Shaping a Vision of Cornwall - The Art of Tom Henderson Smith

Painting: Stream flowing to the sea, Cot Valley Painting: Summer sea Painting: Leaving harbour, Newlyn Painting: Winter Sun

Archive for the ‘Charity fundraising’ Category

End of an era – start of a new one?

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


I’ve arrived at the decision to make 2017 the year of my final Lafrowda Festival Benefit Painting Auction. My reason for this is that a new tradition here in St Columb Major is being launched and I want to support it in a similar way. More than three years after our move here from St Just, home of the Lafrowda Festival, my wife Gabrielle and I are now involved in launching the Our Town St Columb Major Arts and Heritage Project ( ) that aims to support cultural regeneration in this central Cornish community. The project’s first festival is due to take place in August 2017.

This means that the metre square Mad Aviators at Lafrowda ( ) painting that I made following the inspiration of the July 2016 event in St Just will very probably be the last of that series. Starting in 2002, there have been fourteen of these Lafrowda canvases emerging from my studio. You can see them all in the collection of ‘thumbnail’ picture links below the ‘virtual tour’ on the Ten Years of Lafrowda Paintings page of my website ( ).

That virtual tour itself records the exhibition that the Lafrowda Festival organisers asked me to put on at Cape Cornwall School in St Just in 2012. I subsequently added four more to the collection and each July since our move in 2013 has seen me back in St Just to soak up the excitement of Lafrowda once again. I’m so pleased that other artists still based in St Just have now started to do something similar for Lafrowda and I very much hope that the tradition of supporting that festival will long continue in this way without me. Incidentally, prints of all those earlier Lafrowda paintings can be purchased by following relevant links on their image pages on my website. I’ll continue to donate proceeds from all such sales to Lafrowda Festival.

Evolution of Mad Aviators at Lafrowda

Sunday, September 25th, 2016


Link to image page

For several months I’ve been working on a metre square canvas that was inspired by one of this year’s Lafrowda Day processions in Cornwall’s most westerly town of St Just-Penwith. Mad Aviators at Lafrowda ( ) translates this spectacle into a riot of colour and shape. An apparent biplane, a ’red arrow’ and other miscellaneous forms of aerial transport process past my old studio in St Just-in-Penwith.

A wise artist-mentor I knew in my late teens once came up with the perceptive comment and prediction that although earth-bound in my approach I have a way of sticking at things and that in my painting this would one day lead to things ’taking off’. As I built up the layers of paint that you can see in a short video about the evolution of Mad Aviators at Lafrowda ( that long ago insight came repeatedly to mind. Without me knowing it at the time that’s possibly why this particular Lafrowda image had appealed to me so much on the day of the festival.

Like its predecessors that can all be seen at this one will be the subject of a benefit auction, to support the future of this extraordinary community event, that will conclude on the evening of Lafrowda Day in mid July next year (2017). Creativity is sparked in the young by these festivals, cultural pilgrims to Cornwall are drawn in, small local businesses briefly flourish, we celebrate together!

Yellow Submarine memories

Thursday, July 14th, 2016











With the approach of Lafrowda Day 2016 on July 16th I had been recalling the extraordinary impact for me of the afternoon procession on the Lafrowda Day of the previous year. In particular it was the Yellow Submarine advancing down Fore Street in St Just that had appealed to me. What was it about it that had resonated so strongly for me?

Some of you, like me, will remember  seeing the original animated film when it was released in 1968 (Director George Dunning, Artistic Director Heinz Edelmann). I was a second year student in Fine Art at Newcastle University at the time. I hitch-hiked down the A1 and M1 one weekend, spent some time in the National Gallery and then went to see the Yellow Submarine film in Leicester Square that evening. Watching the trailer online recently brought it all back! It’s been re-mastered and was re-released in 1999 apparently.  The Guardian ran a fascinating article about it just before the re-release ( ) which discusses the origins and making of the film.  All kinds of interpretations have been brought to it. For me, however, in addition to enabling the Fab Four to save Pepperland through music from the devastating effects of the Blue Meanies,  the Yellow submarine is simply a wonderful image of community inclusion.

We all live in a yellow submarine

Monday, September 14th, 2015











The fairly intense period of work on my 2015 Lafrowda Festival painting, ‘We all live in a yellow submarine’, had finally led to its completion in mid September.

Work on the canvas itself, following a period of playing around with the images on my PC after the mid July festival in St Just, had begun in earnest around the time of our Open Studio Week here at the Lanherne Studio early in August that year. First came the need to carefully plot out the composition with charcoal outlines. That was an ideal job to do in-between studio visitors because its complexity demanded interruption now and again to take a wider view.  After fixing the drawing and applying a transparent matt acrylic layer I decided on a deep yellow see-through ground over which I began blocking in the main shapes. This in turn became so complex that, in order to see it clearly in terms of colour and shape and not be distracted by ‘getting it right’ I decided to work with the picture and reference material upside-down for at least a week’s worth of painting sessions. Surprisingly, this method can really help with more rapid and accurate shape and colour-hue recognition. I understand that it’s something to do with the different hemisphere’s of the brain working together in a less self-conscious way. “I see you’re in Australia again” was my wife’s comment when she joined me in the studio one day.

