Still thinking about the view on Sunday

Perhaps because the sea was so calm, making it an almost flat area of colour, it accentuated the linear aspect of the landscape view. Whereas last week the sea was striated, with lines of colour projecting from the coast echoed on the land by the lines of field boundaries behind Cogden and Chesil, yesterday the sea was pale silvery blue and the distant fields milky with haze. So I kept seeing lines in the landscape, especially when the sun struck through the thin cloud and added contrast to the view. The hedges, lanes, paths, animal tracks, cliff edge, tideline, surf line, cliff base and fences all became prominent and, depending on the degree of sun, each had its own quality. I was particularly caught by the silky grey at the foot of the cliffs and the hints of orange mingled with it. a resonance with the tideline and the tangles of anglers’ lost tackle. Particularly near to Eype’s Mouth, the beach has been scoured into fish-bone ridges.  This seems to happen most when the wind is not strong from the south west so the crossing currents are more equal – but that’s just a theory based on minimal observation and little knowledge!

Beach scoured like fishbones

Beach scoured like fishbones at Eype’s Mouth

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A quick climb to Thorncombe Beacon before the rain

This morning I managed to get out for a walk back to Thorncombe Beacon to try to capture something of the feeling of the view east I got when I walked that way with David on Wednesday.  The  air was pretty still and the atmosphere quiet, so it was not as cold as Wednesday when there was bite from the north wind. The forecast was for rain this afternoon so I was keen to get up to the top before I lost the sun.  By the time I parked at Eype (and  was shocked at the honesty-box price for parking!) it was already a bit milky out to sea and the sun was filtered through thin clouds much of the time. The sun did come out enough to get some of the effects that I wanted, though the sea was so different in colour from my midweek visit.  I managed to get some useful shots to use as research notes and did a few drawings and a couple of pen and pencil washes.  I was really pleased with the ideas and notes. I have got excited about the direction that I am already developing them in.  I am especially interested in the colours and lines at the base of the cliffs.  More notes about this when I get the time.

Jurassic Coast looking east from Thornecombe Beacon

Jurassic Coast looking east from Thornecombe Beacon

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Coastal walk still strong in my mind

On Wednesday, with my friend David, I went for a walk  from Seatown up over the cliffs past Thorncombe Beacon and down to Eype’s Mouth, where we sat on the sand, ate an apple each and talked about art and the colours and lines in the sea. Then we walked back and had lunch at the Anchor and talked about the Test match before collecting two bags of blewits and meadow waxcaps.

I wanted to concentrate on my time with David so left my phone at home so I wouldn’t get to fiddling and looking things up and tweeting and…like you do when you have a phone handy! However I had meant to take a compact digital camera with me for note taking, which, of course, I forgot. I did have a tiny sketchbook and a pencil but didn’t want to disrupt the flow of conversation for too long while I drew. So apart from  a single quick scribble I had to rely on my memory, which was boosted in power through talking with David and our discussion of colours and lines.

Looking back from Thorncombe Beacon the coast from Weymouth to Eype hung like a jewelled pendant from the horizon. Lines of colours projected horizontally from the coast across the sea like a beaded breastplate from a native American brave. When we sat on Eype beach the constantly changing sea had wide semi-circles radiating from us: fine lines of many colours – greens, browns, and reds mingling with steel blue and cloud reflections. So many impressions to try and hang on to, and I know it will never be quite the same again, but the talk and walk and some impressions are still strong in my mind.  I am determined to find some time when the sun is on the coast, to go back again in the next day or two to take some photos and do some drawings if I can.

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What is this curious bundle?

Flicking through the photographs from yesterday’s walk on Cogden Beach I came across this image of a bundle of what seemed to be grass stalks bound with tape and ribbon fixed with pins. Any ideas? A charm or something?

Curious bundle found on the beach

Curious bundle found on Cogden Beach

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Spice jars, lighting and lighters

I took advantage of the good weather yesterday to get out for a walk along Cogden Beach.

