I painted a sea-scene a few years ago from a photograph given to me by a friend. I loved the painting when I’d finished it – it’s always been one of my favourites. It has just the right amount of land, of sea, and sky. It has movement in the waves, and those wonderful pillars of rock which stand immovable in the middle have a stillness in the midst of it all which I was very pleased with.
The thing is, I didn’t have a clue where the photo had been taken. I guessed it must have been Cornwall, looking at the colour of the rocks. But I didn’t know for sure.
Last year, we had a family holiday down in Cornwall. I’m always on the look out for some good landscape photos, and I heard about the old Cornish tin mine built into the cliff at Botallack. So we took a trip out to find them. The scene is otherwordly.
I walked down to the ruins to have a closer look. I spent a few minutes looking around, and then I looked beyond the towers, out to sea. And I suddenly realised that I knew the scene. It felt like coming home. The scene I’d painted some years before, suddenly there before me in all it’s natural glory. It was deeply satisfying and resonant for me.
I returned to the car, very excited. “My painting’s down there!” Of course the family thought I’d gone mad. But that’s what it felt like. It felt as if my painting had come to life, rather than my painting being a mere representation of the scene – it was as if my painting was the real thing, and the scene itself was my painting magically transposed into reality.
I’ve never had a similar experience, and it’s possible I never will again. But there was something terribly exciting about finding where my inspiration had been, without even looking for it.