Going round the bend


Sketch of South Tin Crofty Mine by Stephen BedserYou know, one of the joys of painting can be the wealth of subjects just waiting to be immortalised on paper or canvas.

One of my painting passions, if you haven’t guessed from previous blogs, is capturing the remaining signs of Cornwall’s mining past. The fact is that I’m spoilt for choice really, so well built were the engine houses and surrounding buildings that even though in some cases a hundred years or more have passed they are still a dominate part of the Cornish landscape.

But for me this sometimes presents a dilemma. What do I draw? I grab any opportunity I can to do a sketch of what I see in front of me or draw a representation of an old photo but I don’t always have ample time to complete each piece. Given the time I’d just sit and draw until I could draw no more!

Just the other day I passed a view I had seen many a time on my local travels. South Tin Crofty Mine outside Redruth has both it’s Man Engine, which transported miners underground, and the Compressor House still standing. The latter sports some rather ornate brick arches which I had been meaning to draw for some time now. Having been presented with a short break between meetings I considered stopping off to capture the scene in my sketch book. But which building should I draw?

Whilst heading over the idea of a fisheye lens style piece popped into my head. On the relatively small space of a sketch book I could draw both buildings by bending the scene thus fitting the relatively wide view onto the page.

The sketch was brief, from pencil to ink took little more than 15 minutes and applying the ever changing mixes of watercolour perhaps another twenty. A storm had just passed giving more than a glimpse of blue skies, though standing still left me in no doubt that summer it was not as the bitterly cold wind whipped around and dried the paint at an alarming rate!

Sketching and painting whenever I can keeps me focused and keen. A week without producing something can result in an artist dark age that I sometimes find difficult to recover from. In this case a single piece of art has inspired me to do more, so that can’t be bad.

Click on the above image to see the full piece in its ink stage. You can also see the final colour version by visiting either my Twitter or Facebook page.


A skeleton in the heat

Sitting down one Saturday, recently passed, the searing heat of the hot summer’s day seemed appropriate considering that I had come to visit and capture the remains of St Peter’s church in Ropley Hampshire. So hot was the day that watercolour barely had time to hit paper before drying which, coupled with the view in front of me, made it easier to imagine the flames that brought about the demise of this 800-year-old church.Thumbnail of St Peter's Church sketch

Religious or not if you live in a small village community it’s hard to avoid the influence in people’s lives that such a church can have and as I sketched the outline of the charred timbers and twisted remains of stain glass windows memories from my childhood returned. Our primary school across the road was always involved in harvest festivals and Christmas festivities which brings up a good point. It’s not just the physical loss that is hard to take but also the records of people and their everyday activities. From comments in visitors books to official registers and objects created and donated, all dissolved into dust that day in June 2014. Continue reading

Breathing new life into old views

Wadebridge Station Office on the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway

Wadebridge Station Office on the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway

One of the pleasures I get from painting heritage scenes is the feeling that I’m contributing to the historical records of a particular place. For instance by taking a fuzzy 19th Century photograph and referencing later views or by comparing similar locations of later origins, to perhaps get a guide to colour, the hope is I can breath a little more life into a scene so long gone.

A case in point followed a recent visit to the Bodmin & Wenford Railway when taking the chance to enjoy a ride on the visiting Steam Rail Motor. The railway, in one direction terminates at Boscarne Junction but it’s well known that that wasn’t always the case. The line around Bodmin has seen a multitude of layouts thanks to the devices of the Great Western Railway, the Southern Railway and even earlier by the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway. All this history was sauce for the goose from my point of view! So following my trip I hit the books shops and Internet sites with an eye to exploring this rich locomotive history more.

After many an hours reading pleasure and squinting at small photographs I came across one such photo depicting the remains of Wadebridge’s earliest station. Well I call it a station but these where undoubtably the days when rail traffic was biased towards freight rather than passengers but nevertheless a station it was. The photo showed the office building which even at that time was showing signs of neglect, it was exactly the kind of view that I’m attracted to.

The chance to paint a scene that has rarely been seen and certainly shouldn’t be lost in the swirls of history provides me with the kind of challenge that I soak up. So of course I put pen to paper and paint to brush to capture this view that was once part of people’s everyday life. A place where men and women went to work or passed by as the cautiously crossed the rails.

I guess in many ways I seen my art as archaeological visualisation, as I try to capture what once was with a little artist flair. Hopefully others will take note and most importantly will remember our rich past. They certainly stay fixed in my mind when a painting is complete.

Steaming through the trees

Muffin at East Wheal Rose on the Lappa Valley Railway

It has to be said that most of my experiences with railway steamies has been of the full scale sort, 4ft 8 1/2 “ rail to the technically minded! But that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed other forms of Steam Heritage, oh no!

This past weekend, having pondered over what family excursion to take on such a fine summers day, we took a trip down to the Lappa Valley Railway. It wasn’t that hard a decision really, after all the sun was shining, it had been years since our last visit and we had been kindly given a few free tickets.

For those not in the know, the Lappa Valley is a small 15″ scale miniature railway who’s short but beautifully scenic stretch follows along the old Chacewater to Newquay line near Newlyn East, Cornwall. The thought of enjoying a trip behind one of their lovingly tended steam engines, Zebedee which is a 0-6-4 Pannier Tank or Muffin which is a 0-6-0 Tender loco, was lure enough but this is only part of the experience. Like most parts of Cornwall the area is steeped in mining history and the Lappa Valley is no exception. East Wheal Rose engine house stands next to the silent boating lake that is the trains destination. I say silent but most of the time it contains a family or two rowing around to their hearts content! Before the GWR came along a mineral tramway supplied and served the mine from the 1840’s, possibly making this the oldest railway in Cornwall.

As a family man the day was certainly an enjoyable one, trains (Steam & Diesel) to thrill the kids (well the younger one anyway), more than a giggle or two thanks to the crazy golf and an inability to steer a canoe and a great park for kids big and small. As a heritage fan it was almost worth ditching the family, of course I wouldn’t do that, to explore the mining history and take in the atmosphere of this beautiful valley railway and it’s past. I also have to mention that it’s thanks to the great staff and owners that firstly this line exists and secondly that a visit can be so enjoyable!

It did bring one question to mind. Having achieved such a atmospheric scene from the ruins of railway history it makes you wonder whether so many other abandoned lines could have a similar bright future. Lets hope so!