‘The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.’ Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographer
I have been interested in conservation from an early age, whether it be human or environmental, and have often been inspired to create artworks based on my research. Most artists are intrinsically fascinated with their environment and the sea is no exception: painters, poets, sculptors, filmmakers and musicians have each aspired to capture that elusive vitality of the ocean and our relation to it. In exploring our human connection to the sea, I wanted to capture some of the unique lifestyles of those around the English coastline whose livelihoods depend on the ocean.
It is now just over one year since I last visited the Cornish village of Polperro on holiday and explored its narrow cobbled streets once again. During that summer of 2016, I was invited by local artist Regina Farrell, a member of the British Association of Naive Artists, to exhibit my work in her pretty art gallery on the harbour. I have since been fortunate to have sold some of my favourite original oil paintings and limited edition prints to visiting holidaymakers.
Whilst visiting the area, the stories of local fishermen’s wives captured my interest, some of whom told me their husbands have turned to the tourist industry for a more stable income. Set in a beautiful 12th century harbour, the village’s source of revenue originally came from smuggling and fishing. For centuries, pilchard fishing was the predominant occupation, however shoals of pilchards diminished in the 1900s and it ceased to be the mainstay in the 1960s. Tourism became the main industry during the 20th century, forcing some families to abandon fishing and transform their boats into tourist vessels. At the time we visited, there were currently around a dozen fishing boats in operation, employing over 30 local fishermen. Although I enjoyed our boat trip, it seemed a shame that the fishermen couldn’t be out on the waves, working in a job which they loved and was a part of their heritage.
There is currently a real urgency for marine conservation and the work of artists are vital in helping to secure the protection of our heritage and environment, whilst ensuring the delicate balance between our human need and what resources are available. Artists are uniquely placed to capture people’s imaginations and raise awareness of endangered places and traditions. Fishing in vast quantities may not be sustainable for the planet, but it is important that this way of life continues sustainably for those whose livelihoods depend on an incredibly tough fishing industry and who live in accordance with the ocean. I love the name of this particular Polperro fishing boat, as I feel it is emblematic for the future livelihoods of those who depend on the fishing industry.
This painting is still a work in progress due to some exciting commissions which I will soon be revealing. However I’m looking forward to finishing the painting and adding to my series of Polperro artworks. You can see some of my (finished!) original oil paintings and limited edition prints in person at Gina’s Art Studio, Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall, UK …