Putting Coastscape into the Dictionary

I paint the sea and landscape, sometimes seperately but often together and  it’s mostly about where the two meet. It seems natural to me that the word ‘Coastscape’ might exist, but the dictionary and  a Google search brought no results.

We have ‘landscape’, ‘seascape’, ‘cityscape’. but I need a descriptive word to portray the view that encompasses both sea and coast which defines what I paint. So I’m going to ignore the red wiggle line underneath my new word and also adopt it as a new hashtag. It might even become part of my new exhibition title. Does it sound right to you?  Maybe it will make it into the dictionary one day .

Inspired by the North Cornish Coast

Coastscape, North Cornwall by Sue Read, cornish artist. 


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Falling in love with Oils

A weekend away at Newlyn Art School always motivates and gets the inspiration going, but will I make the switch to Oils?  A two day course in Oil and Abstraction with Gareth Edwards certainly lent me towards giving this medium a go, but it’s a pretty big investment in time and money.

They smell lovely, they feel lovely; I had no idea how adaptable they were and I love breaking rules. But they are incredibly messy and take an age to dry. Working st home this was really a no no, but now I have a studio space it’s the ideal opportunity to unleash a new passion , but need  to balance whether I have the patience and care for that to happen.  It would be a new challenge as I  work pretty immediately and like quick results, but I’m thinking a slowing down of the process might allow more depth and creative thinking into a piece of work.

Of course it is possible to produce work in one session, ‘Alla Prima’ , wet in wet and this is what we did over the two day workshop, but it requires a skill in not producing ‘Mud’ but colours which can resemble ‘mud’  are apparently interesting neutrals and I am beginning to see their worth as  other colours put alongside absolutely ‘Sing’.

I have used water based oils in the past and thought they were ok, but can now see why I haven’t developed a passion for them and have tended to use acrylics instead.  They feel really dry and they don’t smell. A few years ago the thought of working in a room of ten people all using turps and linseed was enough to get me running in the other direction, but I was absolutely seduced by it, or maybe ‘high’ on it!  There were indeed a few times when we all had to escape to get some fresh air.

So.. I’ve just finished a large commission in acrylics and it looks fabulous and we are off to Madeira on holiday next week.  I have my ipad with me and might just start filling an online basket with goodies to start a love affair with  Oils 

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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Art diary


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When it comes good – a happy commission, ‘Sunshine and Showers’

Commissions are a great challenge, especially when you know the client just loves what you do and trusts in your work. There’s less pressure and more sense of what is important to convey in the painting.

This was one such case.  Money left by a grandmother and a decision to buy a piece of art. A young lady came to me with such a proposal and connected straight away with a small oil I’d painted on board called ‘ Sunshine and Showers’ but wanted something bigger. The idea of the two weathers, a metaphor on life and the connection she had with this person a defining decision.

With BAAMFEST and my own solo exhibition, work didn’t start on it until August.  With butterflies in the stomach, the first paint went on.  I soon realised it was not going to be a case of a straightforward copy and  experimented with underpainting and blending colours in oil and acrylic.

On a small scale, the subtleties of blending and soft areas worked well but didn’t translate into a larger piece, so the palette knife and shapers came out replacing most of the brushes and with it stronger colours and more contrast with impasto and a good use of acrylic mediums to get the right texture and finish. I used Golden acrylic mediums and paints and have a great feel for how they work and some of the colour mixes.

Bolder strokes with greater depth of colour and lighter areas that bounced forward, it was a good exercise in composition and making the painting work. It took several weeks of coming back to it, knowing it wasn’t working and then redefining areas so that it all came together.  The sky and getting the two atmospheres in one piece became more about expression and painting than reality, and once I realised this, it started to pull together as the yellows, mauves and blues started to work their magic sitting next to each other.

On the day of delivery, I was concerned that it was a little too far from the original,but  was happy with it myself and thankfully so was she.  I recently went back to get a photograph of it, to get a good image and it immediately rang true the instant I looked at it. On a contemporary deep canvas measuring 80cm square it makes a great impact on the room.

What a lovely way to remember someone and for them to always be there with you.

sunshine and showers small oil on board.

sunshine and showers small oil on board.

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

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Posted by on October 24, 2015 in Art diary


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Cruel and curious a major part of my artistic journey.

Cruel and Curious, the concept and vision of Cai Waggett of Hickory Nines, and lucky for me just up the road has just had it’s third show, ‘Hinterland’. Held in the barns at Stowe Barton, a medieval farmstead owned by the National Trust adds an instant air of mystery, but it is more about the camaraderie; a band of people that together with the  artists have created such a special event that is more about experience and atmosphere than a selling or commercial stage.

It’s beauty lies in the undiscovered; the knowledge that there is so much more; and  that the depth of creativity  is bottomless. The show  held over two days at the end of September has had exposure but remains a somewhat elusive event that you have stumbled across and feels very special and almost humbling.

The huge walls and lofty barns give shelter from the Atlantic coast; the smell of rum fuelled coffee, music and the magic of film projected onto the old stone walls makes for a laid back unpretentious atmosphere as artists mix with friends, family and make new acquaintances, bringing their own unique take on the theme in individual spaces side by side.

On a personal level, the artistic journey with cruel and curious over the past three years has been influencial  to say the least. It has been a time of experimentation, fresh materials and endless ideas with enthusiasm that knows no end.

The first year was about finding my feet with a mix of paintings and 3D work using mermaid purses in light boxes. Last year still going with the sea theme, ideas were driven by the huge Altantic storms of the winter which gave me endless pieces of driftwood including broken beach huts and loose pieces of ancient petrified forest that I mixed with resins and painted over.

This year the theme of Hinterland, with the valleys, the trees, impressions of the land behind inspired a direction of total contrast and I used aluminium panels to apply paint. The image of a caravan overgrown in a hedge sparked the idea of ‘Home’.

Most of my work is focused on the coast. It’s where I’m drawn, always to the sea, but when I go inland I love the pure feeling of nature which feels it still has the upper hand and not us, where people are living in harmony with it.  This is their secret to a simple life and they do not always need to find a home in bricks and mortar.

The time of day when you feel this harmony most is at sunrise and sunset or dimity as the light fades.  The wind stills and your other senses are more heightened as you are aware of smells and sounds and not just sights. Another year done, it is one of the highlights of the year and is a meeting place for some of the area’s more enlightened characters.


Next year’s theme is a secret, but lets just say I’m already planning and without wishing to wile time away, can’t wait.


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Hinterland Trailer…

It’s nearly time for #CruelandCurious ‘3’. Another great inspiring collaborative exhibition of which I’m proud to be part of .

North Cornwall National Trust


The third annual instalment of the Cruel and Curious Art exhibition, that we co-host with Hickory Nines, is fast approaching, in association with:

Finisterre | Harbour Brewing Co | Fear design

Friday 25th September 2015   5:30pm – 9:30pm
Saturday 26th September 2015   4pm – 9:30pm
@ Stowe Barton, Cornwall ~ EX23 9JW

Rum & Ale Bar | Food | Refreshments

Free admission
(donations appreciated)

Now the third event of it’s kind, Hickory Nines and the National Trust once again team up to bring together artists, photographers and makers to the atmospheric 18th century stone barns of Stowe Barton, North Cornwall, for the region’s most conspicuous pop-up art event…

Following two years of celebrating the murk & myth of the sea, The Cruel & Curious exhibition takes an about turn, casting its gaze inland, with over 25 artists and photographers – some new, some returning – each subjectively embracing the…

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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Art diary


How long does it take to paint that?

The age old question.. “how long did it take  you to paint that?” 

It’s a very valid question and often the first and most obvious thing people want to know when striking up a conversation, but it’s taken me a while to formulate an answer.  

I could just think about it in terms of physical painting time and this probably wouldn’t be as long as people think, but what they are less aware of is the hours spent mulling over ideas, the space in between, the walking away and letting it sit for a while while I work out where to go next. 

