While you are waiting for your fish and chips to arrive at your table, take a moment to check out the artwork on our walls.
Being beside the sea means we favour beach scenes, but take a closer look and you might find that the artwork is more familiar than you first thought.
It has been created by local artists who have used Bracklesham Bay and this beautiful coastline, from here to West Wittering, as an inspiration for their work and we are proud to give them wall space.
The stunning image of East Head on the wall near the entrance to the kitchen has been painted in oils by Birdham-based artist Shazia Mahmood. She is a regular at Billy’s and currently more than half of her paintings in her studio are of views from Bracklesham Beach to West Wittering.
“I am so influenced by this coastline, it is such a dynamic landscape,” she says. “I have painted in Scotland and on the West Coast of America, but this area has an expansive vista. It is very, very pretty but it’s quite easy to take it for granted – you can see over to the Isle of Wight while you watch the sea and clouds moving in.”
Shazia paints in a mixed medium using acrylics, sprays, oils and inks to “push the boundaries”. She regularly visits the beach to take photos and do watercolour tests to get the landscape colours correct. Then it’s back to her studio in Birdham to put paint to canvas. Her artwork, she says, is “organic and free flowing and the end result is a representation of nature”.
Another regular artist is Caroline Musson, a huge fan of Billy’s on the Beach, who visits us at least once a month from her home in Haslemere, Surrey. She has four of her acrylics on the walls and often changes the artwork around during her visits so that customers can have a fresh scene.
“I have a connection with Billy’s, it’s a good place and where I take a breath,“ she says. “I feel like I have been on holiday when I have been there – it is like I am free and have no commitments. The area is so beautiful and inspiring. I love coming to Bracklesham Bay to blows the cobwebs away. I never intend to paint seascapes but always end up doing them.”
She too takes lots of photos to remind her of her visit before completing the artwork in her home studio.
Just a 20-minute stroll from here during low tide is another local artist, Steve Bonner, whose gallery and a studio are literally a stone’s throw from East Wittering beach. He pops in for coffee or breakfast several times a month and also takes his inspiration from this wonderful coastline.
“When you take photos of the beach, they very often don’t live up to the memories, so the job of the artist is to put those memories back,” he says. “When I paint a wave, I try to make it more powerful to bring out the colours more.”
He works in oil on canvases too large to hang at Billy’s, but you can see the paintings for real in his gallery which is open six days a week.
If the tide is low, Steve will walk from his studio to us when he is in need of a refreshment break.
“Billy’s is one of my few haunts – they do fab coffee. In this country, we do seaside so badly and cafés tend to be `greasy spoon’, but Billy’s is the exception to the rule,” he adds.
While the view from our front door is the inspiration for these amazing artists, we like to think we can take a little bit of credit for such talent – after all, a Billy’s coffee or breakfast is what keeps them painting.
All the paintings in the café are for sale. Ask our staff to put you in touch with the artists if you are interested. Steve Bonner’s gallery is at 17a The Parade, West Wittering.