This is Bude, where I live and is the place I love, well it is not exactly Bude, it is an amalgamation of Bude. I have spent the last week or so working on this design, gathering all the ideas of what to put in and what to leave out. Unusually for me this is half digital, I drew everything out in black and white, chose a few areas to be solid black and then added the colour digitally so that I could play about with it until I had what I wanted.
We have lived just outside Bude for sixteen years now and have never regretted moving here, even when the wind is blowing so hard that you can feel the floorboards shake. The weather can change very quickly from fog to sun and back to fog again and sometimes the fog hangs around for days but when that sun shines in the huge blue sky and the skylark is wittering somewhere over the fields, it is the best place on earth. Most of what I have written about in my blogs has been based on my garden or the moors and lanes of Cornwall so I thought it was time to look to the sea.
The beaches in Bude, Summerleaze and Crooklets, are huge, when the tide goes out the sea is just a thin line separating the sky from the sand. Looking out west across the sea the next piece of land is Newfoundland 2,200 miles away, so our beaches feel the full force of the Atlantic. This helps to keep Cornwall warm, often wet and definitely windy but it also means that we have wonderful waves, therefore surfing is very popular here. Walking along the tide line and looking back at the cliffs in the distance is quite an unusual experience, the roar of the waves being the only sound the rest of the world disappears.
Nearer the shore there are wonderful rock formations and rock pools covered in limpets and barnacles and teeming with life. There are the dunes and the sea pool, the river and the lock gates to the canal. The canal still runs inland for a couple of miles and otters have been seen by walkers on the towpath, we have also seen kingfishers, herons and little egrets in the marsh area where the river runs beside the canal. At the back of Summerleaze beach is the castle with the museum and galleries and of course there is town it’s self.
Moving away from Bude just a few miles to the north are Northcott Mouth , Sandymouth and Duckpool, three more tiny settlements with beautiful beaches. To the south is Widemouth with it’s long sweeping beach, Millook with it’s crazy rock formations, and Crackington Haven.
Then further south still is beautiful Boscastle and then legendary Tintagel.
At home we look out over the sea and on a clear day can see down to Trevose Head and at night can see the lighthouse flashing there. Although the coast is still a mile away we hear the roaring of the waves and can watch the storms blow in from the southwest. There are some drawbacks to living here, we are a very long way from everything, it takes over an hour and a half to reach the nearest motorway and 45 minutes to the nearest train but I think that my biggest problem is that I am going to need several lifetimes to paint everything.
For the last two years we have had a regular visitor to our garden we call him Archie. Archie is a beautiful male pheasant, he started appearing in Spring last year, usually under the bird feeders picking up whatever the other birds dropped, so we started feeding him then too. After a month or so he brought a female along with him and then two females, they too are very beautiful close up with delicate lace like patterns on their feathers and a pinkish ring around their eyes. He would strut around the garden showing off to them and we hoped that we might get to see some of the chicks later but we never did. The females gradually stopped coming so we assumed that they were sitting on eggs but Archie kept turning up to be fed until mid Summer and then he to came less and less and then not at all. Then just into the new year Archie reappeared followed a few weeks later by a female. They are now so used to us that they stand out side of the patio door waiting, sometimes I am sure that they knock on the window sill to attract our attention. Archie fluffs up his feathers and does the occasional call but his Mrs ignores him and keeps eating. We are hoping that we may get to see some chicks this year but even if we don’t it has been wonderful having these beautiful birds become part of our lives and of course subjects for me to paint, and we really must come up with a name for the female.
It is strange where inspiration comes from, the above photo of a rock pool on Summerleaze beach in Bude in Cornwall set me off on a series of paintings about rocks (but that is a whole other story). Rocks are usually the background, the boring bit, if they are in a painting at all but when they are the focus of the work they appear very abstract. The colours are never what you think they are going to be, they’re not all brown and grey, the range of textures is enormous and more you look the more interesting they become.
In this blog I thought I would briefly explain how I went about painting this rock pool. I will appologise now for the quality of some of the photos, they are taken as I work so are not always the best and of course I can’t go back and redo them.
My initial drawings are done with watercolour pencil, usually a light brown or purple, so that when the paint is applied the lines will soften or even disappear. The paper is Bockingford 140lb NOT watercolour paper.
To begin I like to fill in a few blocks with light watercolour washes, with a subject like this it helps to navigate, it is easy to get lost among the lines. The foreground I leave until later so that I don’t damage it while painting the rest.
Keeping the paint quite weak I loosely fill in the rest of the space and rub a few dry areas with wax so that later paint layers will reveal some texture.
The next stage is to add the shadows using cooler colours and darker tints of the rock colours to suggest little indents. I try to work as wet as possible to avoid any hard lines, a spray bottle of clean water is useful for this but if any hard lines do develop they can be worked on once they have dried using clean water on a brush.
When the background is dry I repeat the process for the front
To finish up I strengthen any shadows that need it, add touches of white reflections and add a little warmer colour to the foreground. I tidied up the top by using the dark shadow colour, it helped to balance the picture and prevented me from adding unnecessary detail.
Dragons are easier to find than you may think, and so I thought I would use my first blog to explain how I find them. Like ‘Magic Eye’ puzzles it takes some time to see them but when you have been hunting for a while you can find them everywhere.
Usually I start with a day of splashing strong watercolour paint over reasonably heavy watercolour paper, I use Bockingford 140lb NOT. First I lightly brush the sheet with clean water, this gives something for the paint to bleed into so that it has soft uncontrolled edges. Next I drop and splash on my chosen colours, I only use 2 or 3 different colours , this prevents it turning into a muddy mess. While it is still wet I sprinkle ordinary table salt over parts of the paper, the salt works with the paint to give a variety of textures, I may then add a little more colour. Very slowly the paint will find it’s own way and the salt will react leaving patterns in the paint. All that can be done now is to leave it to dry. It can take a day for some to dry totally so I will usually make lots of sheets at a time. This is a very messy process so do protect the area from unwanted splashes. As the paint dries the patterns will grow, you never know what will happen.
Paint,salt and water
The following day, when all is dry I survey the results, it is like looking for shapes in the clouds. I turn each sheet around to see what is hiding there, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes I have to put them aside for a day or so and look at them with fresh eyes.
When I am sure of what I have found I use weak watercolour paint to enhance the shape and coax the dragon out, usually by negative shape painting. Picking out in this manner helps to reveal the dragon, from there it is a matter of layering and filling in with shadows and highlights to expose the full character of the beast.