KYST 37 – from Balka Harbour to Salthammer Odde (Snogbæk), 16.09.18

For at læse denne KYST 37 blog på dansk, se her… See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 37 Late again, I arrived panicked and bleary eyed at Balka’s tiny harbour, annoyed that I had missed the sunrise by a few minutes. Once I had unpacked at the end of the pier arm however, I was greeted by the most incredible combination of light and water, as the first rays of sun broke between the clouds and lit up the layer of sea mist that hovered just over the sea in the bay. With my telescope I watched a fisherman tending to his nets lost in the orange glow of the mist. On the shore, two women on horseback thundered up and down the beach, laughing with an unbridled abandon. Just when I thought the morning couldn’t get any more spectacular, a lone kingfisher darted out and flew low, dart like, over the surface of the mirrored sea, and disappeared into the sea mist. When the kingfisher returned and perched on a nearby rock I resolved to not paint and just soak in the atmosphere instead. I couldn’t though, and soon got overinvolved with a reflective gull. The previous week I had been teaching a field painting course at Bornholm’s Højskole, and the lessons of the week were still fresh in my memory. I tried to not get too upset with the reflective gull disaster, and just carry on (‘…don’t judge and keep working’). I lost myself in some herring gulls feeding in the bay, the sea mist long having been burned off by the rising sun. Before moving off from my perch at the end of the pier, where I had now been for many hours, I tackled the solar reflections on the surface of the water. I wanted to show how the green seaweed, rocks and innumerable jellyfish below the surface of the water replaced the reflections of the sky towards the bottom of the visual plane, but failed. I finally packed my things and started to walk on Balka beach towards Snogbæk, the day’s destination.  I stopped again rather quickly, wanting to capture the sweep of the bay, with Snogbæk pier in the far distance. As I was painting, the first flocks of graylag geese flew overhead, returning to spend the day at Nexø Sydstrand, last week’s start point. I quickly drew the mutating shape of a large flock of several hundred geese, as it passed by. As I continued walking along the beach my eye was caught by the rills, folds and patterns in the sand caused by the action of the waves lapping at the shore, together with the tracery left by mica, crushed mussels and seaweed. A sandbank created a lagoon of completely still water that reflected the clouds scudding by in the dynamic skyscape. I made two studies (see also top) I carried on along the beach all the way to the end of the bay at Snogbæk, where I set up the M60 and had lunch and a really good sleep. On waking I looked towards Salthammer Odde, the great shelf of grey balka sandstone that juts out from Snogbæk and continues under the sea, attracting a rich diversity of sealife and birds. All week with the students we had been concentrating on tonal values and working with ink, which I had bought along. I tried to capture the movement of the feeding frenzy on a bank of seaweed, where gulls, geese, crows, pigeons and starling all worked together feverishly, hoovering up sandflies and the like. I worked again with the ink, trying to capture the dynamic shapes and silhouettes and making inky marks with sticks, feathers and seaweed. I packed my things and walked on to Snogbæk, taking time out to look and listen before continuing with painting again. I turned my back to the town, an eclectic and unpretentiousness mixture of tourist cafes, bars, summer houses and fishermen’s’ huts, and looked instead towards the sea. After a detour to the local supermarket I sat on the sandstone bedrock, hidden amongst the vegetation, and looked with my scope towards the multitude of gulls preening, sleeping and standing stoically in the early evening breeze. The day finished quickly and I had no time to draw the six curlew that arrived just as the sun was setting and my lift arrived.


Weather report = Mostly sunny with passing clouds, increasing. Temperature between 11°C and 18°C. Wind between 2 and 6 m/s from the west/south west. Hours of sunshine: 7 hours.

Lessons learned – all week I’ve been teaching – and stressing the importance of taking those lessons, and applying them ‘in the fied’ once the course had ended. Easier said than done.

Stops with the M60 = 1

Kilometers walked = 6.08 km

Day lasted = 12 hours, 30 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 39 species (3 new ones = kingfisher, shoveler, pintail: running total 123)

Other stuff = there were very few passerines about, save for starlings, sparrows, wagtails and a lone swallow. There seems to be a lull – the waders have already moved on, but the other birds are waiting.

