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.

A LOOK BACK AT 2021.

Well this year has been quite an ordeal both on a personal as well as a professional level. As a family we’ve experienced more tragedies than any family should, in my professional life I’ve also experienced great sadness over the year.
Due to this blasted Covid situation I’ve not exhibited due to lack of heart, purpose and commitment; finally after applying I managed to be selected for the Burton Gallery’s Christmas Show. Looking back over some of my recent compositions I can see real progress and growth, at least I now believe I’m going in the right direction with regard to painting and artistic confidence.
A highlight of the year has been walking the South West Coast Path from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin and on a warm, idyllic summer’s day managed to sketch Broadsands Beach; the finished painting is at the top of this post. Another highlight was walking the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall where I’ve managed to paint a few images of the wonderful storms and light experienced there, these have now been successfully sold.
I’ve a few projects already lined up for 2022 including a reunion of the Black Arts with an organised residential course. I’m looking towards a more abstract way of working and perhaps arranging a few solo exhibitions. Let’s hope 2022 is going to be a partial return to the way we used to live and love. Peace for you all in the next year! Al

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/

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

Man of the world.

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.