Tag Archives: setting sun

Sunsets are loved because they vanish

photo of sun setting into the sea as seen from the garden of a cottage in Cornwall
The sun setting into the sea, taken from the garden behind the cottage

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.

Blue sky and sea, green grass as seen through a window, colour photo, Cornwall
Blue through the window

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.

photograph showing a ruined mine building on a Cornish cliff
A ruined mine building resembles a broken chapel

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.

A photo of waves crashing into cliffs
Waves batter the Loud Cliffs
On the Loud Cliffs, plein air painting in oils, 6x8 inch canvas
On the Loud Cliffs, 6×8 inches, plein air, oil on canvas

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.

A Cornish inlet, seascape photo
The ‘fjord’ in moody weather
Cornish Fjord, oil on canvas, plein air, 6x8 inches
Cornish Fjord, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

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.

Oil painting of The Brisons in Sun, 6x8 inches plein air sketch on canvas
The Brisons in Sun, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas

Further round, another stone bench surrounded by flowers led to a second painting.

Oil painting on canvas, View from the Chough Cliff, plein air, 6x8 inches
View from the Chough Cliff, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

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.

photo of Kenidjack valley with Cape Cornwall in the distance
On a walk to Cape Cornwall
Cape Cornwall oil painting on canvas, small, 6x8 inches plein air
Cape Cornwall from Kenidjack, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

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.

Botallack View with Brisons in the distance, photograph, Cornwall
View of a silvery sea, Botallack, with Brisons near the horizon
plein air painting in oils on canvas from Botallack with Brisons in background
Botallack View, Brisons in the distance, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas

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.

Cornwall, view of mining ruins on the cliffs, looking down, photograph
Looking down …

The old chimneys appear to guard the cliffs while the metal constructions seem as if they might walk around when you’re not looking.

mining remains, chimneys and St Just church in the distance, Cornwall photo
A strange landscape

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.

Old mine at Botallack, colour photo, Cornwall
Industry and nature, metal and stone

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.

mining ruins on the cliffs at Botallack, Cornwall, photograph
City of the dead?
Cliffs at Botallack, chimneys and ruins with a dog in the foreground, photo
Chapels for the nature gods
oil painting, view towards Botallack from Kenidjack, small, 6x8 inches on canvas
Looking towards Botallack from Kenidjack, oil paint on canvas, 6×8 inches

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.

plein air oil painting, Yellow Sun, Cornwall, 6x8 inches
Yellow Sun, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches
Cornwall painting, Red Sun, oil on canvas, 6x8 inches
Red Sun, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches
evening sunset view from a cottage on the cliffs, Cornwall

Work. Don’t Think. Relax.

large oil painting, wip

large painting of Crosdale shortly before being hung up to ‘mature’

The latest big painting I’ve been working on is in its death throes/finishing stages. It’s reached the point where I thought it might be done and so hung it on the wall to ‘mature’ (this is something that paintings are mysteriously able to do by themselves while the artist isn’t working on them). Usually, after a painting has matured for a while you will either be able to see glaring problems that need correcting or you will realise that, in spite of everything, the work is actually done. While paintings are maturing you should only sneak quick looks at them now and again as it’s important to ‘forget’ them in order to be able to see them anew.

An evening of plein air work resulted in several new small sketches and I have placed them below. The light had seemed promising and I staggered out with my kit imagining that I would be sitting bathed in the sun’s last rays as they lit up the fells in spectacular fashion. Instead, the sun disappeared behind a bank of misty cloud and there was very little light to work with – although some interesting pink, red and purple hues did make their way into the scene just before hypothermia set in.

plein air oil painting of setting sun, 6"x8"

plein air sketch, oil on canvas, 6″x8″, setting sun from Crosdale looking west

small plein air oil painting of hills in the evening, 6"x8" on canvas

last light hits the slopes, oil on canvas, 6″x8″, plein air

small oil painting of Crosdale in the evening, on 6"x8" canvas

evening colours in Crosdale, plein air oil painting on canvas, 6″x8″

As winter creeps ever nearer I’ve been working on still life projects more often and enjoying them. This painting of apples (Coxes, I think they were) was one of the first.

still life oil painting, apples, 6"x8"

apples in a bowl, oil on canvas, 6″x8″

I also have plans for a family portrait. The first oil sketch, which turned out pleasingly strange due to the odd lighting we ended up with, is here. The lighting would have been fine but by the time dog and humans had managed to settle themselves in some kind of order the original set up was no longer pointing in the right direction – we should all have been ‘over there somewhere’. So, we are bathed in fierce white light which attacks us from odd angles.

portrait, family, 6"x8", oil on canvas

strange family painted from observation, oil on canvas, 6″x8″