Saturday, 8 December 2012

A Busy Autumn

I have been very busy since the last blog post, initially with Devon Open Studios - thanks to everyone who came, it was good to get such positive feedback on the work so far.  This spurred me on with the huge task of editioning the prints from the first 26 days of the walk. I should have them all finished by the end of this month, then I can concentrate on larger works.

Devon Life Magazine published an article about the project in their November issue. Many thanks to the editor Jane Fitzgerald, and to Vicky Maxwell who has been writing all my articles.

In the last three weeks I have also managed to fill in the last of the gaps caused by bad weather during the main walk earlier this year. The section of coastline between Hartland Quay and Bude is one of the highlights of the whole path, it is a hard days walk crossing ten river valleys.  Due to time and daylight limitations we only managed four valleys but the coastline and the cloudscapes were simply stunning.

Last weekend I walked from Lamorna to Mousehole with fellow printmaker Maggie SmithIt was sunny but very, very muddy - by the end of the walk we had mud up to our knees. We saw a friendly seal at Lamorna Cove and a pod of dolphins off Point Spaniard.

Thanks very much to Nick and Rachel at Castallack Farm - a brilliant B & B which I would heartily recommend.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Filling in the Gaps

Last weekend I took advantage of the good weather and did the first of a number of re-visits. I decided not to tell anyone I was going in case the weather changed! I can now safely say it wasn't me that caused the bad summer. The re-visits are either for days missed due to bad weather or places where I felt I needed a second visit.

Bossington (Re-visit of Day 1)
On the pebbly beach known as Porlock Ridge, looking towards Hurlstone Point with its lookout (probably victorian). With blue skies and the Welsh coast in the background, it could hardly be further removed from the cold, wet, miserable day when we first arrived here in late April. It seems a lot more than four months ago!
I always knew that day one would be difficult and it seems a bit strange to be back here trying to find a suitable image - this one is important because it is the first image that most people will look at in the exhibition. 

Culbone Woods (Re-visit of Day 2)
I did some great sketches on day 2 but I found when I tried to make a print back in the studio that the sketches were not what I wanted. I didn't capture the atmosphere of the place.

Baggy Point (Re-visit of Day 5)
It was so windy when we approached Baggy Point in April that we were in danger of being blown off the path. It couldn't have been more different this time, warm and sunny  with some truly amazing cloudscapes.

Back in the Studio
Progress is slow on the production of the daily drypoints. I am finding that because I sketched the places, re-worked the sketches, and thought about them (probably too much) that when it came to actually printing the plate I felt that I had left myself nothing new to do.  In some cases I am abandoning the original idea and doing something completely different so that it feels new, and therefore exciting.

Devon Open Studios (Venue 136)
Just a reminder that I am opening my studio on the following days:
Thursday 13th - Preview 6-8pm - with drinks and nibbles
Fri 14th, Sat 15th, Sun 16th - 11-6pm
Fri 21st, Sat 22nd, Sun 23rd - 11-6pm

Directions: From Dartington Cider Press roundabout (Shinners Bridge), take A385 towards Plymouth. After 500m turn left into Droridge Lane, after 200m turn left into Droridge. Number 4 is on the right just around the corner, on-street parking is available. (Postcode: TQ9 6JQ)
You can download the full Devon Open Studios brochure here

Monday, 13 August 2012

Back in the Studio

What have I been doing for the last six weeks?
Since I got home 6 weeks ago the following things have happened:

  • First I stopped doing anything at all!
  • I then went into the studio and panicked, closely followed by running round in ever decreasing circles.
  • After 3 weeks of 'swimming through treacle' I had a word with myself and tried to start working on the images. I had gathered so much information whilst walking, and had so many ideas bouncing around my head, that I didn't know where to start.
  • After another 2 weeks of agony the magic came back, I am now editioning the daily drypoints and am totally “in the zone”.
These difficult few weeks were not unexpected, a project of this size was bound to have periods of time when I had wondered why I started it, and whether I would actually be able to deliver the work. In reality this was simply my brain going through a process of assimiliation which is an essential part of any creative endeavour. It's great to be enjoying the project again!

Filming in Cornwall
Last week we went back to Cornwall to make a short film about the project with Dominic Mann, who I have worked with in multi media arts events in schools & colleges abroad. I was quite nervous about being filmed and having to talk about the project, but in the end I had a great 2 days and having to think about why I wanted to do it and going back to the path re-ignited my passion for the whole thing.
If you want to have a look at some of Dominic's other work click here:

Come and Visit the Studio
Devon Open Studios is coming up in September - an opportunity to visit my studio and see where I work.
I am having a preview evening on Thursday 13th from 6pm till 8pm.
I will then be open from 11am to 6pm, Friday to Sunday, over the following two weekends (14th - 16th  and 21st - 23rd).
Directions: From Dartington Cider Press roundabout (Shinners Bridge), take A385 towards Plymouth. After 500m turn left into Droridge Lane, after 200m turn left into Droridge. Number 4 is on the right just around the corner, on-street parking is available. (Postcode: TQ9 6JQ)

Art Course at Harbour House
This autumn I am running a course called 'Finding your Focus'
at Harbour House in Kingsbridge.
Details of the course can be found here:

For a brochure please contact the office at Harbour House: 01548 854708

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

OK Mother Nature – You win!

