For six nights the sun set into the sea, sometimes fiery enough to reflect into two suns. Oranges, yellows and pinks were lurid and impossible to paint, fading into crimson when there wasn’t much light left and it was too cold to stay outside. Still, it was difficult to go indoors, even to watch through the window. There was a strong urge to cling to a rock until it all went dark. By the end of the week I had cracked and attempted to paint it all. Attempted is a good word because the painted canvas may not reveal much to anyone who wasn’t there. After being there, there are enough reminders in the colours and shapes to take me back to the scene.
Every morning the sky and sea were the purest blue and the vegetation sparkled with warmth. It was as if each day started by being perfect and it was an enchanted time – maybe even outside normal time, and made so significant because we knew we had to go back.
Everywhere there were mining ruins perched around the cliffs. Many looked like roadside chapels but I didn’t see anyone praying inside them. Opportunities to thank the nature gods and ask for more, scattered around but not being used.
A dangerous path that clambered over a frightening rock, exposing humans to the sea below, led to the Loud Cliffs. On the Loud Cliffs it was possible to sit comfortably on springy grass and listen to the booming and bashing of water attacking the rocks. Every now and again a thunderous crash would reward waiting ears, vibrating the entire cliff mass and resounding across the water.
Just before the very dangerous entrance to the Loud Cliffs was a secret fjord, which looked at its most mysterious in the hazy mist that swirled across the sun one afternoon.
Years ago we had visited a different part of this coast, a more gentle cliff edge with seats made out of stone for weary painters to rest their palettes on. We made our way there one hot afternoon and the Brisons cried out to be painted again, their siren song luring my brush over the waves. Fortunately there was no wreck this time.
Further round, another stone bench surrounded by flowers led to a second painting.
On another day a walk to Cape Cornwall challenged our ancient dog as she scrabbled across stones and streams, falling in and out of both but always happy.
Back at Botallack, in the evening some clouds arrived to silver the view. It was too breezy and cold to paint so I went back on a warmer, bluer evening.
The coast around Botallack is eerie and strange because of the abandoned mine buildings. Built both high and low, many are dank and dark inside and their spirits seem to own the landscape.
The old chimneys appear to guard the cliffs while the metal constructions seem as if they might walk around when you’re not looking.
Walking by the newer mine the scene reminds me of old Doctor Who programmes from the 1970s, with that visual mixture of futuristic metal shapes and stone quarries.
The scene around the Arsenic Works is the spookiest of all. I imagine faceless figures emerging from the shadowy openings. We do not head this way when it’s going dark.
At the end of each day the sun carries out its show. We are very grateful as we absorb the colours and store them for the winter months.