Wednesday 8 August 2012

From the Herra

This is a view from the beach on a small promontory of land called "The Herra", looking out to the mouth of the Helford (and so out to sea).  The Herra - owned by the National Trust, as is so much of Cornwall's coastline - is in Gillan Creek, which is a tributary of the Helford River in Cornwall.

Coast path to the right, The Herra (mostly) to the left
of the sign. The coast path was lovely, but views of
the sea were obscured by the abundant vegetation,
and it was a bit too narrow to set up an easel.
Painting gear about to be set up in the shelter of the
rocks. Red thing: stool. Cardboard objects attached
to rucksack: bespoke painting carriers. I took two
canvases with me to allow myself a choice of shapes.
In-progress shot, on the beach.
While my husband (the proud new owner of a Mirror sailing dinghy), his parents and our two children messed around with and in boats, I - being a seasickness-prone landlubber - went for a wander up the coast path with my painting gear, decided that there were no suitable spots up there within range of our temporary base, and returned to the small but tempting mass of land that is the Herra.

The weather being slightly less than ideal, I plumped for the shelter of the rocks on the beach, which did an excellent job of preventing the wind catching the canvas, but, naturally, did little to keep the showers of rain off. Fortunately, I had my waxed hat and Goretex jacket (both with a little extra added colour from previous expeditions - I'm sure that the oil paint can only enhance their waterproof qualities!).

I think I would have preferred the sky to be bluer, and - while I was glad that the giant container ship left the scene before I felt obliged to include it - I do regret not having managed to capture a sail out there (something that would have definitely fit the blue-sky version in my head). But the finished painting is really about something else, I think; it's about a lonely little cove and the sea that laps its pebbled shore. It's not about boats, be they pleasure launches, fishing boats or container ships.

Incidentally, the tide both went out and came back in while I was painting. The painting shows it almost all the way in, although I suspect that some of the rocks are more exposed than they should be for the tide level. It's a problem that I haven't come across before - there are, after all, no tides on hills.

And it was a novelty to walk up the hill as I left my painting pitch.

"From the Herra"
Oil on canvas, 18 x 14"
For Sale


  1. lovely, we were struck by the painting potential of St Michael's Mount when we visited. Amazing views, no wonder so many painters like the south west.

  2. St Michael's Mount is indeed lovely (shrouded by mists when we passed through Marazion), but it's difficult to get a unique perspective on it; it's been painted many times. I take my Cornish painting opportunities as they arise, but I'm pleased to get taken to the lesser known parts :-)

  3. I really like this one Amanda - very Cornish :-)

    1. Thank you very much, Helen. So was what the rest of the famiy were doing!

      I think you're right. It's more deeply Cornish than fishing villages, than engine houses, than sandy beaches littered with lobster-red holiday-makers, than queues on the A30... it's even more Cornish than hedges made of stone and earth. It's what underlies the man-made Cornwall. And the weather's pretty accurate, too.

      On a more prosaic note, I'm really pleased that you like this one, because it was painted en plein air - which is sometimes restrictive in terms of practice, but hopefully redolent of the place and time - and, well, I suppose it's not enormously "pretty".

  4. Amanda, Glad you have braved the elements and produced a lovely painting. You should have a go at St.Michael´s Mount though. Just disregard the fact that it has been done before. Yours will be unique as it will be your own interpretation of the scene.
    By the way I like your travel kit.

    1. Er... funnily enough, Pat, less than a fortnight ago... I did!


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