Sea Gazing…. Wave watching and Surfing with a Paintbrush

Mother nature and the storms stripped the beaches of sand ,ancient petrified forests have been exposed along the coast, as well as the fibre optic cabling and items lost overboard years ago are appearing on the strand line. In the 90′s a container of Lego was lost overboard off Lands End. It has been turning up all along the coast after all this time and people are posting their finds onto Lego Lost at Sea, a facebook page. There have been endless opportunities for beach cleans, but it looks like the last of the storm surges are over.

Beach walks had been limited to rock hopping and walking the made up paths. But mother nature is truly wonderful and in just a week,sand  has been brought in by gentle surf by the bucket load and finally we can walk miles of sand at low tide.

I can now stand and sea g aze without beingin danger of being swept of my feet, have time to analyse and take in the movement of the waves instead of being blown away. Two months ago it was impossible to focus or keep up with the frenetic movement of such a huge body of water.

I have two large paintings to finish for my exhibition, “The View from the Shore”  Not intentionally leaving the biggest until last, it’s more a case of space as they take up a lot of room, but now the pressure is on to get them completed.

Not enough room to move, work in progress.

Not enough room to move, work in progress.

I often get totally absorbed into the painting process, but with this one really started to feel the rhythm of the sea, movement and sound as I moved the brush around creating the wave shapes. I felt immersed in it, imagining I was experiencing what a surfer does, except I had a paintbrush and no surfboard. On reflection, it probably had a lot to do with memory of spending so much time wave watching over the past few months, but hey I still like to think I was surfing my own wave.

"Sea Gazing" Finished. 140cm x 110 cm Acrylic on canvas

“Sea Gazing” Finished. 140cm x 110 cm Acrylic on canvas


Posted by on April 5, 2014 in Art diary


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Amsterdam Part Four: Adios Amigo, We will return

Galleries and Museums done, Amsterdam has so much more to offer and we like nothing better than to stroll around, sit outside cafes and people watch.

In March, the trees are just starting to leaf up and will look beautiful lining the canals in a week or two. The spring sunshine dappled the water and caught the golden spire of the Westernkerk, our main landmark to get back to our lodgings.

We choose to stay at a Bed and Breakfast. Paying hotel prices for services I don’t need isn’t really our style. I’m really keen to try AirBnB . Some self catering, but also people who rent out rooms in their private homes, it appeals as a way of getting a real feel for the country I’m in and the people.

WestViolet B & B was bijou with a very steep staircase! but perfect as we could use the kitchen like our own and make tea and coffee whenever we wanted. Home from home!.  The dutch are known for their clean design and I loved the proportions of the modern windows.  Almost square but not quite, they are heavy and let in  much needed light in narrow streets.

We were lucky with the weather and walking was easy, taking time to stop and admire some of the houseboats and the quirky style of some of the locals.

A canal riverboat cruise is a great way to see Amsterdam.  From the the water, you can look up and really appreciate the difference between the houses and the amazing array of different gable ends and angles and on a sunny day a lovely way to relax for a while.


I’d heard about the hidden courtyards and hidden they were. Not that spectacular, they are little oasis in a cityscape and you feel you have discovered a secret.  Wooden doors hide what’s behind with just a simple sign on the front and a sign saying ‘push and enter’ . We found ‘Bijenhof’ and ‘Sint-Andrieshof’, but their are many more.

The Canal House Museum, Willet-Holthuysen is restored to its former beauty with rich deep colours everywhere and great artefacts giving real insight to life of the the merchants and art collectors of the early 1800′s.

When it comes to food, there is every cuisine going. We sampled bitterballen, a local snack of deep fried ragout with a mustard sauce and there was good food to be had everywhere, but our favourite was  shopping at the organic market at Noordekerk where there were baskets of mushrooms, breads and the best cheeses. Another discovery was Marqt.  Delivering quality mostly organic high end food, displayed well  with tasters, this new concept of supermarket was the best way to get some great food.

If you get lost, just ask someone. English is spoken freely and they just want to help.

Adios Amsterdam. We loved it here and there’s still so much we didn’t see, we will be back.