The stormy weather has pushed the tideline high and scattered the debris a wide swathe. Mostly it’s flotsam but there’s a lot of plastic bottles and kitchen rubbish – spice jars, sauce jars, wine bottles. I came across two fluorescent tubes and a light bulb: how the hell do they not get smashed? Inevitably there were lighters galore, mostly without the metal tops, just the plastic tanks.  No particular colours but strangely quite fresh and unscratched. I found a number of bottle half buried in the gravel – a sure sign the beach has been churned up. Lots of gull primaries again: it must be moulting time.  It is so hard not to pick up  the gull feathers just for the magnificent sepia stain.  The great weather made it easy to gather inspiration: so much to look at and listen too on what seems like a pretty barren beach. I have loads of new ideas for images, experiments with techniques, sculpture, jewellery, video and poetry.  I need some discipline to make the time to do it all.  I even did a couple of ink drawings  en plein air.

Anglers fishing for cod off Cogden Beach

Anglers fishing for cod off Cogden Beach

The fishermen are after cod. The beach has been roughed up releasing tasty morsels that cod like. But nobody has got better than a whiting or dogfish on my walk eastwards. On the way back the whiting were hanging off the hooks and the anglers were confident the approaching high tide would bring in the cod.

I met our artist friend Bronwen Coe on the beach with her dog Tilly.  Sadly the exhibition of her wonderful mystic, alchemical pictures at Bridport Arts Centre ends today.

With so many ideas coming up it has prompted me to look at the infrastructure of this blog and I aim to get it loaded with more social media features and get the video, photo gallery features up that will help as I move forward with other art projects.  Look out for changes and enhancements soon.

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Slim pickings for a beachcomber

Slim pickings and heavy going. I couldn’t find the pace of the beach today: every step seemed hard work. The sky was grey and overcast and the landscape was featureless, drained of colour, no contrast. I came down to Cogden beach to take some panoramic shots, but the camera couldn’t recognise the next bit of land to stitch together (and I didn’t know it wouldn’t do 365° vertically!)

There was nothing to catch the eye on the tidelines either, uniform weed and little else. I only collected a couple of tangles of fishing line, a small fish skull, two cockle pairs, and three seagull primaries selected for their wonderful sepia colour. It was great to see the beach so clean, the latest tidelines empty of jetsam!

Gull primary wing feather

Gull primary at Cogden Beach

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West Bay in all its glory

In this good weather West Bay has glowed! I dashed down yesterday for an hour at the end of the day to sit on West Beach and daub watercolours in sketchbooks in a vain attempt to understand how light changes the colours in the sea and catch the drama of low sun on the rocks.  I am really pleased I made the effort.  I wasn’t aiming for a finished picture (and I forgot how long it can take for paint to dry in the cold) but I learned a little more about control and accident with watercolours and enjoyed myself immensely. I ended up with cold buttocks and blotted sketchbooks but it was worthwhile.

West Bay looking west towards Eype

West Bay looking west towards Eype

Today, Sally and I went for a little stroll in the sunshine and met up with a friend and her dog. I couldn’t ask for more wonderful surroundings to wander and chat and sit and do nothing. Made all the sweeter following all the inclement weather we have had this year.

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And talking of rubbish…

Talking of rubbish earlier, I forgot to mention that the Bridport Film Society presentation last night was the brilliant, award-winning documentary Waste Land by Lucy Walker which follows internationally successful Brazilian artist Vik Muniz as he leaves his New York studio behind and travels to Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill site, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he meets the ‘catadores’ (‘pickers’) who make their living by collecting and selling recyclable materials such as bottles, plastic and metal from the landfill. In a bid to raise funds for the site’s workers’ association, Muniz selects a group of six catadores to pose as subjects for a new series of portraits made out of recycled waste they have collected and puts them up for sale in one of Rio’s most upmarket galleries.

It was excellent as a film; as a documentary; as a commentary on art; as a lesson about waste and recycling; and a portrayal of human dignity, strength, warmth and courage.

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Putting a price on rubbish

South Park branded rubbish

South Park rubbish

As I wander along the beach I wonder if there is a way that we can stop some of the rubbish that is dumped getting there to start with or getting cleared up quicker. When I found this South Park branded sweet dispenser on the beach yesterday I started to think about possible solutions.