Once things were right-way-up again it seemed I was on the home straight to resolving it all. Something wouldn’t quite gel however. It was only when I tried the picture on another wall back in the house, glancing across at it as I did the washing-up, that it became clear that the right hand side of the street in the picture needed a scumble of translucent and very light violet. Glazes of various yellows were also needed to pull together the form of the submarine itself. This clinched it!

Such was the curious process of painting this complex piece. Another fascinating aspect was the way that the theme of the Yellow submarine, which of course refers to the famous Beatles number and the 1968 animated film, had attracted such a lot of speculation as to its symbolism. That, and my memories of the time when I saw the film as a student are the subject of another blog posting at .

Help me donate to this Nepal Earthquake Appeal

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015


Picture link to a larger image of this painting

Mining village above the sea, Pendeen 100 x 100 cms








Many online appeals to donate money to fund earthquake relief efforts in Nepal have arrived in my inbox over the last few days as they probably have in yours. I’ve agonised over not being able to give more. What I do have though is paintings. I’ve therefore decided that over approximately the next three weeks, from May 2nd until May 26th 2015, I will offer three large canvases in a MAKE ME AN OFFER SALE. I’ll donate the proceeds no matter how large or small to the Disasters Emergency Committee Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Use the picture links here to find out how to make an offer. Successful offers will be the highest that have been agreed by May 20th.


Picture link to a larger image of this painting

Hidden path through a dark wood 112 x 142 cm








It may be that you feel unable to make an offer yourself for one of these canvases but know someone who may well want to do so. If so then please copy and paste the URL for this page and forward it to them. By working together we can really make a difference in the lives of people who are suffering terribly in Nepal.


The story of the Dome of Human Kindness

Monday, December 22nd, 2014


of_human_kindness_3D_reconstruction_for_blog-smallIn 1972 a recently qualified art student was living near Florence. He was in Italy to immerse himself in the great art to be found there and to develop his own work as best he could. Many of the paintings he most admired there were in monasteries and churches, often painted on their walls back in the 14th and 15th centuries by people like Giotto, Massacio and Piero Della Francesca. This reminded him of all the bible stories he had grown up with, for his parent’s had been Christian missionaries. He found that he needed to express the spirituality that discovering these paintings was bringing out in his mind.

Working with charcoal and big sheets of paper on the floor of his flat he drew out what were to become the compositions of the dome. Much of his last three years at art college had been spent drawing people and now he found that every mark he made suggested a figure. As he worked he realised that what he was reading at the time, a general introduction to Buddhist ideas such as the way that all things are inter-related, had found its way into the themes he had chosen – an interweaving of elements from the tales of St Martin and the beggar, the good Samaritan and the prodigal son. This was maybe part of a quest that was to lead him to embrace Nichiren Buddhism more than ten years later.

As a bit of a young hippy back in 1972 (his hair fell down to his shoulders at the time) he had absorbed much of the alternative technology of the 70’s. This gave him the idea to make his own small building and paint its walls with his stories of inter-related lives just as the church and monastery walls had been directly painted on. Someone he knew nearby had an overgrown tennis court behind their house and gave him permission to put up his dome inside it. The structure was big enough to crawl inside where he drew and painted away on the walls every day for many weeks. Later, when it was finished, he took it apart, rolled up its canvas panels and took it back to England where he re-assembled it in the art college he had attended and that had given him some money to go to Italy a year earlier.

The tutors and students at the college were interested but also puzzled because this was so different from the art that most people were making at the time. Later he became involved in other things, trained as a teacher, moved to Cornwall to teach, took up Nichiren Buddhism, brought up his young son and step-daughter and became involved in his local community by running a little gallery together with his wife. After twenty-four years in teaching he decided to move on and devote more time to painting. He had also made many friends by that time. Some were Buddhist practitioners like himself. Some were people of different faiths or none. Many were artists of various kinds of which there are a great many living in Cornwall.

The gallery that had been the pride and joy of himself and his wife had been in the town of St Just near Lands End but, after thirty years of living there, they felt ready to move to somewhere more central in Cornwall and to have just a private studio to paint in instead. It was then that he re-discovered the rolled up canvas panels that had been stored in their loft for all that time. He unrolled and photographed each one before rolling them all up again to store in the loft of their new home in St Columb. He found that he could create a mock-up of the original designs for the dome using the photographs. This time, however, he decided that, if ever he re-assembled the actual dome, it would be inside-out – with the pictures visible from the outside because he knew that many of his friends, who like him were quite old by now, would find it very difficult to crawl inside to see them.

