharf, Mousehole' - 10x13in, oil on board

The second effort (after a re-fuel with much needed tea & cake) was done from where those surf boards are resting in the background in the first effort. It was quite difficult judging the tones as the shifts were very subtle in places.

'Towards the wharf, Mousehole beach' - 12x16in, oil on board

Tim and I weren't sure what the weather was going to do and whether it would hold at Pendeen so we squeezed in a small boat study, thinking it would be a simpler and more relaxed way to round off the afternoon. Anything but in fact! The light was in and out, tide rushing in, awkward angle to draw on the boats and we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a beach birthday party of about twenty or so 4 year olds with a heady blend of frenzied excitement and explosive tantrums in the air. Mayhem! 

'Boat study, Mousehole' - 9x10in, oil on board

Carrying on the boat theme, I found a more unusual angle looking down the slipway near the lifeboat house at Sennen. After an initial wiper I shifted a few of the elements around to try and make a tidier composition and allow the viewpoint to make some sort of visual sense. 

'Looking down the slipway, Sennen - 8x16in, oil on board

A later afternoon visit to Penberth allowed me to paint in relative shelter after being windswept on Porthcurno beach. Just enough energy left to do a small 8x10 of a fishing boat on the slipway. The background is actually bit darker in the painting than the photo suggests.

'Boat at Penberth', 8x10in, oil on board

More paintings from the trip in the next post, including those from my stay in the Padstow area where I spent an enjoyable few days with family before heading home. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Trip to Sennen

Not long back from a lovely painting trip to Sennen with painting pals. Amongst the crew were Tim King, Mike Richardson and Mike Worthington. We stayed at Atlantic Lodge which sits above the cliff overlooking Whitesands Bay and the weather was pretty well behaved for most of the week.

There's something about Cornwall that really captures the imagination and I'm like a child in a sweet shop whenever I visit. I was really inspired by the colours in the water and waves this time round. Here's a small study of the waves, an enjoyably simple subject using the rhythm of the waves and rocks to construct a composition. The channel of middle distance rocks are apparently known as the Tribbens.

'Towards the Tribbens, Sennen' - 6x8in, oil on board

By contrast, we painted the waves in a testing force 7 gale on two occasions and it was something of an adrenaline rush to say the least. We all found it pretty exhilarating and had that lucky combination of high tide, high wind and early evening sunlight. The waves tend to form a repeated pattern which you can hook into and I aimed to keep the colours as clear/fresh as possible. The hardest part is keeping your hand still in the high wind to apply the strokes. Fortunately my tripod has a hook which I hang my heavy backpack from (not travelling light does have its advantages!)

'Force 7 waves, Sennen' - 9x10in, oil on board

More delight with waves and colours in the water on Porthcurno beach. I've never painted on this beach and the colours were too good to resist. It was really windy though and I got caught out by the tide when a freak wave rolled in and soaked my kit. I had to move my pitch twice to stay ahead of the water. The wind blew sand all over the painting but I've left a few grains in the sand area as a little momento :)

'Wave watching, Porthcurno' - 8x16in, oil on board

I enjoy trying to capture the essence of a subject in a small painting and they are quite a nice option to paint at the end of the day after trying some bigger pieces. The surfers and body boarders were keen to take advantage of the waves too.

'Evening wave catchers, Sennen' - 6x8in, oil on board

I found a slightly elevated spot to paint the bay and that helped make the most of the reflections in the wet sand. It was very windy though and the sun kept popping in and out. I opted for sun 'mostly out' and tried to memorise the tones/colours so I could carry on when the sun was in. The figures/flags (needed a steady hand to paint with the wind) help give a sense of scale.

'Bright and breezy, Whitesands Bay (Sennen)' - 10x13in, oil on board

Another small evening painting done on a hill top looking back towards Gwenver beach at Sennen, It was so windy I had to sit on the ground with my paint box on my lap. It was high up so the figures looked like tiny ants!

'Towards Gwenver beach' - 6x8in, oil on board

One sunny day I headed to Porthchapel with Tim King and Mike Worthington. We all had an enjoyable session and did our best to find sheltered spots away from the high winds. Fortunately the sun was shining which brought out all the colours in the water. When painting this one towards Hella point there were lots of wild flowers in the foreground but I ended up being very restrained with them as the colours would have been too much.

'Towards Hella Point' - 7x15in, oil on board

'Porthchapel Beach, midday light' - 10x13in, oil on board

Tim and Mike, contentedly posed after an enjoyable session at Porthchapel Cove

Just finished! At the end of the paint session at Porthchapel.

I went back to Porthchapel another day to catch a favourite view of mine perched from the cliff top looking down on the cove. I've painted it a couple of times on previous trips and couldn't resist a return visit. I like the way that finger of rock at the top juts out into the water which forms some nice patterns on the sand. The sun went in (and the tide quickly receded) about half way through so the last half I was part painting from memory. 

'Looking down, Porthchapel Cove' - 12x16in, oil on board

There's a nice view looking down towards Sennen from a spot near our accommodation and I decided to have a go with a larger board (14x18in). The sun was in and out but there wasn't much wind to contend with and I tried to make something of the cloud shadows on the hillside to add some interest. I liked those spiky fronds on the trees and decided to use those as a foreground interest rather than the row of houses which sit just behind them (you can see one rooftop in the bottom left) and they make a forceful diagonal line with is quite tricky to manage in a composition. A hint of the dusty path in the foreground helps to break up the greenery.

'Towards Whitesands Bay, Sennen' - 14x18in, oil on board

More paintings from the trip to follow.