Tidal Pool

Painting acrylic on canvas, mixed media, shoal of fish against water background, 35.43ins x 35.43ins, 90cms x 90cms, by Catherine Forshall

This shoal of fish has been moving around my house as I work on it.  They’ve spent quite a lot of time in the kitchen. I look at it in different lights and in different places and now that I’m happy with it I’ve signed it and the shoal will be traveling in a van to the Moncrieff-Bray Gallery, near Petworth, West Sussex.

Photography http://www.jamesforshallphotography.com


mussel shell, shell of Mytilus Edulis, painting of detail of mussel shells, acrylic on canvas, painting by Catherine Forshall I am preparing a few paintings for the Moncrief-Bray Gallery, Petworth.  This one, as you can see, is of Mussels (Mytilus Edulis).  I’ve always loved them, for the colour of their shells and their succulent, richly scented, golden flesh. As children we would gather them at low tide, wrenching them off the shining black rocks to fry them in butter.Hand holding a mussel shell above a painting of detail of mussel shells beside a paper pallet of paint It is thought that Mussels have been cultivated for 800 years. In Scotland prehistoric settlements can be identified by the piles of mussels shells beside them. Mussels feed on plankton and to do this, these little creatures filter up to 65 litres of water a day. Their mortal enemy is the unattractively named dog whelk which bores a hole in their shell in order to suck out the soft body, which may be greedy and unkind, but can you blame them? Their prey are full of minerals and protein, but with less fat than beef. If I had to come back as a shellfish I’d be a dog whelk. Mussels, Mussel shells, shelfish, painting of mussels in acrylic on canvas by Catherine Forshall, Mytilus Edulis The painting will be on show at 20/21 Art Fair with the Moncrieff-Bray Gallery at the Royal College of Art 14th to 17th May.

All photographs © James Forshall

Painting Lobster

Lobster painting by Catherine Forshall

I’ve been painting and sketching this lobster for a long time.  He has gone off.   There is a strong smell of bouillabaisse, but not as nice.  Our collie, Fizz, sniffs it appreciatively though.

Lobster on Financial TimesI find him strangely comforting.

I can’t visit the Aquarium in Plymouth often, so my local fish monger, Richard of Gibson’s Plaice in Exeter supplies me with fish he buys down in Brixham. Of course they are dead. The colours go off quickly.

Catherine Forshall painting lobsterWhen I received this lobster he was frozen. A fine dusting of frost covered him. One of his antennae had broken.

Ink sketch of lobster by Catherine Forshall, lobster on Financial TimesI started by sketching him and then I painted him.  I have to imagine him alive. By the time I had finished he had turned from blue to black.

Catherine Forshall painting lobster, lobster on Financial Times, tubes of paint

All photographs © James Forshall

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  http://www.jamesforshallphotography.com


Sketches for paintings of a Cornish garden

I’m sketching the flowers of a Cornish garden in preparation for a series of paintings I’ve been asked to do.

magnolia, sketch of magnolia flower, tubes of paint on table

Sketching is important to me.  It allows me to learn to observe the subject, to learn about it’s shape, its line and how they work on a flat surface. It gives me time to absorb these things so that when I come to painting I can do so without hesitation. I like to work quickly.

Helliborus niger beside sketch of helleborus niger on white paper, white flower with green leavesSketching also allows me to experiment with mixes of colour.

Magnolia flower lying on sketch of magnolia flower in sunlight

Photography © 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  http://www.fishonline.org/fish-advice  . 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

The Common Otter Shell (Lutraria lutraria)

I’ve been drawing otter shells.

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When it is finished the painting is going up to the Oliver Contemporary Gallery in London and will show seashells at low tide.

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Apparently the biolgist who first listed them misplelt their name, adding an ‘r’ to the latin stem for silt, turning it into the stem for otter.  These ones are worn by  the sea and the sand, and have lost their glossy olive varnish. There is a hole in the side, which might easily have been made by the tip of a seagull’s beak.

Meadow Clary

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 I’ve been painting a series of wild flower paintings.  When we lived in France I used to paint landscapes and flowers.  The pictures here were taken early one morning in the fields around our house there.  I wanted to do studies of Meadow Clary. It is a very common flower in this part of France,  coming out to decorate the fields after the hay has been cut.  In Wales I understand it is extinct and due to the intensity of the way we farm only exists in a handful of places in the rest of the country. It is a lovely colour and reminds me of the end of late summer and the rentrée, a time when life quietens after the summer visitors have left, and there is subdued dread and excitement about the new school year after the long holidays.

As usual you look for one thing and find another.

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In this case a flower sometimes called Bishops’s Lace, or Wild Carrot (Daucus Carrota).


But we did find Meadow Clary

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Meadow Clary’s latin name is Salvia Pratensis. Salvia comes from the word for health salus, and meadow clary was used as an eye bath, the name derived from clear eye, and also as a gargle for sore throats.

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21st September to 12th October the Elspeth Montcrieff-Bray Gallery is showing my flower paintings alongside works by Victoria Threlfall, Annie Field, Tuema Pattie, Stephen Palmer, Lucy Powell, Sarah Warly Cummings, Sandra Whitmore, Hannah MacAndrew, Ostinelli and Priest, Diana Tonnison, Diana Baraclough, and Adam Binder

Private View 3 p.m. to 8 p.m, 21st September.

Opening Times 11 a.m. to 4 p.m and after 12th October by appointment.

Moncrieff-Bray Gallery, Woodruffs Farm, Woodruffs Lane, Egdean, Petworth, West Sussex RH20 1JX

07867 978 414   mail@moncrieff-bray.com