A theme identified within The Royal Society of Marine Artists annual exhibition is that of paintings featuring cliffs and coastal paths. Great Britain’s coastline is over 30,000km long, and some of the paintings within the exhibition act as a celebration of Britain’s spectacular coastal scenery and some of the lesser-known picturesque destinations on offer to us without having to travel internationally, as well as exploring destinations in Ireland and the Channel Islands. 

Tony Allain’s painting West Coast, Sark depicts the Channel Island Sark, located in the Southwestern English Channel off the coast of Normandy, France. Sark has a population of about 500 people, and is one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned from the roads with only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles allowed! It is a beautiful island to explore with picturesque scenery.

Tony Allain PS ARSMA West Coast, Sark Pastel 70 x 87 cm £2,500

David Allen’s piece Dunquin, Co Kerry, in west County Kerry, Ireland, is the most westerly tip of the Dingle Peninsula and is a scenic setting full of dramatic cliffs that look onto the Blasket Islands where a number of well-known authors including Peig Sayers lived. Dunquin has a 179km circular walking trail exploring the Dingle Peninsula. David explains: ‘I came across this view when cycling around the Dingle Peninsula and seeking out the departure point for the Blasket Isles. The steep road to the harbour is such a wonderful shape from this high viewpoint.’

David Allen RSMA Dunquin, Co Kerry Pastel 38 x 40 cm £550

The next piece is Peter Barker’s painting Rolling Breakers, Pentreath Beach, which shows the view overlooking the beach from the coastal path. Located in the Southernmost point in Cornwall, Pentreath is typically a very quiet beach, and only accessible by a steep cliff path. Peter has captured the beautiful rolling waves as they collide against the cliff edge - he explains his process: ‘From a high viewpoint near Lion Rock, I had a perfect, aerial view of the waves rolling in, and the challenge here was to pitch the darks of the rocks in slightly receding tones, with the distant outcrops a touch lighter and bluer. I used a palette knife to sculpt the forms and create the jaggedy quality.’

Peter Barker RSMA Rolling Breakers, Pentreath Beach Oil 36 x 43 cm £895

Peter Cronin’s watercolour painting Cliff Shadow, St Non’s Bay, Pembrokeshire depicts the view from the coastal path, located in Wales. St Non’s Bay is a great spot for sea views and for seabird watching. In St Non’s Well, you will find the ruins of a 13th Century Chapel where it is rumoured that St. David was born during a thunderstorm! Peter usually paints boats but he explains that the interjection of the headlands and the stunning light effect compelled him to paint this view.

Peter Cronin RSMA Cliff Shadow, St Nons Bay Pembrokeshire Watercolour 49 x 58 cm £580

In 2020, the Sunday Times compiled a list of Britain’s best beaches, with Runswick Bay in Yorkshire coming out on top! Bruce Mulcahy’s painting Cliffs in Evening Sun, Runswick Bay captures the beautiful location, known for its sandy beaches, rock pools, coastal paths and red-roofed cottages that line the bay, which can just be made out in the top right-hand corner of Bruce’s painting. Bruce explains this painting was done on the spot in a single session on a cloudless summer day. He described it as a race against time to try to catch the colours and tones created by sunlight on the cliffs. He used dry-brush mark-making techniques in gouache to imply the distant surfaces of grass, rock and water.

Bruce Mulcahy RSMA Cliffs in Evening Sun, Runswick Bay Gouache 52 x 62 cm £750

Being voted Britain's best, it's no wonder Matthew Phinn RI also visited Runswick Bay to create his delightful painting Rock Pooling at Runswick Bay

Matthew Phinn RI Rock Pooling at Runswick Bay Oil 74 x 44 cm £1,400

South Stack is a tiny islet off Anglesey, located in the North West tip of Wales, which has been depicted by Michael Salt in his painting South Stack. There is a historic lighthouse that was built by Trinity House in 1809, that can be reached by steps down the mainland cliffs. It is a great spot for seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills and puffins. On a clear day, you can even see views of Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains. 

Michael Salt RSMA South Stack Oil 76 x 76 cm £1,800

Located in the south, and much closer to London, are the chalk cliffs, The Seven Sisters, found in East Sussex, which Elizabeth Smith has captured in her painting Walking the Seven Sisters. There is a 22.5km coastal trail from Seaford to Eastbourne that takes you along the striking white cliffs.

Elizabeth Smith PPRSMA Walking the Seven Sisters Pastel 49 x 47 cm £895

The coastline of Cornwall is almost 700km long, mostly occupied by dramatic cliffs, such as those captured in Karl Terry’s painting Cornish Cliffs. His angular brush marks highlight the steep and treacherous cliff edges, but they plunge into a serene blue sea. Karl marvels ‘Life doesn’t get much better than standing on the high cliffs looking out to sea!

Karl Terry ARSMA Cornish Cliffs Oil 45 x 55 cm £1,150

The final painting to highlight that captures cliffs and coastal paths is Rowena Wright’s Culver Down, Isle of Wight. Culver Down is a chalk down to the north of Sandown in the Isle of Wight, and is full of chalk downland wildlife including plants such as harebell, cowslip and lady’s bedstraw, and is an important location for nesting seabirds. Culver Down has also been used as a location for breeding peregrine falcons and culver woodpigeons.

Rowena Wright RSMA Culver Down, Isle of Wight Oil 46 x 57 cm £1,250

We hope that with this collection of paintings of cliffs and coastal paths you were able to imaginatively transport yourself to these picturesque locations, and you learnt more about the escapist destinations that are on offer closer to home!

Article written by Hannah Martin

The Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition is available to Browse & Buy online now, and in the gallery from 30 September to 10 October

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