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Photo of dom

Posted by dom in Plant and Place, workshop

3 March 2023

Art club on the dunes

People sitting on a sandbank by the dunes as part of an art club.

An art club on the dunes - sunset session led by artist Hilary Jean Gibson. Photograph Dominica Williamson

A new art club

Hilary Jean Gibson and I have launched a new art club on the dunes, thanks to her idea. With the backing of Friends of the Towans (FOTT) and Towans Ranger Martin Rule, we successfully secured funding from the Dynamic Dunescapes project. We extend our sincere appreciation to Andy Nelson and Pip Cook from the Dynamic Dunescapes team for their invaluable assistance and guidance, without which this wouldn’t have been possible. We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve received additional funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing us to further develop and run the club for another year.


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 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.


A group of people sketching as they look out to see as part of an art club on the dunes.

An art club on the dunes drawing in the summertime. Photograph Hilary Jean Gibson

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.

A group of people sharing their drawings made whilst outside in an old sand dune area

Friends of the Towans Art Club session 'Introduction to Botanical Illustration for Families'. Funded by Dynamic Dunescapes. Drawing dinosaur plant exercise, created by Andy Nelson and Dominica Williamson. Photograph: Sophie Oudeboon.

Gwithian Green

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.

Friends of the Towans Art Club workshop on Gwithian Green. Funded by Dynamic Dunescapes. Botanical illustration worksheet by a young person who painted with their sister and grandmother. Photograph: Andy Nelson

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.

A graphic word cloud show casing what people felt about an art club on the dunes.

A graphic word cloud show casing what people felt about the introduction to botanical illustration workshops.

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!

Art Club word cloud evaluation autumn 2023.

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.

Friends of the Towans Art Club ’The Big Dune Draw’. Funded by Dynamic Dunescapes. A member of the club showcases their sketchbook in Gwithian Chapel. Photograph: Andy Nelson

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 motto will be, ‘Keep dune drawing!’


A child with a hat on using a microscope sitting outside. She is part of an art club on the dunes.

Art Club on the dunes - A Friends of the Towans Art Club workshop called an 'Introduction to Botanical Art for Families'. Funded by Dynamic Dunescapes it used microscope drawing in its session. Photograph Sophie Oudeboon.