The marketeers are responsible for using brands to pedal overpriced and over-packaged goodies.  It’s people’s choice if they waste their money on these things but when the shiny new rubbish loses its appeal it becomes…just rubbish!   Perhaps the marketeer or the brand holder should pay a tax or charge to pay towards the clearing up of their rubbish when the customer tires of the shiny container. Perhaps there could be a reward/deposit redeemable when you find and return a piece of branded crap, plastic bottle etc.  In Germany plastic bottles have such a deposit. Would it help prevent people throwing away rubbish carelessly, make them think twice before buying over-packaged goods, encourage people to clear up behind themselves and others and make the marketeers rethink their packaging? The principle should be “Polluter pays”.

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Blue tubes at Cogden

I went out yesterday with the specific purpose of collecting some fine coloured fishing line from the beach for some artwork I am currently doing.  I hoped I might also find a fish-shaped lure to incorporate in another picture. As it happened I found lots of line and now have to think about my attitude to rubbish on the beach.

I had originally decided to walk along Hive Beach towards Cogden Beach and perhaps catch a cup of coffee at the café on the way back. I had forgotten it was half term and it is the duty of every family with grandparents who have retired to beautiful Dorset to visit at Autumn half term and it is the duty of said grandparents to take these grandchildren and parents to the seaside.  This coincided with every dog owner in Wessex deciding that, now dogs are allowed on Hive Beach for the off season, they should exercise said dogs on the beach. Now this is an excellent thing for the local economy, the National Trust, and the children, parents, grandparents, dogs, dog owners and the Hive Beach Café but it was a bad thing for my desire for a bit of a meditational walk in peace and quiet. The Café, the beach and the car park were heaving and the thought of so many out of control and overexcited dogs and children was enough to cause me to look elsewhere for a little solitude.

Flat grey stone with mall stone wedged in hole like an eye

Eye stone on Cogden Beach

I found it at Cogden Beach just a mile further down the coast where, although dogs and children are allowed all year, there were few dogs and no children at all.  In fact there were very few people, so I could wander and beachcomb undisturbed. Perhaps the herd of ruby cows and calves in the field you have to pass through acted as a deterent. Mind you, to start with I thought I was going to have an annoyance when a powered hang glider spluttered to get airbourne and a little later flew back down the length of the beach.  Fortunately that was the only time I saw it. On another day I might have been pleased to see it and take away the motor I certainly would have been pleased to see it then.

There is always a theme to the flotsam and jetsam on the beach. Today it was blue tubes. I couldn’t believe how many ink tubes from ballpoint pens there were as well as other short blue plastic tubes of various kinds and shades.  Sure there were plenty of bits of green string as usual, quite a lot of spider crab carapaces, many bottle (all without messages) and there are still a phenominal number of slipper shels, but blue tubes were most noticable to me.

And, I am pleased to say, there was plenty of discarded fishing line. That is to say I am pleased because I wanted some to use in some tidelines-themed pieces I am working on, but actually I was alarmed by the amount of it. I don’t have an issue with fishermen when their line gets snagged and snaps, but I do get pissed off where it is clear that the angler is just discarding on the beach the trimmed ends or no longer useful tackle.

I wanted a few yards of fine coloured line but came away with a plastic bag full of angling paraphenalia – and by no means did I collect all that I saw! But now I find I need to question my actions.  You see, once I picked up something and examined it for a few moments it became my responsibility.  It was in my hand so if I threw it away it was me that was littering the beach, wasn’t it? So what about all the stuff I saw but didn’t pick up? Do I now have to take bags with me every time I go and pick up all the rubbish?

I am fascinated by the stuff that anglers use to try and seduce fish on to their hooks.  As a beekeeper I can immerse myself in paraphenalia but fishermen must take the prize for bits and bobs! I haven’t been right through the bag to sort out what I want, but I have a feeling that I will be using more than originally planned in my pictures. And I feel that it was a good thing to take a little bit of the human detritus from the beach and place it in the safety of landfil rather than the gut of a sea mammal or whatever.

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