One of the joys of being is painter is having the ability to capture time, place, and memories in a unique way: far more than a simple holiday snap ever could. It’s always been my intention not to paint these tropical beaches exactly as they are but more as they’re experienced when first you step foot on them. I also believe the artist is able to imbue the work with personal and emotional experience. Whether this is as evident to the viewer as it is to the creator only the viewer can say, but for me, the artist, my painting of Alleynes Bay, on the Platinum coast of Barbados, will always be one of those special paintings.
I thought I’d write about this painting today because I’ve just delivered a framed Limited Edition print of it – and I’m chuffed to bits (I usually sell ablout one a year!) – but I’ll come back to that because I’d like to prattle on for a while about the painting, and about this wonderful beach!
Alleynes Bay, Barbados – The Beach
If you travel north up Barbados’ Highway 1, the West Coast road, you’ll pass The Cliff, then Sandy Lane and Holetown, and half a mile further on, you’ll come to the gates of The Royal Pavillion Hotel – slow down there – and when you reach a grassy meadow on the right, turn by the chapel and park up in Store House Road ( it’s a sad thing about Barbados that so often the beach access is hard to find – and usually with nowhere to park – this is a wonderful exception) Looking back to the road you’ll see an imposing white property (it once belonged to the comedian Bob Monkhouse) and, to the right of it a flight of concrete steps – at the bottom of which is Juju’s Beach Bar and Seafood Restaurant. Our friend Joanne, who owns and runs the bar and was a woodworker by trade, built the bar and laid those steps when she was 7 months pregnant! An awesome and altogether fabulous woman is our Jo!
I wonder who the artist can be who painted the sign and mural? Yep, moi, singing for my supper.
Turn around – that’s more like it!
We found Juju’s, in all it’s scruffy wonderfulness, many years ago and it’s always the place we make a bee-line for; you know the line from Cheers “a place where everybody knows your name” well it’s a bit like that! I can’t pretend it’s fine dining, far from it, but the food is fresh, excellent, and most importantly – on an island where prices are going through the roof – affordable. We watched a woman, a first time visitor and a little, shall we say, sniffy, bite into her Tuna sandwich – her eyes widened with pleasure as she realised the Tuna was fresh. Of course it is, it was still swimming a few hours ago! Chill – you’re sitting in the sun on a Caribbean beach with your toes in the sand, your lunch will be in front of you shortly, and there won’t be anyone sitting between you and the sea – the gently breaking waves are that close.
You know what a pain in the butt beach traders can be? Champagne Charlie was the exception to the rule who used to walk the entire West Coast every day, and every day on this beach we’d bump into him either walking north or south. An aging Rasta he was one of the, nicest, most genuine guys I’ve ever met. You look a bit down today Charlie? I asked him. He sighed and slowly shook his head “Today’s for learning not for earning.” I mentioned once, during one of our long, long, conversations, that one occasionally finds a church goer who seems to talk the talk but not walk the walk “You only go to the doctor when you sick” replied Charlie. He’s in a nursing home now – Bless you Charlie, and thank you for all your time and wisdom – worth far more than the occassional Guiness and the handful of necklaces we bought from you over the years – which ‘The Princess’ and I still wear incidentally.
Go left and you’ll find the public beach access and The Royal Pavillion with it’s arches, palm trees, and neat rows of sunloungers, go right and you’ll pass the boutique hotel Lone Star – once a garage. Further and a row of local houses perched on top of a low cliff, now home to Goggles and the Top Deck. It was here Fiona could be found in the mornings fishing with a throw net, an Englishwoman who’s lived on the island for yonks, Fiona introduced us to the turtle Marshal Tito – note: if you ever find yourself standing in the surf with a turtle swimming towards you then turn around – if it collides with your shins it hurts like the devil, and the bruises will be there for days!
Marshal Tito – the turtle. And the tasty morsel in front of his nose is the reason Fiona would fish every morning with a throw net.
