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

Early autumn sketching at Thornham reedbeds…

Another recent walking and sketching day at Thornham on the Norfolk coast. This time I concentrated on the entrancing light, colour and movement in the reedbeds as they subtly change with the approaching autumn.

Looking over the reedbeds towards Holme church from the raised banks around Ragged Marsh is one of my favourite views. The wind rustling through the silvered stems and purple-grey feathery heads is very calming. I used mainly watercolours with just one abstract using the brush pens that I mentioned in the last post.

I also did a watercolour sketch of the otherworldly ‘stumps’ looking out over the creek and marsh.

I remembered my camera this time and even caught a starling murmuration as well as the odd rusted artefact!

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.