I have decided to divide the walk into two halves. Having completed the northern section this year, I plan to walk the Southern section in spring next year - it should have stopped raining by then!! This decision is only partly due to the unrelenting weather conditions - I see no point in walking and camping if I can't actually do any artwork. The other reason is that I started to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information I was trying to absorb. It was always a mammoth undertaking to try and do it in one go, even if everything went smoothly. I don't want to rush it and by doing it in two sections I can enjoy it and have enough time to fully develop the work.

I still have to revisit a few locations that I missed during the first four weeks, so when the weather improves (which I'm sure it will now I have stopped trying to walk!) I will sneak out and fill in the gaps.

All exhibitions and events that I have booked will continue as planned, and I can now look forward to planning some more for the second half.

I will send monthly blogs/newsletters out to keep in touch with you all.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Week 4: St Ives to Penzance 'On the Path' Day 25

Sennen to Treen

8 miles
1854 ft of ascent
Word of the day: Shark
Late start after a stormy and mostly sleepless night. Cross country to Sennen Cove (walked the coast path to and from the Old Success Inn last night) where we saw a basking shark just offshore. Walked onto Land's End where the obligatory cheesy photos were followed by a hasty getaway from the crowds before stopping to sketch Carn Boel.
Everything changes when you pass Land's End, the wind now behind us for the first time since starting the walk, and the sea now lit from offshore in the middle of the day.
I think the milestone of 'going round the pointy bit' will probably sink in later - the feeling at the time was an overwhelming urge to run away from all that the theme park represents.
Weather turned rainy and foggy this evening, we decided that there is no point in continuing this week so we are going home tomorrow.

Just to show that I have maintained my good humour, despite hearing that we have completed the first 4 weeks of the walk during the wettest April - June on record, I thought I would share this photo of me in an adit with the worst camping/hat hair ever!

Week 4: St Ives to Penzance 'On the Path' Day 24

Pendeen to Sennen
9 miles
1922 ft of ascent
Word of the day: Adit
Woke to a better day weather wise. 

Porridge was followed by a gigantic egg and bacon bap from the local chip shop which opens early morning and was very busy. A short walk along the coast to the amazing Geevor Mine - a mix of old and new ruins. Did a sketch including the copper stained rock.
Also got a photo of two chicks on their nest - I think they were cormorants.
Walked on past numerous mines including the Crowns Mine - probably the most photographed in Cornwall.
Stopped at Cape Cornwall for a cup of tea and an excellent homity pie.
Just after Porth Nanven we went into an old adit - it was dark and just being in there for a few minutes with only the light form a head-torch gave me the briefest of insights of Cornish mining! I can't imagine what it must have been like a mile out under the sea bed and able to hear the waves crashing overhead.
We passed a beach covered in large white granite boulders which, from a distance, looked like dinosaur eggs. Rock formations on top of Aire Point bore a striking resemblance to an elephant, an Easter Island statue and a whale! 

Amazingly, I saw Kurt Jackson on Gwynver Beach - we had a chat about printmaking and I said how good it was that someone so much in the public eye was raising the profile of printmaking. It was great to see him working and it confirmed for me just how important it is to work in the landscape. 

Week 4: St Ives to Penzance 'On the Path' Day 23

Zennor to Pendeen
8 miles
1600 ft of ascent
Word of the day: Climbers
Another tough day, really feeling it in my knees. Respect is due to anyone who walks from St Ives to Pendeen in one day.
Stopped to sketch an offshore island covered in black and orange lichen. Then stopped on a boulder beach to sketch and have lunch.

Walked past Bosigran and saw some rock climbers; Tim looked on wistfully. Did a quick ink sketch of the rocks that the climbers call Commando Ridge but it was very windy and hard to concentrate so I abandoned it. A long stretch of high cliffs was followed by a sandy beach at Portheras Cove.
Hunger and the threat of yet more rain drove us inland slightly earlier than planned - camped at the North Inn in Pendeen and had a hearty meal in the pub.
I hit a wall today, both physically and mentally; as I was walking along racked with pain in my legs I thought to myself "I don't have to do this", and more importantly "why am I doing this?" Will it make any difference to the artwork - the fact that I have walked it all? I started to have thoughts of pleasant day trips in the car with a stroll down to the coast for a spot of sketching followed by a warm and dry bed and breakfast! I clearly need to take myself off to one side for a bit of a talking to!

Week 4: St Ives to Penzance 'On the Path' Day 22

St Ives to Zennor
8 miles
1600 ft of ascent
Word of the day: Seal-song
Starting on a Thursday because the weather has been so bad, we have shortened the itinerary to 5 days. The two days will be easily recovered over the next couple of weeks; also it makes the journeys to and from home easier.

