The Painted Path

The Painted Path showcases painted landscapes I made along a journey of the South West Coastal Path. I focused on the joy of looking to nature for inspiration and purpose. Across two trips, I travelled from Ilfracombe to Newquay, and later travelled from Newquay to Falmouth, painting ‘en plein air’ meaning ‘out of doors’ in French, referring to the practice of painting entire finished pictures outside.

My interest for plein air painting started during the pandemic, where I decided to go out on little excursions around Bristol to paint my local area and to get me out of the house. I found it a good way to channel energy in a positive way, bringing joy and purpose to my life. It was also good for my wellbeing at such a difficult time.

During this period, I also read the book, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. I felt inspired by the story as it focussed on the author and her terminally ill husband. They lose their house and livelihood and have nothing left. Due to these negative events, they have an impulse to walk the coastal path as an activity that will be good for their wellbeing. On the journey they discover a new liberating existence that frees them with a new sense of purpose, letting them look to the future with joy.

Ilfracombe (Verity), 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Woody Bay, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Lee Bay, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm

The skill of plein air painting makes you a more decisive painter – looking at colour matching, perspective, tone and composition. Like an athlete training for a race, I believe that the more you apply yourself to looking at nature, then the way you see, and paint, improves over the days and weeks and you become more disciplined, and your eyes become sharper. I have built my paintings based on the successes and failures in all my attempts. These paintings are not supposed to be finished pieces, but more of a learning exercise that will develop, refine and deepen over time from the experience of painting from life.

Before my first trip, I spent a few days in Exmoor, to have a brief period of exploration, working on ideas I had discussed during my mentoring sessions with Tom Hughes and Matthew Bede Murphy. This is where I painted Porlock Bay, Culbone Church, Lynmouth and Woody Bay as a precursor leading to my first ten-day trip from Ilfracombe to Newquay. I decided to go to this area, as it was the first location along from my trip in Exmoor where Raynor Winn and her husband started their trip and it was the direction that they travelled, in The Salt Path book. It was also taking me past the iconic Verity, Damien Hirst’s statue, that they mentioned in their trip – representing truth and justice.

I painted three views of Ilfracombe on the first day in between the rain. After this, I then travelled to: Lee Bay, Woolacombe, Baggy Point, Harland Quay, Morwenstow, Sandymouth Beach, Crackington Haven, Boscastle, Tintagel, Polzeath and Newquay. Each painting took a few hours to paint and would usually paint between a single painting to three paintings a day.

Culbone Church, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm

Please click the link below to listen to the audio description for Culbone Church, 2021.

Boscastle Harbour, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm

Please click the link below to listen to the audio description for Boscastle Harbour, 2021.

Tintagel Bridge, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm

Please click the link below to listen to the audio description for Tintagel Bridge, 2021.

Polzeath Surfers, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm

Please click the link below to listen to the audio description for Polzeath Surfers, 2021.

In the second installment of the trip I went from Newquay around the coastal path stopping at St Agnes, St Ives, Botallack, St Just, Porthcurno, Mousehole, Marazion, Mullion, Coverack and Falmouth. I painted more detailed imagery and more confidently and learnt through the experiences of the first trip. The tones were more accurate and decisive. I was definitely improving my technique and took on harder compositions and views. I also painted the boards in different ground colours, that informed how the painting was made and chose the colour based on the overall light of the scene when I was in situ. This provided a back lay to the painting like a background rhythm to music and the forms and other colours lay on top of this within the composition which worked well.

Towanroath Engine House Shaft, St Agnes, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Crown Mines, Botallack, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Kedinjack, St Just, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Mousehole, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Predannack Wollas, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm
Falmouth Docks And Harbour, 2021, oil on hardboard, 30x25cm

As someone who suffers with mental illness, I wanted to see if a journey like this would alleviate symptoms and make me feel well, inspired and improve my painting knowledge and skills which it did. In all I painted 40 paintings from my journey around the South West Coastal Path documenting a painted path of my experience. I felt a sense of purpose and when focussing on the activity of painting hours would fly by when observing the lovely coastal landscapes and found myself in a meditative state and at ease. As the trip progressed, I became more decisive in the way I painted and though continual application found a consistent visual language coming to the fore where decisions would be more intuitive and certain.

These trips were made possible through a Develop Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England. This funding enabled me to receive mentoring around plein air painting with Tom Hughes and Matthew Bede Murphy, to make these trips and to build a new way of working providing a focus for myself.

With thanks to:

  • Arts Council England for Develop Your Creative Practice Funding
  • Jennifer Gilbert – Producer
  • Harry Baxter – Audio describer
  • Tim Nolan – Short film creation
  • Jo Hounsome – Painting Photographer
  • Kate Royle – Online exhibition designer
  • Adam Vincent-Garland – Booklet designer (coming soon)