Artistic Enrichment in St Ives, Cornwall

“We all fell in love with the place and everything it has to offer, and we cannot wait to visit again in the future!”

28 September 2023

Over the Short Exeat, Mrs Mortimer (Director of Creative Arts) and Mrs Lamont (Teacher of Art) accompanied 17 of our Creative Arts Award Holders, along with Upper Sixth artists and photographers, for several full days of artistic enrichment in St Ives, Cornwall. 

St Ives in Cornwall has always had strong artistic connections, but things really took off during the Second World War when the artists Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson moved from London and took studios in the town. Other artists were attracted to the region and St Ives became an important international hub for the arts. Today it remains one of the most vibrant regions in the UK in terms of creativity and for many years we have taken our students to this special place to visit galleries and work with local practitioners.
– Mrs Mortimer (Director of Creative Arts)

With a sketchbook tour of the Tate and town led by land artist Greg Humphries, a day at Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens near Penzance, a workshop at St Ives School of Painting, and even a soap carving workshop, the group were immersed in creative activities. 

Read on to hear from some of our Sixth Form artists about their experience on the trip. Ours thanks go to Sinling, Joann, Clothylde, Hannah, Lilias and Astrid.

Days 1 & 2

After arriving in St Ives and checking into our accommodation, we enjoyed wonderful meal at Blas Burgerworks on Thursday night, before an inspiring weekend ahead of art.

On Friday morning, we walked along the coastline to Tate St Ives for our first activity with artist Greg Humphries. He took us through a series of drawing exercises inspired by local artists and other pieces on show at the Gallery. It was really insightful evaluating the different pieces and exploring which aspects we found interesting, or that did not particularly chime with us; which aided in revealing the types of art we connect with. We also examined Barbara Hepworth’s intriguing sculptures, which use negative and positive space to guide the viewer’s eyes around the sculpture, encouraging movement around the piece. Another artist of interest was Sol LeWitt, who challenged whether it is ‘the idea’ or ‘the final piece’ that should be seen as the artwork. We explored his large scale piece Wall Drawing #1136, which required a 32 page instruction manual given to the gallery in order to install it!

For Lunch we were given free time to explore the town and experience the artistic atmosphere of St Ives. We resumed our activities with Greg Humphries in the afternoon, starting with an eight-line seascape piece inspired by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. Subsequently, we explored the town with Greg, studying the iconic rooftops of St Ives as well making some observational drawings.

We finished off our day in the pop-up Dada Lounge, a space with live music and poetry performances which exhibits art from local artists. Finally, we enjoyed the sunset on the beach in the company of our friends.   

Day 3  

Today, we took a tour through the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens. We were guided by Neil Armstrong, and no, not the Neil Armstrong who went to the moon! Our Neil Armstrong stayed very much on the ground and worked on the sculpture-filled, tropical landscape that we saw today. In fact, he owns the Gardens, so it was an honour to be toured around by the man himself! 

It was fascinating to learn about how the art didn’t just reside in the sculptures, but in the landscaping and detailed arrangement of foliage and trees. Sculptures we saw came from all over the world, including Japan, Dubai, Germany and America, as well as from the local area. It was tremendous fun to learn about the meanings and hidden details in the sculptures that we definitely may not have noticed without Neil’s expert knowledge. Lunch today was in the café at the Gardens, and everyone had so much fun sketching, doing photography and talking about art. And as if the day could not be better, we were blessed with wonderful weather – sun all day!  

In the evening, for a more hands-on activity, we created Barbara Hepworth and Cornish artist-inspired sculptures with Rowena Tarplee, out of bars of soap! The bars of soap were soft and satisfying to carve – a very therapeutic activity and the perfect way to end a fun-packed day.  So, thanks to our brilliant art teachers for organising this today, it was amazing! 

Day 4   

Today, we went to Porthmeor Studios to work with practising St Ives artist and Falmouth University lecturer, Camilla Dixon. The studios are situated on Porthmeor Beach, and we were fortunate enough to have a studio which had a large window with an uninterrupted sea view – it was an incredibly inspiring place to work for the day. Camilla introduced us to the style of drawing she wanted us to undertake before we set out into the harbour area of St Ives to do some, rather blustery, Plein Air Sketching! We worked in an abstract style, focusing on line, shape, and overlapping forms. We produced a large body of work that provided us with some incredible visual information.

After lunch, we used a viewfinder to isolate areas of our drawings and produced a page of abstract thumbnail sketches. Camilla encouraged us to use these to produce a painting, sculpture, or textile design outcome. Considering we all had the same starting point; the work was extremely exciting and diverse. Camilla then kindly offered to give us a tour of her new studio at the St Ives Guild Hall – it was exciting to get to experience what a practising artist’s studio is like, and hear about Camilla’s creative journey.

For dinner that night we headed back to Porthmeor Beach where we were treated to some incredibly delicious food. Our tables were in little heated booths outside that looked directly over the ocean – it was lovely to hear the surf crashing as we ate!  

Our conclusion 

Our trip to St Ives was truly inspiring and we take back with us a host of new techniques and approaches that we can apply to further studies, as well as plenty to add to our GCSE and A Level sketchbooks. We all fell in love with the place and everything it has to offer, and we cannot wait to visit again in the future.

The artists that we worked with were bowled over by the talent of our wonderful Downe House students, and we could not be prouder of how they engaged with and extracted the most from every experience.
– Mrs Mortimer (Director of Creative Arts)

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See the full Flickr album from the trip here:
Creative Arts Trip to St Ives

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