Periwinkle

 

I’m painting periwinkles. There is a shell fish called a periwinkle but as you can see this is the flower.

Hand holding blue periwinkle flower in front of periwinkel painting by Catherine Forshall

I think of it as a southern European plant. They were some of the earliest flowers to come out around the house when we lived in France. At the end of January I was surprised to see one flowering in the Devon lane which leads to our house. The snowdrops are out and there are couple of very bold primroses which have been out for over a month encouraged by a heating pipe which leads to the studio. I love the violet blue of the periwinkle and the modest, simple, five petaled structure of it’s face. It is an omen of warmer days, of shorter nights, and spring.

Periwinkle painting by Catherine Forshall, blue, five petaled flower on green background

 Photographs © James Forshall

Low Tide

I’ve been working on a large canvas of sea shells

Sea painting, shells, sea shells, marine painting, hand and brush painting sea shells on canvas

 

Detail, Lutaria Lutaria, Otter shell from painting 'Low Tide' by Catherine Forshall

 

My pallet, pallet of Catherine Forshall for painting of 'Low Tide'

This is my palette.  I use anything to hand: a piece of old card board, a used envelope, or in this case a pad of lined refill paper.  I do have a proper palette but I find it a bit heavy. In this case I used the palette for mixing paint but also to display the shells which I am using as reference.

Catherine Forshall painting, holding a brush in one hand and

Collection of objects used by Catherine Forshall in painting of 'Vortex' and 'Low Tide'

This is a collection of objects which I have used while painting ‘Low Tide’ and another recent painting, ‘Vortex’, the kind of things you’d find on the tide line, bottles, bit’s of bamboo, a yoghurt pot, a dead fish, seashells, a bit of old newspaper but all tidied, compressed into this rectangle after work. The liquid in the glass is diluted ink.

All photographs © James Forshall

 

 

Spider Crab

I’m sketching a spider crab on paper. I propped him up with a shell.

Spider crab, sketching, Catherine Forshall, maja squinadoThe spider crab (maja squinado) is common in British coastal waters. For some reason he or she is not a popular food here. Perhaps its their thorny appearance.  They are very strange looking.  Here most that are caught are exported to the continent where the strange appearance of food is sometimes part of it’s attraction.

Catherine Forshall sketching Spider Crab Maja squinadoSeen from above the body shell is almost heart shaped, though lacking the indentation in the top of the heart, but coming down to two horns either side of the small eyes on storks.  It has eight walking legs and two large front claws for fighting and harvesting.  Oddly the front legs on the one I’m sketching are thin and undeveloped. Perhaps it is a juvenile.

Catherine Forshall painting spider crab Maja squinadoI like their spiky architectural appearance combined with their curves.

Photographs © James Forshall

Mussels

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

Good Luck Clam

Catherine Forshall sketching beside the River Dordogne in France I have been in France for a week. I wanted to sketch the River Dordogne. I was looking for the autumn colours.   River Dordogne looking down river towards Roque Gageac, evening light, reflections I was hoping to see lots of autumn leaves floating down the river. For some reason there were not many. Downstream the river was in the late afternoon sunshine. Where I was sitting it was soon hidden by the limestone cliffs: not many leaves and soon not much sunshine. Catherine Forshall Picking Lucky clam shells from the River Dordogne Walking along the shore I found small brown clam shells. I was not sure what they were.  Fresh water clams.  Later I identified them as the Good Luck Clam. Good luck for me, not such good luck for the local variety, who are being wiped out by these non natives. Corbicula Flumea was brought to America with Asians in the 19th century. They were first seen on the River Dordogne in 1980. No wonder they are invasive. A single self fertilising individual of these rather dull, muddy shell fish can produce between 35,000 and 47000 baby clams a year. Self fertilisation! Where do they get the time? Lucky Clam sketches   Catherine Forshall sketching beside River Dordogne France   Lucky Clam sketches

Sketching Good Luck Clams

All photographs © James Forshall

Razor Fish (xyrichtys novacula) in Menorca

I am in Menorca.

Man with cigarette mending net Mahon     © James Forshall

We are staying with an old friend on the other side of the harbour and yesterday when the others went off to an organ recital I went to the fish market to sketch some of the local fish.  The market is surrounded by a windowed cloister where the merchants have their stands selling squid, octopus, spider crab, tuna, bass, bream and the friture of the mediterranean, small rascla, gallina, cerrano, cerrano imperiale, salmonetes, and Jureles.

Rao, Razor Fish, Lolitos          © James Forshall

A small orange fish with black and yellow eyes, a small mouth and blue stripes down the side of his face caught my eye. The local bye laws only permit him to be fished for a week a year, from the first of September. Fishing outside this period incurs a fine of 150 euros. When threatened he dives down and buries himself in the sand.

Two women consult notebook at fish counter© James Forshall

 

Fish in weighing scale, large finger points down at fish eye

Fish scales              © James Forshall

 

I had never seen this fish before and had to ask the fishmonger to write down his name, Rao, Lolitos or in English Razor fish, though I hazard the name Razor fish is the local name Rao anglicised by the English sailors who were stationed here after the island came into British hands falling the treaty of Utrecht (1713).

 

_DSF2358 Catherine Forshall Mahon © James Forshall     © James Forshall

We went down to the harbour,  where some men, their equipment moved around in liberated supermarket trolleys,  were mending nets and where I did some sketching and then lay on one of the  pontoons between the boats, dozing in the sun.

Coil of rope, Catherine Forshall sketching                             © James Forshall

 

Rao, Lolitos, Razor fish, small orange fish sketched by Catherine Forshall Lolitos, Rao, Razor fish sketch                          ©  James Forshall

hands mending net, Mahon                 ©  James ForshallConcertina note book sketches of Rao, Razor Fish, Lolitos, Rougets, on terrace ballustrade, Mahon, MenorcaFish sketches      ©  James Forshall

I will use these sketches for some large scale paintings when I return to Britain.

 

 

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

 

In a Cornish Garden – Sketching Magnolia Stellata

I’m very lucky. The garden I’ve been asked to paint is so beautiful. It feels so loved. I’m down here to sketch studies of Magnolia Stellata. Just being here makes me feel happy, and in the spring sunshine….

Magnolia stella, hand skeching drawing pad

Magnolia Stellata, I love this flower. You only have to look at it to see why, but like all the magnolias its petals bruise easily. By the time I had finished the sketch this one was smudged with Indian ink too.

Magnolia stellata, Yew, garden, Catherine Forshall sketching

Catherine Forshall sketching in background, Magnolia Stellata in foreground

Hand holding bottle of indian ink and flower, magnolia stellata, sketch of flower in back groundPhotography © James Forshall

Sketching Cornish Spring

I’m sketching Cornish Spring.  It’s a camelIia, Cuspidata Japonica.

Sketching Camellia Cuspidata x Japonica Cornish Spring

The tea plant is a camellia. The first camellias grown for their flowers in this country were those of Robert James, Lord Petre of Thorndon Hall. Other plants were brought to Britain by the East India Company.

Sketch in preparation of Camellia Cornish Spring, Cuspidata x Japonica which lies on a table beside the sketch pad

 

Photography © James Forshall