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.

GOOD SEAGLASS HUNTING.

Another day with my wife Donna hunting for more sea glass. A cold but wonderful day walking in the spring sunshine on secret beaches looking amongst the tideline stones for jewels. A lot of the rock formations here are somewhat reminiscent of the paintings by Roger Dean. Finally this was finished off with a cream tea and latte at Watermouth Harbour at a café called Storm In A Teacup.

POTTER’S HILL TO PUTTSBOROUGH.

What a wonderful day with my wife Donna searching secret North Devon Beaches for sea glass. Donna is returning to jewellery making using washed up colourful nylon line and sea glass. We spent the latter half of the afternoon on Barricane Beach where the beach café has recently been dropped in by crane. Here during the day you can get tea, cream teas etc but in the evening they serve Sri Lankan veg and chicken curries to the masses. This beach used to be a local secret but sadly no more so it was lovely to have it to ourselves today! Finally I parked at Marine Drive carpark and walked up the steep Potter’s Hill to the cairn at the top. From here you can marvel at the panoramic view out over Woolacombe down to Putsborough Beach.

FAIRLINCH CROSS.

A mixed media composition using Acrylic Paints and Bideford Black. Inspired by a drive back from Putsborough Beach on a winter Sunday when we came across Fairlinch Cross. The cold winter light shone off the wet road with the windswept trees bowing over the hedges, I was struck by the stark contrasts of dark, colour and the shadows of the hedge crossing the road.

It’s always very therapeutic slowly removing the masking tape on a completed painting! I just love that clean white edge; or is it just me?

PUTSBOROUGH BEACH & COFFEE.

An enjoyable walk from Putsborough Beach to Woolacombe and back for some Sunday exercise. There has been a break in the latest cold weather spell so out comes the winter sun to draw out the dog walkers and cold water swimmers. I forget how good it is to walk this beach and in the distance you can see the inviting white houses of Woolacombe illuminated by the sun. On the return we had cups of hot tea at the Putsborough Beach Cafe busy with the chatter of wet bathers wearing those ubiquitous Dryrobes, here we looked out at the surfers making the most of a small beach break.

WOODCUT WORKSHOP IN HARTLAND.

I spent a long, and thoroughly enjoyable day in Hartland Village with Adrian & Clea Beasley on a woodcut print workshop arranged by the wonderful Merlyn Chesterman RE. We spent time cutting woodcut print blocks, then inking and printed them. It was amazing how accessible this media is. With sharp gouges and blades we created woodblock prints from loosely drawn images. The magic happened when finally we inked the woodcuts, laid the paper down, and with a ball bearing baren impressed the paper onto the inked block. There is something quite magical about lifting the paper and seeing your image printed crisply onto paper for the first time!

Above is a quick image of mine of a wind blown tree. To the right is a monochrome image with the initial cut at the bottom and a more refined image at the top. Due to the lack of close observation of the tree I thought to myself it was slightly disappointing, but I was learning fast, after all it was my first image. To the left, Merlyn suggested that I create another block to make the image two tone composition, so with a graduated grey/blue background the image was greatly improved and the final print can be seen at the top of this post. The two matching blocks can be seen in the left hand picture.

Above are a mixture of today’s offerings and for our first attempts I’m rather impressed. I thought that my friend Adrian Beasley’s image, next to my tree was very strong with it’s powerful movement.

Photos above by Clea.

CROYDE BAY PUMPING.

Continuing on with the sunny weather we decided to have a meal at The Thatch in Croyde Village followed by a walk down to the beach. The waves were working so we watched surfers enjoying a clean winter wave from a grassy outcrop. I never take living in this part of the world for granted, in North Devon you’re never far from either a world class beach, dramatic coastline or the picturesque views of Exmoor. That reminds me, I must get my long board out this year after a long lay off due to injuries! Al

WINTER ON THE MARSH.

After the rains of the New Year the weather finally broke so I decided to make the most of the day and cycle along the Tarka Trail into Braunton, across the Marsh, down the Old American Road to Crow Point and then return home along the Tarka Trail. The air was warm and there was a kind of stone cold neon cheap light across the Estuary which made the whole trip so worthwhile. Above is one of my favourite Linhays on the Marsh which I’ve painted on several occurrences. Al

Above left, a view out across the Taw Estuary to Fremington. Above right, the beach at Crow Point looking towards Appledore & Instow.

BLACKPOOL MILL COTTAGE.

This is an image of mine of the famous Blackpool Mill Cottage on the North Devon Coast. It’s a the end of a wonderful walk from Hartland Abbey, but can also be reached along the coast from Hartland Quay. This cottage has appeared in a few films such as the BBC production as Barton Cottage in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, in Rosamund Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, and the 2016 location for The Lanyon in BBC’s The Night Manager starring Tom Hiddleston.  On warm summer days the pebble beach here is a welcome reward for the walk, there is a cool waterfall to plunge into and rockpools to explore.