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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in En Vacances


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Amsterdam Part Three: Van Gogh and The Hermitage

All the info on Amsterdam says get there early to avoid the queues.  We did just that, going in just after 9.30 am  and it was worth it. It’s not a huge museum and his works are not that large, so you need to be able to  get close to see the colour, and appreciate the dramatic directional brushstrokes.

Of course he is famous for his sunflowers and the later work where the paint is thickly applied  The experimental work in yellows and proving that it could be done is stunning.  Although the overall effect is yellow, there are   lots of different colours in the shadows and highlights which result in such lively luminous works. You can see this in ‘Quince, Apples Pears’ where even the frame is ochre coloured.

The potato pickers is interesting and shows his skill in interpreting the world around him, the faces of the ladies indeed looking like snobbly potatoes, but it is the beautiful orchard paintings that I connected with most.

Impressionist in style, with great depth and colour and light, the fourteen orchard paintings were completed in four weeks and he insisted they were hung together. Three are on display in the museum.

Other favourites were a seascape that was quite traditional but had beautiful light and a harvest field with a partridge.

Not allowed to take photos I had to rely on the net for images, so apologies for repro. To see them better go to the website which has all the collection and a great zoom facility to get in really close. Van Gogh Museum


A quick tram ride and stroll across the bridge and we were at The Hermitage, another impressive building with a lovely courtyard which was a carpet of spring flowers.  It is part of the famous Hermitage in St Petersburg and puts on two different exhibitions every year from their collection.

Displaying the works of the Gauguin, Dennis and Bonnard with a few others, it was another incredible building with a very different space, but where the artwork took centre stage in spacious surroundings with some lovely views down over the main galleries. Bonnard has long been my most favourite artists, but dissapointingly there were only three pieces of work on display and definately not his best.  Most were commissioned pieces for rich russians to decorate their walls.

These three artists were at one time part of a group called the ‘Nabis’. Post impressionists, more interested in symbolism and the beginnings of abstraction.  They flattened the landscape and colour had no shade.  Almost dreamlike and ethereal they were meant to create an air of mystery.  Simple clear brushmarks and intense colour with rich depth did make for very interesting work.

New artist discoveries are exciting and two were Odilon Redon and Charles Guilloux who was a master of moonlight.

odilon redon




Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Art diary, En Vacances, Exhibitions


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Amsterdam Part Two :Stunning Rijksmuseum

Full of museums and art galleries, you are spoilt for choice in Amsterdam.  Top of the list had to be the Rijksmuseum, a ten year renovation project culminating in the lifting in of the Rembrandt’s mammoth painting ‘The Night Watch’.  It is a huge building with a busy thoroughfare running through the middle, which the dutch insisted stayed for the bikes as it was the original city gate and its all in the museumplein, an area of several museums and galleries together.

It didn’t disappoint with the added bonus of  photography allowed (no flash). As a building it’s not that old, mid 19th century, but they have retained its character with modern glass and concrete additions, knocked down walls to create 80 rooms and added great lighting and atmosphere to over 8000 exhibits.

Don’t forget to look up at the star sky in the modern room, painted by Turner prize winner Richard Wright,(most people didn’t even look up).  It was in brilliant contrast to the rest of the Rijks taking the star motif and making something intricately contemporary.

We covered around a third of it in two and half hours. The website for the Rijksmuseum is addictive and  well worth exploring the collections and restoration info.  The brilliant Andrew Graham-Dixon also did this excellent programme, Tour the Rijksmuseum

Two portraits I picked out were ‘A Shepherdess’ by Moreelse (1620) and Andy Warhol ‘Queen Beatrice’.  The first is exquisitely painted and 400 years old and the latter, a screenprint and ink which doesn’t do justice in the photograph but was stunning up close.

