I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
Masefield 1902

Once on the beach I struck up a conversation with another walker and was asked “Is always windy here?” Since the view out across the waves if followed would not strike land until the Americas there was really only one answer. “No we occasionally have calm days too.” But rarely calm seas
Seaford is exhilarating when the wind howls and blows salt spray 60feet high across the town, the call of the sea unmistakeable. The cold grey green of the waves and the white spume are a far different colour base to still waters. The exposed coast with the crumbling chalk cliffs makes for an intensity of physical experience, but for the visual riches something calmer, clearer and more sheltered is needed.
In my wanderings over the last 20 years I have always found the attraction of harbours irresistible. Some harbours are full of flotsam and jetsam, with rubbish and rusting hulks rotting away at quaysides. Others are fenced off for the rich yachties with their totties, but the working harbours, where sea walls and quaysides allow a wanderer to be entranced by the working boats and the colour and activity that they bring in their wake are the ones to be enjoyed most.

Working boats provide interest and contrasts here at a dock in Northumberland

The nearest quaysides to Seaford are Newhaven and Eastbourne. In neither case is it possible to stroll the quayside easily as the elf* has erected barriers to prevent the public getting close to the working areas. This is quite unlike other small ports where fishermen gut and sell their fish straight off the deck after mooring.

An abstract z made by dock and fishing boats light and dark in symmetrical patterning in Hout Bay SA

Norway is a sea-oriented society, a Viking inheritance, and their ports are the heart of much of their life. The oil docks are fenced off but the smaller fishing boats and areas with heritage craft are part of a living quayside environment that has posh offices, restaurants and pubs as well as the places for working boats and fisherfolk.

Ripples in a placid dock in Bergen Norway with sharp accents of blue and gold playing against the grey of the Norwegian Sea early in the morning

Larger ports like the Victoria and Albert harbour to Cape Town take a similar approach, mixing working areas with restaurants and pubs but applying fencing only where the activities are so industrial they would be dangerous for people like me who have eyes only for image making. Our planners are frequently a dead hand – how often I have dreamt of making a home in an industrial unit that would allow me to mix living with a large-scale studio space, but here it is not permitted. Older dock areas, along the Lune for example, could benefit from a more relaxed approach

Tourist boat banners reflected in the tranquil waters of the Victoria and Albert Dock in Cape Town, South Africa

I walk with a camera and collect images along coasts wherever I am. Occasionally they are of the quality of holiday snapshots which are collected after each trip and made into a memory book for continuing pleasure, sometimes they make stories, but often they are collected for their own sake. I look for the things that have fascinated me in making paintings – colour balance and contrasts, symmetry and asymmetry.

Complimentary colours ripple and reflect from nets and boat in Newhaven’s docks  


Flat blue ripples softly in reflection from a boat in Eastbourne’s. Intensity and then toning infinitely harbour moorings                          As I have written before, seeing art in life and nature only needs the right vision and mindset, a camera and an eye. Since Duchamp and the philosophical journeys of many following (Cage etc.) is it necessary anymore to take such visions through another media? Is this photography’s happy time, shortly to be replaced by video or will we be inevitably seeing all such image making routed by AI?

Another sunny afternoon Newhaven harbour fishing boat reflections

On quiet days I like to construct visual stories of my walks, but in such efforts I cannot compare to the stories of Andy Marshall . However, I can make images that stand well when printed out, looking for those abstract values that fascinate my inner eye. Andy says “I was so taken by the beauty of it all that I didn’t photograph it. It was that good”. When I get back and start going through the images I find more beauty than maybe I saw at the time.

Ripples reflect on a grey ship side reminiscent of Hockneys swimming pool surface, the detail of the rope and the sharp accent of the orange lamp behind making a sharp contrapuntal mark balancing the black port. A composition of intensity versus calm

Tyres are a standard buffer it seems, this in Stavanger, Norway with buildings reflected on the water

So, I play. Because of my history of cancer and operations I am in isolation, but it doesn’t seem so very different from everyday life before. The joy is my OH is constrained to staying home too and that is a real pleasure. Finding my imagery anew is keeping me thinking and maybe, just maybe, I’ll gain the impetus to return to the studio. Meanwhile I will continue to delight in orgies of colour and pattern.

Reflection and ripples from boats in a harbour at Lymington

*the Health and Safety Executive are ‘the Elf’

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All images are available  as ‘C’ type prints mounted on aero board. I have one printed out at 2 feet square and it looks sensational. Enquire via the email link on this site. Guide price on foamboard backing about £150, printed on aluminium £450 (plus p&p)