I’ve just finished reading this little gem of a book I recently picked up second-hand. First published in 1972 it describes a journey along the East Anglian coast and its rivers by sail, and it’s striking how much has changed in just a few years in the villages, inns and characters that inhabited them. In one part the author describes a stretch of the Alde and a particular character ‘Jumbo’ Ward who piloted the old Barges up to Snape, and who told tales of Slaughden (just south of Aldeburgh) when it was a busy port and its long lost inns and cottages. Up river at Iken there is a stretch that’s tricky to navigate, and a series of river markers called ‘withies’ help guide the sailor through the more troublesome stretches, and are described in the book with a touch of humour: “There are, I had better warn you, some forty withies to negotiate. ‘Jumbo’ used to put tomato tins on the port withies and some bits of black cloth, from what female relative’s undergarments I don’t know, to indicate those to starboard.” Back in 1997 I produced a small drawing titled ‘Iken Withies’ (see image above) which was exhibited in Aldeburgh. It depicted a pair of these rustic markers, which were taken from some old photographs. I didn’t know until now just what those bits of tin and cloth really were.
Just finished documenting a whole year of swimming in the North Sea. Take a look here:
Autumn seems to be upon us already, with a chill in the morning air and robins singing their delightful melodies from the hedges and trees. On Friday, the last day of August, I was unable to get in the sea. The waves had such power and the current was raging along the shore - a result of the windy conditions the previous night. After wading in up to my knees, I very reluctantly decided not to risk it. It is days like this that the sea displays its raw power, and is perhaps a taste of what is to come as the days get shorter.
Things have been very busy over the last fortnight, having finally bought new larger studios which are in need of buckets of white paint. I hope to be up and running in about another couple of weeks. This new space will enable me to develop further my plans for my work, such as scale and exploring three-dimensional projects. And as a bonus, the sea is still at the end of the road.
One of my latest finished commissions features a favourite landmark - Orford Ness Light. An unusual and mysterious place that encapsulates that strange mixture of military industry and delicate nature, it’s just one of many sites that are scattered throughout East Anglia. I found myself wandering around a nearby former USAF base a few months ago, and was struck how easily nature reclaims the land and buildings. These environments conjure up another unlikely combination - melancholy and optimism. Melancholy from the memories and echoes of former inhabitants, and optimism from the never ending progress of nature.
This painting is heading for London today.