Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Colour Collaborative: July: Sail

Hello there.

A huge thank you to Annie and the collaborators for letting me guest post for The Colour Collaborative this month. When asked I said yes immediately, without stopping to think that the post I wrote would have to actually fit the brief. No wandering off and processing on the page for me. And I have to say I rather enjoyed the challenge. I hope you enjoy my interpretation of this month's theme.


If you follow the road that leads into town from the Tate Gallery, and keep following it left up Back Road West, you will find a small granite cottage, with a plaque above a brown front door that reads:

 Alfred Wallis
 artist and mariner
 lived here

You may know about Wallace already. He was discovered by the artist Ben Nicholson, who on passing Wallace's cottage, noticed his paintings hung all over the walls. He was enthralled by the art he saw and by Wallace himself. Wallace's work was inspirational for Nicholson's own development as an artist, and the naive quality of his paintings were highly influential in the development of British Modernism.

Alfred Wallis is a bit of a hero of mine too. This is a man who after the death of his wife, started painting. He was seventy. He said he did it 'for company.' I have this mental image of him picking up a brush, dipping it into a pot of marine paint and conjuring up a boat from his memory banks. For a person such as myself who over-thinks everything, I find this remarkable. He just got on and did it. He wasn't concerned with any intellectual pursuit that often accompanies artistic endeavour. Wallace painted because it made him feel better.

He used a limited colour palette of sludgy grey, brown, pungent green, black and blue. These are not the colours that you would expect from a man living a stone's throw away from a beach that can boast the whitest sand and the bluest sea in the UK. But for me they are perfectly in tune with the colours of West Cornwall. They are muted and pared back, synonymous with it's coastline and surrounding countryside.

These are the colours that I am drawn to. They are the flat mat colours of land and sea mingling together at the water's edge, where pebbles are rolled over and over in the ebb and flow of the tide. They are the colours of seaweed and anenomes waiting to be found in rock pools. These colours reflect a natural form that encircles St Ives in the sweep of its' bay.They capture the smell and flavour of a sea that is not dotted with bright yellow surf boards or jet skis. These are the colours of St Ives when the tourists go home.

They are also the colours of St Ives in the days of Wallace, before the candy cane windbreak came along. The life of a Cornish fisherman was hard, and these colours create a sense of that too. Even though St Ives is known to be a mecca for artists and writers, it's roots lie in the toil of the sea and the land. These colours are hardworking and honest, rather like Wallace himself. They tell of a man who lived a hard life at sea, and navigated more rough waters throughout his lifetime.

Wallace's paintings are small and seemingly unassuming. But they draw you in. The grey and black of the sea as his boats set a course through it, is full of movement and mystery. It conveys the idea of adventure and danger. The boats themselves are simply drawn, but exquisite. They are going places before your eyes, as they chart a course out into the Atlantic, and set sail for new horizons.

But above all it is the colours that I love. Those earthy honest colours that I see around me as I walk the beaches and coastline of St Ives and the surrounding area. These are unpretentious colours, that don't need an explanation. They soothe me and give me another connection to a place that I have fallen in love with. The colours of an Alfred Wallace painting tell me that I am home.

Leanne xx


If you'd like to read the sail posts by other Colour Collaborative bloggers please follow the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.


  1. What a lovely post Leanne, with some really beautiful photos. I love hearing stories like this one, where the most unlikely people, at unlikely times in their lives, have done something amazing. It's inspirational. It makes me think that there aren't really any excuses for not giving things a try. CJ xx

  2. This is a lovely post Leanne. Colour in nature is everywhere and sometimes easy to overlook because we're used to seeing it I guess. This summer has been particularly colourful for some reason, or perhaps I'm just using my eyes better with less distraction xx

  3. I have heard of this man before both from visiting St Ives and somewhere else, the radio maybe? His story is inspirational.

    Your photos are beautiful and really capture St Ives.

  4. A lovely post and I have seen a little of Wallis' work before and I know exactly what you mean. I love the idea of them summing up St Ives without tourists, that a St Ives I've never seen!

    S x

  5. What a beautiful post Leanne. I love your writing style and it just shines through in this post as does your love of St Ives. I have seen some pictures of Wallace's work, and I love them too. Your pictures are so lovely and so reminiscent of St Ives in every way, with wonderful touches of the colours that you describe as well. xx

  6. Oh, I love your words. You have taken me to a place and to meet a person I have a vague recollection of hearing about. Now I am going to go and seek him out and look at his paintings and try to feel some of the emotion that you have caught here. Brilliant. Thank you x

  7. Beautiful post and stunning photos x

  8. Amazing post! Well done Leanne, well done. I am off to research this artist you mention, now is it Wallis or Wallace? Hmmmmm. I'll try both!

  9. Oh my! I loved this!! Something I never tire of when it comes to the Colour Collaborative is the surprises people have in store for us when writing to our theme. I don't know why it didn't occur to me you might take Wallis as your subject - I'm particularly fond of 'Harbour, St Ives' - but I'm so glad that you did. And your photographs of the locality that match his palette are just perfect. Thank you so much for taking part, and for sharing your passion for your home ground with us.

  10. I really enjoyed your post, Leanne. I'm not familiar with Wallis' work, but I will look him up and acclimate myself now. Your photos really reflect your descriptions of his work. I enjoyed all of them. I'm really glad you participated. :)

  11. Oh, Leanne, what a wonderful post. Beautifully written, and clearly from the heart, and with such perfect photos too. I really enjoyed this. x

  12. I love your photos - I too like the more muted coastal shades (and tend to over think things) - maybe it's time to get those paints and brushes out of the sideboard!
    Sarah x

  13. Lovely post with photos that really echo the stark simplicity of Wallis' work.About 10 or so years ago when I was in St.Ives I visited the Tate and there happened to be a small exhibition of his work.I bought three postcards of his paintings ...for very little money...then when I got home I had them mounted and framed ,one above the other ,very simply...but for rather more money ...! Wherever I've lived since,this has been a favourite to hang on my wall.
    I love the fact that he painted on anything he had around, no matter how small...a piece of cardboard box, even a biscuit tin .
    You have taken me right back to beautiful Cornwall with this post and your beautiful evocative photos...thankyou ,Leeanne .

  14. Fantastic post Leanne. Those photos are beautiful and the words are so well chosen. Clearly a very special place - and it makes me want to visit St Ives again! x

  15. Such a beautiful post, really bringing to life an incredible person and an equally incredible place! The photos are so crisp and colourful, I can feel the sea air, even though I'm writing from the Downs! These blues and neutral hues are my favourites... ;-) Chrissie x

  16. I didn't know about Alfred Wallis until today and have enjoyed your lovely post and looking at images of his paintings on the internet - thank you for the introduction Leanne. You've captured the spirit of his paintings and his colour pallete beautifully. Have a great weekend.
    Jane x

  17. I loved this post Leanne. Beautiful. Your photographs perfectly illustrate your words.

  18. This post is so beautifully written, it is hard to write about colour, but you have evoked the tones of the colours you described with such an eye for truth, and with words to match. Really beautiful.