 I now work on more than one piece at a time, and whilst some think you need to keep the focus, it works better for me. The downtime allows my subconscious to sit with ‘the other piece’,  develop new ideas, methods and direction which I find far more exciting.

In the lead up to the exhibition, I spent many nights going over plans, thinking up new paintings and often had to get up and make notes for fear of losing the connection. 

So now when someone asks me how long it takes to paint a particular artwork, I usually say something along the lines of ’50 years, lots of sleepless nights and sitting on a beach gazing out to sea’. 

 I truly believe my creativity is in part a gift, but also 75% thinking and probably only 25% putting paint to paper, and of course some technical ability and skills and experimenting which have been learned over the years. 

I think this is where having the studio space at Wooda has been such a rewarding fruitful experience. The peace and calm has given me total focus, sometimes to the point of obsession and not having to think at all about emptying the dishwasher, how much laundry is in the basket etc.  Thank you Don 😉 .



Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Art diary


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Bamboo pen and Indian Ink

When I was  in Italy last year, a parting gift was a bamboo pen from Marcus.  It has proved my absolute best tool for drawing and complements my style perfectly.  It doesn’t hold much ink but picks up water nicely to give a variety of tone and breadth of stroke.  It scratches and  flicks dots of ink as it catches on the paper.

It’s impossible to hold like a real pen as it is chunky, thick and long, but hold it near the end and it encourages loose drawing marks and random hit and miss.

This can be further exploited by dipping it into water, or spraying water, dripping, flicking and using a watercolour brush over the surface.

Quick drawings in situ can be completed in ten minutes or take half an hour with more time spent looking at the subject rather than the paper.  It forces you to decipher the scene; pick out what is important and leave the unnecessary.

This was one such day at Northcott Mouth and the resulting work hanging in the exhibition ‘Colours Of A Tangled Coastline”

  northcott mouth . suereadart  


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It wasn’t just the coastline that was tangled!

Seven weeks ago I thought I was going to have to call in past commissions and sold paintings to help make up the numbers for the exhibition at the Castle. The  Willoughby Gallery is a large space with lovely white walls and huge windows, but for the meantime this was just the back up plan.  I had to see how the next few weeks panned out.

I never saw myself as the temperamental artist, but the strong focus distorted my usual day to day life as the guilt of not pulling my weight at home against the pressure of time and sorting the tangle in my brain took over.  However what did really work for me was having the new fresh uncomplicated space at the barn studio.  It is impressively lofty and incredibly peaceful, so when there I could entirely focus on the job in hand.

Another dilema.. this isn’t supposed to be a job. I didn’t want to paint to please the public, but remain true to myself and paint what I felt but as someone pointed out, it’s a vocation and Graeme letting me use the space has helped me fulfill this and I DO KNOW how lucky I am. This deliberate stance to paint what I felt mattered to me at that moment meant there were lots of varied styles as well as different surfaces, sizes and framing and this all sort of came back and bit me on the bum when it came to hanging, but after four solo shows I’m getting the hang of it now.

What some might call pressure I think I might call, shutting off the world for moments; letting others take responsibility and allowing myself  the time to really focus the ideas; work out solutions and let new ideas breath and develop.  And boy did they come!  I have to say at this stage that my husband might not agree with this as I certainly put a ‘load’ on him, but it needed to be. I now understand the solitude of art practice and how the creative mind is so underused but also so vast if it’s allowed to breath.  It really felt like it was 75% of my brain in a very physical way.

It was still very important to me to get the full experience from my surroundings, so I was up some days with first light and out with the ink sketches which enables me to lose the unnecessary, but focus on the important structure of the painting and sift through the finer detail.  Having the ideas, I needed the studio space to work how ways of how to express what I saw and felt and each piece required a different approach for me which kept it fresh, lively and exciting. I used oil on board, acrylic like watercolour mixed with inks on canvas, bright flourescents,  lots of different mediums, sprays, rollers, sponges, and of course my hands.

The resulting exhibition was made up of over 20 originals, some ink sketches and a selection of my art prints.

Read more about this in following posts to come. Purposely omitted any pictures here. The words were too important.


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Nothing like a challenge

I get an email from a friend who works for the National Trust with an idea.  How about I make a short film for you in exchange for some drawings for a project I’m doing?

I like the film idea. To have something visual to show people how I work and who I am would be invaluable to add to my website in these days of the web being where it’s at, but could I draw an impression of a  medieval longhouse with cut outs. My gun ho attitude kicks in, ” yeah, I can do that for you”.

I’d been wanting to hone my drawing skills and had been working with ink pens making daily sketches to try and get information down quickly, but this required more precision, without it looking like bad architect had tried to draw it.

A little research ensued along with a visit to Tintagel Old Post Office to meet with Rhodri, the manager to discuss the history, pick up some information and get an idea of what they wanted.  The three drawings were to form part of a two week long interactive archaeology festival looking at how the post office would have looked 600 years ago.  No pressure then.

It was such a different project for me, I’m up for a challenge and I really enjoyed working with more intensity which required a lot of patience too. When it came to drawing a replica of the fireplace as it might have been, I used ink washes to give some depth and shadow.

I visited Tintagel today and it was incredibly interesting. Just the enormity of the age of the building, it’s history in it’s setting,  how it has survived and also been looked after. It really is a gem and North Cornwall so very lucky, which was measured by the throng of people there from all over the world.

More information here The old post office, Tintagel

The old post office, Tintagel

The old post office, Tintagel

Sketch by Sue Read Old Post Office Tintagel as medieval longhouse

Old Post Office at Tintagel as a medieval longhouse. Pen Sketch by Sue Read copyright of the artist

Byre information Old Post Office Tintagel medieval longhouse


Old Post Office Tintagel Medieval Longhouse. Sketch copyright of artist Sue Read

The Old Post Office at Tintagel as a medieval longhouse . Pen sketch copyright of artist Sue Read

Information on the Old Post Office Tintagel medieval longhouse

Garden and back of Old Post Office Tintagel as it is today


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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Art diary


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An Italian visitor

A bonus of having the studio where the public can pop in, is that you get special days when someone really makes your heart sing.  An Italian family are staying for a week and absolutely love and appreciate what Cornwall and we are all about.

Their daughter Agathe bounded into the studio yesterday with the broadest smile and returned today for a half hour little painting session when I let her loose with some of my watercolours. I thought she might want to paint the sea but she wanted to do animals, so catto and cane it was.

She could speak some English,  we managed really well to converse with added sign language and lots of smiles, and she confidently picked  the biggest brush and we had great fun mixing colours.

She even pulled the big chair over, sat in it in front of a large painting I’m working on at the moment and directed me to paint.

What a delight to have such a lovely free spirit with a love of creating and her father said she thought I was better than Van Gogh which really made me smile.



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Losing my marbles and finding them again 

The pressure, mostly from myself; the expectations, the doubt, the self worth, the ego. Working with the creative mind is so full of uncertainty, dipping and diving , losing focus, a mist of ideas as the mind jumps around with nothing coming to the fore. Sleep doesn’t help. Nobody can help and everyone suffers. I  think madness is sinking in, but I’m stronger and better than this so I decide to go back to meditation. 

Up early, I get the rug and sit in the decking with legs crossed, arms resting gently on my open knees with the fourth finger and thumbs just touching and find some inner peace until I take a deep breath…. Cat piss!!!! Think the cats are marking their territory in our garden and the early morning sun has warmed it nicely to perfume the lower levels of the garden. 

Oh well, it was a good try and even 2 minutes meditation was enough to bring some calm and inner strength. Onward and upward. A timely post from a friends blog made me realise I’m not alone or going mad. 

I’m writing this in the studio, having had a very productive two hours painting and nearly finishing two pieces and wondering what the hell yesterday was all about ….until the next time. 😋


Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Art diary


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Putting the studio together in 2 days

Last year I was lucky enough to have some space in the barn studio at Wooda Farm Holiday Park.  I was born there and my brother kindly allowed me the space for the summer months.  Over the winter, the barns and the barn I was working in were transformed.  A lot of work took place over the whole courtyard area.

