After a very busy few weeks and the opening of my exhibition at the Castle, we both needed a break and to spend some time together.
But yet again August brought rain, and cool winds so we escaped to the shelter of Calstock. It is a small traditional village tucked in a valley on the Tamar estuary. Turner painted this area and there are lots of walks along the river and it’s valleys tracing in his footsteps. Calstock is famous for the viaduct that spans the river and takes the trains into Cornwall. It is vast and at all times of the day, reflected in the waters of the Tamar.
We stayed in converted donkey barn in the middle of Calstock with an artist and her husband. ( the beauty of finding quirky stays through AirBnB).
From Calstock, its a gentle walk along the river to the National Trust’s Cotehele house and quay. Passing lovely little boathouses and the boat yard it was so peaceful. A lovely cafe hut within the boatyard provided a lovely pit stop with an honesty policy on cakes and tea and coffee you could make for yourself.
It was a welcome break in the beautiful quiet backwater Cornwall in the height of the summer tourist season and a perfect place to reflect on the past few weeks and make plans for the next.
If you do ever go though, take some supplies with you if self catering. There is no longer a shop in Calstock although they were trying to start a mobile shop in a bus. I hope it happens. One place not to miss is the gorgeous little cafe called ‘Lishe’ and walking in the Tree surfing woods at Gulworthy above the Tamar river.
The title and theme for my 5th solo exhibition at The Castle, Bude was ‘The Sea and Me’
After losing Mum in February, this became a much more spiritual journey of paintings. In fact only one was painted from an actual scene that I had photographed and taken notes on.
The other 20 or so paintings all evolved from a series of markmaking and putting colour in big washes onto a large canvas’s, letting it merge, find it’s resting place and then adding, removing and creating coastal images using the visual library in my memory of my favourite places.
I found this lovely quote that made me feel relaxed about any future art I make and that life does change, throw challenges at you and that you can change direction and it’s OK to do just that.
All art comes from life … Teching Hsieh
The exhibition was greatly received and over half of the work sold. So maybe working under pressure is good for me. Less time to think about it, analyse and listen to my soul and let it speak my art.
We had been out for the evening, were heading home after a couple of lovely gin and tonics at the Deck watching the sunset. On our return home we called back to see friends at the beachhut. After a gin or two I headed home to try to prepare dinner out of what was in the fridge.
No one else had eaten either and in my head, I knew I could make the aubergine with some extras and a bit of rice extend to feed us all and it did. Everyone came in and said ‘Oh..we have invited a guy we met at the beach but he probably won’t turn up’. But turn up he did, armed with some beers and joined Kim, Jo, her sister Maeve, Don and I for a late impromptu supper.
We discovered he was a famous photographer Simon Anand, who has photographed just about every celebrity before they go on stage at theatres. His photographs have even formed part of an exhibition at the V & A.
He was quiet and unassuming but interested in my art and we had a long conversation about the differences between our practice but also the similarities. He wrote some lovely messages on postcards of his work for each of us. Mine said ‘For Sue, who loves the sea’ , a black and white photograph of Kate Blanchet.
While we were chatting, he had taken a liking to my driftwood tree and in a moment I decided to give it away thinking he would get a lot of enjoyment out of it in his own home and have a piece of Cornwall. ‘I’m so over driftwood’, I said.
So my driftwood tree is now adorning the home of a Londoner and I hope he gets a lot of pleasure out of it.
Probably not the best of ideas to commit to helping a friend do wild flowers for a wedding in the week leading up to my exhibition, but I just couldn’t resist it. I was flattered to have even been asked!.
Sarah is so wackily impulsive and spontaneous in her flower arranging. It all depends on what is available. She arrived with her little van full of buckets of water and we ambled around the lay-bys and lanes of North Cornwall occasionally jumping over gates to pluck some elusive wild flowers we spotted.
Her business is built around using all wild flowers within a few mile radius of the wedding and as she was coming down from Bath, I managed to do a bit of a recci to source the best spots and also get the permission of a local farmer to have some of the thousands of wild rosehips and flowers down Maer Lane.
Looking into the hedgerows in the height of summer, the variety of wildflower is amazing. Some are better for cutting than others. It is probably why most florists don’t use them, because they can wilt very quickly. So armfuls of wild flowers were quickly plunged up to their necks in water and then stripped, trimmed and conditioned overnight to have a good drink before they would be arranged the next day.
We spent the whole of the next day recreating a hedgerow scene on a pedestal as well as making and creating three large circular head dress chandelier style hanging arrangements to wrap around the poles of the wedding marquee.
Little dainty corsages for all the groomsmen and jars of wild roses and more armfuls of wild clematis were taken to the venue and we had little over an hour to get it all done!.
Safe to say, I haven’t worked so far for ages. It was totally knackering but Sarah with her opera singing and general theatrical antics made it the a very memorable event. It didn’t look bad either and I am totally hooked on using wild flowers.
Sarah’s card was equally epic! 😉 Basically… thank you and I would have been totally f….ed with out you. lol.
Around 8pm I decided to take off to Northcott Mouth, a favourite beach just a mile away. I needed to see the sea, maybe do some sketching, but mostly just be. It was a pretty ordinary sort of day and by evening the wind had picked up and it had cooled off; a sign of the weather changing.
It’s these sort of days though that can catch you by surprise; when you think there will be nothing to see and then nature pulls out all the stops seemingly just for me as I stood there gazing. A moment in time when an ordinary evening turned into a sight of wonder. It felt like a lucky strike.
Panorama shot of Northcott Mouth beach
I only had my phone camera but took over 20 snaps as the clouds piled in and the sun dipped. As time went on the light got softer, lower and the sea took on the colours of the sky.
These moments often spark off ideas…. I could create a whole series of paintings from this one evening’s photographs. An entire exhibition of changing light, colour with dramatic skies all from one location.
Too late for my forthcoming exhibition in August ‘The Sea and Me’ but maybe for the next. Indeed, the panoramic shot above reminded me very much of a canvas I painted two years ago which featured the stone bivvy above, “Lifeguard’s Retreat”