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.
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!
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.
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
A mixed media composition of the late Peter Green who died on the 25th July 2020 aged 73. 540 x 400mm, Bideford Black, Uni-ball fine line pens & Indian Ink. I’ve found this frame on a recent trip to Clifton in Bristol where I discovered it in an antique shop. Peter Green was one of the greatest Blues guitarists Britain ever produced. His shape-shifting riffs and long, improvisational excursions made Fleetwood Mac one of the most exciting live bands of the 1960s Blues explosion. He first picked up a hand-me-down guitar at the age of 10 and, like many of his peers, began to devour the import vinyl that trickled into the UK from the US. He studied the greats Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and BB King – combining their tensely coiled playing style with the shimmering vibrato of The Shadows’ Hank Marvin. But he actually started his professional career as a bassist, until an encounter with Eric Clapton persuaded him to ditch the instrument. “I decided to go back on lead guitar after seeing him with the Bluesbreakers. He had a Les Paul, his fingers were marvellous. The guy knew how to do a bit of evil, I guess.” He later had the seemingly impossible task of taking over from Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Fans were unconvinced at first, but after a handful of incendiary performances, he won them over, earning the nickname “The Green God”. Interestingly enough I thought the Green Manalishi was him but Mr Green says it was actually about a wad of cash he dreamt about.
Bideford Black pigment on 250lb Bockingford Paper. After a warm cycle ride around the Marsh in Braunton I’ve decided to paint this Linhay yet again. Stormy sky and an even more stormy time for everyone regarding the present Covid conditions. I thought the dark foreboding nature of this paint and subject to be quite apt! Al
What a great night at the White Moose in Barnstaple, North Devon. A well run and packed venue thanks to Stella & Co. Sadly this is the last exhibition for the Moose and it was an honour to be asked to show for the final night with Adrian Beasley & Stephen Raff. The three of us have a present project called BLACK ARTS so perhaps watch this space. This was for me the final exhibition of a very busy year having exhibited at the Hatherleigh Festival with thanks to Josie Lloyd, The Plough in Torrington thanks to Peter Stiles and with the annual North Art Trek 2019. Now time to take a break and perhaps produce some new images. Many thanks Al.
Last night I spent an enjoyable evening exhibiting work with photographers Adrian Beasley & Stephen Raff. This event was a preview exhibition for this year’s North Devon Art Trek 2019. The name Black Arts originated from our collective work of black & white photography and Bideford Black paintings. Throughout the evening Adrian showed his skills in photo editing for which he runs regular weekend courses far and wide. He also performed some electronic music, has numerous albums and performs with the group Airsculpture. Stephen took some traditional wet plate portraits which intrigued the audience greatly. I chatted about my sourcing of the Bideford Black pigment, it’s preparation and usage. For us the evening turned out much better than we had anticipated and we’d like to say a great thanks for those who attended. Al
Another Bideford Black painting 610 x 350mm on Bockingford paper. This was from an idea by Adrian Beasley Imaging who suggested copying one of his landscape photographs for an upcoming joint exhibition at a local venue. We are both exhibiting black & white landscapes and a comparisonal piece will be interesting. Just a few minor adjustments in the cold light of day but this is it. See you on North Devon Art Trek. Al
The original AB photographic image above and my afternoon’s work beneath. I’ve taped the outside so that when removed it gives a kind of photographic edge to my painting. Al