People talked to = 8 (1 + 1 + 3 + 2 + 1) In my head – 20%, 60% 100%… elation and fatigue after an amazing course at the højskole… thinking of the diverse collection of people that made it such a wonderful week (including my mum). Thinking of how to retain that energy and put it into practice, and thinking of things to do better next time.

The Natural Eye, SWLA Exhibition at Mall Galleries

I have been lucky enough to have no less than five works accepted for the SWLA exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, this October. Dead chuffed. In addition to the five works (all of which are currently in the Recent Works section of this site), I will also be displaying some of my sketches from Scotland, as one of the bursary award winners. I’ll be travelling to the UK to see the exhibition, which I’m looking forward to very much. ‘The Natural Eye’ showcases some of the best nature inspired art around, in a fantastic setting.

Here, at last year’s Private View, Sir David Attenborough gives a speech about wildlife and art. Total geezer.

Scottish Seabird Drawing

DSCF7048Really the most amazing week in Aberlady, Scotland (the following is summary I sent to SWLA for their website)

Late last year I was lucky enough to be awarded the SWLA’s Seabird Drawing Course Award for July 2014. I had first heard of the award when trawling through the SWLA website one autumn day, and I thought I might as well give it a go and apply, as I had nothing to lose. Actually the first thing I did was fire off a quick email to check whether I was eligible – I wasn’t sure whether I was too old, or whether the bursary could be awarded to non-UK residents (I live in Denmark).

Once I had received a positive reply confirming that I was indeed eligible, I set about making a short application and getting together a few examples of my work. Actually it wasn’t hard at all articulating what I could get out of the course – I was desperate to spend time with other artists and see how they worked. DSCF7049

I arrived in Aberlady a day or two early, and by the time I met the other course participants on the Saturday evening in the Ducks pub, I had reached a fever pitch of excitement. It soon became apparent that many if not most of the other people had been on the course before, some several times, and straight away I became aware of the warm, friendly and supportive atmosphere. There was an intriguing mixture of people and abilities, from comparative novices to professional artists, and it became clear quite early on that this was not an ‘art course’ in the typical ‘this is how you make olive green’ sense. Rather, the course was an opportunity for a wide range of people to work together – to discuss and compare and feed off each other – all under the watchful eyes of the tutors.

DSCF7060The next six days then, were spent visiting various seabird colonies in the environs of Aberlady – principally the local estuary, Dunbar, St Abbs Head and Bass Rock. We would meet in the morning at the hotel, pick up our lunch packs, and drive together to one of the localities. The day would be spent looking, drawing and painting, and then we would head back to the hotel for dinner. After dinner we would have a very informal session where we would lay our day’s work out for each other to look at. The four tutors were all extremely approachable and provided support, encouragement and advice in very different ways, which was really a breath of fresh air.  A particular highlight was looking through Darren’s portfolio on the last day. Some of the other participants also got to see John Busby’s studio while I was on Bass Rock. I would have liked to have seen more of Greg and John T’s work. The other course participants were no less inspirational and encouraging, and a real eye-opener for me was seeing how they worked and discussing their work with them.

DSCF7062A quick word on the places we visited. On the first day I couldn’t understand why everyone was getting so worried about the weather, and whether or not we would get to visit Bass Rock. Surely it couldn’t be that good? It was, and then some. I will never forget my two days on the Bass – deafening noise, an unholy stench, a stinging wind, and gannets as far as the eye could see – truly an other-worldly place. St Abbs head was almost its equal, an incredible collection of cliffs and rocks that, after a day or two of drawing, you couldn’t help taking home with you.

We were lucky-ish with the weather, and whenever it did rain, it really did help to see other people huddled under their umbrellas, desperately trying to record what they were seeing. Back home a spot of rain usually sent me scurrying for cover, and if there is one lesson that I have learned from this course, it is that the best, most exciting work is often that produced when you are being most challenged by the environment.