I approached the modern changes with a little trepidation as there was so much charm working in such a rustic setting, but the reality of it was there was poor light, it was draughty, cold and dusty.

The other reality was that in the end I only had two days to make a completely blank pristine space into a working studio/gallery.

Ordinarily it would not have mattered, but I had an interview and photographs with ‘My Cornwall’ magazine for an August feature to coincide with my exhibition, which was too good an opportunity to miss and this was the latest date possible. This also alongside all that had to be done for Baamfest, a local arts and music festival and our Its Not Rubbish Art Show which was happening two days later.

Looking back, I still don’t know quite how I pulled it out of the bag and would not have been possible without the help of family and friends. In fact Don (husband) and Annie (sidekick for INRAS), I couldn’t have done it without you both.

Preparation was key too and I had already mapped out the space. The end for the studio, prep area and the front as a gallery space. Graeme had acquired some old trestle tables made 80 yrs ago. Reminiscent of the french market communal eating tables you see, they have a wonderful aged patina and at over 4 metres long were perfect to fill the space.

A small storage unit was transformed by Don with nail heads for paints, tin cans for brushes and castors making it a moving work station. A large stirling board mounted on the wall means I can add ideas and drawings with a pull down roll for quick notes and sketches.


I have to confess that dust sheet at the back did have a quick flicking paint job in the back garden the previous weekend to give a little authenicity along with some dirtied and coloured jars of water to make it looked lived in and used.

Phew!  Done.

Sue Read Studio Bude

Barn Studio completed


Posted by on June 21, 2015 in Art diary


The ‘It’s Not Rubbish Art Show’ 2

From initial meetings and planning in January, BaamFest 2015 in June was always going to be bigger and better.  We had a new location,booked a big top marquee, some great music acts and a comedy night with Kernow King.

The ‘It’s Not Rubbish Art Show 2’ also has a new venue within the Bude Castle and Heritage Centre, a small side gallery that was to become our underwater aquatic display of Creatures of the Deep,all made by the community.Everything was made from beach finds in the local area over the last winter.

The irony of it all is that it was beautiful and colourful, yet so harmful when it’s in the water.

The idea was simple. Annie Creo and I at the helm, we spent the winter beach combing, gathering ideas and from May, it was full steam ahead to make it all happen from promotion, designing the room display, to getting judges, prizes, forms and arranging the entries.  We even had a mention on BBC springwatch and my instagram picture made an appearance.

The idea is to spread the message of cleaning the beaches and the problem of marine litter, whilst celebrating local peoples creativity in turning beach rubbish into ART.

We did a workshop with two classes at the local junior school in April and this provided some momentum for other classes, children and adults to partake and lobbied friends to have a go, providing cake and materials in the garden one sunny morning. We went to local beach cleans with Widemouth Task Force and #2minutebeachclean and organised a very unsuccessful swap shop, but the idea was fun and it was good promotion. Katrina Slack, an artist from Penzance also contributed a large porpoise piece she has made with the WWF.

A large ‘cod end’ net still with it’s plastic rings and colourful rope became our personal project; to be a centre piece of a large fish outside the gallery. Still unnamed she is beautiful with a wellie boot fin, frilly eye lashes, lighters for teeth, an inner tube for a mouth and she was filled with rope and other ghost gear which spills out of her mouth into a weaving littered with other items, all found on local beaches.

I also made a large sphere from fishing string over an inflated beach ball which when removed left me with a lovely light see through sphere which resembled the world.  It’s addictive, working with this beach rubbish and I stayed up until 1 am one morning making small plastic fish to put around the outside of my fishing string world.

The day arrived, the show opened and we had over 600 visitors in the first day. Annie cleverly devised a walk around the room to guide people, which meant they didn’t miss a thing.  The show was judged by Widemouth Task Force and #2minutebeachclean with extra prizes for the winners of the ‘peoples vote’.


Local artist Karen Gimlinge also made a lovely large seahorse to display and ran a very successful childrens workshop creating a large seascape with our left over rubbish.

On for two weeks, we hope many more will see it and more importantly go away more aware of beach rubbish, pick it up and spread the word.

(thanks to Bob Willingham for the festival pics)


Posted by on June 20, 2015 in Art diary


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Reworking some old boards with surprising results.

Last summer whilst at the barn studio, I played around with oil bars. Big thick chubby sticks of solid oil colour that were cumbersome and either too soft or too hard. I used them by scraping off colour with a palette knife and applying it directly to the board.

It was what I called painting interludes, the little play paintings with colour and ideas that required little concentration or thought and I was quite pleased with them at the time.

After Christmas to get back into the swing after quite a break from painting, I looked at them again and had completely fallen out of love with them.  They didn’t reflect the quality of the oilbar and looked contrived, so I mixed some traditional oils and reworked them.

What a refreshing start to the year!… new ideas, new approach and looser work.  I’m thinking it might have been inspired by what was underneath, so it wasn’t time wasted and that this approach works well for  me.  It’s like the foundations or scaffolding to a controlled idea in which I then have the confidence to lay over something far more painterly.

I had trouble finding the reworked version of lightness and fullness as it had changed so radically. I hunted everywhere before I found a little glimpse of green that suggested it’s previous life.

So here they are, the before and afters. (left = before and right = after)



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Lisbon; the friendly city (April Holidays)

Living in Cornwall, cities are a little out of our comfort zone, but we have a love of Portugal and it’s people and Lisbon and surrounding area didn’t disappoint.

Having done the far west of the Algarve and the Alejento/ Costa Vicente, we are working our way up the coast line and booked a week in Caiscais 30km west of Lisbon on the Tagus estuary where it opens into the Atlantic. It felt very much like St Ives but grander and with a beautiful light and climate.

Lisbon was a €2 train ride along the coast and Sintra a half hour train ride or hour long via the bus coastal trip.with  so many UNESCO world heritage places to visit!

We packed a lot into a week and got a feel for the city. It always takes a day or two to get your bearings and is always worth getting lost, but never be afraid to ask in Portugal. The most gracious of people, they will often take your hand and physically walk you there. The city of seven hills could do with a few more signs, but going off track you come across some wonderful surprises with the added grandeur of the tile clad houses that line the often narrow streets that were as steep as Clovelly; the narrow alleys where the trams trundled through; the small door ways that revealed the best of local eateries to the decorative pastelarias; not forgetting the miradouras which opened up vistas over the city from high up and beautiful parks.

Too much to write, here are a few of our favourite things we did.


Every day walking a different route from our hotel Casa Vela and always ending up somewhere on the front. House of Wonders owned by Anna has great fresh world cuisine with a chic roof top bar. Dom Pedro gives you traditional Portuguese cuisine among the miriad of new chic expensive restaurants. The museums and historic houses were as good as any in Lisbon and cheap or free. It was small , friendly. a little touristy but had everything you needed with great walking and comforts. Shop at the mercerdo and buy your wines from the supermarket.


Take the coast road to Sintra. We caught the bus. the views down the coast are stunning as were all the wild flowers. arriving at the bijou station, we took a taxi to Quinta do Regaleria which we could in hindsight have walked. fantasy gothic gardens with grottos, statues and quirkiness, it is a must. With views to the sky top Royal Pena Palace we knew we had to go while here and avoid the tourist trap of central historic Sintra. A bumpy fun ride in a tuk tuk landed us at the entrance with a still 1km steep incline walk, it was beautiful though the rooms small but a picture postcard photo at every turn.

Pena National Palace

Quinta Da Regaleira


Walk and explore. It’s not a huge city but very steep. Tram 28 does the major spots and was fun. Don’t miss Alfama, Biarro Alto , Rossio square for Ginja (cherry liqueur ) and the lesser known Principe Real. High up, trendy but open and a mini village in it’s own right. For something more modern, using the so so simple, uber clean fast metro, you must not miss Oceanarium, a world class aquarium in the expo area of Parque do Nacoes with great urban art and views of the Vasco do gama bridge and a huge shopping centre. Timeout mercado di Ribiera offers fantastic communal modern eating in a market setting and is a a must do near Cais Do Sodre station. It also meant we could have a glass or two, eat and get on the train back to Caiscais in just a moment.

