I just got back from an amazing painting trip to Newquay in Cornwall and wanted to share it with you. The weather forecast looked pretty decent, but the Gods must have been smiling as I was treated to two days of unspoiled sun-baked perfection (albeit a difficult and incredibly windy first day) I drove down on Wednesday morning with the car loaded with about 18 boards of varying sizes and a few picnic supplies. While pulling over to set up the sat-nav I stumbled across this Spitfire in someones front garden. Marvellous. Not something you see every day!
I headed to Bedruthen steps for the first painting of the day as I wanted to work my way around the Cornish coast in sequence, seeing as the last beach I visited on the previous trip was was Treyarnon bay which is just up the road. Bedruthan steps are pretty dramatic and sit there getting pounded by a green sea as birds circle over the steep cliffs. It’s great. I did a 12 x 10″ then walked further down to the steps themselves which lead incredibly steeply to the beach. As interesting as this was it didn’t provide a better painting spot so I retreated back to my original spot and did a 14 x 12″. The wind was gusting with gusto and if it wasn’t for pushing my tripod against the wooden fence, I’d have been in real trouble. A fair few onlookers came down to ask me if I was mad as they could hardly stand up as they walked along the cliff edge. I told them light breezes are nothing to worry about and got on with it. Hardcore. The light and sky was changing very quickly as it always does with high wind, so the colour temperatures were all over the place. I felt I kinda captured it though.
Painting in the wind is really tiring, so I retreated to the car for a coffee on the camp stove and some chocolate. It’s great to be able to have these treats in the middle of nowhere and they bring real comfort after an intense period of work in difficult conditions.
Next up was watergate bay in Newquay. I have never been to Newquay before (how, I don’t know, everyone seems to know it well apart from me) so was keen to see the place and was really pleasantly surprised. The bays around the town are wonderful, it’s a pretty special place and I can see why so many people descend on it during the summer season. Classic Cornish bays and beaches with a medium-sized town plonked right on the edge of it all. It’s all on your doorstep. I painted looking North first of all, 10 x 8″ as the kite surfers appeared, then spun around to paint South as the sky darkened a bit and people started to leave.
I was knackered after this piece so found a pub on the cliff top and stuffed myself to bursting with a pretty decent fish and chips. The beer garden looked out over the bay as the sun set, lovely.
I was staying at an Air B&B called the green house surf hostel (or something!!) which was run by Mark, the nicest bloke you’ll meet in Newquay. It’s a small hostel designed for surfers and complete with pool table and communal fridge. Mark made me feel instantly at home. Here’s a pic of the handsome devil. What a legend.
I had decided to paint locally for a while as it seemed there was easily enough subject matter in Newquay itself to fill a few days painting. I started at Tolcarne, high up on the cliff top looking down onto the beach. The sky was clear as a bell and it was already getting hot. Due to the angle I was at and because I was painting portrait, I could see from the horizon right down onto the sand below. An angle I definitely want to repeat before long as it’s pretty dramatic. I loved it. I enjoyed mixing the colour for the wet sand as it was a combination of cool mauves and warm ochres. A great spot and lots of technical stuff to get my head around.
I packed up and headed for Fistral after Tolcarne and was really impressed upon arrival. Again, I really wasn’t expecting this variety of coastline so close to a big town. The beach was absolutely packed (Don’t these people have jobs?!?) and I set up on the North end, looking south with the sun blasting across the beach from the side. I smothered myself in suncream, gulped a pint of water and got on with a 14 x 12″ I met some nice people while working and helped out with a fair few photos that would have been selfies without my assistance.
I thought there might be a good spot further down the path so packed up and set off out towards the peninsula. There was some lovely smaller discrete bays, but I wanted to paint people after seeing that swarming beach, so headed straight back to the same spot to try a 18 x 8″ contre jour, now the sun had swung around to its midday position. This was a tough painting and I kept having to check it in the full sun (I hate painting in the shade, it rarely goes well) but after some wrestling and audible swears, I think I steered it in the right direction. The tide had also receded a lot at this point, so I needed the width to still get the sea in.
I still had one more in me so packed up and walked the length of Fistral to the opposite side. The view from the coast path was wonderful, despite some truly hideous modern architecture on the edge of the golf course. The Headland Hotel on the other hand looked amazing in the late afternoon light. I did another 18 x 8″ as the sun dropped lower and lower and felt truly lucky to be doing this as a living.
I packed up and walked back up the beach to the car, past a group of women practising yoga as the sun went down. One of them had a T-shirt on that said “follow your dreams” Aww. It’s true, you should.
I was starving and exhausted at this point and wanted to eat dinner at the same spot I painted from while I watching the sunset. A quick poke at Google revealed a Domino’s Pizza place in town (I didn’t think my arteries had taken enough of a battering yet) so I zoomed over and back with a large pepperoni passion that I ate next to the yoga girls just to wind them up. I was also being watched by a seagull, I’m assuming the same one that attacked me in Padstow… he probably recognised my car coming down the A30.
I spied this VW camper in the Car Park at Fistral, thought it interesting.
I slept like a log that night and awoke to a rather heinous dose of sunburn, despite multiple applications of suncream over the previous days working. Mark suggested we hack open his Aloe plant in the garden of the hostel so disappeared inside to get a breadknife and pair of pliers. I have an aloe plant at home that I harvest for burn treatment regularly so was pretty chuffed there was a massive plant in the garden when I really needed it. We hacked off a toast-sized section of leaf, split it and I rubbed it vigorously over my burned neck and Mark slapped some on his arm. Within about 6 seconds I was in total agony, it felt like I’d poured battery acid over myself and I had to run inside and wash it all off. A Malaysian guest in the garden proceeded to inform us that no, that type of Aloe shouldn’t be used as it’s poisonous, you should stick to the Mexican ones only. Bit late!!!
So, I set off to get some work done, despite my 3rd degree chemical burns and headed for Crantock bay. Crantock is truly beautiful – a river estuary flowing out into a green sea, surrounded by dunes. I did an 18 x 8″ from the North side as the tide came in, then drove around to the South side, down to the actual beach to do another.
Both car parks were full, one in, one out, so there was a 30 minute wait but it was worth it. The beach is pristine and has a wonderful flow to it, with the river peeking around the corner before meeting with sea. I did a 14 x 12″ and then had a little stroll on the beach as it started to cloud over.
The next large beach on the way down the coast was Perrenporth. I stopped briefly at Holywell Bay and took this pic, then continued on.
I had surfed at Perrenporth many years ago and it was totally different to how I remembered it. everyone was packing up for the day as I swung into the car park. A kind chap offered my his car park ticket as he left which I took, parked and set off to the beach. The light was soft and fading so I worked very quickly to get it before it all changed too much.
I got back to the car to find a penalty notice stuck to the window. Apparently my ticket was no good after all and I furiously opened the packet to be greeted with a £100 fine. Ouch. But, on checking the free ticket I was given, it was actually good until the following day, so I ran off to chase down the car park attendant to get the fine voided. Hurrah!
All in all a fantastic trip. Cornwall is amazing and the people were all lovely. I got a good amount of work done and continued on to Falmouth for two days of boozing with my girlfriend and other chums. Life is good.