Last week I went to see the Exeter University Geology department over at Tremough Campus to test my Bissoe samples for any radiation or dangerous heavy metals.
Thankfully, all my samples are safe to use in my paintings and having input from specialists has put my mind at rest. It's important to have that extra level of safety now I am working with mining materials.
The mineral processing team who I was working with were so accommodating and helpful, not only helping me test the samples but also giving me advice and sharing their knowledge about mining history in Cornwall.
Back in the studio this week, I started out processing and documenting the samples from my trip. I labelled each pigment with 'BI' standing for 'Bissoe', followed by the number of each sample that had been created when testing at Tremough.
Today I have been preparing everything I needed ready to start the first Bissoe painting. I built a stretcher frame, bought a new roll of canvas and cut a piece to the 42" x 50" size I am working with.
I have been working on building up layers of washes for the painting ground, letting the pigments dictate where the painting ends up. Letting water move the pigments around the canvas; drying, dripping and pooling to form patterns, textures and marks.
What I felt was really successful when I made the Excavation paintings in Wales were the layers I managed to build up - which reminded me of the film-like sheets of paint that Ian McKeever makes use of in his atmospheric paintings.
I moved my studio around a little this morning, giving myself some more floor space in order to be able to give these paintings the room they need - as I was able to do in Wales when I had a much larger studio. This way, I can leave the canvas to dry on the floor to let the pigments form interesting textures as they move with the water I have applied to fill all the crevices in the fabric.
Thinking ahead of the degree show, I am keen on the idea of having at least two paintings of each location I am making work about. Hopefully, there will be four or five locations, so a minimum of eight paintings in total, all 42" x 50" in size. The idea would be that the 'best' painting that represents each location would be hung in my degree show set-up.
After doing some research, I have decided that my next field trip will be around the Geevor area. Due to Geevor being so far away from Falmouth, I want to make the most of the trip by fitting in a few different locations at once.
I would join the South West Coast Path at Wheale Owles, carry on along the coast path and stop again at Botallack Mine. I would then continue on until Geevor, to take samples from the landscape around the Levant Mine.
The walk would leave me with three locations for collecting samples, meaning I could choose which two were the best in terms of making paintings from them. The fourth location will hopefully be at one of the kaolin pits in St Austell, for which I am putting plans in place for by reaching out to Imerys, who own most of the china clay quarries there.
To these paintings I will also be adding some stitching and drawing, which will come into play once a few more layers of paint have been added and the piece has more shape. I am also hoping to work on multiple pieces at once to allow for a more efficient studio workflow, so I can always be working on something whilst another piece dries.
My aim is to work on these Bissoe paintings solely for the rest of this and next week, whilst also making supporting work on paper and wooden panels. The week after I plan to head out on my field trip to Geevor to collect pigment samples for the following body of paintings. Degree show preparation is well and truly underway...