A Review of A Brush with The Coast
An Artist's Search for inspiration along the South West Coast Path by Sasha Harding
Posted by Mark Armstrong 9th December 2015
The first time I came across any mention of this book or heard of Sasha Harding was through being passed a short piece about the book launch in a Country Life article. I thought it was worth investigating, but had some reservations as the picture they printed looked somewhat childlike and simplistic. Having visited her website, I was certainly corrected in my initial view and was able to see a cross section of her work showing her own unique style.
The book is packed full of her delightful sketches. She uses a limited pallet of 3 colours for each picture which matches her aims completely in distilling a scene down to its core elements. And not only do you get paintings of the coastline but plenty of small sketches of birds, food, flowers etc, anything that illustrates that part of her journey. There is a mixture of the quirky and fun as well as the more straight forward landscapes, but her style remains throughout.
The book is essentially an illustrated story of her and her dogs 7 week journey along the South West Coast Path. Sasha was looking for inspiration for an exhibition and she definitely found it in her 7 week journey. Plus as she tells us in her guest blog, "It was life changing, for one I was the fittest I have ever been, but I also shed all of the usual worries and concerns of everyday life and just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other."
A Brush with The Coast starts as any long walk should, with the planning, and this should be of interest to anyone thinking of doing anything similar; very sensibly after purchasing all her new clothing, she made sure she had broken in the new boots. Being well prepared for all weathers and terrain with your clothing and equipment is one thing, but as Sasha puts it she was "totally unprepared for the rollercoaster terrain of the coast path" as she had planned to "mooch along, stopping here and there for a spot of painting, fishing and even reading." The reality would have to be different.
By Day 4 she had met and walked with several other walkers and got some sound advice (or 3 nuggets as Sasha called them): always look behind you, as the view behind may often be better than the view in front; plan to be in a specific place by midday because it provides a goal; and when walking an easy or less interesting part, speed up and then you can slow down on the more interesting parts. On Day 11 she had taught herself a lesson: never miss breakfast as the fuel of the fry-up was valuable for the energy needed on the walk.
Through her book we encounter the problems of meeting people on the coast path; "to know when to leave their company and how to do it - speed up or slow down?" We also see the good and bad side of B&B's, with some quirky, strange and some downright creepy. But Sasha for part of the walk, does the journey via a lift from home each day. And at this point she realises how lucky she had been staying in B&B's as she had "no worries, no bills to pay, no washing up or phone calls, none of the drudges of day-to-day life.....It was no wonder I had felt calmer than at any time in my whole life."
As the journey progresses, despite some of her trials and tribulations you sense the change that the walk is having on her emotionally and physically. At the end of Day 34 outside a pub, sat in the sun with a pint and a packet of crisps, she wrote in her dairy: "This is what life is all about and this is what makes this walk such an amazing experience. Here I am pint, sun, having walked 10 miles. I am as chilled as I can be and feel incredibly lucky to be having this experience. I have no worries, no responsibilities, nothing but the now. This is food for the soul and I am a very, very lucky soul."
I would recommend the book to anyone who loves the South West Coast, but especially to anyone thinking of making a long distance walk for the first time, as they could definitely learn from it, or if you have had the walking experience you will definitely enjoy comparing it with your own. And if you just love her painting style, it's a great coffee table book to browse through and find new pictures on every turn of every page.
Sasha settled in Cornwall after completing her degree in Fine Art at Falmouth and draws her inspiration from the seashore and local life. Her book, A Brush with The Coast is a 220-page lavishly illustrated account of the artist's walk along all 630 miles of the South West Coast Path with her dog, Jess. It's available to purchase on her website.
If you wish to explore the South West Coast Path for yourself, High Point Holidays offer the following self guided walking holidays:
Explore all our Coastal Trails
See our full list of Independent Walking Holidays