The Shellseekers Art Exhibition in Bude

The brainchild of Debbie Cousins and Lynne and Martin Holehouse of Seventh Wave Gallery, The Shellseekers Art Exhibition grew from a tiny seed of an idea over a  year ago, and has finally come to fruition with a wonderful collection of Cornish Art on show at Bude Castle Gallery and Cafe.  It was no accident that it was to coincide with the 90th Birthday of Rosamunde Pilcher, the author or many cornwall based novels, and although she could not attend due to birthday celebrations, I hope she gets to see some of it online.


shellseekers poster

Rosamunde’s books are all set in Cornwall and loved the world over, but particularly by the people of Germany. A film company serialises the stories for Sunday afternoon viewing, which makes Cornwall a very popular destination to visit spots where the filming and storylines take place and it is hoped that Bude might also be part of this success story.

I haven’t read the book, but knew the story and have watched an TV version on DVD. Based on the life of the the main character Penelope, and her relationship with her family past and present, all linked by a painting called “The Shellseekers”

I chose two paintings to submit.
With each title,  Debbie has cleverly taken extracts from the book and you can feel Rosamunde Pilcher in the room with her lovely poetic writing.

Here are my two entries with my inspiration for the paintings and Debbies chosen excerpts from the book.

Sea Gazing

“….but the breeze was cool & smelt salty. Reaching the main road, they crossed it and stood for a moment gazing”

Sea Gazing, from the Breakwater, Bude, painted for the Shellseekers Art Exhibition
Having always lived in Cornwall, the times Penelope spent on the cliffs overlooking the sea contemplating life struck a chord with me. It’s a place where you feel so at one with the elements and nature, an inunterrupted view to the horizon gives you space to breath, think and contemplate life. This painting is 130 x 110 cm acrylic and oil on a deep unframed canvas.

Return to Cornwall

“….. and all this time she told herself that one day, sometime she would return”

Return to Cornwall, painting by Sue Read of Black Rock Widemouth Bay
This painting is based on one of my favourite views over Widemouth Bay towards Black Rock. In the film with Vanessa Redgrave, Penelope returns to Cornwall, as a young woman to see her father and then again in old age. The drive down to the coast reminded me of the joy it brings when you are greeted with breaktaking views over the sea and coastline.  It is 60 x 90cm acrylic and oil on a deep unframed canvas.

The exhibition runs until the 4th October, so plenty of time to get there. There is a facebook page with lots of detail, links and updates here.


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Painting Interludes

The painting process for me is not always the relaxing idyll that might the be general perception of many people.  It is a constant mind game of what colour to mix and where to put it, and how much and then usually remove half of it. It is through this process that I finally arrive at a the end of a painting I am happy with.  It’s quite mentally tiring and to avoid sitting at the studio twiddling my thumbs, I have unwittingly created what I will now call ‘painting interludes’.

A bit like musical interludes, these are times for relaxation and quieter contemplation.  It’s a time to put down some paint either new or left over and not feel like its time or material wasted.

It wasn’t until yesterday though, that I realised the value of these so called ‘interludes’.  Whilst quietly playing with oilbars, my palette knife and sitting at the makeshift workstation, I was aware that my subconscious is also quietly processing the next steps.  This could be a current painting I’m working on or a project in the pipeline.

I had four projects on the go and they were taking up a lot of head space, projects that generally come to the fore when my body and mind relax, either when I’m asleep and then spend a couple of hours up in the night or during my ‘painting interludes.

Creativity for everyone works at its own pace.  Ideas might suddenly arrive and there is a desperation to hang on to them, but they are often fleeting and fluid. They change and develop.  It’s often a case of then peeling back the layers to get to the basics to grasp the concept of what it is that is driving the idea and work a framework upon which to create it.

So whilst aimlessly putting small amounts of paint onto the knife and then onto the board over the past two months, I have finished two projects, am half way through the third and the fourth although giving me some angst,  I now have a tool in the ‘painting interlude’ to aid and assist this process,  I can move forward and feel more relaxed and know that it will be alright in the end and in the words of author Elizabeth Gilbert; trust in my inner genius!

A bonus of these ‘painting interludes’ is that I have produced some small pieces of work on board measuring just 8″ x 10″ that aren’t half bad and will be for sale at a special studio price as unframed pieces.



Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Art diary


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It’s Not Rubbish Art Show

Last weekend saw the first Bude Arts and Music Festival happen in Bude. Anna Worthington of BAAM approached Annie and I with the idea to create an arts and craft event.  For the past six months, we have thrashed through several ideas and plans which resulted in ‘The ITS Not Rubbish Art Show’ held over the two days and a contemporary craft market on the Sunday.  It involved a lot of planning, reworking of ideas and weekly meetings to get it all organised, but organise we did and pulled off a very successful event.

It wasn’t all just about us.. There was a huge marquee with kids theatre, entertainment and bands on two stages along with a skate competition and roller disco.  The crooklets beach area was transformed with colour, bunting, banners and over 1000 people. The cliff walk between Crooklets and Summerleaze was host to 50 large flags which could be seen from miles away.

It really was a community event for the people of Bude run by a small band of people and teenage volunteers who were amazing. It made you proud to be a part of it and it really said ‘Bude’ is open, come on down and join in the fun.

The Rubbish Show, came out of an idea of initially making stuff to decorate the festival. Annie and I are both keen beachcombers and this winter the sea threw tons of rubbish up onto our shoreline.  It was a great opportunity to highlight the issues of sea pollution and we got Widemouth Task Force and the #2minutebeachclean involved too to promote it with beachcleans and they judged the final show.

We made a sign that went on a tour of Bude to promote the event and held a swap shop. After a winter of beaches full of rubbish, by May they were incredibly clean, we think from the efforts of the beach cleaners.

Our plan was to make lots of unusual and large objects, but time and other commitments meant we had a couple of afternoons to make a few bits and then worked solidly two days beforehand to get Rosies play shed into an exhibition space whilst throwing everything we could find in the way of beach rubbish on the outside. It evolved over the two days with some helpers and by Saturday morning we were ready to roll.

The whole festival was a huge success, and our little show had 42 entries and we reckon around 700 visitors through the doors over the two days, which in a shed of around 6m x 4m was quite phenomenal. Here are some of the entries.



Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Art diary, BigupBude, Creativity


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Tom’s home. I need a new Art Studio!

When our eldest son asked if he could move back in for the summer, my first thought was ‘where am I going to paint?’.  I’ve been using his room as my studio for five years now and it’s more than a little paint flecked.

But always an opportunist, I came up with a great idea that could really expand my art practice, take it forward and give me focused time and space to paint… to ask my brother if I could use one of the barns at the farm.

He thought it was a great idea.  Currently full of furniture and other stuff in need of storage, I think it was a good opportunity for him to take stock too and have a sort out.  It’s a huge space, one of many barn rooms high in a farm courtyard.  Stone built some two or three hundred years ago, they are incredible. Graeme, my brother had them renovated a few years ago, replacing rotten roof timbers and reslating with original local slate with new windows.

This barns original use was as a mill room with corn storage on one side, more storage further through and underneath animal pens.I hadn’t really bargained on the strength of memory and emotion I would feel when entering the barn again after probably 35 years. I’ve walked past it many a time, but it wasn’t until I actually went over the slate threshold, that the  strong memories came flooding back.

My dad in the farming years used the tractor to drive a belt that worked the millstone to grind the corn for winter animal feed which was collected down below. I can remember sitting in the tractor seat when this was working and helping push the feed out into the hopper, running down the stairs to make sure it was coming out the other end. The smells were warm and musky and the dust golden in the autumn light that filtered through the door. Graeme and I and Helen used to jump off the step into the corn, wade through it and bury ourselves while filling our wellie boots.  It was like our own version of the modern ball pit.

The barn now has velux windows which makes it really light and airy with a lofty ceiling.  There is a great sense of history and place here with a lovely positive soothing peacefulness as it is nestled in the hillside just under the prevailing winds coming off the Atlantic, the coast only a mile away as the crow flies. The walls are still rough and rustic and blend in with the modern blockwork where the new roof had to be tied in.

One surprise was some pencil writing my dad had left on the wall, probably in the seventies or eighties along with some cartoon pencil drawings Graeme had a penchant for drawing over anything and everything. A bit of modern history?

The barn cleared, we swept, washed down the windows and doors and moved my art stuff up.  A whole car load and a bit later, I hardly felt like I was using any space, but one week on, I’ve managed to fill just about every corner with something and have big plans for some printing, collagraphs, painting on found driftwood and some larger canvas’s. I’ve got one new sign to put up, courtesy of friends who made it for me but might need a couple more.  I think the next couple of months will see new directions and challenges, but I’m looking forward to it.





Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Art diary


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RWA ‘Power of the Sea’ Making waves in British Art

This exhibition was on my ‘to do’ list since a friend told me about it. June was turning out to be a pretty busy month, but with train tickets booked ages ago, there was no way I was missing this exhibition.  The Royal West of England Academy’s  ‘The Power of the Sea’, was a clever mix of sculpture and painting, old and new which was stunning. There wasn’t one piece that I didn’t like.

Of the older work, Joan Eardley was my favourite and they were surprisingly large. A keen fan of her work, her colours were beautiful, and full of raw emotion and energy.

I particularly liked the contemporary and felt very akin to Janette Kerr’s seascapes and the waves of Maggi Hamblin and want to find out more about the work of Gail harvey who’s abstracts I couldn’t quite grasp and also the work of Will Maclean who uses flotsam and jetsam to create very unusual pieces.

Terry Setch  constructed a triptych  of panels, heavily painted and laden with all sorts of rubbish found on the severn estuary which was encased in a dense layer of pva and plastic.  Disturbing and ugly, it was very engaging and also sending a powerful message about how we are mistreating our coastlines.

There are too many artists involved to go into it in too much detail but there is more info here

I hadn’t been to Bristol for years, so it was nice to reacquaint myself, especially with the area at the top of park street where the Academy is situated and we walked out to Clifton, or Clifton Village as its now called with lovely cafes, small shops and galleries, had lunch and then popped into the city museum and gallery before heading back to the station to wend our way home.




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Into June, hit the ground running.

Just when I thought I could kick back and potter in the garden or  maybe have a few days away, all hell breaks loose and everything comes at once.

I’d been asked to  supply some work for a great new gallery at Royal William Yard, an urban splash development of the old barracks and stores for the navy in Plymouth.  It has the biggest concentration of grade 1 listed buildings in the country and has to be seen to be believed.  It is is fast becoming the place to go, and I can see why.  As well as taking down five pieces of artwork, I was also commissioned to do a piece of Plymouth Sound with Drakes Island. After some hastily taken photos and mentally making some arty colour and composition notes, I got it done in a week. At 48″ x 16″, it was not a shape I’ve done before and provided me with some challenges, but was really pleased with the result.

Towards drake island, the sound

The new premises are within the officers houses, will be called ‘ONE’, and have a vintage tearooms, gallery, wedding venue and offices for an interior designer, soft furnishings and a bathroom specialist.

Delivering the artwork for the gallery, I also took some additional work for the interior designer based in Residence One for a client to view for their multi million pound new house in cornwall. Keeping the fingers crossed there might be a sale here.

Number three that week was a tweet from Cai to say that June’s Cruel and Curious exhibitor had pulled out at the last minute and could I fill in.  Fortuitous as this was, given I’ve just finished an exhibition and have work left to sell, it did mean it was all hands on deck to pack, cook clean and keep the house going while I got it all together and just in the nick of time.  So it was off to Boscastle to set up with storm paintings, the mermaid purse chandelier again and one of the lightboxes with a mermaid purse in it.

And lastly, a pressing need to sort out the home studio, turn it back into a bedroom for Tom who is coming home to lifeguard for the summer season and move everything to Wooda Farm Park, where my brother is clearing a lovely barn for me to use as a stunning studio location. More on this in posts to come.



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Posted by on June 17, 2014 in Art diary


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Going Abstract

Its been a full on month, May. Everything happened at once; the exhibition, the trip to Italy and then a weekend booked at the Newlyn Art School for ‘Colour and Abstraction’

And in some ways I was looking forward to this more than anything.   My artwork has become looser and my appreciation for abstract  greater.  As I have grown in awareness as a person, I have also grown as an artist, and feel a deeper and deeper meaning and connection to the mark making and colour and the whole process of painting which in turn has made me less focused on what I see and more focused on how I interpret it.  I know though that I’m not ready for pure abstract just yet.. feeling a need to keep something slightly figurative or realistic. But after working on this last exhibition and gaining more confidence with my medium  if feel less precious about pleasing others and more willing to take risks.

So the timing was perfect to go away for the weekend and work with as much paint as I wanted quickly and vigorously using a range of tools.

Gareth Edwards our tutor actively encourages breaking rules and mixing things that you know don’t really like each other such as with oil paint, turps and pva glue and using colours I’d normally shy away from or feel uncomfortable with.

Very quickly peoples own way of using the brushes and paints developed and although I came away with three totally different pieces, they somehow felt connected.  It’s all about developing your own language with paint and I’m definately in the middle of this process.

Absolutely loved it!


Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Art diary, Creativity


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