A Visit to Porthmeor Studios, St Ives

Who doesn’t love St Ives! and with the September Festival running with the studios at Porthmeor Studios open to the public we made a last minute decision to visit.

St Ives is known for its light.. and its very true. It was a morning of low cloud, but the sun was burning through and sparkling on the water

View out of the harbour

View out of the harbour

My other motive for visiting was to see my charity postcard displayed in the St Ives Rotary Club Annual Auction, where my painted card was sat among very prestigious art company.

My Seascape Postcard is in the middle/

My Seascape Postcard is in the middle

Window over Porthmeor Beach from the loft studio

Window over Porthmeor Beach from the loft studio

The studios didn’t disappoint. Run by a charity, The Borlase Smart John Wells Trust, they have been restored beautifully and looking at the photos of how they were, were in dire need of help. Some created from the net lofts, more studios were added on top of the fishermans cellars, using brick and pipes from mine shafts and huge lengths of timber.

Still keeping their individuality, some now have white painted floorboards, most have enormous woodburners and all have beautiful large windows looking out over Porthmeor Beach from where the clear bright luminous light from the beach can stream in.

For many years it was also the home of the St Ives School of Painting and they now run a very successful calendar of short art courses

With a vibrant history of past artists including Ben Nicholson Patrick Heron and Francis Bacon they ooze kudos and style. With the opportunity to speak with several of the artists, we managed to get a little insight into the thoughts of the abstract artist including Iain Robertson, Gareth Edwards, Sax Impey, Noami Frears, John Emanuel and Felicity Mara. I loved Felicity’s work. She was working on a piece, inspired by the colours of Bonnard, my favourite impressionist.

John Emanuel was loving the open studios. He is the oldest, longest occupant still resident at the studios, since 1983. A gentle man with a twinkle in his eye and soft northern accent he gave us a potted history and delved into his plan chests to dig out pieces of work he completed years ago and also quick sketches he loves to do. He had one of the biggest studios, but with the remodelling it was halved but still remains spacious with new large windows over the entire North Eastern wall over the beach. The original windows blew in and destoyed some his work in a winter storm in 2008 and may have been pivotal in the trust securing the funding to start restoration.

I had never heard of John Emanuel. He told us he regularly sent work to London and an art dealer and he exhibited all over the country and in St Ives. We were very taken with his work. He married figurative with landscape, so the two merged, finding human form in the landscape wherever he could. It’s an idea I played with, but am now thinking I should explore more.

He had a few works for sale dotted around the studio, all telling a story, but Don spotted something in one of the drawers and asked him if it was for sale. Yes it was… so we bought it.

I did a little research on the web when we got back to the Bed and Breakfast and discovered he was 83!. What a marvellous man. Nothing pretentious or arty, just genuine, modest and a real people person. I think he would have had more than a few stories to tell. When we collected the painting, he remembered we were from Bude and wrapped it very carefully, and gave me a lovely wry smile and a kiss on the cheek.

It was a moment and a man who will be remembered always.

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