Archive for May, 2016

On the Easel – Thurs 26th May 2016

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Gathering Oysters - Work in Progress

This is the first colour lay in of “Gathering Oysters”, Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches – Work in Progress. The scene is from the beach at Seacliff, East Lothian looking towards St Baldreds Boat.

Background Info

The story of the history of oysters in the Firth of Forth is really quite tragic. Oyster middens found round the Firth of Forth date back as far as 6,000 years and show that millions upon millions of oysters were eaten by hunter gathers in the area. At one time there were oyster beds off Edinburgh that covered 50 square miles, possibly the largest in Britain.

Autumn brought oysters into the taverns of eighteenth-century Edinburgh. Once landed and sorted, the oysters destined for sale were carried up to town by the “fisher lassies”, those of Newhaven were especially admired. No less experienced a rake than George IV is said to have remarked that the women of Newhaven were the most beautiful he had ever seen. But they were also extremely strong, and given to a sales banter that was also said to be second to none.

The story of the exploitation of the oyster scalps is sad and complicated, a detailed account can be found in the book – “The Firth of Forth an Environmental History” by T.C. Smout and Mairi Stewart. It is estimated that the annual yield of the oyster beds was around 30,000,000 oysters a year in the 18th century. Consumption in Edinburgh itself was reckoned in 1839 to be 5 million a year.

Oysters finally succumbed completely to human greed, with not one single oyster in existance after a century of grossly unsustainable over-exploitation, even though that ended decades ago.

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On the Easel – Thurs 5th May 2016

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Oyster Shucking - Work in Progress

Start of a another painting in my new Seacliff Heritage series. This is the Drawing/Frottee of  “Oyster Shucking”, it’s oil on canvas, 28 x 22 inches.

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