Belem area with the Monument to Discoveries with fountains and the monastery building as a backdrop was also beautiful whilst munching on the famous pastel de nata, custard tarts.

We didn’t hire a car, but just about did every other mode of transport though mainly our legs!

With the great exchange rate we ate out cheaply and bought a few lovely items along the way. Seriously, you need to go with an empty suitcase for beautiful clothing and linens.

There were so many things we didn’t get to do, but another time maybe.


elevador Bica from behind the fab mercado di ribiera

Tram 28 to get a feel for the city and lie of the land and admire the sights and architecture.

Park, a rooftop bar .

Biarro alto hotel rooftop bar just to be nosy and look around but great cocktails.

Via the elevador Gloria, admire the view from the miradouras and then walk up to Principe Real.

Walk Alfama for lunch or late aft when the locals are out chatting.

Chiado felt too much like a city to me, but you don’t have to go far either west of East to get into the old city.

Oceanarium a must see and use the metro. cheap, clean and easy even for us country bumpkins

Eat octopus.

Stand outside the back of Chiado theatre and listen to rehearsals

So many individual shops and not all expensive.

Gins are huge and tend to be cheaper than beer. Wines are far superior and love raposeira, their cava.

Talk to people. They are so friendly and always smiling. Hardly any English but mostly French visitors with a few Aussies, Scandinavian and it only takes a few Americans to know they are there. 😉 .

Already planning a trip back, as there was so much more to see in this beautiful city.


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Bottle top update 

Annie and I trundled down to Rame Head near Torpoint on the 11th April and spent the afternoon trailing down the cliff side with  250 other people carrying 1 km of bottle top chain. It far exceeded Claire Wallerstein’s estimate and was no mean feat getting down a very long steep path and laid out onto the beach. a very rewarding afternoon and great to be a little part of history in the making. 



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Beach Aware and Loving it.

Life is good and I feel so blessed to live so close to the sea.  Whatever the weather and when ever I wish, I can go to the beach and I’ve certainly made the most of these opportunities this winter.

It will be the second ‘It’s Not Rubbish Art Show’ in June and with this in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time collecting things from the beaches, those  fishing gloves and lost ghost gear, line and net, coloured pieces of plastic and the odd wellie boot and shoe.

Either as a one man band, with Postie Jo, Widemouth Task Force, the National Trust or 2minutebeachclean, it’s been a memorable winter of beach cleans, often loading the car with bags of plastic rubbish, fishing crates and nets.

Annie and I took two large nets into the local school and did a weaving afternoon and have plans to make some larger sculptures for the art show with the remnants.

A year dominated by beach awareness, and as I’m moving into a newly refurbished studio at the farm this year, will be fantastic editions to hang alongside some new artwork.





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My Mind is a Sea of Ideas

I’m usually painting flat out this time of year as my solo exhibition slot at the Castle has always been in the spring, but this year I’m not exhibiting until August.

I’ve been busy gathering images and ideas for future artwork and playing around with some ideas. I had hoped  this will all come together to provide me with some direction as I feel I’m swimming in a tidal pool amongst a flotilla of wildly opposing ideas which come and go with my mood and the day.

But as I am writing this, I realise I quite like being in this pool of ideas that are swirling around me and come and go with the tide. It’s MY pool, and I’m taking ownership of these ideas.  They aren’t going anywhere.

I am very influenced by how I feel on the day I am painting and rather than try and find a focus or direction to swim in, think that maybe this is how I work best and I need to be in this pool. By experimenting and trying new things it’s all a great experience, keeps variety and interest  and motivation going and allows more creative freedom.

For a case in point, I am very taken with some photos of the past few days and want to start some larger wilder paintings.  These might have to wait for barn studio where I will have more space, so I will be swimming with them in my own creative pool for a few weeks yet and hope that they feel as alive then as they do now.

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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Art diary, Creativity


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Using Beach Rubbish to send a message to London

I had no idea bottle tops were such a beach pollution problem.  We have been picking them up as general plastic at the beach cleans for some time, but it wasn’t until we started seperating them, you realise the number there are and what a problem it is and of course the issue of where are the associated bottles.



Rame Peninsular Beach Care have had a campaign running for a while collecting the tops and threading them onto wire lengths which will all be joined together and taken to London to demonstrate the issue of beach pollution from discarded plastics and plastics washed into rivers.

The aim is to have influence on the Defra consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which will be the government’s response to the EU on how it plans to achieve good marine environmental status by 2020 with one of the indicators being marine rubbish.

There was a shout out for more bottle tops a few weeks ago and rather than send them down loose, a friend organised a coffee morning where we could chat, drill and thread the bottle tops.

In all we made 12 x 2 metre lengths, which made perfect beach bunting which will be going off to join the other approx 240 m of chain bottle tops they already have.

We are hoping that after their jaunt to the big smoke, they will come to Bude in June, to be shown at the ‘Its Not Rubbish Art Show’


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Auto to Manual in an afternoon’s photography workshop

I might  have had a slight alterior motive in purchasing a photography workshop voucher for my son’s girlfriend, but knew she would love it and it was only a few quid extra to add an extra person to an afternoon’s landscape photography workshop with Gary King Photography

For Christmas I bought a voucher for the both of us to do a one to one (one to two in this case) workshop.  We spent some time with our cameras over christmas and struggled to get anything decent apart from on Auto, so we were both pretty excited about this one.

I think we both thought it would have been quite technical and possibly a generic based lesson, but Gary was incredibly intuitative to what we wanted to get out of the session and it was straight into Manual Mode.  A very experienced photographer and currently ambassador and promoter of the new Samsung cameras, he quickly gave us some great tips on using the tripod and finding our way around the camera.

We both have a reasonable eye for composition, but needed help on how to deal with the light and give the picture more atmosphere.  We learnt the basics of aperture and shutter speeds and how to check our pictures for sharpness and then went on to introduce Neutral Density Graduated Filters.  These take the glare and brightness out of the sky and increase the depth, tone and colour in the sky with quite dramatic effect.

There was a biting easterly wind which seemed to follow us wherever we went but it was bright and a perfect February day.. We hoped to get a slight glimmer of sunset and set ourselves up on the tideline waiting for the sun to drop and catch the ripples as the tide came in. We were frozen to the bone, the sunset never happened, but we learnt the technique for slowing down the water and composing a good shot so it was worth staying on.

One tip I can definately pass on, is check your white balance and experiment.  Auto isn’t always best and neither is bright sunlight.  We discovered that cloudy and shade settings instantly put warmer colours into the composition.

And do a course like this with someone else. Stephie and I are planning sessions together and between us stand more chance of remembering what we have been taught.  It was a great afternoon. Just need to put it into practice now.



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Connecting Beach Rubbish to an Art Experience

Last year I joined an art appreciation group.  Affiliated with Tate St Ives, they  have set up several groups in cornwall which run like book clubs, but instead of books, we discuss art. Last year we were approached Anna, exhibition organiser at the Castle and asked if we could curate our own exhibition.

As it turned out one of our group, Chris knew of a Schools Art Collection that had recently been given to the Royal Cornwall Museum by Cornwall Council.

Over 100 artworks from sculpture by Barbara Hepworth to drawings and paintings from many of the St Ives School are held with them and we wanted to get them out of the cupboard.

It’s been an incredible amount of work but the exhibition was up for five weeks and was incredibly successful with lots of visitors and great reviews.   For my part, I was treasurer but also helped to get the blog up and running after giving a crash course to a few people and also helped with the running of it.

Some of the work was by artists that are no longer here such as Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton and Borlase Smart, but there were a few contemporary works by Naomi Frears and Andy Hughes.

