LET'S MAKE ART ON THE BEACHES
Here are instructions for some of the activities that we did on the 'Let's Make Art On The Beaches' sessions that took place in September and October 2021. You can find out how to make paint from the cliffs, make the cliffs, make magic watercolour paintings and print with the sun. Keep scrolling down until you find the activity you are interested in.
Over the next 30 mins or so it will re-hydrate.
You can stir and smush it with a stick or with your hands to speed up the process.
Once it is a smooth runny paste, you can use it like paint!
If you want to make the paint more permanent (in this raw state, it will mostly brush off the paper once it has dried) once you have a runny paste, add what would be about a third of pva glue and stir it in.
Making Paint from the Cliffs - Burton Bradstock
The cliffs to the East of Burton Bradstock are mostly a grey clay called Frome Clay. When it has rained alot, this oozes down from the cliffs right onto the beach, making pools and shiny rivulets that make their way down the beach. The cliff face can become gooey to the touch, and very dangerous to try and climb on.
To make the paint, start by scooping some of this out of the cliff face, or find a drier section and tease a couple of small lumps out, then pop this into a container and cover with water.
Making Paint from the cliffs - East Beach West Bay
The Cliffs to the West of Burton Bradstock and on East Beach West Bay are a wonderful gold colour and are made from 'Bridport Sandstone'. These cliffs are striped with layers of soft sandstone and harder layers ( the thinner lines that stick out a bit).
The sandstone from the soft and crumbly layers is very easy to dig or scrape off the cliff face. Read that again, and realise that this means it is very unstable, as a towering cliff.
Please gather your small samples of sandstone from the lower section right near the start of the cliffs, do not spend time under the very tall cliffs; there are often large cliff falls here, especially after heavy rain, or very dry spells, or other times.
This sandstone crushes very easily. Put some into a container and find a stone or stick to crush the sample into a powder.
Once you have a powder without big lumps in, start adding water and stirring until you have paint the consistency that you want.
You can now use it like paint!
As before, if you want to make the paint more permanent (in this raw state, it will mostly brush off the paper once it has dried) once you have made a runny paste, add what would be around a third of PVA and stir it in.
Making Paint from the Cliffs - Charmouth West Beach
The blackish cliffs at Charmouth West Beach, or 'Black Ven' are made from shale which is made up of layers and layers mudstone. You can easily pick off a small sample from the cliff face. It comes off in thin 'sheets'. This is a slightly longer process than the two above and you will need a pestle and motar.
Once you have your sample, break it up into little pieces - you can use your hands mostly.... bashing it with a stick or the pestle seems to make it go a bit claggy.
When you have lots of smallish pieces (around the size of a 1p piece or smaller) pour over some water so that it covers your pieces.
Then stir, smush, press and grind the pieces in the water until you end up with a smooth runny paste.
You might have to help the process by getting your hands involved. Find small lumps in the liquid, squeeze and rub them between your fingers until they dissolve.
If you want to make the paint more permanent (in this raw state, it will mostly brush off the paper once it has dried) you can add PVA glue to your paint once you have made it into a smooth paste. Guess at what would be about one third of the paint and add that much glue.
Making The Towering Cliffs at Burton Bradstock
This sounds quite ambitious doesn't it! but we really can make anything happen with cardboard!
Cut up lots of strips of cardboard. You will need to get a grown up to do this for you as it is best if you can use 'double walled' cardboard because it is really thick and the cross section has a cool texture.
You will also need a square of cardboard that is bigger than your strips that will become the base of your cliffs ( the beach).
Stick on the strips one on top of the other, using PVA glue, you don't need much glue, press the strip down onto the others and count to 10, then it should be stuck. If you have used too much glue it will take longer to stick!
How high will you go? the actual cliffs are 40 meters high........
Once you are happy that your towering cliff is tall enough, you can paint it. We used paint made from the golden sandstone that the cliffs are made from (see above, west bay). We mixed it will PVA glue so that the paint would be permanent.
Some people added small pebbles (or pea grit as it is called when it is this small) at the bottom of their cliffs to make it look like the beach, which was pretty cool!
Watercolours and Magic
We made pictures using liquid watercolours and salt, we also had a play with oil pastels too. The watercolours that I use aren't the ones that come in a flat pans or even in a tube, these are 'liquid watercolours' and the colours are wonderfully intense. You can get them here, or more expensive but more widely available are 'Ecoline liquid watercolours' from artshops. I think you would be able to get the effect with watercolours from a tube but you will struggle if you use cheap pans. You will also need some thick watercolour paper which you can get from art shops or The Works for example.
I set out to show you this process because it uses salt, and we were by the salty sea, so that seemed to fit. Once we had made our pictures I was struck by how it made patterns that are like the colonies of Honeycomb Worms that you can find at the far West of Charmouth beach. There are also a few on the old concrete groins on the beach near the steps.
To get this effect, you need to put lots of paint onto your paper. Use thick, watercolour paper that will be able to handle getting so wet. Put different colours on top of each other, make sure that it is really wet.
While it is still really wet, sprinkle salt over your picture. You can use table salt or rock salt. The salt sucks in the top layer of paint and makes it dry quicker than the first layers. Once it is dry you will be able to see the sort of crackled or honeycomb effect.
It is also fun to add oil pastels to these pictures. If you have some, draw with them onto the paper first.
You need to press quite hard with the pastels, don't cover the page, leave lots of white space too.
Once you move onto the watercolours you will see why. The oil pastels 'repel' the watercolours, so your lines remain visible even if you paint directly over them.
Put the watercolours on as above and the salt too.
Sun Prints / Cyanotypes
We used quite a bit of magic while we were on Charmouth Beach. As well as the cool effect of salt on the watercolour pictures, we also used the SUN to make prints.
This is one of the earliest types of photography and it is called 'Cyanotype'.
You can buy pre-prepared paper that has the special chemicals on it already. I used a brand called 'Nature Paper' which you can easily buy from local art shops or online, it is not very expensive but it is really interesting to play with.
To make your print, first of all you need to go on a beach hunt looking for interesting shapes. Seaweed is brilliant, as are some of the sticks and rootballs that get washed up onto the beach.
An important consideration is that you will only be left with it's silhouette, so none of its colour or texture will be captured. Another useful tip is to find things that will lie as flat as possible, this will help you get a crisp outline to your shapes.
Once you have gathered your items it is good to have a tray to put them on while think through how you are going to arrange them on the paper. Unless it is an exceptionally calm day with no wind, it is also useful to have a clear perspex type sheet to lay over your arrangement. You can often find these in cheap picture frames. If you don't have one at home, charity shops often sell frames very cheaply. This should stop your stuff from moving around while the image is developing.
As soon as you take your paper out of its protective black bag, the chemical reaction will start to happen, so you need to work fast at this point.
Put your paper down on the tray, arrange your items on it, then place the clear perspex sheet over the whole thing.
Now leave it in the bright sun for several minutes until it all goes very pale. It will work on a cloudy day, it just takes longer.
Next, remove all of the items and quickly submerge it into a bowl of water, jiggle it around quite a bit and keep it in there for a full minute. This rinses off the chemicals and therefore stops the process.
The image seems to disappear at this point, but don't worry, as it dries the image will come back.
Only tiny amounts of chemicals are used on this paper so it is OK to tip your bowl of water onto the beach when you are finished.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about how we did all of these activities. If you do go ahead and do any of them, I would so love to see what you make! Please send any pictures to me firstname.lastname@example.org . If you want to join my mailing list, please also email me and I will add you. The newsletters that I send out give information about events I am running as well as the Art Play Boxes that I make up.