It’s hot here. 40° degrees C or 104°Fahrenheit. It’s hard to work outside, except early in the morning. We’re under siege. The shutters on the house stay shut until after sunset. It works. The house stays cool and most of the windows in my studio face north.
Was that why I started painting the sea and its creatures? To bring the cool blue into this hot dry place? That might have been part of it, part of why I enjoy it, why it makes me feel happy.
I’m painting sardines, Sardine pilchardus. I am calling it Sardine Shoal, though in the sea it would be only a tiny part of the huge murmurations of sardines that makes up a shoal. Like many fish sardine numbers are under pressure from over fishing. Some scientists think that sardines help to keep the sea healthy and reduce the amount of methane sent into the atmosphere.
This painting will go in my forthcoming show, Coast, this November at the Flying Colours Gallery in Chelsea.
Here is a detail.
If you would like to be kept informed of forthcoming exhibitions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs taken in the Lot, France © James Forshall
I’ve been sketching on Gurnard’s Head.
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.
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.
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.
But it is inspiring.
It 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.
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.
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
Photographs © James Forshall
I’m painting periwinkles. There is a shell fish called a periwinkle but as you can see this is the flower.
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.
Photographs © James Forshall