art

Inspired By the Coast with Ellie Verrecchia

"Playing with the colours of the sea in inky tones of blue and hues of turquoise is my way of connecting to the natural environment and rhythm of life here."

Ellie is an artist based in South Devon who is not only #InspiredByTheCoast, she creates her art on the Coast Path itself. We caught up with Ellie to find out more about how she approaches her work and why the Coast Path is important to her.

Ellie painting on the beach at Bantham, looking across to Burgh Island.

How is your art inspired by the coast?

My inspiration and my stomping ground is the shoreline of South Devon where I live – the soft hills, headlands, estuaries and sweeping sandy coves of the natural landscape from Noss Mayo to Bantham, and the sugary coloured buildings along the water line at Salcombe.

I seek out beautiful, natural places to set up makeshift beach studios on site, carrying my materials on my back along the South West Coast Path trail, and painting en plein air onto natural materials, mainly textural cotton paper and beach-found driftwood. Using natural textures in my materials, I create fresh and airy glimpses of the ‘secret’ Devon sea views that I love best.

I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors. Playing with the colours of the sea in inky tones of blue and hues of turquoise is my way of connecting to the natural environment and rhythm of life here. I’m interested in the natural ripples and sweeping arcs the tide leaves along the shore, and the silhouettes of sea pines, garden palms, wildflowers, and sea grasses.

Some example of Ellie’s work

Salcombe

Burgh Island

Avon Estuary

Why is the South West Coast Path so important to you?

The best thing about the Coast Path is that whilst everything around us changes, this is one thing that stays the same. The Coast Path has connected the dots of all the great beaches and villages along this part of the coast for thousands of years. I love the sense of place you get from following the very edge of England, enjoying view after view looking out to the blue horizon and the coves and cliffs below. 

There are so many ‘secret’ spots that people who can’t be bothered to walk never find. Those are always the best ones! Even at the height of summer you can find a private space to sit and read or paint. As early as February, on a sunny day, if you find yourself out of the wind you can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. 

As kids, we’d walk along these same paths in single file, swinging a stick and telling stories of smugglers and pirates, looking down at big drops and cave openings. Now that I live here permanently with my own children, I appreciate the access this trail gives us to adventures on our doorstep, and little-known lagoon spots for swimming or private coves for soaking up the sun. In the winter, I love the extended palette here near the sea – where inland areas feel grey and brown, we have blue, and green, and huge skies to enjoy watching the weather blowing across.

During lockdown, the trail gives people the chance to exercise, get out in the fresh air, and connect to strangers with a friendly smile and a good morning. I quite often notice I’m being watched as I paint by passers-by. They’re always interested to see what I’m doing and tell me about their connection to the places I’m painting, which I love.

What is it about the Coast Path that creatively inspires you?

After a big storm, I can’t wait to get down to the beach at Yarmer or Bantham and see what’s washed up. Pieces of driftwood, smashed fruit crate, and beach rope all give me ideas for tiny paintings or sea baskets to weave and make. You just never know what you’ll find! Sometimes, I don’t find anything of note… or someone else got there first! I usually carry pieces of handmade cotton paper for these times. 

Made in southern India from recycled t-shirt factory offcuts, this is a heavy textural paper with an organic rough edge that takes my quick sketch style of painting, leaving space for the natural material to show through. Carrying everything on my back I have to be quite selective with what I bring. A jam jar of water, something to lean on, masking tape so my painting doesn’t blow away (it’s happened..). A few favourite brushes, and a limited palette of quick-drying acrylic paints in blues, white, green, pink and grey are usually all I need to play with the colours I can see in the water, sand, cliffs and the rough native coastal plants. My favourite is thrift, or sea pinks – somehow the prettiest flowers survive the harshest of climates.

To see more of Ellie’s work follow her on Instagram @EVpaintsthesea or visit her website www.ellieverrecchia.co.uk You can also find her in the artists section of the Brownston Gallery website www.brownstonart.com

You can also get your coastal fix during lockdown by joining a FREE virtual art exhibition thanks to The Brownston Gallery. The show titled ‘Marks of nature’ includes three artists each presenting a new body of work inspired by the beauty and wonder of the coastline and countryside of the South West. Ellie Verrechia along with Joe Webster and John Grice each have very different styles but show their love of this beautiful and diverse part of the world in their wonderful paintings of bluebells woods, lush hedgerows, English gardens and stunning coastlines.

Marks of nature

VIEW WORKS

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