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
This detail of my studio floor caught my eye. The sea urchin became part of one of my paintings currently on show at the Flying Colours Gallery in Chelsea, London. See if you can find it there. The show, called Coast, on until 11th December, is made up of paintings of the last two years, of all sorts of sea creatures, as well as seascapes.
Wednesday 18th November – 11th December
Monday to Friday 10.30 a.m – 5.30 p.m.
at The Flying Colours Gallery
The Courtyard, 6 Burnsall Street, London SW3 3ST
Telephone +44 (0) 207 351 5558
Photograph by James Forshall
His rather squashed eyes look up at me reproachfully. If he were alive they would be sticking out of the mud or sand in which he would be half buried awaiting a careless crustacean, or bivalve. Both the eyes are on the right side of his face which is flat and comes to a point. It is as if a ordinary fish had been redesigned by Picasso during his cubist period and then run through the rollers of a ringer. I bought him from the fish counter in Carrefour and now he is sitting with me under the fig tree while I paint his spots. Not the orange ones. I haven’t got to those yet. Plaice can adapt their colour somewhat to their surroundings but the orange spots don’t change.
He’s quite small. Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), are caught younger these days, though capable of living until 40 most are caught at the age of 6: too many humans, eating too much.
Marks and Spencer are good about selling you fish in season and Sainsbury’s claim to be the largest retailer of fish certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council but when in England I always buy fish from the local fishmonger, Gibson’s Plaice, who have generously supplied me with many of my models.
If you would like to be kept informed of forthcoming shows email me at mailto:email@example.com
All photographs © James Forshall