After a quick cup of tea in St Ives we got away just before two. Stopped briefly a few times to do some very rapid sketching as a warm-up exercise. I have been finding that my first sketches of each week are a bit rusty so I am hoping this will help.
As we passed the Carracks (offshore rocks) we could hear the seals singing - I counted at least 20!
Walked inland to Zennor to stay in the Backpackers Hostel; this is in an old chapel and is great although the beds were a bit hard. Nearly didn't get anything to eat in the pub but fortunately they had a no-show so we got fed at 9.
Hard going today, easily the worst path surface on the path so far - clambering over rocks and very boggy but at least there wasn't much up and down.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Week 3: Padstow to St Ives 'In the Studio'

“P.I.E. WEEK”  (Procrastination. Incubation. Evaluation.)
This week I have been doing a lot of thinking, sorting and listing. Some would say that this is procrastination, there may have been a little of that but I would prefer to call it incubation and evaluation. 

I have definitely slowed down these last two weeks, and have found myself spending vast amounts of time just thinking. I find that you need different mindsets during the creative process. I have spent the first 3 weeks gathering inspiration; I now need to assimilate this information.
A book by Geoff Petty “How to be Creative” is well worth a read, he uses the acronym I C E D I P to describe the various mindsets needed. It is out of print but the main principles are available to download:

I set out on this project with far too many preconceived ideas of how I would take notes, what I would be inspired by and what methods of printmaking I would use.
I have found that on the path it is very difficult to produce a drypoint plate effectively each day. I have been mostly making a series of loose sketches and colour notes and writing.
I am going to look at using non-toxic etching as a means to translate my sketches into plate form. I feel that the marks and tonal qualities will be what I am looking for. This is not to say that I will exclude drypoints as a process, I have already made some good plates during the early weeks.
The disadvantage of this descision is that I have done very little etching, risky … yes, but risk is what you need to move forward and I may as well have a steep learning curve to match the terrain on the path!
I have not been totally idle in the studio, here is a monotype from some sketches in week 2.

Throughout the walk I have been blown away by the colour, especially in the wooded sections. This piece is called 'Beech Row at Buck's Cross'; Buck's Cross is a small settlement to the east of Clovelly.

Amongst others, this print will be at Harbour House Gallery in Kingsbridge as part of the Press Gang Printmakers Summer Exhibition. On show will be prints produced by a number of local printmakers; each day one of us will be on hand in the gallery to chat about the various methods of printmaking.
I will be there all day (10am – 5pm) on Saturday 7th July.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

So, how's it going?

We have walked 230 miles now, that is over a third of the way. I am very pleased with how it is going - our bodies are holding up reasonably well (although my left knee continues to be troublesome on descents). My note-taking and sketching is improving every week, I am starting to sense the rhythm of the coastline and am noticing repeating motifs, I am also starting to think beyond the obvious and considering other ways of expressing my experience. I do find the transition from being on the path to being back in the studio and vice versa very difficult, it is particularly frustrating leaving the studio if I am immersed in a particular piece of work as I know I have to put it off to one side so that I am ready to absorb another week's input.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Week 3: Padstow to St Ives 'On the Path' Day 21

Hayle to St Ives

7 miles
663 ft of ascent
Word of the day: Rooftops

Wind finally dropped over night.
Walked into Hayle for bacon sandwich, then on around estuary to Lelant. Nearly killed by a car on the road near St Erth. Stopped at the viewpoint before Carbis Bay and at the old Huer's hut just before St Ives. Apparently they used to do a lot of shouting - hence "hue and cry".

After taking this photo of the view from the Huer's Hut we noticed that we had captured this bird with outstretched wings.

St Ives was full of tourists but still as charming as ever - the view of the rooftops from the Tate Cafe is one of my favourites. Thanks to Ali Roscoe, who I worked with in art education quite a few years ago, for our tickets to the Tate.
Caught the train home; I can't believe that is 3 weeks done - we will be going round the pointy bit on the next leg!

Week 3: Padstow to St Ives 'On the Path' Day 20

Portreath to Hayle

11 miles
1371 ft of ascent
Word of the day: Waves

Awoke to a windy but thankfully dry day. Soon after leaving Portreath we passed Ralph's Cupboard, an amazing piece of eroded coastline that looks just like the edge of a volcano. Then, after a breezy cliff top stroll, stopped to sketch Samphire Island below Carvannel Downs. Rough sea - probably blowing about force 7 according to Tim.

Passed a waterfall which was being blown back up the cliff and over the path; even though we were through it in less than 30 seconds we still got wet through. The wind dried us off nicely within about 10 minutes.
Path diverted inland on Hudder Down following a big cliff fall with more cracks still appearing. This was between the beautifully named Deadman's Cove and Hell's Mouth.
Stopped, out of the wind at last, at Godrevy Head to watch waves and seals. This was followed by an interminable (about 2 miles) walk along the beach. Photographed some beautiful patterns in the sand and watched the kite surfers going very fast.
At the campsite we met a very interesting Swedish couple; as well as speaking perfect English, Mr Westman (a retired mining engineer) could also speak Cornish! Rounded the evening off with a meal at the marvellously named Bucket of Blood pub.