29 June 2012

sun and wind

The sun is shining on Spurn today and the air feels warm.  There is also a strong wind from the south, blowing up from the point.  A walk on the beach in sandals means windswept hair and glowing skin but this is the first time I've been here and dared to walk without a waterproof jacket or socks!  Bright sunshine and a keen wind make for animated clouds, rushing over, rapidly changing colours and tones of the water as they pass. 

The air is incredibly clear and views across the Humber to the south bank provide detail I've net seen before. The sunlight reflecting off the water is stunning; both over the sea/estuary and on wet sand:

As ever, it is the detail of the bands of texture on the beach that fascinate me; the way material is sorted and arranged by the water and, in places, separated out in a very marked way.

I'm looking forward to inspecting some of the fabrics I left here last time and finding out what marks have been left on them by their time here.  That comes tomorrow...

26 June 2012

sand stitches

Ripples in the sand in stitches

On the back: foot prints made by a wading bird.

I walk out onto the sand making a beeline for the water.  Bait diggers’ sand piles litter the beach.  I spot the marks of another bait hunter: a wading bird.

Lines of footprints wander around.  Then the trail changes to a swathe of distinctive marks made by a long beak systematically thrust into the sand whilst slowly moving forward.  The trail loops and curls then goes off in another direction.  At one point it comes to a full stop: a different mark revealing where treasure has been dug up by the hunter.  
(from Spurn diary 18.5.12) 

23 June 2012


The patterns in the sand left by water as well as the patterns of the water itself have really grabbed me and given a focus to my sketchbook work.  These both present their own challenges for drawing: the water is constantly moving and, although the sand is static when I can see it, the ripples are part of such expansive areas.

On my last visit I experimented with a borrowed camera and took some little movie sequences of both.  There was a keen wind that kept the surface of the water lying on the beach moving.

I've never tried adding movies to a blog post before and I suspect they might be too large so the other ones are here, here and here. The last and longest one was taken walking across the beach looking at the ripple marks in the sand as I walked, approaching the sea.  It wobbles a bit in places but I think it shows the scale of things well, from the detail of small ripples to the expanse of water and sand stretching away.

I started to experiment with how I can create textures based on the ripples for print.  I'm developing drawings with pen into ones using stitch:

19 June 2012

wrapped up

Having undone the bundle I had left on one of the groyne bolts on my last visit I prepared to leave some more to mature for next time.  I'm trying to take marks from Spurn itself, using things that are part of the place.  Because Spurn is a Nature Reserve my work has to have no impact at all on the place.  This means that I can't pick leaves from the sea buckthorn to dye with or anything else along those lines.

The rusty metal that I am finding both on the groynes and lying around on the beach is part of the make-up of the place.  Man-made structures are very much part of Spurn's history and the things that are washed up on the beach are as much part of what Spurn is today as the sand, pebbles, seaweed and plants (whether we like it or not!).  If it wasn't for these additions then the spit probably wouldn't be in the form it is now. 

If I can use these things to make meaningful marks on paper and cloth, with little use of other materials then I feel I am really taking something from the place, making something of the place without any negative impact.  

I'm using the sea water as an agent to help me too.  I do find that the addition of tea really helps transfer marks from the rusty metal onto paper and cloth (see here for an explanation) so I am using that to help, even though that isn't something that occurs here - I have found a few old tea bags in amongst the other flotsam and jetsam, so maybe that justifies that one!  A mixture of sea water and tea from my flask to wet the fabric before wrapping it will hopefully help get things off to a good start and then they will be submerged twice a day by the North sea.


14 June 2012


There is a lushness to the plant life here that wasn’t present last time I came.  It is enriched when the sun shines.  The glaucous marram grass and sea buckthorn mingle with greener greens of bramble, elder and rose.  

There are flowers: white with lime green (which I haven’t identified) and dancing heads of lemon yellow (perennial wall-rocket).  Look closely and there are tiny pink flowers (again, my identification falls short and though I find something in my wild flower key that looks almost right I’m not sure) and bright yellow birds foot trefoil. Look even closer and there are caterpillars; not just the brown tailed moth larvae that are so abundant here but others with spectacular hairs.  A lady bird larvae hides on a leaf, an adult crosses a blade of grass a bit further along.  A beetle swims in the almost liquid sand on the steep path through the dunes to the beach; some kind of woodlouse struggles too, one I’ve never seen before.

