7: The Island, St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives in Cornwall is a location that I have visited frequently for different projects in the course of my OCA degree. In particular for courses at St Ives School of Painting.

St Ives – and Cornwall itself – is a peninsula. One that is in cut off in different ways culturally and economically from the rest of England, Britain and Europe. This was shown very much in the Brexit debate focusing on fishing, but also in the movement for Cornish identity, the Cornish flag.

Planned as animation either collage Stop Motion in the style of Terry Gilliam from digital drawings in Adobe Fresco. The Text below is as submitted with Assignment 3. This still needs a lot of work to produce anything presentable – the current insertion of photos is indicative only of some of the visual inspiration I plan to draw on, as is the variety of styles.

I have a lot more text from old books in St Ives library, and interesting information from interviews with local people as part of my work on Assignment 3 Teetotal Street. I need to rethink and streamline the overall message taking into account the longer term outcomes of the Brexit vote, particularly for the Cornish Fishing industry. And meld together the Shakespeare and Donne ‘patriotic’ poems with real historical fact into a small illustrated book of wider reader interest.

The final version would I think be a rather childlike watercolour like ‘The Little Prince’ by St Exupery, with blind contour rough ink work as in the sketch above, and a disarmingly simple comic text. Done either by hand, or using Adobe Fresco watercolour brushes and Illustrator text.

Pendinas ‘the Island’ is a part of St Ives I really love. It is magical – a ‘sceptred isle set in a silver sea’ when seen at dawn from the Ayre campsite and a towering gloomy place when walking around it wishing ‘no wo/man is an island’ on a cloudy windy day. Its many faces and moods have an obvious hold on the imagination – not just mine. I had sketched around the Island for earlier OCA printmaking and illustration projects.

This text and image project started as an attempt to add some ink illustrations to the text of the tourist information board by the carpark outlining some of the history to the Island.

But in the context of the prevailing discussions around Brexit during my stays in 2019, Pendinas, my ideas on this ‘sceptred/no woman is an island’ evolved into a bringing together of the above together with new images and other historical text on St Ives as a humorous/semi-serious look at ideas of ‘Englishness’ and ‘Islands’ – bearing in mind the firm Cornish identity and calls for devolution in St Ives and the dependence on the EU and London fish markets and international tourism.

In the process I started to read more about the geology and history of St Ives and Cornwall and folk tales of stones and giants of Trencrom Hill above St Ives.

Project 2.2 Finding Texts only asked me to consider thumbnails. I produced a series of experimental watercolour-style drawings in Adobe Sketch and Adobe Draw on my iPad (see feature image above – the only original I could salvage after update to Adobe Fresco). I then brought these into Illustrator and InDesign to create comic-style mockup of 30 pages with comic images and text replacing the original text from the information board. I experimented with different digital styles on my iPad and considered visual approaches of different St Ives artists like Arthur Wallis. Wilhelmina Barnes Graham and the expressive gouaches at the Tate exhibition of Anna Boghiguian.

Draft Photobook on St Ives fishing community

Wheal Dreams is planned as a video documentary work of ‘Life on the Edge’ for the fishing community in St Ives. Shot over a day in September 2021 on my iPhone 12, it charts the activities of fishermen and tourists along Wheal Dreams where many of the fishermen used to live, but now mainly holiday lets then along Smeaton Pier where the fishing catch is landed from the boats and loaded onto vehicles for transport to the fish market.

Underpinning the video documentary are written sources on the St Ives fishing industry from St Ives Public Library, including many historical accounts from fishing families as well as contemporary on-line documentaries and conversations with fishermen themselves. A particular interest are the political nationalist edges interlinked with Cornish identity edges that were constructed around Brexit, before, after and during. There have always been historic divisions between families because of religion. And fishermen living in ‘Downalong’ see themselves as a very different species from the mining community in ‘Upalong’ in St Ives. I am also very interested in changing roles of women from fishing families with tourism. And the perceptions of different sections of the fishing community on how tourists can be less annoying while still contributing to the local economy. etc etc. Then how things are now after Brexit compared to what they thought would happen. In the light of the environmental documentary ‘Seaspiracy’ I am also myself very ambivalent about the fishing industry and eating fish and other seafood – though sympathetic also to other peoples’ needs to a livelihood.

Wheal Dreams is a continuation of preliminary background research for Visual Communications Advanced Practice Assignment 3 Teetotal Street. I got to know a number of fishermen working on the Quay just past the old settlement and Wheal Dreams that now houses the St Ives Museum. I took quite a lot of photographs that I promised to send them, intending to do a Photobook with them as part of VCAP. However returning to St Ives had to be postponed until October 2021 because of COVID. A documentary photobook is a longer-term project because I would want to really get to know different people without imposing, really understand community and political dynamics over time and work out how to integrate my own views on eating fish. For 2021 to 2022, a more realistic approach coping with COVID as next steps are:

  • to use Wheal Dreams for Illustration Sketchbooks Assignment 4 with my own sketches and narrative around the documentary ‘Seaspiracy’ and other videos on the Cornish fishing industry
  • to use Wheal Dreams for Moving Image Assignment 3: Animation in Situ

Both to be completed end of October 2021. Depending on how the iPhone video works, the documentary may be supplemented by further photographs and/or video in 2022.

I got to know a number of fishermen working on the Quay just past the old settlement and Wheal Dreams that now houses the St Ives Museum. I took quite a lot of photographs that I promised to send them, and always intended to do a Photobook with them as part of this Assignment. However this got delayed until October 2021 because of COVID.

What interests me are the very conflicting views and interests around Brexit and the fishermen. Each boat is in a sense its own Island, but the interdependence of the fishermen with each other contrasts with competition for markets. There have always been historic divisions between families because of religion. And fishermen living in ‘Downalong’ see themselves as a very different species from the mining community in ‘Upalong’ in St Ives. I am also very interested in changing roles of women with tourism. And the perceptions of different sections of the fishing community on how tourists can be less annoying while still contributing to the local economy. etc etc….

This book so far is much to messy in both concept and layout. Now my plans to revisit are definite and booked, I will mail my main contact and send him the link to the photographs to see which ones he and his friends and family like. On that basis I will then do a reselection and re-editing of the photographs with text. Adding also information from the historical books on St Ives fishing communities I scanned from the St Ives library, and also notes from discussions with my neighbour in Teetotal Street about her experiences growing up as a girl in a well-known local fishing family.

I will then redraft the book or a Photo Essay, mapping out how I can feasibly finalise it with further audience input shortly after. Possibly as part of my work for Sustaining Your Practice.

iPhone video documentary

forthcoming October 2021 onwards

A more considered documentary provoking questions about fishing in St Ives, starting with sketchbook notes and storyboard narrative for Illustration Sketchbooks 4 and filmed in September 2021 with my iPhone using my anthropological documentary skills to think how I might investigate and communicate issues like:

  • who is actually controlling the process
  • the way in which each boat is in a sense its own Island while at sea
  • but the interdependence of the fishermen with each other contrasts
  • the competition for markets and mad rush as the catch is landed.
  • future now with Brexit
  • issues raised by Seaspiracy

To be initially uploaded for feedback to Moving Image blog Assignment 3.

Depending on how the iPhone video works, the documentary may be supplemented by further photographs and/or video in 2022.

Contextual research

information from the historical books on St Ives fishing communities I scanned from the St Ives library, and also notes from discussions with my neighbour in Teetotal Street about her experiences growing up as a girl in a well-known local fishing family.

Photo Essay from local feedback