Cornish sketchbook…

Boat Cove, Pendeen. Mixed media sketch. © Mari French 2018

A few sketches and photographs from a week in St Ives, Cornwall, back in early May. Although a holiday, I also wanted to get some sketching done of the distinctive rugged coast around Penwith and St Ives. Living in Norfolk we are some 7 hours drive (at least) away, so I don’t get down there as often as I’d like.

I started a series of Cornish cove paintings last year on a residency at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall, and delivered two subsequent works from the series to the Harbour Gallery Portscatho (see previous post), during my week at St Ives (I found out today that I sold one of them, nice surprise!).

Boat Cove, Pendeen, Cornwall. © Mari French 2018

So, to continue working on the series, I needed to remind myself of that light, those colours and the sheer exhilaration of feeling the waves boom against the rocks below me in the small rocky coves that punctuate this coast.

When the tide is out there is an astonishing variety of geology: rocks, stones, boulders, pebbles, and contortions, layers and strata as well, of course, the pale pale sand reflecting the light. With the tide returning there’s the blinding white foam surging around the rocks at the head of the muscular turquoise waves, filling the coves.

Spring sea, below The Island, St Ives. Mixed media sketch. © Mari French 2018

I usually sketch in watercolours combined with other media, but here I found the rich colours of the wet watercolour paint soon dried to a much duller finish than I wanted. I tried using gouache instead. I’d only brought a limited range with me, so it was a bit of a challenge mixing the colours I wanted, but I liked the creamy blendable nature of the paint and the richness of the results. They team very well with paint pens and other media. I needed a larger palette and a Tupperware box lid fit the bill nicely.

Cornwall sketchbook. © Mari French 2018

This is all a fantastic contrast for an artist who spends much of her other time exploring and painting the salt marsh and reed beds of North Norfolk’s coastline. A contrast which I hope will result in many paintings in the new series.

Boat Cove, Pendeen. Mixed media sketch. © Mari French 2018

Creative colour… sketching with brush pens

On Monday I enjoyed a few hours sketching and walking at Thornham, north Norfolk. It had been a few months since I'd last sketched here and this time I'd decided to try out a batch of newly acquired Pentel brush pens, which are convenient to pack and use. With a small clip on metal dipper filled with water, I was able to achieve some of the wet-in-wet effects I like to play with. I love their versatility so I'll definitely be packing the brush pens on my next sketching holiday.

Because the colours I'd bought were limited (vibrant pink, bright yellow!) it forced imaginative use of what I had with me, but the resulting quick brightly coloured sketches of the beach, for me, more effectively captures the heat, the warm wind and the liveliness of the waves.

No photos this time, I took my camera but halfway along the walk discovered I'd forgotten the batteries!

Below are studies I made of light-filled creeks in the marsh from the sea defences, before the tide went out, with water soluble graphite pencil and with the brush pens again. Some sea lavender still bloomed.

Solstice… sun & storm clouds

Beach at Holme Dunes, Thornham. © Mari French 2016

Beach at Holme Dunes, Thornham. © Mari French 2016

I eventually managed a couple of days sketching recently at Thornham on the north Norfolk coast. The first day, summer solstice as it happens, a couple of weeks ago now, was deceptively hot with a pleasant breeze. I walked along the raised paths which were lined with a mass of billowing yellow rape, towards the boardwalks through Holme dunes to the wide glorious beach.

Accompanied by the calls of Lapwings and the song of skylarks, bright sun with dark clouds behind me. Bees buzzing, the mud flats greening up in places with vivid samphire. After a few rumbles of thunder, the looming clouds moved away leaving contrails and cirrus clouds sweeping the bright blue sky. 

Thornham salt marsh with yellow rape. © Mari French 2016

Thornham salt marsh with yellow rape. © Mari French 2016

 From my sketchbook notes…

Incredible play of light today from the sun/storm clouds over the marsh and grazings to brilliant sunshine over the dunes, beach and sea. Windy but warm. Indigo, turquoise and cerulean bands of colour on the sea. The sand ranges from palest ivory pink to deep Sienna where it is still wet near the sea. Winding shallow creeks meander across the huge expanse of beach.


Thunder in the distance. © Mari French 2016

Dunes, Holme Beach. © Mari French 2016

Samphire, Ragged Marsh. © Mari French 2016

Sun and sand, Solstice. © Mari French 2016