Andy Hughe’s artwork was a photograph which had been worked over when he was the first artist in residence at the Tate St Ives.It became one of the focal points of the exhibition with a question label, asking the public for their interpretations. I was familiar with him but it wasn’t until I saw a copy of the book Dominant wave that I was hooked.

Dominant Wave Theory Book

Dominant Wave Theory Book

Beach rubbish and collecting it is a passion. What with the “It’s not Rubbish Art Show” and #2minutebeachclean and Widemouth Task Force and now bottle top strings with Rame Peninsular it is quite a focus of daily life. I ordered a second hand copy of the book and the images are outstanding,  but when I read the foreword and essay I realised there was much more to it and I could see it as an art form.

Andy Hughes sees the objects in their pure form and links it to the light of St Ives and the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth.  They are beautiful pictures in their own right, but as he says it’s a double edge sword and for the viewer a constant struggle between appreciation of the art form and the monstrosity that afflicts our modern life  with the huge amounts of plastics that end up in the sea and washed up on our shores.

This book was published in 2006 and has excellent images I haven’t shared them as not sure of copyright issues)  Andy has done some amazing expeditions and work since with lots of groups highlighting the plastics in the sea with a new book due out this year called ‘Gyre’.  For more information see his excellent website. Andy Hughes

This is just a small part of the exhibition experience and I learnt a lot about many of the artists and their work, but this connection and further investigation of Andy Hughes will influence what I do next and the possibilities for new projects.

If anyone is interested to read it, the blog for the Your Art exhibition is at




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Hunting out the Jubilee Rock on Bodmin Moor

One of my ‘ideas of living’ is to make sure we get out and explore more. A beautiful morning after some pretty grim winter storms was the catalyst to getting the ‘Wild Guide’ out. I bought five of these brilliant books for presents and ourselves last year.

We plumped for going to Blisland to find the Jubilee Rock and wended our way down the valleys and country roads where signposts are few and far between and the roads criss cross in every direction. The book said it was hard to find, so when I saw a friendly face standing outside the pub in Blisland, I knew I had my man. Always best to ask a local and his directions were invaluable. A couple of turns in the road, we crossed a junction  up an unmade no through road to a little hamlet called Pendrift where we parked the car.

Wellies on, we stomped up the lane, an ancient sunken byway. You could feel and hear the footsteps and carts that had passed along it  through its history.Through the gate, we were suddenly catapulted up onto the open moorland, ferny, wild, stunted, colourful, mossy with large granite boulders  everywhere.The views were stunning, right out to the coast, the camel estuary in the west and north towards Roughtor and Brown Willy. It was slightly wet and boggy underfoot, but with no wind, we wandered around exploring the pathways admiring the ancient windblown hawthorns, the naturally bonsai’ed gorse bushes and a very upright holly tree.

The Jubilee Rock is one huge granite stone which looks like it has been dropped out of the sky. Lieutenant John Rogers did the original carving in 1810 to mark the Jubilee of George III, and in 1897 it was engraved by  to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and restored in 2012 to mark the Queens diamond Jubilee and is now a listed monument. I thought we were going to have to hunt for the engravings, but you couldn’t miss them.  A large Britannia, a coat of arms, the cornish emblem, a plough, a ship and a beehive are carved into the sides and on the top.  There are two steps on the top side, so it’s easy to climb atop.

The sky was becoming heavy with large clouds building up and we could see rain coming down in the far distance, so we retreated to the car and stopped off at the pub in blisland for a pint and sunday roast. Great atmosphere and lunch was fine, but not the best homecooked roast we were expecting, so would not recommend. But if you are that way, the pubs at St Mabyn and St Tudy are excellent.


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Start the Year feeling like a Happy Bunny.

It’s January, the start of a new year and I have a desire to create a bucket list, but there is just something about it that makes me feel uncomfortable.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, so typed into google  “Is a bucket list a good idea?”

I found some very wise words from psychotherapist Philippa Perry, the wife of Grayson Perry who said she thought it fed consumerism. she continues, “It can be useful to have defined goals, of course, but the lists seem to encourage a strange blend of highly individualised behaviour and conformity, a situation in which everyone is hurtling, alone, towards similar goals….

There’s a consumerist, acquisitive vibe to many of the lists, with the experience they replicate being the writing of a shopping list, says Perry. Instead of building on what you already have, “to make a good life,” she continues, “it’s really an attempt to fill an existential void”.

There’s also an innate air of competition to bucket lists, of striving to best yourself – but also others. In some ways it’s no surprise that they have risen in popularity in an age when we are all encouraged to brand ourselves, to treat our Facebook pages as a shop window for our achievement-rich lives. Psychologist Linda Blair, who is writing a book called The Key to Calm, to help people deal with stress and anxiety, says chasing big experiences is worthwhile if you enjoy the whole process. “Saving up the money, planning it with friends, and then the moment as well. I’m all for that,” she says. “But if you’re constantly living in the future, ignoring what’s going on right now because you’re shooting for goals, which happen so quickly that they’re over, and then you have to chase another one, you’re not really living.”

“What we should be doing in our bucket lists,” Perry says, “is learning how to be open with our own vulnerabilities so that we can form connections with other human beings … I think, for me, what’s wrong with the bucket list is that it’s individualistic – the idea of the isolated self goes very deep in Western society – and I think it’s a red herring … It’s a distraction from the business of being human. We don’t all like swimming with dolphins but we are all made to connect to each other. That’s the really fun thing to do before you die.”

‘Existential void’ kept coming back to me and looking it up it is describes as ‘The existential void is characterized by
directionlessness, paralyzing hopelessness and a pervading sense of emptiness.’. Whoa!!, that ‘s pretty heavy stuff but awareness brings with it some acceptance.

I have things I want to do, places I want to go but they are now on my list of ‘Ideas for living’, or ‘Making Time for Special Treats’.  No pressure of time, of looking constantly forward. This is where my anxiety lies. So I now have a happiness jar, where I pop one lovely little thought or happening every day, the simple things, the little things and I have a list of special places and treats I would like to experience with no particular time scale.  One happy bunny.

To help start the year, there are no resolutions and  the bottom line is don’t over think and keep it simple.  I did however like this.

8 things to give up motto




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Making friends with Aluminium, a new painting surface

Aluminium is not the first painting surface that would naturally spring to mind, and had I not seen it painted on, would probably never have considered it.  In fact, I have realised that most of my new directions have been borne out of requests or challenges from other people, exhibitions or commissions.  I know now that this needs to change. It’s far too easy to stay in the comfort zone with what you know, but it’s so much more exciting to break into new territories.

This story started in August which was good timing, as I had the space and the better weather for this project up at the Barn.  I was approached with the idea of commission for a new restaurant.  Tailoring the piece to the space, I took photos of the colour scheme and a perfect size was decided on.  Long and quite narrow, the artwork measurement required was 1700mm x 170 mm.

A large canvas would be needed and bespoke made and this was when I had the idea of aluminium.  It’s light, contemporary and has no chance of warping or moving and would be ideal in this situation.  My clients at the time were not convinced and I needed to convince myself too,  so I took off a friend who has is a  metal fabricator and he gave some advice on how to prep it and a small off cut to practice on.

I needed to use acrylics as there was not enough time to let oil dry.  Mediums helped to give it body and gloss but it just stays on the tops.  In one sense it’s not forgiving at all as it almost slips around and discovered that once on it was best untouched. Brushes felt alien on this hard surface, but sponges and rollers were perfect and picking up several colours, they blended into a harmonious though unpredictable sweep when laid down on the surface.

(The preparation is slightly boring, but for anyone reading that wants to know,it is also imperative to get it right.  The metal needs to be etch primed to hold the paint and to do this you have to rub the metal down with fine grade wet and dry sandpaper and household soap to thoroughly clean the surface and provide a key. You can see where you have done it as it takes on a brushed aluminium look and quality.  Then you apply etching primer evenly over the whole surface right to the edges.  Best done with a mask and outside, it’s pretty innocuous stuff and incredibly fine. I also had trouble finding it in anything other than grey. Once a couple of coats have been applied its touch dry pretty quick and after leaving to harden overnight, you are ready to go.)

