“This post contains Affiliate Links. I get a commission from qualifying purchases.”

Back to St Ives

I’m back sketching again in St Ives, Cornwall. I always used to come to St Ives as a child during the summer holidays. So it always feels good to be back. We are staying at a lovely sheltered campsite, called ‘Secret Garden Campsite’. Which is near St Just, on the Lands End Peninsula. (Unfortunately, this campsite has since closed.)

Yesterday had been a day of driving rain and wind. However, today, although it is still windy, is lovely and sunny. So we set off for St Ives, and as it seemed, everyone else in Cornwall was too!
Parked up at Lelant Saltings and caught the train along the coast to St Ives.
Here we were ordered off the train and into a ‘holding pen’ so as not to hold up the train. This was by a station master with a megaphone, standing on a bench shouting at us! Ah, the joys of being a tourist in Cornwall. I wonder if his megaphone comes with the job or if he bought it himself? You also wonder how on the London tube all of those people manage without someone shouting at them. He seemed to be rather a control freak. However, for us, proved to be a good sauce of jokes for the rest of the day!!


St Ives, with its special quality of light, has attracted artists since the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, with the Great Western Railway making access to the town easier in 1877, it was made even more appealing. There is a long list of talented St Ives Artists, with a ‘heyday’ in the 1950s & ’60s. And of course, now there is the Tate St Ives, adding to that ‘artistic train’ moving forward. However, I find the simplicity of the ‘Hepworth Studio’ very appealing. Especially if you can be there during a quiet period, to take in the sculpture garden and her working space.

Featured sketch above:

Low tide in St Ives Harbour

Watercolour & pen sketch ~ A5
Sitting on the harbour beach enjoying the sun. The tide is out, the boys are digging sandcastles and exploring. There seem to be more boats in the harbour today, but that might just be me. The main street is thick with people trying to shop. It is much nicer just sitting here sketching the boats and cottages.

The harbour

The harbour used to be one of the most important fishing ports on the North Cornish coast. There could be large numbers of Luggers packed into the harbour. These were fishing for Pilchards, which were caught by seine nets, deployed by three boats, with a crew of 17-18. The Pilchards would be packed into barrels and most were shipped out to Italy. By 1924 this fishing had finished since then smaller numbers of boats sail out to catch lobsters and crabs.

Pen and wash sketch of a St Ives backstreet

St Ives backstreet

Pen & Watercolour sketch ~ A5
Avoiding the crowded St Ives main street and enjoying the higgledy-piggledy backstreets between the harbour and the ‘Island’.

Materials Used

All of these sketches are in an A5 Daler Rowney, Red & Yellow cartridge pad, except for the Seagull one, which is just on a piece of lined writing paper. The watercolours are in my Winsor & Newton, field paint box. I’ve used a couple of round brushes – sable no.6 & a no.1. Plus a waterproof fineliner pen and a 6B pencil.

The Island

St Ives ‘Island’ is really a small, grassy peninsula connected to the mainland by an isthmus. Its original name was ‘Pendinas’, which means ‘fortified headland’. There once being a protective earthen rampart around the peninsula. Since the fifteenth century, there has been a tiny chapel on the Island dedicated to St Nicholas. Who is the patron saint of children and seafarers. Apart from being a place of worship, it has also been used as a look-out, by Preventative Men (Coast Guard) for smugglers. And also, by smugglers looking out for Preventative Men!

Pen sketch of a Sea Gull


Biro sketch ~ A5
Watch out for those Seagulls too! They are used to picking up and pinching food from the unwary. When I was a lad, we were sitting eating our pasties. When a Gull swooped down and was off with my Gran’s pasty. I have always been very wary since not wishing to lose my lunch.

Watercolour sketch of Digging on the beach at St Ives

Lighthouse’s and Digging

Watercolour ~ A5
On Porthminster Beach digging and making castles in the sand, with Godrevy Island and its Lighthouse in the background. In a little while, we are going to catch the train along the coast to St Erth and back home.


By its position on the western side of St Ives Bay, St Ives itself has four beaches. Porthmeor, on the western side of the Island is good for surfing, with Porthgwidden on the eastern side. Then there is the Harbour beach in the middle and Porthminster further south, which has almost a mile of sand.

Pen sketch of St Ives Lighthouse

Harbour Lighthouse

Pen ~ A5
Lighthouse at the end of the harbour wall.
This lighthouse was part of the Smeaton’s Pier extension and first started operating in 1890.


Apart from Gestapo Station Masters, who are about to have a heart attack – still there on the way back, walking up the platform issuing orders, it feels good to be back in Cornwall!

© Copyright Nick Watton.
All Rights Reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest