I’m not entirely sure how I’m meant to feel about my husband sketching the curved lines of a naked 20-something female.
He’s getting back in touch with his creative side again (no wonder!) and a trip to the Cornish town of St Ives seemed like the perfect place to pop along to a life drawing class. After all, almost everyone’s a creative type down here.
In fact, painters have been coming to Newlyn and its famous School of Art since the late 19th Century and their historical exploits are the subject of British film Summer In February starring Emily Browning and Dan Stevens.
Inspired, we decide to enrol in a class at the school. We’re joined by a mish-mash of local artists, give-it-a-go sorts and everything in between. There’s even someone very closely resembling The Fast Show’s Johnny Nice Painter. He’s ever so fond of the colour black...
But as the tutor Maggie paces around the room, offering words of encouragement, it’s clear the idea is not to think too much. We use paint, charcoal and boot polish, creating ‘masterpieces’ with brushes, sticks and fingers. There are timed pieces, left-handed drawings and works of art produced by taping a paintbrush to the end of a 3ft twig. It’s all about being ‘free’, going with the flow and not analysing every mark you make, thinking it’s wrong.
Sweeping aside my three-year-old’s questions about said naked lady drawings the next day, we decide to stick with the arty theme and go in search of the area’s gorgeous galleries. You’ll find them en masse within the quaint cobbled streets of the town itself; small shops adorned with quirky crafts, handmade jewellery and local art. It’s not cheap, but not expensive, either - Affordable Art Fair prices - and one day I’d like to return with a couple of thousand pounds to splurge on pretty pictures for my home. That’s obviously never going to happen, but I enjoy thinking it might as I, too, take on the creative mindset that appears to be tucked into every cobbled corner of St Ives.
Alas, we head away from the town with nothing but a kids’ birthday present and a mermaid dolly for our three year old, but find ourselves in Tate St Ives (www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives). If you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth a jaunt - even with tiny tots in tow. It’s very small and you can make your way round everything nice and quickly. My little one discovered she was quite the fan of William Scott - an exhibition was on to mark the centenary of his birth. This may have been simply because she recognised the images of food in his work, but all the same, she’s much more cultured for the visit!
And while you’re in the mood, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is an absolute must. Even in dreary British weather, the outdoor sculptures are a joy to look at. And children will love meandering in and out of the pathways, hiding within the greenery and even walking through one of the works of art.
Of course, if you just want to admire the views that inspire so many of the artists in Cornwall, the beaches are your first call. Thanks to the £100million ‘Clean Sweep’ scheme, West Cornwall can boast some of the cleanest bathing waters in Western Europe. It might be a tad on the chilly side, but there’s no doubt the sparkling turquoise will lure you in, even if it’s just to dip your toes.
We didn’t manage to see any, but rumour has it seals, dolphins and basking sharks have been spotted on these very shores, not to mention the crabs, shrimps and anemones hiding in the rock pools.
St Ives itself is proud of its award-winning Porthminster and Porthmeor beaches. And if any of your clan are keen to hone their skills (or start to learn!), there’s a school and surfers aplenty on Porthmeor. But if you’re really keen to improve, the Perranporth Surf School (www.perranporthsurfschool.co.uk), a picturesque half hour drive away, is one of the finest locations to learn in Cornwall. Unfortunately, someone had to look after our little ones (ahem!), but daddy braved a particularly rubbish and rainy day to get up on the board and rip through some waves.
More golden sands in need of inspection lie in Carbis Bay, just over a mile around the headland and part of the larger St Ives Bay - one of only two bays in the UK to qualify as a member of the exclusive Most Beautiful Bays In The World organisation.
It’s a great place to base yourself, as you can walk or take the train into St Ives itself, while heading home to quieter lands. And the hills seem to be even steeper, which is great for walking off all those chips and cream teas.
For the duration of our stay, we made Hawke’s Point our home. The plush apartments are just a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach and very reasonably priced. Choose from one, two or three bedrooms, a garden, balcony or penthouse, and soak up the vivid views.
St Ives has so much to offer. But for me, escaping from the hectic pace of juggling work and family life, simply to watch the world go by, is an absolute pleasure. Scoffing chips on the beach and listening to the sea gulls, watching my kids build sand castles while falling in love with life and not needing to ask me a single question. For a minute, I was completely relaxed. But my mind wandered, I couldn’t help wondering if that 20-something life model was slimmer than me, so I put my chips in the bin and ran over to build a sand castle of my own.
Claire Spreadbury stayed at Hawke’s Point (www.hawkes-point.co.uk; 01726 884 072), where five nights in a Penthouse Apartment starts from £500 and five nights in a Sea Garden Apartment starts from £320.
Food Hampers with local and organic produce are available from www.food4myholiday.com
Bike hire can be sought through Bike Chain (www.cornwallcyclehire.com; 01872 870 341).
Surfing lessons can be booked through Perranporth Surf School (www.perranporthsurfschool.co.uk).