GREENCLIFF AND BIDEFORD BLACK.

A trip out to Abbotsham to visit Greencliff and restock up on some Bideford Black pigment. What a marvellous day it turned out to be as the weather was forecast to be rather grey. It was an easy walk down to the Lime Kiln and then down onto the pebbly beach. There were a few picnicking couples enjoying the solitude and breath taking views along the North Devon Coast. I found the black seam and removed some of the dark claylike material, someone had been there before and left a hole in the cliff, this I made good with some rocks and clay to prevent any more erosion or collapse. After washing my hands I walked up and down the beach sketching and taking some pictures for further paintings, I then sat and admired the view in the Spring sunshine!

In search of the elusive Bideford Black Pigment otherwise known as Biddiblack.  Running alongside seams of anthracite across North Devon is a black clay-like material that was mined for 200 years in Bideford for its uses as a strong black pigment. The unique ‘Mineral Black’, or ‘Biddiblack’ as it was known, was commercially produced for applications in the boat building industry, for colouring rubber products, for camouflage on tanks in WWII and was even bought by Max Factor for the production of mascara. The mines were closed in 1968 when the production of cheaper oil-based blacks and the depletion of the seam made the operation financially unviable, but many locals still remember the ‘Paint Mines’ and have tales to tell of using the paint or going into the now defunct mine shafts.  Today it’s revered by artists who love it’s inky black non reflective properties.  It first has to be dried, ground and then mixed with a medium such as PVA or Gum Arabic.  Looking forward to making my own now and seeing what images I can produce.  

Most of the information above was from a very informative website called The story of Bideford Black.  

http://bidefordblack.blogspot.com/p/history.html

Below is the view looking back towards Abbotsham Cliffs and Westward Ho. In the far distance you can just make out Saunton Sands Hotel on the horizon.

THE PATH BESIDE THE MARSH.

At the end of the beach boardwalk heading towards the Crow Point Carpark there is a a little pond of brackish water on the left. It is here where the brightly coloured damsel and dragon flies hover during the warm spring and summer. With this painting I’m trying to capture that Tulgey Wood sense of dark foreboding. I’ve also made a dark brushstroke across the sky to hint at a starling murmuration. This composition is in Bideford Black on thick cartridge paper, with some scraping and pigment removal.

When using this medium I often apply the paint using twigs, rags and stiff brushes with which to spatter fine specks. I also use scalpel blades, course and fine sandpapers and cotton buds to soften and remove pigment, in fact anything to create depth and texture to the composition. It helps to have a strong resilient paper with which to do so.

BLACK ARTS.

The return of BLACK ARTS, a project I’m involved in with artists Adrian Beasley and Stephen Raff.  We create our images in black and white using Photography, the Wet Collodian process and use of Bideford Black pigment, hence the name BLACK ARTS.  We aim to undertake this three day residential experience later this year.  Below is a link to the webpage with more information to follow!

https://www.black-arts.art/

Below is a link of our first collaboration in 2019 on the closing night of The White Moose Gallery.
https://albrownartist.com/2019/11/02/last-night/

Roborough Hill.

I’ve finally mounted this Bideford Black painting of Roborough Hill in Barnstaple, North Devon 40 x 25″ on thick cartridge paper. Throughout the pandemic and various lockdowns I’ve found this area of Roborough to have been a great escape from all that mayhem. To look out over North Devon from this wonderful highpoint is a view to behold. I think this painting would be certainly a talking or focal point to any room! Al

Bideford Black.

More of my Bideford Black paintings are here on this website. https://albrownsite.wordpress.com/category/bideford-black/

https://www.albrownartist.com/

In search of the elusive Bideford Black Pigment otherwise known as Biddiblack.  Running alongside seams of anthracite across North Devon is a black clay-like material that was mined for 200 years in Bideford for its uses as a strong black pigment. The unique ‘Mineral Black’, or ‘Biddiblack’ as it was known, was commercially produced for applications in the boat building industry, for colouring rubber products, for camouflage on tanks in WWII and was even bought by Max Factor for the production of mascara. The mines were closed in 1968 when the production of cheaper oil-based blacks and the depletion of the seam made the operation financially unviable, but many locals still remember the ‘Paint Mines’ and have tales to tell of using the paint or going into the now defunct mine shafts.  Today it’s revered by artists who love it’s inky black non reflective properties.  It first has to be dried, ground and then mixed with a medium such as PVA or Gum Arabic.  Looking forward to making my own now and seeing what images I can produce.  AL.

Most of the information was from a very informative website called The story of Bideford Black. http://bidefordblack.blogspot.com/p/history.html

To The Point.

The first out of the blocks for this year a warm up as I’ve not painted for over a month. Another Biddie Black of one of my favourite walks out to Crow Point in North Devon. New Year’s Day 2010 was very busy here with people observing the latest lockdown. I’m really surprised with this as for many years Crow Point has remained quiet, even in the summer. During the Covid Pandemic locals have reacquainted themselves with this quiet beach and now it’s busier than I have ever seen. It was lovely to bump into a few friends here that I’ve not spoken to in a long time.

Greencliff.

An acrylic painting 600 x 760mm on panel of Greencliff near Abbottsham on the North Devon coast. The view is looking downwards to the sea and in the distance Harland Point is seen. It is here where I go to collect the pigment I use to produce Bideford Black. I’ve experimented with layers of acrylic wash for this painting. When viewed in full sunlight adjustments had to be made to create that darker warm evening light. Al

Above are pictures of progress so far, I’ve also started another smaller painting of a sunset at Broadsands on Northam Burrows in North Devon. Last picture is of it in it’s new home, quite an impressive setting!

Roborough Hill.

Another picture inspired from Roborough near Pilton, Barnstaple. I’m using some broken sticks from the hill to create some surface texture. This is painted using Bideford Black hand prepared paint on thick cartridge paper. The view is of looking toward the top of road leading down to Raleigh and Barnstaple. In the distance there is a slight glimpse of the River Taw leading to Fremington Quay, Instow and Crow Point. Al