abandoned colour …

a selection of sketches from a week in Cornwall in September, spent exploring the moors, coast, ancient Bronze Age remains and the other-worldliness of the abandoned tin and copper mines in the Penwith area.

Towards Rosewall Hill, Cornwall

Towards Rosewall Hill, Cornwall.

These sketches were made on the spot, (in varied weather) in my current favourite sketchbook – a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. The paper weight is robust enough to stand up to the deluge of water I usually flood each page with and I prefer the landscape format over the A5/A6 sizes sketchpads and books tend to come in.

Apart from my usual use of wet-in-wet watercolours and pencil, I was trying out the Derwent Inktense blocks which I’ve recently discovered; I love their immediacy of colour, their smudgy intensity, especially in the darker colours, like the plummy colour shown in the sketch above.

Mine stack at Levant, Cornwall.

Mine stack at Levant, Cornwall.


Verdigris leaching from cliff, Levant Mine.

Verdigris leaching from cliff, Levant Mine.   

The colours of the earth around these mines where the ores carpet the surface, and the copper verdigris leaches from the sea cliffs below the mines, have to be seen to be believed! It looks just like a giant has flung pots of paint around with abandon.

Mine stack, Levant Mine.

Mine stack, Levant Mine.

 

Rubble & ore, Levant Mine.

Rubble & ore, Levant Mine.

There is enough visual inspiration in this industrial landscape to warrant returning and spending much longer gathering material for a whole series of work. I’d love to do just that.

Rock formation, Levant.

Rock formation, Levant.

 

Men an Tol, near Morvah

Men an Tol, near Morvah

  

Rainclouds over Porthmeor bay, St Ives, Cornwall.

Rainclouds over Porthmeor bay, St Ives, Cornwall.

 

painting lethal earth…

september 2011 © Mari French

september 2011 © Mari French

My response to the remains of the industrial tin mining landscape of Cape Cornwall… its dangerous, poignant and poisonous history (see my previous post).

An acrylic and mixed media work on deep-sided canvas 40x50cm.

glorious colours…lethal earth…

In early September I spent a week on the Penwith peninsula of Cornwall. This area is well-known for its stunning coastline, artists and the many standing stones and stone circles.

Cape Cornwall from Pendeen Lighthouse © Mari French 2011

Cape Cornwall from Pendeen Lighthouse © Mari French 2011

Sketch of Cape Cornwall, from Pendeen Watch © Mari French 2011

Sketch of Cape Cornwall, from Pendeen Watch © Mari French 2011

At St Ives I visited the 150 year old art studios at Porthmeor, with their large boarded sail-loft type spaces and huge seaward windows overlooking the Atlantic rollers on Porthmeor beach. Really difficult not to be envious of such light and space for painting. One of the artists, John Emanuel, originally from Cumbria, has been resident at the studios for 30 years. He had a fascinating book of photos of the studio interior recently published so I bought a copy.

Sketching at Mousehole, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

Sketching at Mousehole, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

I also spent a glorious couple of days tracking down some of the industrial archaeology of the area’s past – tin mines, near Land’s End, which I wanted to sketch. Levant mine, on the coast between St Just and Pendeen is now a National Trust site but this didn’t intrude on the potent atmosphere of the ruined engine houses, chimneys and arsenic works.

Ruins, Levant mine, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

Ruins, Levant mine, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

mine chimney, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011

mine chimney, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011

The spectacular setting, on the coastal path high above the sea, added to the sense of drama… a gift to the artist and photographer, although I didn’t see much evidence of the industrial side of Cornwall in the galleries at St Ives.

ruined arsenic works, Levant mine, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

ruined arsenic works, Levant mine, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

Levant mine originally worked copper till the 1850s, then tin. Arsenic produced as a by-product of the tin mining was, horrifyingly, scraped off the inside of the chimney by men and young boys, by hand, with little more than a cloth to protect their breathing. The arsenic was produced for dyes, pesticides and medicine!

Sketch of Levant Mine, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011

Sketch of Levant Mine, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011

I was excited by the vivid red and ochres, both in the buildings and bleeding through the ground of this eerie landscape. Beautiful and potentially lethal…

…an interesting possibility for a body of work I thought, also appreciating the contrast of the industrial subject within the landscape.

Traces of jewel-like minerals can easily be found in the scattered rocks and the earth around the site.

Even the bracken and other vegetation on the moorland above the mine seemed to mirror the colours of the earth and ores.

interior of ruined mine - Levant mine, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

interior of ruined mine - Levant mine, Cornwall © Mari French 2011

rocks at Levant mine, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011

rocks at Levant mine, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011

Levant Mine, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011

Levant Mine, Cape Cornwall © Mari French 2011