Meet the artist – Penelope Fay Coombs

Penny moved to Alferce in the Serra de Monchique four years ago from Devon in the UK, where she worked as an early years teacher. She began painting seriously in her late forties, joining an art class in Dartington led by inspiring teacher Jean Alice Coombe and she enjoyed painting whenever possible, alongside facilitating art projects in her school, including working outdoors with natural materials.

She was also inspired by weekend classes at the Newlyn Art School in Cornwall and more recently by Stela Bareto’s art classes at the Casa das Artes in Portimão. She enjoys working alongside friends who are artists. During the lockdown, Penny realised she had always painted with other people and now it was time to create a space to begin painting at home. 

She loves the clean mountain air, and the beautiful skies, the views and the sound of the wind in the trees. The landscape is her inspiration, from the mountains to the sea, the cork oaks, flowers in the garden, and ocean waves crashing on the shore and against the cliffs. Currently, she’s working on a painting of the view from her window overlooking Monte Velho, where the ruins of a Moorish castle and a previous Bronze Age settlement are being excavated.

Penny explains, “As a child, I loved painting and drawing and have always enjoyed sketching as a means of feeling my way into a landscape, taking time to really look at the lie of the land.”

She works mostly with acrylic paints but also uses oils, watercolours and pastels. ”I usually begin by walking in the landscape and observing, becoming absorbed in all the sensory delights a place offers, the light and colour, the smells and sounds. I then sketch with coloured pencils and pastels and take some photographs, recording how the light changes at different times of the day. I love colour and become absorbed in mixing different palettes, aspiring to recall the beauty and feeling of a place. Once I begin painting, I paint quite quickly but need several days to build up many layers. I often bring a painting into the house so that I can see it and know what, if anything, needs to happen next. There always comes a point when I know it is finished.”

Penny wants her art to reflect the natural beauty which is all around us. This became particularly poignant after the terrible 2018 fire in Monchique, which devastated the countryside around Alferce, leaving the landscape grey and colourless for many months. She used the charcoal from burnt trees on her land to draw the bare outlines of the mountains and stark silhouettes of burnt trees and found herself drawn to the coast as a means of healing.

Looking out at the surrounding landscape, Penny says about her future plans: “I want to continue to work with the local landscape. I have a series of photographs of the beautiful cork oaks around Alferce before they were sadly ravaged by fire. I want to show the natural abundance of the local landscape and explore some more coastal landscapes. I encourage any aspiring artist to find time and space to begin and discover the feeling of well-being that painting can bring in these troubled times.”

Penny recently showed her paintings at an exhibition at the Fortaleza in Luz alongside other artists. In 2022, she hopes to exhibit in Lagos and also in Alferce with an open studio.

Penny’s paintings and cards can be seen at the Ar de Cor gift shop and at Atelier 8550, both in Monchique. Please email her if you are interested in a commission or to visit and see her work.

Instagram: pennycoombs3


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