Like most of my work, I find it hard to work to a specific idea with a strong framework of design. My art comes from within and whilst I can work to a certain colour idea, it has to be something fluid and able to change and evolve.  What started out as something quite abstract, it evolved into a semi abstract seascape with dark waters and a distant coastline to give some perspective with strong light added for contrast and to draw the eye in lots of brights.

I was working on the Cruel and Curious at the same time, and think this slightly influenced the painting which in hindsight was probably inevitable as I get so drawn into it, and it didn’t get finished before our holiday to Portugal or indeed before I left the barn studio, but like most things, it needed to be left to come back to, to stop getting focused on detail and overworking .

There is more scope for working on this surface and I am very keen to give it a go. The paint can be moved around and wiped off in an instant. Texture provides a tension in the surface and once dry it is very durable, so could be worked over and over. Alternatively you can work with the smoothness and keep some of the almost enamel qualities of working on metal.   Plenty of thought for the future in trying to work out how I and this surface become intimate friends.
iphone image of hot summers night

In the meantime, here is the finished painting.  The story in one sense didn’t have a happy ending.  The restaurant didn’t quite work out, but both my clients, nor I have regrets.  We both learnt a lot which added to our experiences and will take us forward in new directions and I’m sure I will find a home for it somewhere. Oh.. and the new title. “Hot Summers Night”
Nomada commission (800x318)



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Community, Art and the Media.

This autumn winter has not been so much a time for painting as a time to put back into the community.

I’ve been involved with the Bude Look Group, a local art appreciation group who with the Tate St Ives and Royal Cornwall Museum are bringing artwork from the schools collection to Bude Castle for an exhibition over the Christmas period. The artwork was donated to the people of Cornwall by practising artists in Cornwall over the past 80 years. It is a fantastic opportunity to bring great calliber of art to this part of Cornwall. The exhibition is titled ‘Your Art’ and we are hoping to get as many local people to come and see it as well as organising workshops for local schools.

The Cruel and Curious Sea II was incredibly successful this year. Before and during the exhibition, the National Trust came to my studio at the barn and interviewed me.  This was used as part of a very atmospheric soulful film that encompasses the people, ideas and creativity behind the whole project.  Here is the resulting film.

Another passion is keeping the beaches clean and as a supporter of the #2minutebeachclean I was very excited when I saw they launched a competition for people to make christmas wreaths from beach rubbish inspired by the wreath I made a couple of years ago. Martin Dorey tweeted my wreath and it was picked up by the Western Morning News reporter Phil Goodwin.  I got a phone call, quick chat and he quickly arranged a photo shoot.  It was freezing cold, but with great lighting and the beautiful dramatic location of Northcott Mouth, the photographer got a great shot which has appeared in todays Sunday edition.


Posted by on December 14, 2014 in All things Cornish, Art diary


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Exciting Times, Artwork to the Steins new restaurant at Porthleven.

Three weeks ago I received an email from Jill Stein’s PA, with details of a new restaurant  and request for information on prints and any originals I might have.  Trying not to get too excited I sent all the information back and waited.

Within a few days I had a request for seven prints and six originals. I was home alone and openly admit to doing a few whoops and jumps around the kitchen.

Within ten days, the prints were done and framed and I was driving down to Porthleven with a car load of artwork, fit to burst.

Roll back a bit, and you are probably all wondering how she found me, what the connection is?. Well, two years ago an interior designer Cathryn Bishop found my work via my solo exhibition at the Castle Bude and a new beach hotel who had commented. This resulted in me working with them on a few projects in the Padstow area.  Then, this year whilst at Port Eliot Festival I bumped into Jill and we had a chat about my artwork and this chance meeting sparked renewed interest.

So the day had arrived.The weather was against me, but David from Stable Arts loaded the prints in and the large framed ones were  huge and just fitted flat.

I always consider there to be three corners of Cornwall, Bude, Penzance and the Lizard; and Porthleven was 90 miles away very near one of these distant corners.

Clay Quay is a big old historic building on the quayside, a warehouse for shipping china clay out of cornwall.  On three floors, it is a magnificent building, light and airy with thick cob walls and plenty of display space.

I met with Jill, Viv, the Porthleven team and maintenance who were busy prepping the building for the evening opening celebrations. David Pearce from Padstow Fine Art also arrived with his artwork and during the morning we managed to hang six of my prints, 5 originals and around 6 of David’s originals as well.

It was now only lunchtime, but I sauntered around Porthleven and took a few photos as well as driving out the coast road towards Rinsey and managed to pass a few hours.

I’d brought a change of dress and changed in the car in a lay-by which I have to say was a bit unnerving, and arrived back at the restaurant with time for a quick spruce up before meeting more of the Stein team, which included the chairman, operations manager and the man himself.

We chatted about the paintings  and we talked a little about Bude before he had a few words to the invitees of the opening. Local people were a little sceptical about the ‘Steins’ coming to Porthleven, but he brushed it off a little saying he always finds the Cornish to be ‘careful’ which I think sums it up very well. Not adverse to change, it happens slowly and with caution, careful not to impact on the communities values.  Porthleven is already quite a little food mecca, with a festival every year. No chains there yet, so retains its charm with small independent shops around a large harbour and iconic clock tower which gets a real hammering in the winter storms. It felt like Padstow thirty years ago.

It would have been nice to stay for longer, but probably just as well. The champagne was the bee’s knees,but I had a two hour drive home and the weather had come in really blowy and rainy again, so I said my farewells and headed home.

It just took me a couple of days to come back down to earth.




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Hickory Nines x National Trust / Cruel & Curious Sea 2014

Hickory Nines x National Trust / Cruel & Curious Sea 2014

Lovely film here which perfectly encapsulates what “Cruel and Curious Sea II” was all about. It’s the highlight of the year for many of us now. Watch this and you will get a sense of what makes it so special.

Shimnix Films

Here is my take on the beautiful night of the Hickory Nines x National Trust’s Cruel & Curious Sea Exhibition.

It was a truly magical evening, full of bright sparks, twinkling lights and amazing curiosities.

The art exhibited was of an impeccable standard and was wonderfully set in the old converted barns and out buildings.

I was very lucky to be allowed to use the song “Wild Day” by Stringer Bessant. This song really helps set the scene and draw you in to Cruel & Curious Sea.

I hope you enjoy this little slice of the night.

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Posted by on November 5, 2014 in Art diary


Travelling with a paintbox in Western Portugal

It’s not often I want to visit a place twice, but we were so enamoured with the south west coastline of Portugal last year that we made a return trip this October to see the beaches we missed and get a better feel for the area.

At the last minute decided to slip in the watercolours and sketchbook just in case, although having so busy for the past few months thought a break might be a good idea, but as it turned out I had lots of opportunity to do a quick sketch in paint and reacquaint myself with the immediacy and simplicity of working with watercolour.

On the west coast, the roads are lined with pine and eucalyptus with deep valleys and rivers leading down to the sea.  The valleys are incredibly fertile with orange, lime and olive groves and an abundance of sweet potatoes this time of the year. The southwest peninsular around Sagres and Cabo St Vincente is very barren, exposed and rocky in complete contrast. You can almost draw a line dividing the two.

We arrived in Aljezur and stayed at a farm boutique B & B , Herdade Quinta Natura which was stunning. With just four rooms, a private terrace, chefs breakfast, it was the so peaceful and relaxing. You also had the use of the all the living spaces and kitchen so could move around. There was a couple from France and a couple from Luxembourg, who were great company too. Outside our room there was a large cork oak tree which was the first thing I painted while Don recovered from tonsilitis he came on holiday with.

