Thursday, September 17, 2020

Mid-Winter Afternoon at Sandymouth, Cornwall


“A Fine Winter’s Day at Sandymouth”

(North Cornwall, England)


Watercolour on 140-lb., Not,

Saunders Waterford Watercolour Paper

9” x 22-1/2”


Available ... email me.

Sandymouth? Where is Sandymouth?” I wondered, as I looked at a small painting in an exhibition. I had been in Cornwall for 15 or 16 years and hadn't heard of it, much less been there. I finally found it on my Ordnance Survey Maps and the mystery was solved ... it was found at the join of two maps, and so I had overlooked it all those years. It was just a few miles north of Bude. Eventually I made it down there, and quickly decided that the off-season was the best time to go, like most places in Cornwall. Not because of crowds, in this case, but because of having to pay to park in a private field; something as a Cornish resident I felt shouldn't apply.


The tides on the Cornish coast are large, even at neap tide, compared to Oregon ... I don't know why that is. Beaches, however, vary in how the tide acts. As an example, Sandymouth is what I call a “fast tide beach”. As you can see in the Watercolour above, the shore is covered with rocks and pebbles, and intersected with volcanic dikes, from the cliff bottoms on the right out to the level sands on the left. At high tide most of this is covered, and it takes awhile for the sea to drop far enough to expose the sands. At low tide on a spring tide the sea recedes much farther out than seen here and you can walk a long ways on the level sands. Every so often a larger wave will break and will come farther in on the sands than you might expect. But the exposed sand doesn't last long, and soon the tide turns and relatively swiftly the sands are inundated by the sea. Even on a spring tide you have maybe an hour to hour and a half. Thus I have coined the term “fast tide beach” for such. Tregardock Beach, south of Trebarwith Strand and Tintagel, is just such a beach. It's not that the tides are any shorter in time between low and high, but that the sands are so level that when the sea recedes, a great distance is exposed, and when the tide comes back in it seems that it comes in faster because so much ground is being covered.


In the above Watercolour, it could be we are at low tide on a neap tide. But if it's a spring tide then the sea would either have a long ways to go farther out, or be on its way back in. Without referring to old tide tables, I couldn't say which. During the course of the year, the sands also shift so that in this painting more of the sand is in amongst the rock, making it easier to reach the level sands to the left. Sometimes it's a real pain clamboring over the rocks to get there. I did another painting from the other side of the sea stacks, seen here, looking south on a low spring tide which shows the extent of the sands. That painting won the St. Cuthberts Mill Award for the best work on paper in the 1999 exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists, in England.





A Rufous-sided Towhee came into camp, and pecked around for a bit. It's a bird I am quite fond of, with its red breast and black head with garnet eyes; a secretive bird given to rummaging around in the undergrowth. I didn't expect to see one out here on the edge of the Ponderosas.




While still smokey, it has thinned out the last couple of days, as the wind has been coming from the southwest, and the fires in that direction are further away. Only an easterly breeze would really clear the air, however.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Bodmin Moor Snow

“Bodmin Moor ... Snow”
(Cornwall, England)

Drawing in Sepia & Black Chalk heightened with White
on 90-lb., Not, Turners Blue-grey Watercolour Paper
from Ruscombe Mill
6” x 9-1/4”

Still in Poldark Country, as we have been since the end of July, and with this work we are now on Bodmin Moor. This is also Jamaica Inn territory, which has been made into a film a number of times, my favorite being the one with Jane Seymour. Here we are looking north from the Logan Stone on Loudon Hill to the southern prow of Roughtor (pronounced Row, as in argument, -tore), the Second highest of the two Cornish mountains, the other being Brown Willey, out of view to the right (a mountain in England is a hill over a thousand feet). A logan stone is a balanced rock like that in the foreground; usually, if you can get on the thing, you can rock it with your weight alone. Between here and Roughtor, which is about a mile or so away, are to be found many bronze age hut circles, and remains of small field walls, like those to be found on Dartmoor to the east.

Thinking of Claude Lorrain again not only of his Liber Veritatis, but of the whole of his work, I give the following quote from CLAUDE LORRAIN: PAINTER AND ETCHER by George Grahame, writing at the end of the 19th century (this biography of Claude is found in the Delphi Classics series volumes on Artists):

“The eye gradually accustomed to the Claudian world, bewitched by its sunlight and its atmosphere, begins to dwell with pleasure on the ruins and the marble palaces, the wooded hillsides crowned with convenient towers, the meanderings of impossible rivers. You have but to surrender yourself to the charm of this unreal world to lose sight of its unreality and live in it as one lives in a dream. The artist gives us the “great key, To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy, Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves, Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves And moonlight; ay, to all the mazy world Of silvery enchantment!” We are carried far away from this workaday world of ours into an ethereal domain whence all toil, distress, and terror have purposely been banished by the painter. The inhabitants of this ideal world are as gods. Its skies are all but cloudless. All the rough places in it are made smooth. Such is the Claudian landscape, the quintessence of reality distilled in the alembic of a poet’s soul. Surely only the sternest moralist will condemn its charm. When at last you close the book and turn from this world of Claude’s to nature, you feel for a moment like a man who steps from a concert-room, where he has been listening to the music of Beethoven and Mozart, into the din and glare of the street.”