It’s here too, just before the St Francis of Assisi church, that’s the setting for my painting – looking back south with The Royal Pavillion in the distance. To be fair there’s probably a painting on every inch of this beach but for me, this was it. It makes you wonder who owns the house the steps lead to doesn’t it? I know, and I’m not telling. Just out of view in the painting there’s a section of low flat rocks that emerge from the sea – “Where de reef meets de shore” as Charlie used to say – if they’re wet be careful how you walk on them, they’re really, really, slippery.
You can bathe anywhere along this beach, there’s only one spot off Lone Star where the seafloor kicks up a few waves. Personally I prefer to swim (or power-float in my case) off Juju’s, where there are a series of large ‘furry’ rocks one can stand on* – and of course, my ice cold Banks is waiting for me just yards away.
*Huge fun. Standing waist deep in water knowing full well that anyone who doesn’t know the beach will be up to their necks, wading out, long before they get there. Yes, very childish, but,,,,,,, 🙂
Alleyenes Bay – The painting
Not small – Alleynes Bay, an oil painting, was painted on a 30″ x 40″ canvas, that’s about 75cm x 100cm in todays money, and it was one of a pair, the other being of ‘Bottom Bay’ on the South East coast of Barbados.
Both paintings were started here in the UK, crated, and shipped out to the Caribbean unfinished – a process fraught with worry. Will they arrive safely? Will they arrive at all or will they end up in Hong Kong? (which actually happened to an earlier shipment) Will customs be kind or will they charge a fortune in duty? This time, although the crate had a massive hole in it, the paintings were OK and duty didn’t break the bank.
Ruth and I have calculated that over the last twenty years we’ve spent at least two in Barbados. We’ve stayed in all manner of places, occasionally hotels but more usually apartments or house sits – generally down to luck or available finances. Once we spent a week looking after a spectacular coral stone villa on Royal Westmoreland (with a pool of course!) and on more than one occassion it was a bed sit in Mount Standfast (just up the road from Juju’s) It was here we were living when the paintings arrived, and with my studio easel (which, along with my paints, lived in storage on the island) there wasn’t much room left for us.
The bed sitting room and temporary studio on Mount Standfast, St James.
On the table is Alleynes Bay with Bottom Bay on the easel behind. Both paintings lacking foregrounds and detailing to the surf.
There’s no lightbox for making the photo larger – this has been omitted for the sake of your sensibilities. Never at his best in shorts the artist doesn’t bear close inspection I promise!
When complete both paintings were taken to The Gallery of Caribbean Art, in Speightstown. GCA has represented me on the island since 2000 and with two exhibitions to date they are as reliable, helpful, and professonal a gallery as an artist could hope for.
I believe Alleynes Bay was sold as a retirement present for the CEO of one of the islands utility companies, and for quite a lot of money – worth it I think, it’s a painting of which I’m very proud. As I often say – I can only hope it’s given it’s owner as much pleasure as it gave me to paint.
The prints have been available almost ever since, in a Limited Edition of 200. Originally the same size as the painting I’ve now reduced the size to 22″ x 30″, this last sold – No 29 – was the first at this new size. Having been finished on the island I had to find a local photographer to take studio shots of the paintings. On a Saturday morning we found ourselves in a mall queuing with families for the attention of a portrait photographer – he didn’t do too bad a job but I could certainly have done with my Bajan pal Chris Alleyne at that point. Notice the name? It happens a lot in the Caribbean.
You’ll find the prints for sale at my Paintings of the Caribbean website, priced at an immensely affordable £149.99 including UK P&P. They’re signed, numbered, and hand varnished by the artist on OBA free, Museum Grade Fine Art canvas and supplied rolled in a stout cardboard tube: your local picture framer will stretch them for very reasonable money. Chat to me and I’ll do it for you, I’ll even frame the print if you wish, but please bear in mind the stretching, framing, and shipping will cost extra.
Likewise, if you live abroad, Barbados perhaps, shipping will be extra – drop me a line and I’ll get a price for you.
I think that’ll do for now. Thank you for taking the trouble to read it all 🙂