Painting Sardines in France

Catherine Forshall painting in her studio in France

Painting Mackerel in my studio in France.  The weather here has been very mixed. That may explain the very green view, but it’s cooler which is nice. I notice that the young children who visit us find the cooler weather easier, and even the locals are beginning to enjoy it.

Three water studies by Catherine Forshall

Studies of water

Wooden objects in Catherine Forshall's Studio

Sketches of mackerel by Catherine Forshall

Sketches of mackerel.


All photographs © James Forshall



Herring Triptych. Painting the silver darlings.

I’ve been asked to paint three panels (canvases) for a collector who has a house in Cornwall.

Herring Triptych monochrome C dmFor over a thousand years herrings were one of the protein staples of Europe. Stocks are probably diminished. At Clovelly in Devon, where records go back 400 years there were 100 herring boats in 1794. Now there are only two able to earn a proper living, fishing in a sustainable way, with drift nets and lines.

Go to the Marine Conservation Good Fish guide  . This easy to follow guide will tell you which fish are currently plentiful. The list changes with the seasons but at the moment herring get the green light.

Photography © James Forshall

‘A Journey Through Summer 2013’ at the Oliver Contemporary


Equinox Tide 160 cms x 80 cms acrylic on canvas

Until the end of September, there is a selection of my paintings at the Oliver Contemporary in a mixed show, ‘ A Journey Through Summer 2013’ .  There are also paintings by Simeon Stafford, Catharine Armitage, Matthew Batt, Mary Ford, Kate Boxer, Ingrid Wilkins and others.

Oliver Contemporary, 17 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Road, London SW17 7EG.

Telephone 0208 767 8822

Opening Hours Tuesday – Saturday  11 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.

Billingsgate, LONDON 1.00 a.m. to 5.00 a.m.

   _DSC8403Billingsgate, 1.00 a.m.

_DSC8513I went with Xanthe Mosley to Billingsgate Market.  She is artist in residence for some of the London markets and has asked me to do some work for a show in the City Hall in May 2014.  She had given me a very good supper so I felt bouyed up and excited by the prospect of working through the night. When we arrived the place was deserted except for the market constabulary.

We had a cup of tea in one of the market cafes. The walls were lined with old black and white photographs of traders and porters.


Gradually the lights in different parts of the main hall came on as traders came in to set out their stalls.  It is a very physical business. Porters in white coats haul in huge pallets of wet or frozen fish from lorries and refrigerated store rooms. The traders shake the boxes, deftly hefting fish. It is almost as if they are juggling them. They arrange them on the stalls scattering ice over them. Everyone works quickly to be ready for the customers .  Everything gleams, wet fish, silver scales, the stainless steel stands, and reflections of the halogen lights in on the wet floor. You can place orders, but cannot take fish away from the market until 4.00 a.m. Soon the telephones are ringing, loud old fashioned land line bells.




I moved from stall to stall sketching the fish. I like the barracuda, the long silver ribbon fish, the beautiful mirror carp.  For me this is a wonderful place. Most of the fish are familiar, sleek, bright scaled salmon, trout, hake, cod, bream, sea bass, oysters mussels from different parts of the Britain, but there are three stands with exotics from the Indian Ocean.

The traders are friendly. Some even stop for a moment to see what I’m doing. It’s fun. At 2.30 Xanthe took me to the cafe for hot sweet tea.













Billingsgate Market, 5.10 a.m.

photographs © copyright James Forshall