Looking through the Liber Veritatis or a series of his paintings, we are entering a world that never was ... but I for one would like it to have been. Consider strolling about in a pastoral & mythical Arcadia รก la Claude, happening upon, nymphs & dryads, the odd satyr, joining in with a dance of villagers and mythical demi-gods, hoisting a flagon of wine, or three, with Bacchus and his merry retinue, having a chat with the local river god on a golden afternoon, as he lugubriously takes his ease beside his cooling stream on a golden glowing afternoon. My preferred mythology, of course, is the dark and wild mythologies of my Norse forebears, and the Ring Cycle, but there is something to be said for taking a break, now and then, from Brynhilda's Hel-ride, the slaying of Grendel, or raiding the tomb of Angantyr the Berserker for the cursed sword Tyrfing, and repairing to the sunnier climes of the Arcadian southlands to kick back for awhile.


Nature story ... A Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel was nibbling on a strawberry remnant, when a chipmunk came up behind him and nipped the base of his tail, and ran off, chased by the ground squirrel; the ploy didn't work, however, as the ground squirrel got back to the strawberry first. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”, as a little known Bard once said.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Blue Seas ... White Surf.

“Blue Seas ... White Surf”
(Cornwall, England)

Watercolour on 140-lb., Not,
Saunders Waterford Watercolour Paper
8-1/2” x 12-3/4”

[Note: “Not”, in the Media description above, means “cold pressed” ... that term is used in Britain, cold pressed over here.]

Still in Poldark Country, as we have been since the end of July, and with this work we are now down near Lands End. Here we are at Cape Cornwall looking out to The Brisons, islands just off shore. Out of view, to our left a couple of miles, is Sennon Cove, and there the shore turns 90° to the right, and a mile or two along the coastal footpath will bring us to Lands End, the westernmost tip of Cornwall, and England for that matter. From there, once past the Scilly Isles, twenty something miles offshore, it's next stop America.

The Sea around Cornwall is unlike any other I have experienced in the rest of Britain. This in fact may, or may not, be true; perhaps if I had experienced other coasts year around, they might have proved to be as interesting and variable. But I do think those Seas around Cornwall are special. In Summer they can be downright tropical in colour, with greens and turquoises to rival any found in lower latitudes; and then the grey and greens of Winter, when a lowering sun breaks through the cloud and illuminates the thin turn of a cresting wave from behind, turning it into a stained glass of grey-green-gold, just before it breaks; and the next day the grey green has metamorphosed into a blue so deep, it brings tears to your eyes. In the Watercolour above it is late September, and somewhere far out to sea, some hundreds of miles away, a storm has sent big swells rolling onto Cornish shores. There is an offshore breeze, but not enough to change the blue to green or grey; and being protected by the cliffs behind, the breeze only begins to really affect the breaking waves out by the Brisons, and beyond them, blowing the spume seawards. I've only witnessed this effect a few times, where the colours are predominately ... Blue Seas & White Surf.


The birdlife around camp has slackened off compared to what it was a few weeks ago ... another sign of Autumn? The Western Tanagers seem to have moved on about three weeks ago. I did see a Bald Eagle yesterday, and that was a nice surprise. The Hummingbird is still about, Northern Flickers, the Nuthatch, and Woodpecker, are still residents. Oh, there are still birds about, but not a many, and a lot of them are LBJs (little brown jobs), that I haven't been able, nor had the time, to identify.

The eighth day of San Francisco smoke, was last Saturday, the 29th, but by late morning the wind had shifted around to the northwest, and pretty much cleared it away. There were occasional drifts coming through until the next evening when it got really smokey  about 5 pm. The wind was then from the northeast so I reckon this was smoke from thirty to forty miles away, up in the Ochoco National Forest. The moon was a deep red orange, low in the east when I spotted it in the late twilight. The wind shifted again overnight and since then has been generally good. This morning there is a slight smokey haze across the flat to the east ... the respites have been welcomed (the day did turn out to be pretty smokeless, and an enormous full Moon rose as twilight deepened).


And just when I said the birds have thinned out (which they actually have), the morning of 2nd September has been quite entertaining with birdlife. The Chickadees were out in force, loads of LBJs, mostly warblers of various types, were flitting about the truck, looking in the wing mirrors, and taking special interest in my water filtering bags hung in a tree filtering my melted ice water, and generally doing birdy things.

There is a Douglas Squirrel, that I've seen hardly at all, that today was up in the small tree eight feet to the left of my vehicle. It cut off a cluster of pine needles, letting it fall to the ground, and then climbed down and ignored it. Later one of the Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels came along and nibbled on it ... wonder what that was all about?