Local artist John Dyer reveals why Cornwall inspires his paintings
This week we have teamed up with local artist John Dyer, to get an insiders' guide on how and why Cornwall inspires his paintings.
What do you love about most Cornwall?
The light, the landscape, the space, the people, the plants and yes, the weather, all combine to make Cornwall my geographical soul mate.
When the sun comes out in Cornwall, the landscape fills with colour, the light pours over the vegetation filling each leaf with radiant colours and cool waters into Mediterranean delights. I love living in Cornwall, and I love painting.
I spend every day that I can out and about painting what I see:
Bright colours, sunshine and fun, small dogs with damp noses, peeling paint and peeling people. Shells on the beach, sea spray in the air, jazz bands in bandstands, picnics on cliff tops, bright coloured smocks, cactus plants on walls, and banana plants in the park. Small coves, huge Atlantic beaches, surf and still waters, the red moon on the horizon and stars, comets, and crickets. Lighthouses and cottages, fishing boats and floats, theatre on the cliff, getting married on the beach, clear air and big skies. Seagulls, greedy gulls, and silly gulls. Buckets of crabs, fishermen in yellow oilskins, cats steeling fish, sea pinks and mermaids, ferry boats and flags.
These are just some of the things that inspire my paintings. My work documents my trips out into the landscape and the things that I enjoy. Through my paintings I hope to lift peoples spirits and provide an optimistic outlook on life. I grew up on the north coast of Cornwall at Holywell Bay near Newquay. My childhood was filled with endless days of playing in the sand dunes, sunshine, skateboarding, swimming, body boarding and lots and lots of photography, drawing and painting.
Where it all began
When I moved to London in 1987 to study for my arts degree I began to finally really see Cornwall. It was only by taking a distant view that my understanding of Cornwall become focused. At the end of 1989, while on my degree course, I was selected for a travelling arts award and was sent to the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil to make a fine art photographic study of the plants and forms.
I experienced a huge amount during those weeks in Brazil and it led me back to my home of Cornwall. During my amazon adventure I made a decision to only pursue my paintings, as the plant forms and colours in Brazil reminded me so much of Cornwall and I was desperate to explore this to the full. My camera was too limiting, I needed to express more of my inner passion.
The second decision was to return to Cornwall to paint full time. My optimistic, energetic and life loving paintings immediately found an audience in Cornwall that connected to them and loved them. I moved back and set up my studio in Falmouth where I still live and work today.
I now have a need to celebrate life and the landscape. This has kept me painting for over 25 years now, and the need grows stronger each year. Every new canvas is exciting, every colour that I squeeze out onto my paper plates takes me on a journey, every brush stroke is a memory, a future and a present, but it is the focus on the present that fuels my work.
I love the saying ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.’ I love all my presents, thank you Cornwall for being so generous.
Must see sight?
The fiery sunsets on the north Cornish Coast - simply stunning. And dolphins swimming around St Michael’s Mount or in Falmouth Bay. The amazing Tresco Abbey Gardens.
Must do experience?
Canoeing along the inlets of the Fal River, watching the fish swimming beneath the water, listing to the oyster catchers and curlews.
Most people don’t know but…
Cornwall has one of the best climates in the world for growing Tea ! In 1836 Falmouth was the port that Charles Darwin came back to after his long journey on the Beagle - it must have been as exciting as receiving an Apollo Moon Landing capsule back from a voyage.
Good value tourist ticket you can buy?
The Fal River Mussel Card - if you have had enough of the car and want to save some money then grab one of these to make the river links around the Fal work for you.
Souvenir you must take home?
An original painting!
Local delicacies to try?
The wonderful Cornish Cheeses, yummy !
I love the locally produced Helford Creek Apple Juices - cheers !
Best viewing spot?
There are so many - what to choose ? I do love viewing the Lighthouse and the wonderful beach full of seals at Godrevy.
Best place to explore on your own?
The wonderful Cornish Gardens like Heligan, Tresco Abbey Gardens, Trebah and Glendurgan.
Best place to see with a guide?
The Eden Project. If you can get a guide for Eden then do - you will learn so much more than just reading the signs. I have spent many days at the project as their artist in residence and used to go in at 7am with the ‘green team’. I love being shown the latest fruits, flowers, tastes, smells and plant connections. It really is worth going around with an expert.
The best place for shopping?
For interesting gifts and objet d’art then Falmouth is hard to beat. So I think Falmouth wins my vote, it even has an M&S !
Where is a must-visit which will keep the kids entertained?
Trebah Gardens near Falmouth. My children love the mixture of the very tropical and jungle like plants combined with an idyllic beach, zip wire and climbing equipment - it really is hard to beat.
When you come to Cornwall don’t just dash from one experience to the next. Sit down and let the world go past you. It slows time down, it’s relaxing and the world will eventually slow down and interact with you too. Try it and see what happens. While you are sitting there, get your drawing book out and record what you see, really look and really enjoy. Life’s amazing.