Rocks, stones & coves: Cape Cornwall residency 2017

Towards the Brisons, evening. © Mari French 2017.

Towards the Brisons, evening. Mixed-media on canvas. © Mari French 2017.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to spend two weeks on my own, on my second art residency at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall. Some of you may remember my staying here in 2014, but whereas previously I’d produced work inspired by the ruined tin and copper mines and the raging stormy sea, this time the weather was more spring-like and I wanted to concentrate on the energy of the sea filling and emptying, not only Priest Cove, but also the many small coves along the wild Penwith coastline.

My attention was also captured by the semi-natural bathing pool nestling in the rocks below the house in Priest Cove. There was much more sunshine and light this time and the pool was like a mirror reflecting the sky; often its stillness was in sharp contrast to the crashing waves just beyond. The pool was the still point in the moving scene of the cove; reflective in both senses of the word, filled by the sea, controlled by the moon, partially man-made, part bounded by rocks. In my subsequent work the pool has become a calm space, contrasting with the energy of the mark-making around it. The effect sets up a tension which I like.

Bathing pool, Priest Cove. © Mari French 2017.

Bathing pool, Priest Cove. © Mari French 2017.

Experimental ink studies, Priest Cove. © Mari French 2017.

Experimental ink studies, Priest Cove. © Mari French 2017.

I also produced a series of rapid, small experimented ink studies (above) as I sat next to the pool in the sun, using the pool water to give a marbling and granulated effect. I’m hoping to develop these further at some point.

Mirroring the sky © Mari French 2017.

Mirroring the sky, Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017.

The geology of this area is so striking, from white egg-like boulders and the twisted striations of minerals threaded through massive jagged black rocks in the sea coves, to the tumbled stone scattered across the moors. I can see it featuring in much of my future work.

Rocks near Boat Cove © Mari French 2017

Rocks near Boat Cove © Mari French 2017

Boat Cove stones © Mari French 2017

Boat Cove stones © Mari French 2017

Over the course of the residency, I became aware of lines, suggested and real, threading a dimensional net around this coastal place: on and below the sea’s surface – the regularity of shipping lanes, the varying routes of small fishing boats, the patterned pulses of light from the lighthouses at Wolf Rock and Long Ships, the movement of wildlife; in the air – the soaring flight of sea birds and regular small passenger planes lifting off from Lands End airport. Lines began to appear in my sketchbook and swirling over the paintings I was working on.

Studio work, Brisons Veor © Mari French 2017

Studio work, Brisons Veor © Mari French 2017

Plein air painting, Brisons Veor © Mari French 2017.

Plein air painting, Brisons Veor © Mari French 2017.

I’ve been trying to loosen up my sketching for some time, which in the past tended towards more figurative renderings of landscape. It was rewarding to be able to spend more time working on abstract ways of sketching for future reference. See my last post for more sketchbook spreads from this residency.

Sketchbook, Priest Cove. © Mari French 2017.

Sketchbook, Priest Cove. © Mari French 2017.

Unlike my first residency, where I was free to paint what I wanted, this time I knew I needed to supplying work for a mixed exhibition at Artichoke Gallery near Tunbridge Wells, when I returned and I wanted to use the residency to produce a few canvases to fit their exhibition theme ‘Across the water’. (The first and last images on this post are two of the canvases to be exhibited.)

Working in the studio, Brisons Veor. © Mari French 2017

Working in the studio, Brisons Veor. © Mari French 2017

Along with wealth of material from Priest Cove, the discovery of exquisite little Boat Cove tucked into the coast near Pendeen Light, with its mass of tumbled rocks and stone and remnants from the fishing industry (still carried out there on a small scale), provided the stimulus I needed. The resulting canvases (see Artichoke Gallery link above for all four works) were painted to the pulse and crunch of waves on the rocks beneath the studio.

Bathing pool, Priest Cove © Mari French 2017.

Bathing pool, Priest Cove. Mixed-media on canvas. © Mari French 2017.

 

 

 

Cornish sketchbook at Open Studio

Gosh its been quite a while since I last posted on here. It’s been such a busy couple of months. I’ve been away on a 2 week art residency at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall, which I’m planning on writing about soon. But in the meantime here’s a quick look at the sketchbook I worked in whilst there, which will be on show at my Open Studios May 27, 28, 29 and June 9, 10, 11 as part of Norwich & Norfolk Open Studios 2017. My studio is in Harpley, Norfolk and you can get more details and a map here. Hope to see you!

Reedbeds and reflections…

River Wensum at Sculthorpe Nature Reserve © Mari French 2017

River Wensum at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve © Mari French 2017


Delighted to discover a new reedbeds landscape this week, this time at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, just outside Fakenham. It’s only 8 miles from my home but although I was aware of it, I haven’t visited before (a mistake), as I normally head for the north Norfolk coast and the saltmarshes and reedbeds there. 

Sunday was a blustery and changeable early spring day, with scudding clouds and more bright sunshine as the day unfolded. The reserve is larger than I thought with extensive winding boardwalks providing comfortable and easy exploration. Lots of benches too. I had my camera with me but no sketchbook, which I’m going to put right on my next visit (soon). 

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Birches embracing, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Birches embracing © Mari French 2017

Mere and reedbeds, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Mere and reedbeds, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Reflections and bridge, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Reflections and bridge, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017


I loved the variety of habitat – white birch trunks standing out against the furze of woodland, the meandering river Wensum, its banks lined with pollarded willow, catkins already out, reedbeds and open meres (with great views from several hides). Lots of birdsong, which you’d expect in spring in a place popular with birdwatchers. Speaking of which, the peace and quiet was more noticeable and welcome given that any visitors encountered were talking fairly quietly being there mainly for the birds and wildlife.

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017


Movement of wind in the reeds and bulrushes, sparkling sun on the water, movement of branches, reflections, fenceposts punctuating the reedbeds … these obviously all fed into my subconscious because a few days later in the studio, after some experimental markmaking, I produced these mixed media on paper pieces, which I’m rather excited by! (And yes, I did see some interesting birds).