I’ve been painting and sketching native oysters, Ostrea edulis. I buy them from oyster fishermen at Mylor in Cornwall near Falmouth. It was bitterly cold then and it’s pretty cold now.
It takes a long time to establish a native oyster bed. They were a major source of cheap food. In 1851, for example, a round 500 million oysters were sold through Billingsgate. Our oyster beds were destroyed by a series of cold winters, surely not the first though, in the mid 20th Century, and then pollution, the parasite, Bonnania Ostrea, the beastly slipper limpets and oyster drills which drill holes into them and eat it contents, they are a big threat for commercial oyster farms.
Now they can only be collected under license in Scotland.
Oysters change back and forth from female to male according to the temperature of the water. You get in the bath nice and hot, go to sleep, and wake up in cold water, surprisingly different. Well, surprising the first time, but native oysters can live for 20 years so they may get used to it.
Native Oysters, acrylic on canvas 50 cms x 100 cms
You can see my work in London at the The Flying Colours Gallery and at Oliver Contemporary
All photographs by James Forshall
We’ve been down to Gwenver Beach. We walked along the path towards the cliffs in the evening light. There was quite a swell and the waves were breaking on the rocks.
The next day we picnicked on the beach. Even though the sun was bright the wind was cold. I sat sketching in the dunes. I’m working for a show to be called ‘Coast’ at the ‘Flying Colours Gallery’, Chelsea, in November. There is a lot of work to do. I’ll be showing fish and shell paintings but also paintings of flowers associated with the sea.
Much of the sea thrift was already pollinated and had gone to seed. As well as the bees it attracts a daylight moth, the Five Spot Burnett, Zygaena Trifolii, and a small snail, the name of which I do not know, which happily munches its way through the pink petals, pollinated or not.
It’s a lovely place, not far from Sennen Cove in Cornwall. There is a long steep walk down but it’s worth it.
If you would like to be kept informed of forthcoming shows please email me at email@example.com
All photographs © James Forshall
I’ve been sketching on Gurnard’s Head.
We walked down to it through a farming hamlet. A cat looked at us from the top of a pile of old tyres. Black and white cattle waited in a yard. The sun shone through a cold wind. We walked over fields walled in granite, past flowering gorse.
Gurnard’s Head is a thin promentory of rock, jutting out into the Atlantic. On the sheltered eastern side its slopes are covered with short wiry grass, on the west side black rock cliffs fall vertically to the violent sea.
It’s very steep and I suffer from vertigo. Although I love this wild beautiful place I am not sure if I could live here. It is so dramatic, so elemental. I think I would find it very tiring, even though I think it is one of my favourite parts of Cornwall.
But it is inspiring.
It is exhilerating.
Gulls coasted on the wind, and further out we could see gannets fishing. These beautiful birds dive from great height to prey on shoals of fish. They hit the water at 60 miles an hour. As they fall they bend their wings back making a W shape, allowing them to refine their aim, and in the second before they hit the water they fold them completely, making themselves into a streamlined, blade of white. On impact they vanish below the surface and in the same instant throw up a white plume of water. It is as if the bird has been atomised. They can dive as far as 50 feet. Their eyes face forward giving them binocular vision, allowing them to judge distance. Their nostrils are inside their mouths and their chests are padded with sacs of air against impact. We lay in the grass watching the gannets work, and fell asleep in the sun.
Sadly gannets, like so many other species, are under threat from the number of humans and the amount they consume, a story which started around about the time the wheel house of this abandoned tin mine was built.
That this wild, beautiful place remains so unspoilt is almost entirely due to the National Trust. Become a member: https://join.nationaltrust.org.uk/join/start
Photographs © James Forshall