(written on 9th June, when the sun shone between rain showers) 

11 June 2012


Walking on the beach
wandering and wondering
clearing the head
waves: constant

A morning of angst is counteracted by a walk and then a period of intense activity.

10 June 2012

rusty stuff

Some of the rusty metal on the beach is washed up with the other beach rubbish.  Some if it forms part of the sea defences.  Some of it is from broken down defences as they succumb to the relentless action of the waves.

9 June 2012

white horses

The wind is still blowing fiercely from the west but the rain has gone and there is bright blue sky between fast moving clouds (for now...).  The sun reflects off the sea turning it to liquid silver.  The waves on the Humber side (usually the calmer side of the spit) are relentless and the estuary is full of dancing white horses.  There are all sorts of greens mixed in with the browns of the water, all with constantly moving cloud shadows.  

Nothing stays the same here for any length of time.  It is difficult to know which direction to look in, what to focus on: there is so much going on.

The constant change means difficulties for drawing.  How can I capture this movement and change?

8 June 2012


On my way to Spurn today I went to Bridlington (it's kind of on the way) to visit the lovely Gallery 49 in the old town.  They are going to show my Spurn work next year and I went to have a chat about that.  The drive through East Yorkshire to Bridlington was wet and horrid and the rain continued on between there and Spurn.  When I got to Spurn the rain had just about stopped.  Finding that the road was closed due to a wash over I walked on the beach near Warren Cottage for a couple of hours and the sun even came out briefly!  The tide was right down and there was mud exposed that forms amazing peaks and troughs, very like the formations of the salt marsh over on the estuary side.

The digger cleared the road after a while so I was able to drive down to the lighthouse.  I couldn't wait to inspect my bundle on the groyne.  It was still there!  Unwrapped and rinsed in the sea I found some interesting marks on the fabric; nothing ground breaking, but a starting point.

The bundle left inside has obviously taken colour from the rusty metal but I decided this could do with another soak in sea water.  I'll leave this one longer before unwrapping.

The wind is really roaring up at the top of the lighthouse but the weather isn't as bad as I expected.  The showers are coming and going and in between there are some beautiful clear but moody views.

7 June 2012


I'm looking forward to returning to Spurn tomorrow, although the weather is horrid and looks like it is continuing like this for a few days.  I'm particlularly looking forward to getting to know the groynes a bit better!  These wooden structures for slowing the action of long-shore drift are quite dramatic and seem to feature in just about every photo of Spurn you find on Flickr.

I'm interested in the rusty metal that is often attached to these in various states of decay.  Much of my work in recent months has featured rust prints as a basis upon which I've layered other print techniques, as well as stitch.  I want to see what kind of marks I can take from the rusty objects at Spurn.  On my last visit I left a couple of experiments on site.  These have hopefully been developing and maturing and I'm looking forward to seeing what results there are.

I wrapped some metal objects I found on the beach, having first wet my fabric in sea water (the nearest sea fisherman along the beach must have thought I was bonkers; dancing around the edge of the water as the tide was coming in and trying to dodge the waves whilst dipping fabric into them).  These I left in the lighthouse.

I also wrapped one of the rusty bolts still attached to a groyne but loose.  This should be submerged in sea water every time the tide comes up.  Even after one night and one high tide it had obviously started to take on some of the rusty colour: 

My worry is that these have either worked loose and been washed away or removed by curious visitors.  Although this shouldn't be too unusual a thing to come across given that many of the groynes already have many bits of rope and broken net wound round them by the action of the waves.  As long as they remain in place and depending on the resulting marks, I plan to set up some more this weekend. 

5 June 2012

more weaving

I've recorded a couple more beach walks by weaving little squares of colour and texure from things collected on the beach.

A little snippet of plastic rope was found and collected.  As I carefully tease it apart I end up with little lengths of green that sit nicely on my narrow warp.  

These then become a block of colour in between strips of other ropes, a piece of red fabric, black plastic and held together with the linen I'm using as a base. 

 Another group of items from another walk have a very different feel to them.

Working with these gaudy bits and pieces forms an interesting contrast to my focus on the naturally occurring patterns in the Spurn landscape.  People visiting my studio over the last few days (I've been doing an open studio event) have asked what these pieces are going to be.  They aren't necessarily going to become anything other than what they are now!  I see these as a way of recording a walk; bringing together the colours and textures of a moment on the beach; combining the natural and man-made items that are mingling in the sea and on our shores.