As the lake temperature plummets, it seems appropriate that I am adding this painting to the blog. This is one I finished a couple of months ago, back when a brisk swim in 3 degrees was a distant thing, but this is Row Clarke getting out of Clevedon Marine Lake last January, and it was indeed that cold, but gloriously sunny.
Everything that is not water is painted in watercolour (ironically) in a mix of pigments that looks like black but in fact is a transparent magenta, yellow and blue, which is more interesting for being not quite black and having subtle shades in it, and nicer to paint with. And all the water is done in a mix of aluminium, gold and palladium leaf. The first photo is taken with very flat lighting that shows the painting at its best overall, but a couple of images below this are snaps I took in different lighting, which show the effect of the metal leaf and the way the picture changes when half of it is metallic and half not.
Winter Sun – Row emerging from Clevedon Marine Lake – watercolour and metal leaf by Nancy Farmer
A commission that I completed a few weeks ago. It was for Beccy Mullett’s birthday – this is her and the rest of her winter swimming (and cycling) ‘Pod’, and her friends who are also in this picture commissioned me to draw it for her. Beccy is in the foreground, left of centre. Below are also some of the photos that I put this together from.
I shall be at the Swim Serpentine Event (Hyde Park, London) on September 22nd if anyone would like to ask me about having something similar done, always happy to talk if you have an idea you’d like made into an artwork.
This is a digital drawing, and one of the useful things about that is that I can make multiple prints if required – I only make prints of commissions for the people who commission them, but in this case I made up a large mounted print of this drawing for the birthday girl, and another 7 small ones for each of the other swimmers, who also gave her this as a present.
You can try pausing to admire the beautiful morning, the misty view as the lake snakes its glimmering way up to Pooley Bridge at the other end, the tranquillity of the scene, the lovely unspoilt Cumbrian fells… sooner or later you are going to have to get all the way in. And this is Ullswater, where it is always colder.
Drawing inspired by a swim when I was up there the week before last, at Glencoyne Bay with Francine, Rosie and Margaret. There may have been a little bit of squealing, but if there was, there was nobody else around to hear it.
All things are relative. While the prospect of an Autumnal temperature plummet to seven degrees may cause us to shudder at the very thought, reaching in vain after warm memories of summery 18 degrees and above; here at the back end of Winter and in the wake of winds from Siberia, 7 degrees is greeted with excitement and delight!
“It’s lovely now it’s warmed up” is not mere winter swimmer’s bravado, it is heartfelt. 10 days ago the shallow salt water dipped below zero. True, we still have that glazed look of the mildly hypothermic as we hug our hot drinks. True it is drizzling, and an icy wind is promised for the weekend. But all things are relative, and these things are mere blips in the unstoppable onrush of spring.
…But we think it’s much warmer. My thermometer claims it’s nearly 10.5. Winter swimmers will understand the difference.
Once it gets colder I like to know the temperature, partly I feel it’s safer, having an idea of the actual temperature, because my skin finds it hard to distinguish between the sensation of ‘cold and wet’ and ‘really really cold …and wet’. For some reason the duck shaped thermometers always seem to read low, but as long as you are used to adjusting for duck pessimism it doesn’t matter what thermometer you have if it’s the same one each time.
After some not insignificant effort, Gav has managed to secure us the use of the littlest of Clevedon beach’s ‘Caves’ – neatly arched and rendered lockable affairs set into the sea wall. It means our stuff has somewhere to be stashed, we can get dry even if it’s peeing down, and most of all, we have somewhere to eat cake.
The cave-warming party was duly held on Saturday and a lot of cake was involved. The cave is now warm; outside however, the sea is still a little nippy.
On Wednesday the marine lake had dropped to 9.5 degrees. This is not an unpleasant temperature at which to swim for a while, but it still seems important to give the water a hard contemplative stare before getting in, just in case. Winter is coming…