Friends of the Towans
Art club on the dunes
A new art club
In 2022 artist Hilary Jean Gibson and myself set up an art club on the dunes. It was her brainwave. With the support of Friends of the Towans (FOTT) and Towans Ranger Martin Rule we were successful in applying for funding from the Dynamic Dunescapes project. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to Andy Nelson and Pip Cook from the Dynamic Dunescapes team for their help and advice, without which none of this could have taken place. Much to our delight, we’ve received more of this Heritage Lottery funding from them to run and develop it for another year.
FOTT ART CLUB
What is it for: Learning about how dunes are homes, are beautiful, are a mystery and are places you can play and learn from through the experience of making art in an informal fun manner.
Who is it for: It’s inclusive, free and for adults and families. Holidaymakers and locals are targeted as well as existing art clubs and FOTT volunteers. Overtime we will reach out to people who are often overlooked as well as schools (through the idea of an after school club).
What can it achieve: Through en plein air drawing and painting and botanical illustration, you can you can learn about nature and gain a new appreciation of your surroundings. These are mindful activities and so good for people’s wellbeing and the environment.
The art club on the dunes in 2022
The art club met on the dunes for the first time in April at Gwithian Chapel followed by a marvellous time drawing in the churchyard and on Gwithian Green. An afternoon drawing on Mexico Towans on Saturday 27th May in the most beautiful weather was next.
These types of sessions continued with Hilary leading them. For instance, on Wednesday 22nd June the Summer Solstice beckoned us to St Gothian Sands to depict a glowing sunset. Our fourth meeting found us lying on the rabbit nibbled grass drawing and identifying many precious dune plants including Southern Marsh Orchids during World Sands Day at Gwithian Towans on 26th June.
During the year there were also marvellous walking opportunities provided by FOTT to discover more on the dunes with botanist Dr Colin French and archaeologist Jacky Nowakowski.
I delivered four family workshops at Gwithian Green during the heatwave. I designed them following one of the FOTT guided walks by Dr Colin French. His knowledge is invaluable and shaped the workshop. He is a vice county recorder for Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI).
Through the workshops, participants have learnt about unique and sometimes rare plants that they wouldn’t necessarily notice, especially in some recently scraped damper areas of the dune system. By first using hand lenses and making time to really ‘see’, then by drawing and painting, the wonders of the tiny world of plants were explored!
I found the combination of the science and art fascinating;. Andy the conservationist talked about the habitat of some of the plants we were to draw and also the way the site is managed: Dominica our artist, gave us insight into the botanical process and a lot of guidance on how draw and paint the plants; a very enjoyable and inspiring day.
The future of the club
We hope to make the green a site of excellence for botanical illustration with a focus on 9-12 years old visiting the site to draw.
My daughter really enjoyed the art and found the use of the hand lens fascinating when looking at the structures of the petals and the plant itself.
Gwithian Green is common land and is managed by the Gwithian Green Management Committee, a local group of experts and enthusiasts, with the help of the Community Liaison Officer. Over the past 30 years 316 species of flowering plants have been recorded – 237 of those since 1999.
In terms of the overall future of the club, in September we met on 17th at Mexico Towans to draw, and for an Autumn Equinox sunset on 23rd at St Gothian for some colour. This led us to creating an event to mark the end of the year and so we could gather in all our feedback to help shape the future.
Art club outcomes and feedback
FOTT ART CLUB went from strength to strength growing in numbers and reputation. Seventy participants helped to make it a joy and as someone remarked, we became ‘a community’.
Brilliant project, would love to take part in more events
Thank you so much for these sessions – it’s great to meet like-minded
Like to do more. So thoughtfully organised. Interesting set of people
Brilliant experience, well done!
Thank you very much! Very enjoyable. Please add me to all mailing list for art, talks, events, info and support.
Extremely good to see so many people enjoying the dunes.
Hilary is amazing, informative and inspiring. Enjoyed every session. Full of local information about my area from Andy and Martin
This year is the last year we can access Dynamic Dunescapes funding so we need to think about how we can take the club into the future.
The Big ‘Dune’ Draw
Our grand finale to the year 2022 was The Big Dune Draw and a celebration of Art Club at Gwithian Chapel – we took part in the international event called The Big Draw on the beach at St Gothian Sands drawing and writing in sketchbooks – warming up afterwards with tea treats in the Chapel with an exhibition of sketchbooks.
We will repeat The Big Dune Draw this year and build on our business plan and manifesto. We are involving our new community in this process. We will also build a gallery of images and make art club badges and stamps. And for the future, Martin Rule our Towans Ranger has lots of ideas for art making that he can then use to help conserve the dunes.
Perhaps our moto will be, ‘Keep dune drawing!’