Years ago, I spent a northern summer living in Mawgan Porth in Cornwall. It was lovely. I lived at a surf school, right on the beach, where I spent a fair bit of time. In the days I was working long, long hours at a cafe, but in the evenings I would take walks along the cliffs to watch the sun set into the ocean, which is still a thrill for an east coast Australian person.
The culture of the seaside holiday crowd is very different to beach culture in Australia. People bring more stuff for starters. They are armed with buckets, spades, balls, bats, hats, sunscreen, boogie-boards, picnics, clothes, rain-gear, multi-coloured plastic wind-blocks and chairs, while ice-creams, chips and tea are always for sale close by. When the holidays first began, I was amazed by how many people could fit on one beach - especially since they had so much stuff with them. And they were all there through sunshine, rain and fog! At first, I didn't understand it at all, but after a while I felt a great affection for it.
Recently I discovered Sue's watercolours through her blog, Studio Window, and seeing them brought my Cornish summer rushing back. Her images are straight from the sand, capturing the everyday ways that all kinds of people use the beach, the coast, the sea. Far from young and athletic, many of her coastal images are of families, older women or children, all off to play in the foamy shore-break or sitting in a chair on the sand, enjoying the seaside.
But once the summer crowd disperses, many of the businesses pack up until the next holiday or the next year. These villages and towns often seasonal places, so there is a distinct difference between the tourists and holiday-makers and the people who live there year round. Like the coastal town where I am from, you discover that the locals use the beach very differently: for walks, for collecting shells, for romance, for losing themselves, for bracing swims, for surfing.
My favourite of Sue's pictures capture these people and these moments - drying off and getting changed at the back of a car or sitting wrapped in a towel in the sun post-surf, watching the waves and avoiding peeling off the rest of your wetsuit.
I love these two images most of all. I love that they are so candid and quiet and personal. I love that, even though they're thousands of miles from me and my world, I can see myself in both of them. They make me miss the beach. They make me miss surfing.
You should check out Sue's blog. She makes some wonderful art. Not just watercolours either...