In the meantime he decided to make scaled down-model kits of his dome, to have them printed and to sell them to raise funds for the building of Cornwall’s multi-faith centre, Dor Kemmyn, a name meaning Common Ground in Cornish. He called it his Dome of Human Kindness for that is one of the values that, in speaking with people of different faiths, he found was common to them all.

A Lafrowda of the mind

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014









This painting, Lafrowda Day 2014, is the successor to eleven previous Lafrowda paintings. That this one feels to me strangely different from its predecessors may be partly due to the fact that it was painted at The Lanherne Studio in St Columb rather than in the town of St Just where the festival took place and where all the others were made.

It was returning to St Just for Lafrowda Day in mid July 2014 that supplied the initial inspiration for the picture. Perhaps this time however the added element of physical distance during the weeks of studio work that I spent on it highlighted its independent existence. As with previous Lafrowda pictures the painting process was based on memories informed by digital references about the surreal images I had seen at the festival but celebrating all this material in paint here in a different town has enhanced for me the feeling that this was a Lafrowda of the mind. Could there really have been such extraordinary juxtapositions? Did some of these figures really reach to the rooftops or was it indeed all in my mind?

An aspect of this curious feeling as I worked and especially since completing the painting has been a suspicion that this time the cast of characters who inhabit it are actually part of me. Are they archetypes I wondered or even personifications of old papa Freud’s ideas? Fascinating!

As with most of my previous Lafrowda paintings the sale of this one will benefit the festival in future years. Many thousands of pounds are required to stage the two week festivities that culminate on Lafrowda Day in Cornwall’s most westerly town of St Just. Numerous local schools and other groups take part in a surge of creativity that is a great source of satisfaction for everyone involved as well as attracting thousands of visitors whose time spent there certainly boosts the town’s economy.

To see a larger image of the Lafrowda 2104 painting click on the image above or on . To see images of all the previous Lafrowda paintings go to .

Sale of Lafrowda prints of paintings will benefit the Festival

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Following its exhibition in New York and full page coverage about its benefit auction in the festival newspaper perhaps it isn’t too much of a surprise that the Viva Lafrowda painting has sold in advance at the buy-now price. It’s certainly gratifying and will be a bit of boost for the festival’s finances. So, what to do in stead of the auction this year? How to enter into the spirit of the festival on Lafrowda Day (July 16th) and to contribute further to future festivals? After giving it some thought I decided to do unmounted but card backed, signed and wrapped prints of most of the Lafrowda paintings from the last 8 years and to donate the proceeds from the sale of these on the day, both online and at the Turn of the Tide Studio.  You can see the range of what will be available here.

Count-down to Lafrowda benefit auction 2011

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

This year one of the curators at The Broadway Gallery spotted my work online and invited me to send them a piece. I chose the Viva Lafrowda painting to help fly the flag for our brilliant St Just festival and also because it’s very multi-cultural and chimes with the gallery’s policy in that way. The picture was an opportunity to show huge contrasts; the defiant and carefree Mexican approach to death coming face to face with Cornish cottages. A giant puppet reaches the rooftops and bright sunshine strikes its Sombrero while children crowd forward in its shadow. For me the image prompted the question I posed in the extended title I gave it for the show which was Viva Lafrowda! – Cultures Come Together, Can there be Unity in Diversity? It was in the exhibition in New York from May 5th – 22nd and for sale at $4000! Had it sold there a big chunk of that would have gone to Lafrowda.

Now it’s back you can bid for it at my studio, The Turn of The Tide on Fore Street in St Just, or online. Everyone who advances the bidding receives a free print of the picture.

There’s also a buy-now alternative if you absolutely must have and want to support the festival in the process!

The Viva Lafrowda painting is just the latest in a succession of pieces I’ve made about Lafrowda and six of them so far have been sold in benefit auctions for the festival.

Support this wonderful community event! Advance the bidding by clicking here to access the contact page. Bidding ends at 6 p.m. on Lafrowda Day 2011 which this year falls on Saturday 16th July. See you there! Tom : – )

Festival picture news (April 2011)

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

The Latest news about the Viva Lafrowda painting inspired by last year’s festival in St Just is that it’s to be exhibited in New York in May!

Yes, it’s a case of Lafrowda goes to Broadway because it’s the Broadway Gallery that has invited me to send a piece for their May collection of art from around the world. It seemed to be that it will be a brilliant way to fly the flag for St Just, Penwith and Cornwall and in the process to hopefully push this year’s Lafrowda benefit art sale to new and dizzying heights. If the piece sells there then a big slice will go to Lafrowda festival funds.

Another piece of festival collection news is that The Ustinov Intercultural Centre at Durham University asked for examples to put in their Voices of the World Exhibition opening on April 21st.  I’m sending a collection of prints of various Lafrowda paintings including Viva Lafrowda together with an original based on last year’s midsummer bonfire at Chapel Carn Brea. You can see it at .

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