Sea fever strikes again
Just before 2am I came on deck for the 2-5 watch. I was sleepy and slightly queasy from the westerly swell coming in from the Atlantic, making it a balancing act to pull on waterproof trousers and boots by my bunk in the forepeak. Night watches on a sailing ship can be dull and cold, but we were in for a treat and the watch we were relieving were in no hurry to go below. Intense phosphorescence was making a light show of the bow wave and, dancing through it on both sides of the ship, were dolphins. Their phosphorescent shapes creating silver streaks and showers of starlight as they dived and leapt. It was a display like no other; I’ve only seen it once before and never for so long. The dolphins were still there when the next watch came on deck, and for the next, long after the phosphorescence had gone and the dawn arrived. Some things you just can’t sketch!
In spite of cold weather and unhelpful winds in the Irish Sea, it was good to be at sea again for the first time this year, shipping on board the lovely gaff cutter Eda Fransden for her voyage from Oban to Falmouth after she had spent a summer cruising round the Scottish Islands. Good to have a mini-adventure and put myself in the safe hands of Mungo and Stella, Eda’s new owners (have a look at www.eda-fransden.co.uk if you’d like to spend some time on board. You will not only have a great time but be very well fed!)
My journey began with a few days on the island of Iona, two ferries and one bus ride away from Oban. The single track road across Mull is an adventure in itself, on a double decker driven with verve by ‘Fearless Frank’ who entertained us with tales of Mull’s history and left us in no doubt about his views on campervans who ignore the passing places.
My journey ended in the southwest of Cornwall, sharing a few walking and kayaking adventures around the cliffs, bays and rivers of this rugged county.
I had plenty of time to read whilst I was away, and I recommend ‘Think like an Artist’ by Will Gompertz. It’s a revealing insight into what good artists, past and present, have in common.
One recurring theme in any human endeavour is the importance of not giving up too soon. To achieve anything worthwhile or learn a new skill you have to be prepared to inhabit that uncomfortable gap between what you want to do and what you can actually do. As even good artists will tell you, that gap never seems to get any narrower! The mistake we make as beginners is to want too much too soon, to forget that the expert or tutor with whom we compare ourselves so unfavourably has been along that thorny path too and is happy to stay on it, making mistakes, getting stuck, asking questions and knowing that at some stage the path starts to widen (though the thorns are always there to keep us learning and trying new things). Is that a muddled metaphor? Possibly, but you get the drift.
So bear that in mind when looking at my sketchbook pages of my latest travels, from Iona to Land’s End, which I’ve done as a little video here:
(There was music as well as sketching to be done on Iona, especially on rainy days, so if you look on my youtube channel you’ll also find a few tunes and songs that we did in the lovely St Oran’s chapel.)
Of course, on these pages I know I could do so much more and be technically better, but I don’t mind because a) it’s better by far than it was 20 years ago and b) I love the fact that a sketchbook is a messy, colourful, imperfect record of who I am on the day that I’m recording this experience; I want to remember not just what I saw but how I saw it, and how it felt. That’s why sketchbooks are so inviting, and so individual. Don’t stop yourself just because you think you’re no good. Just do it.
On my list of Things to Do back in the studio is to update my website and sort out my schedule of art classes, both real and virtual, to keep the creativity going through the autumn and winter. This year has passed ridiculously quickly! I’ll be sending out a newsletter to everyone on my mailing list soon, so get in touch if you’re not sure whether or not you’re on it but would like to be. Thanks for all your support during what has been a difficult couple of years for us all – all we can do is keep on keeping on whatever we do!