And as a lover of the impressionists and the sea, this has to be the top picture for me. The photo doesn’t do it justice.  It feels so modern, yet was painted in 1887 by a Belgian artist, Jan Toorop. There was so much paint and so much colour in it, I was totally mesmerised and could have gazed into it for hours.

jan toorop seascape 1887 (640x570)

Next blog to follow very soon: Amsterdam Part 3: Van Gogh Museum


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Amsterdam Part One: First Impressions

Ding ding!.. watch out for bikes and trams.  Once you’ve grasped this concept, Amsterdam is a delight. Galleries, museums, people, canals,  cafes, cheese and beer were on the hit list for three days in Amsterdam.   Arriving at 1pm at Schipol, with a 15 minute train ride to Amsterdam Central, our B & B was only ten minutes walk along tree lined canals and over cobbled bridges.

The Jordaan area is a peaceful tranquil oasis with great little shops and bars and restaurants.  Dotted amongst them are the homes of the dutch, their front windows set with beautiful displays of their own personal possessions and art.

We managed to catch the end of the Organic market at Noordemarkt and bought some lovely sheep’s cheese and bread and then just wandered and wandered along the canals around the city centre. We came across a shop called ‘The Otherist’, a collection of curiosities from around the world, from bones to bugs all displayed in glass or behind frames and a shop dedicated to the history of spectacles.

Bad planning meant Don was missing the last weekend of the six nations rugby. Amsterdam is famous for its Brown Cafes, ( traditional dutch pubs)

Our first port of call was The Gouden Florijn where everyone flouted the general  smoking laws. I could put up with it for a couple of hours and have to say the atmosphere was brilliant especially as Ireland won.  This was the first of many brown cafe visits over the three days.  Great locals meeting place, impromptu singing around low small bars in squared off buildings, often with a mezzanine level built for dulled dark stained wood, they were the most convivial cosy spaces.

amsterdam 2014 (61) (480x640)Of course, you can’t go to Amsterdam and not visit the infamous Red Light District. Apparently not what it used to be, it is now full of tacky sex shops and more aimed at tourists, although we were surprised to see some more upmarket ladies early on the monday morning displaying their wares in front windows!. The best thing about it was definately this lovely little bronze set in the pavement.


The dutch people are very tall and very friendly. It was the warmest city experience with a big heart and great sense of trust.  This must extend to the roads too because we couldn’t work out who was giving way to who and no-one wore a helmet on a bike or on a moped. Walking is a must and the tram system is superb and fast.  I’m not sure I’d be safe on a bike!

The next blogpost will be about the art!

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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in En Vacances


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Beauty in the Contrast. A tale of two sculptors

While running the risk of seriously offending William Peers, I love the juxtaposition of two discoveries yesterday from the world of sculpture.

The first was on the walk at high tide.  Someone had chosen this rock to do their own free balancing stone sculptures, all lined up looking out to sea.  On their own not that impressive, but as a group, they added something unique. I looked up rock balancing and discovered there were four forms.

  • Pure balance - each rock in near-point balance
  • Counterbalance - lower rocks depend on the weight of upper rocks to maintain balance
  • Balanced stacking - rocks lain flat upon each other to great height
  • Free style - mixture of the two above; may include arches and sandstone.

The second discovery was a video on local sculptor William Peers. Not many people will have heard of him or know of him locally, but his work is internationally known

I was lucky enough to visit his workshop a few years ago when he was doing a project, 100 days making one sculpture a day out of marble. Through friend Jane, a local headteacher at the school his children attended, he was allowing people to go and see them before they went off to the bright lights of an upmarket gallery in London.

These bigger pieces leave me speechless and I have tried to find adjectives to describe his work, but none give enough meaning or weight to how they make me feel, so watch this short film made for an upcoming exhibition and decide for yourself.



Posted by on March 2, 2014 in All things Cornish, Creativity


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Goodbye Winter and Works in Progress

On the 1st March, St Davids Day, it does feel like spring is here with lighter days, blue skies and new shoots.

But what a winter’s weather!. No cold spells, but plenty of wind and rain and sea watching became an obsession. High tides and winds mean the sea often breached the coastal strip.  The damage was sad to see but the power of mother nature provided some exhilarating moments and opportunity to capture some dramatic photographs.

Painting en plein air, alla prima was a great experience (see prev post.Painting Hercules. ) and this method carried on in the studio painting two large canvas’s which are waiting to be stretched and then finished and one nearly there still on the easel.


Posted by on March 1, 2014 in Art diary


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