Painting with words at Dungeness

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 1st, 2011 at 8:55 AM

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about paintings that feature words after I’d been to the Royal Academy Summer Show. A week later we went to Dungeness and called in to see our friends, Paddy Hamilton and Helen Gillian at Dungeness Open Studios.  And there, in both studios, was a series of new works composed exclusively in letters and compound phrases.

The works feature words made up from a new font Paddy is developing together with graphic designer friend, Andrew Sullivan of Blacknight Design The font will be called Dungeness and should be available later this year.I couldn’t resist ‘Fresh Bait’ which is now hanging in my office!

Visiting Paddy and Helen is always lovely: they’re so welcoming and generous with their time. It’s great seeing the new work that’s appeared since we were last there. And their two adorable Jack Russells – Fly and Jet are a bit of draw too!

Paddy and Helen opened the studios to the public in 2006 and there’s also an online gallery . The work is exhibited in two beautiful sheds which Paddy and Helen describe as “an extension of a continuing working practice which allow people to view the work in a clean, attractive and organised environment.”




The studios are open all year and are well worth a visit. There’s a great variety of work with a strong bond that pulls it all together. It’s very reasonably priced too making it possible to own an original piece of art from a talented artist. And if you don’t fancy a trip to Dungeness, you can always view the work online .






It would be a shame to miss out on a visit to Dungeness though. It’s like nowhere else I know. There’s a beauty in its strangeness from the quirky homes dotted in no particular order across the landscape, to the beach, one of the largest expanses of shingle in the world. It’s offered up some of the best beach-combing finds I’ve ever made – including a message in a bottle!

Incredibly, the ugly nuclear power station that dominates the landscape sits within a wildlife sanctuary deemed a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In fact, although it looks so hostile, Dungeness is home to a remarkable variety of wildlife. It has over 600 different types of plant – that’s a third of all those found in Britain. It’s also one of the best places in the country to find certain insects such as moths, bees, beetles, and spiders. Many of them are very rare and some are found nowhere else in Britain. The RSPB has a reserve there too.

One of the most famous Dungeness residents was film-maker and artist, Derek Jarman. The garden he created at Prospect Cottage is still looked after by his friends and attracts many visitors. And let’s not forget the lovely Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch 15” gauge steam railway complete with station and cafe. It’s easy to understand why the place is so inspiring for an artist.


Prospect Cottage © copyright Ron Strutt and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


“Dungeness attracts a great number of visitors many returning year after year,” says Paddy. “First-time visitors are often bowled over by the strangeness of the landscape, the open skies, and the unfamiliar desert-like appearance. “It’s a place you either immediately fall in love with or feel an immediate aversion to. I love it here because I was born and brought up in Africa and the beach here is very similar to the Kalahari desert at certain times of the year.”


I love it too and look forward to my next visit. This time I came back with a painting but who knows what treasures I’ll find on the beach!

Paddy and Helen’s brush garden. (Photograph © copyright Paddy Hamilton)

BBC Gardeners’s World clip ‘Gardening on The Edge’ featuring Paddy and the brush garden!























Painting with words | Grabbing the headlines

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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