Over the next couple of days, we travelled up and down the coast to Odeceixe , Rogil , Monte Clerigo, Amoreira, Arrifana, and then down towards Bordeira and Carrapateira where our favourite beach lies, Praia Do Amado and further south to Casteljo and Cordoama before you hit the most southwesterly point and turn the corner back along the Algarve coastline. Here are a few of those beaches.

And here are the watercolours I captured in around ten to fifteen minutes in my indian handmade paper sketchbook A5 size.  Has reconnected me with watercolour and I will definately be carrying it around with me in the future.



Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Art diary


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Cruel and Curious Sea II, fitting end to a perfect Summer

The warmth of September has faded into October and it seems a good time to reflect on a full on summer filled with family love, Tom home, lots of beach, social and friends time as well as a few days away. Italy, Port Eliot Festival, Minack Theatre, an art trip to Bristol and painting at Newlyn Art School and representation in a new gallery in Plymouth as well as building up my own space at the Barn studio.

The veg patch also gave us the best crop of tomatoes ever along with grapes, pumpkin, courgette, salad  cucuamelons and tomatillos and endless herbs.  Now I know why it felt like we were never just doing nothing and the tv was turned on a handful of times….. we were incredibly busy!

The last big event of the year for me was ‘The cruel and curious sea II”, and it didn’t disappoint.  Fair weather meant people turned out to Stowe Barton in their hoards and with a bar and food this year, there was a real party atmosphere. It was also larger with more artists and more space to be shown in.

I had the same pitch as last year so knew what I was working with and on the day it all came together and had amazing comments from people having doubted it  all at some times, mainly because it was so far removed from how I have painted over the past few years.  But as always, pushing myself in a new direction led to new discoveries and practices that I can put to use in  future work.

Part of the build up including being filmed at the barn studio with Rhodri from the National Trust, but suspect that the two hours filming might result in 10 secs of film in the final edit, but it was a lot of fun and as often happens, through talking about my art, it also gave me great insight into the what and why of my day to day  painting head.

Cai from Hickory Nines, and Jeff from the National Trust work so hard to make this happen, and with other help from some crew, Stowe is transformed and transported into a timeless warp of cruel and curious sea and everything else and I can’t wait to see what happens next year.





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‘Somewhere Out There’, a painting on found wood and others

Riding on the success of Cruel and Curious I, ideas had been coming and going throughout the year as to what to do for this years event. The winter storms provided me with the materials.  I picked up some lovely pieces of driftwood which had been rough and tumbled in the sea and also some pieces of the beach huts that got battered and broken.

After leaving it in the rain to wash out the salt and then priming, I started a few seascapes, but they just looked too ordinary.  The texture of the wood demanded more texture in the paint and also colour.  By chance, the changes in the beaches locally meant that the seabed was exposed as the sand had been dragged away and it provided me with a rich dark clay like pigment.


Sue Read Art

Collecting pigment from the beach

Mixed with acrylic gel medium it spread as a gritty rough texture in an unpredictable way.  During the process, I added colour with orange, burnt sienna and  yellow ochre which just added more life and depth.

‘Somewhere Out There’  was the first piece to be completed. The shape of the wood was so easy to work with. Differing colours of blue and mauve with some silver were spattered across it, sitting on top and slipping down the sides of the textured areas. I was so pleased with it, this led me to working on the following pieces too.

I worked on all the pieces at various times, the wood and mood dictating the painting.  Collision and Crash were very inspired by Maggi Hamblings wave paintings, full of texture and colour with layer after layer adding more blues and then warmer colours , corals and yellows to bring it forward and give form.


The small panels already had the shape of rock and cliff but it was challenging to get the rich depth and weight of rock.

‘Somewhere out there’ became the centre piece of my exhibit at the Cruel and Curious Art Event held over the weekend of Sept 26th/27th and sold on the first night. More photos of the night can be seen here

Sue Read, Cruel and Curious Art Event

My Stall at Cruel and Curious II

The other pieces are now part of the October Showcase at the National Trust Cafe and Shop at Boscastle.




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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.



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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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Can’t see the wood for the trees, An Italian Adventure.

I just had to find a way to make it happen.  An invitation via Facebook for Cornish Artists to stay in Umbria and paint for a week was too good an opportunity to overlook, so I contacted fellow cornish Artist Rachael Mia Allen and Lucy Toop in Italy and suddenly it was all arranged. After a flight delayed by fog and two train journeys from Pisa to Florence and then on to Arezzo,

First impressions were of rolling hills, cypress and poplars so green and lushly wooded, wildflowers and every shade of green although our views from the train were marred by the low cloud and heavy downpours.

Marcus swished into the train station, greeted us and we set off up through the hills of Umbria. Wind blew the blossom down the roads like snow and rain turned to hail. Slightly treacherous driving was a baptism of fire to Italian roads, but we got there. To give us a flavour of the real Italy, we stopped off at Monterchi, a small hilltop town where the road spiralled around to the top and the floors of the taverna and wine cave followed the contours of the hill.

Marcus and Lucy live at Rimondato, a little hamlet called Prato, in a farmhouse with their daughter lola high in the hills of Umbria in the company of wild boar, porcupines, scorpions and snakes.  Lovingly restored it was rustic and as modern as it could be without making it obvious.

It was a fabulous week of lovely company, plenty of laughs, amazing food, hours spent arting around, extremes of weather, waking up to amazing views,  relaxation, discovery of this part of the world and friendships made for life. Rachael and I hit it off straight away and by the end of the week considered ourselves real soul sisters.

Torrential rain on the friday night meant we couldn’t get out to the market on the Saturday as the ford became a fast flowing river, so we learnt to make pasta properly and made bread in between painting and taking photos.   We did manage to get out for a few hours in the evening after a bumpy hang on for dear life journey down the track and over the ford in the panda 4 x 4.  What amazing vehicles they are and a complete necessity in this terrain. On a saturday night, Citta di Castello was full of Italians taking their evening stroll, having a drink in the many bars and filling up their wine flagons at the local cave. We had to have a luxury icecream of course.

On the Sunday morning we did get out to a local market for supplies and visited  Citterna a beautiful walled town with panoramic views over the valleys on one side and the hills of Umbria on the other, after which Lucy took on a roadtrip over the ridges of the hills with a WOW view around every corner.

Craig (rachaels husband) cooked fantastic meals for us over the week as well as keeping us entertained with his humour. Adaptable to any situation he got on really well with Marcus and they took off sorting out the beehives and other jobs as well as taking off on the house bike and meeting nuns with mobiles talking lots of holy crap and being in danger of completing 360’s in the hammock. Too many nice meals to mention, but the risotto was incredible.

The monday was really warm.  Vincenzo and Filleppe arrived to hunt wild mushrooms and in the evening we made and ate so many pizzas I can’t believe it, but when they are made in an oven the size of a small house and shovelled in and out on what looked like a cornish shovel, it was hard to resist

Every morning was a different landscape with the sun rising over the distant hills, turning greys into mauves into blues. Rachael woke me on the last morning at 5.30 and we watched the warm orange lights of the village give way to the warm orange glow of the sunrise as it slid along and down the valley, through the mists, warming the air, highlighting the contours of the hills.

On the art front, I have to say I struggled.  It really was a case of not being able to “See the wood for the Trees”!. When I got home I was quite disappointed with the more creative side of painting, but quite pleased with the sketches and work I did more loosely and quickly when working with the bamboo pen and ink.  Maybe I was expecting too much and there definately was a lot to take in.  I also missed the openness of a seascape and the coast.

Goodbyes and promises of meet ups were made. Lucy and Marcus were so generous in their ways and have a beautiful home and we left with beeswax polish, candles and a bamboo pen, a half finished canvas, as well as lots of lovely memories and photos and half kilo of proper parmiggiano.

A quick walk down through historic Arezzo with a sloping square and lovely shops, where I did treat myself to an italian handmade leather bag which turned out to be an absolute bargain. An hours train to Florence, we left the luggage at the station and had a quick lunch and whistle stop tour of Florence, David, the Affici, Doumo and Ponte Vecchio before a late train to Pisa and home.






