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.


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!

sketching the Flat Lode

It’s a fine day, big fluffy clouds are intermingled with patches of blue sky and I’m out continuing work on a new book featuring the Great Flat Lode in sketches and notes. I’m taking the highroad this time, though road would be somewhat incorrect as the path was in fact the old rail line used to transport ore from mines to the various processing areas that dotted the area. I say dotted, swarmed would be a better choice of words as even now the landscape shows numerous remains of these buildings of function and beauty.

As I walked alone the line whilst staring over the valley of Carnkie, across to Carn Brea and further still where the monument stood it was easy to envisage the scene a hundred years past. Thanks to the soundtrack of Steam Boy (Anime) pulsing through my iPod the atmosphere grew. Perhaps not something those old miners would have thought of but a welcome addition never-the-less. This protected industrial landscape is stunning, the mining cathedrals never cease to impress and I’ve painted scenes around the area many a time.

Finally I stopped at the remains of Wheal Bassett’s twin stamps engine. Having found a suitable stone free spot to sit and sketch from, hard to find in a mining landscape I know, I grabbed pencils, pens, paints and paper. This is what it’s all about! On location, recreating the scene that lies in front of you! I love the combination of stone ruins that still show the complexity and care that was undertaken during their construction. The wildness that recaptures mans efforts like the grand tree in Laputa pushing through the roof and beyond. All these things I try to include in my sketches. Hopefully, when gathered together, they will make an interesting companion to anyone who decides to take a stroll around the Great Flat Lode. For me it holds many more sketches and experiences, lets hope each one is as rewarding as this.

One of the sketches that make up the guide