Sidmouth Stacks (5×12) oil on panel Share this:

Sidmouth Stacks (5×12) oil on panel

by Andy Parker

When JMW Turner painted Sidmouth, there was a huge stack of red stone stood off the seafront. the remains of a long-ago desert, eroded into a single pillar of rock and pointing up the sky prophetically. Of course, by the time that I turned up on the fourth leg of my 3000-mile bike trip following in his footsteps, it had long since fallen over and disappeared – leaving out to sea, a flat unbroken horizon line and looking inland, a row of people eating ice-creams in deck chairs, or huddled in the rain in the bus shelter. So much for that, then.

However, looking over the cliff from the nearby caravan site where I was staying, I discovered there was a fabulous selection of these same red-stone stacks just below. Result! I ran off half a dozen of these evocative pillars onto the largest panels I carried (1ox12″), three in the first morning alone. A rare chance to use so much red ochre too and the texture of the rock allowed me more impasto than I’d normally use outdoors…

Pursued by curious cows, I hid in the fold of the hills that shielded me from their view, to paint this one. Having painted the rocks close up, here allowed me to look back towards the caravan site and distant Sidmouth (roughly behind the standing stone in the middle of the picture). Cows apparently are intrigued by anything that relieves the boredom of the average day and today, I was it. Nibbling at my pockets, nudging me gently or snuffling around the rucksack and brushes stuck in the ground soon made it impossible to concentrate. Each time I moved, they followed, so a quick tactical retreat was called for and eventually achieved the desired result.

The glorious red of the rocks could change dramatically in the light of the day, from dawn to dusk and the same viewpoint could be, and was, rendered in blues and purples later on. From the top of the cliffs overlooking the town, you can see the point on the distant coast where the cliffs change from red to the familiar chalk white of the south coast, that carries right around to Dover…