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“The View from the Shore”

After the Amsterdam trip, time just flew. It was a time to get the exhibition together, finish two large seascapes, do some promotion, help out with Bude Arts and Music and Summer Festival organising and say goodbye to our beloved Bongo.

We’ve had the bongo for 8 years! and had some great little trips in it, so with lots of memories it was hard to say goodbye, but although still an amazing workhorse, it drank fuel and was getting a little rusty around the edges. I was also concerned about getting my artwork around.  A new vehicle depended on being able to get my largest latest piece in the back. At 150cm x 110 cm, we managed to find the perfect car, what we were looking for a BIG little car ( if that makes sense?!)

The exhibition date was set for 28th April – 16th May and I needed to be uber organised as I was leaving for Italy the day after it opened. Excitement ensued when I was contacted by a gallery in Plymouth to take my work. It did suddenly take the pressure off a little having put so much into this one exhibition.

Friends Jane and Hannah helped me hang all 26 pieces in around 2 hours.  Definately getting the hang of this now. It looked fabulous and lots of people came to the private viewing.  I had some lovely pieces written in the Barefoot Cornwall Art Blog and Cornish Guardian and feedback was incredible.  My style is definately developing and with a trip to Italy painting green and a weekend booked for Abstract at the Newlyn Art School, my art practice looks set to be challenged over the coming months… Bring it on!

On returning from my Italy trip.  Read more about it here…..     I’d sold 6 pieces and 2 prints, with the large title piece selling just afterwards. A great result.




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It started with a Sketch. “Sea Gazing”, the work in Progress

It started with a fleeting glimpse of winter light over the sea with a heavy sky, a snapshot put to memory whilst walking the cliff path between Summerleaze and Crooklets Beach  on a winters afternoon in January.

Quick watercolour sketch from memory , the starting point

Quick watercolour sketch from memory , the starting point

I wanted it on a large scale and put some initial colour down on a piece of unstretched canvas. The canvas was thenstretched and measured 130 x 110 cm, so I found myself straddling it when it wasn’t on the easel.  I like to move the paint around and let it do it’s own thing; create surprises and happy accidents

As I started painting, the perspective just wasn’t right and it was sending mixed messages.  Don thought it was the middle of the breakwater and I could see that would work, so several photographs later, I changed the angle completely and decided to record the progress.

  1.  Added some rocks to left and drippy foreground
  2. Depth to the sea, highlights to sky and sea and different rocks. The perspective was wrong.
  3. I added the breakwater base and worked on the cliffs and mid ground rocks, highlighting.
  4. The bigger pebbles of the back of the breakwater added and more work on the sea and highlights to horizon
  5. Definition to the water and foreground and softening the light on the sea and Finished!

Completed only four days before the show opening, it is now hanging at the Willoughby Gallery, The castle as part of my solo exhibition titled “The View From The Shore” on until the 16th May.

"Sea Gazing" 130 x 110cm on canvas

“Sea Gazing” 130 x 110cm on canvas


Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Art diary, Exhibitions


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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




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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.



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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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Aquatopia At Tate, St Ives, Winter visit

Aquatopia conjours up the idea of an ‘other’ world, of everything water related and this was the essence of this latest exhibition at The Tate, St. Ives which explores how the deep is imagined by artists, writers and poets across time and cultures. An incredible 90% of the earths oceans remain unexplored, which has given rise to alien type imagined creatures, and a world occupied by sea maids and sirens.

It would be impossibe to give a step by step walk through, but to say it was full of interesting unusual pieces and objects with  the expected drawings and paintings of the sea and its monster, including some small pieces of 19th  century glass moulded into squid and other soft sea shapes and delicate shell engravings.

In contrast, there were quirky video installations, one of which was totally ridiculous and almost like watching kids TV, but ironically is what I remember the most.  Says a lot about me I guess!

A total revelation was the skin of a porbeagle shark that had been removed and gilded inside and hung so you looked into it and was called ‘Relic’, so it’s not just me that was inspired by the use of gold leaf in this way.

My favourite artist was Wangechi Mutu, a contemporary African artist who makes mixed media art around the theme of women who have morphed into animals and machines and surreal warrior type creatures. For her women carry the mark of culture through language, marks etc more than men and her work was full of life and colour.

The Tate in St Ives is a magnificent building in a stunning location and I love it there, but  and as some people have said ‘Its a bit up its own arse’,  As you went round the eyes of some  stewards were piercing, were unapproachable boarding on contemptuous, no photos are allowed and I felt like I had a bomb in my pocket which spoilt the experience somewhat.

In winter it’s an easy day trip.A stop off at a great new cafe just outside Wadebridge “Strong Adolfos”, a walk on Porthmeor beach where we found several Mermaids Purses and a quick lunch, we were home again by five.

The exhibition finishes on Sunday and the Tate is then closed until May for refurbishment.  I’m hoping that with this comes a change in attitude and atmopshere but I somehow doubt it.


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One hour of one Ordinary Day, but a Lifetime Memory

The sound of our neighbour leaving for work at 7 am wakes me most mornings. Thankfully the days are starting to draw out already and the birds singing. After a quick mug of hot water and lemon, (my daily ritual), I donned the wellie boots, my favourite beach hat, gloves and a shoulder bag and headed to the beach.

Just off high tide, with the sun just rising, and quite a breeze it was definately refreshing down on the shoreline. But the light was magical, dancing on the tide ripples, and catching the surf as it blasted over the breakwater.  The weather has still been stormy with rain clouds racing in and I’ve lost count of the number of rainbows I have seen this week, but I’m loving the dramatic skies and warmly lit cummulus clouds with the brightest clear blues peaking through in between the moody heavy darker leaden clouds.  I only had my mobile phone with me but got some lovely pics. (see below)

There was very little to collect that was useful. I’m desperately looking for more mermaid purses to gold leaf, light and box as well as shapely pieces of bright plastic for another project.  It’s often the case that you come across something else entirely as was the case this morning… a large piece of frayed marine ply from some poor boat.

It was heavy and wet, but I managed to drag it to the surf club for collection in the van later.  I want to explore different surfaces to paint on. I like the idea of painting on found wood for some artwork for the Cruel and Curious Sea expo this year.

I also had time for a #2minutebeachclean, picking up some rope, and a crushed buoy, an idea started by a neighbour and author of Camper Van Living Cookbooks. I’m surprised I didn’t bump into Martin. Judging by the amount of tweets and pics on instagram, I think he’s been to the beach most days.

I walked home with Mary and her little dog Bobby and chatted arty stuff. We are very lucky to live in a road of very lovely people and although I had to slow the pace and it was pouring with rain, it was one of those magical moments when it really didn’t matter.

After a few pretty manic days lately when I seem to be haring around and not really achieving anything, spending this one hour on this one ordinary day, walking and being immersed in nature and solitude, I had done a lot of head sorting, art planning and was ready to face the day with memories of a very special time and feeling very blessed to live in such a special place with special people.



Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Art diary, Distractions


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Boscastle Showcase #CruelandCuriousSea

Off the back of the Cruel and Curious Art show last September, the National Trust shop and cafe at Boscastle hit on the great idea of showcasing the artists over the next year, with monthly slots.


Starting in December with talented illustrator Jago Silver, I am now set up for January, with another month long show  planned in October.

Boscastle in winter is very atmospheric but sheltered and very much quieter than the summer. The National Trust Cafe and shop occupy a very old longhouse type building next to the river leading down to the harbour.

I selected seven pieces to hang along with the mermaid chandalier and wreath and once hung, looked very neat and suited the location well. This is all supported by a slideshow running with pics of my work and the cruel and curious art show event.


So if you are Boscastle way, pop in and take a look and say hi to Jon Gerrish, the manager who has been so instrumental in making this happen.

If you want to follow more of the National Trust in North Cornwall, take a look at their excellent blog here.

North Cornwall National Trust



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