Tag Archives: Jurassic Coast

Return to the Jurassic Coast

Hello! I’m now back from exploring the Jurassic Coast. We stayed on a smallholding in Melplash, Dorset and it was absolutely wonderful. Lovely friendly hosts and an extremely comfortable cottage. Utter bliss.

Over our two week stay we hit about 62 miles in walks across the stunning Dorset countryside. Have to say, a great many ups and downs were involved and my poor knees haven’t recovered yet!

So many memories…

I’ve been visiting the Jurassic coast, East Devon and West Dorset, since I was about eight or nine years old. One year I remember my grandparents bought me second-hand issues of X-Men number 1 and Thor’s debut in ‘Tales to Astonish’ from the holiday camp shop to keep me amused while the weather was wet. A real treat as I was only allowed British comics at home. Once I’d read them I threw them away of course… If only I knew then what I know now. Doh!!

To be honest the Jurassic coast is positively stuffed with a lifetime of memories. I can truly say that it has shaped the person I am now. It has a way of seeping into your soul. And even though I have a deep passion for Cornwall, the Jurassic coast will ever remain my spiritual home.

…and one we’d rather not have

And so there we wandered; we looked for fossils, visited museums, and marvelled at the night sky while listening for bats and owls. And I did virtually no painting or sketching. Unfortunately, our second week was marred by the utterly awful news that our beloved British Blue puss Genie had died in the cattery. I can’t describe the sense of loss, and our grief blunted our mood for the rest of our stay.

She was extraordinary cat, and had been our constant companion for 18 wonderful years. That’s a huge age for a pedigree British Blue. Our only consolation is that she died peacefully in her sleep. When they found her they thought she was just that, asleep. I can’t express how much we miss her, the house isn’t the same without her soft pad-padding about. No more warm cuddles.

The holloway

Despite that I have still come away with ideas and inspiration. I’ve loads of photos to jog my memory. One place which is definitely going to feature in future work is a holloway close to the cottage, a bridleway and ancient track. Enclosed by bent and arching trees, exposed roots twist from the earth, plaiting themselves into contorted shapes reaching through the track’s gloomy depths.

That damp dark green place really got my imagination fired up. What will I do with this wealth of material? I do have a few ideas which will firm up as I ponder the material I’ve gathered. Watch this space as they say, or better yet my Facebook and Insta feeds…

Holloway Glow
Holloway Glow

Oil paints are calling again…

Well, here we are on Christmas Eve. You know, it really doesn’t feel like two months have gone by since my last post. These long gaps are getting to be a bit of a habit. I was really on a high when I returned, but once the initial post-holiday buzz wore off and the nights drew in everything’s become, well, bloody depressing again if I’m honest.

That said, I have made a start on my ‘View to Charmouth’ seascape. And one thing I discovered is how much I’ve missed working with oil paints (well, alkyds). Two things above all have struck a chord. First the texture, lovely and buttery with every brush mark preserved. So nice to push it around safe in the knowledge that the brush isn’t going to immediately congeal into an unforgiving, insoluble lump. I do like acrylics but…

Second, and I know it’s not a good thing to be breathing it in, I do so love the smell of turps! They reckon smells are strongly linked to memories and that’s what I’m finding. The warm and heavy resin scent takes me back to when Mum and Dad bought my first set of oil paints when I was about 11; a Christmas present I think. It made me feel dead grown up – a real oil painting set, just like what ‘proper’ artists use! I was really made up, and somewhere my first efforts are still waiting to be discovered round at Dad’s house.

Of course I had absolutely no idea how to use them. My only painting experience was with the hard, gritty slabs of school poster paint. So, I used lots and lots of turps to thin them to within an inch of their life; nice and sloppy. And then I’d mix them; all of them. Whatever I mixed, it usually came out as a bluey shade of brown. Well, I was only 11. Any understanding of colour and tone was still a far distant star… But it was such a joyful experience rubbing my ridiculously dribbly oil paints over tiny rectangles of oil paper. Without the gift of that experience and Mum’s constant encouragement, “never let your painting go”, I probably wouldn’t be painting now.

So I set out an 80cm by 20cm canvas, squared up the drawing and thinly washed in the keynotes before working over in thicker paint.

View to Charmouth gridded up

View to Charmouth underpainting

At this end of the year I tend only work at weekends when I can make use of the daylight. I have some very good Ottlite daylight lamps, which I find great for small scale work, but I don’t find them comfortable for sustained working over a largisih painting.

View to Charmouth underpainting 2View to Charmouth 5

So now the winter weather has turned day into fifty shades of grim and gloomy grey, I’ve stopped painting for the moment.

Fingers crossed though, over the Christmas break, I’m hoping we might get some clear bright weather so I can tinker once more. In the meantime here’s hoping you and yours have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you all on the other side!