Gurnard’s Head

I’ve been sketching on Gurnard’s Head.

Catherine Forshall sketching on Gurnards Head, waves, sea, foam and rock in background

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.

Gorse flowers, pasture, sea, brown cliffs

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.

Ink sketch on paper of the black cliffs on the West side of Gurnard's Head, by Catherine Forshall

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.

Two gloved hands, belonging to Catherine Forshall, one holding paint tube sketching on paper against a background of Rock

But it is  inspiring.View from Gurnard's Head cliff top, lichen covered rocks, foam, sea, black rocks

Mixed media sketch of rocks and cliffs near Gurnard's Head by Catherine ForshallIt 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.Ruins at abandoned tin mine near Gurnard's Head by James Forshall

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.

View north east from Gurnard's Head

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

Black, white, blue and orange sketch of sea and rock at Gurnard's Head by Catherine Forshall laid on grass

Photographs © James Forshall

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

 

 

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

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

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