Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Loch Naver

Autumn Sunshine on Loch Naver, watercolour, 16 x 26 cm

Lovely Loch Naver lies in the heart of the vast emptiness of Sutherland. A narrow winding road follows the northern shore, fringed with birch trees and grassy meadows. On the southern side the loch is dominated by the mountain, Ben Klibreck, one of Scotlands 'Munros' (mountains over 3,000 ft or 910 m). On a sunny autumn day, with the glowing birch trees, the blue of the water and the backdrop of rich moorland colours, it is just perfect.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Challenging Commission

I have just finished a commissioned painting which was challenging, and different from my usual subject matter. Essentially, it was a portrait of a ship which the client had a family connection with. I was provided with an image of a 19th Century painting and given a free hand to create my own interpretation of it -

I found the Victorian painting a bit uninteresting, and dull in colour because of the old brown varnish. I wanted to give the composition more energy and suggest the speed of a schooner, which was one of the fastest ships of its time. Looking through stock photographs of modern schooners to find something similar, I was surprised at the variety of size of vessel and type of rigging, but I managed to find a few that were similar topsail schooners; so-called because they have square-rigged sails at the top of the mast. With a few pencil sketches, I explored different ideas and made myself familiar with the way the ships were rigged. I also worked out a background representing the Caithness coastline, which had the outline of the mountain, Scaraben, and some characteristic cliffs. I finished with a full-sized drawing which I squared-up for transferring to the watercolour paper, and at the same time I reversed the image, because for some reason I felt happier with the ship sailing from left to right.

I had a bit of trouble with the flags: they had to be the same because one is the ensign of the Merchant Navy and the other is probably a company emblem, but when I painted them in a strong red colour they immediately drew the eye to the top left. My solution was to make them more faded, especially the top one, and I included some arbitrary red features on the deck to provide balance.

I hope my painting of the schooner has depicted the original vessel, but given it a greater sense of movement and a brighter, more modern appearance.

'Schooner "Snaefell" off Caithness', watercolour, 36 x 51 cm

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Coastal Defences

"A Defended Coast, Keiss", watercolour, 25 x 36 cm

This scene interested me because of the time-scale represented by the different buildings. The distant castle was built around the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, whereas the foreground structure is a pillbox gun emplacement from World War II. In fact there is even more history covered: although they don't appear in the view, two brochs*, take us back to before 100 AD.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Reminder of Home

"Tongside Farmyard", watercolour, 25 x 36 cm

A recent commission, for friends to give to a son who has moved to the other side of the World. I enjoyed painting this one, with its contrast of strong sunlight and shade. I had to paint the dogs from memory, but I think they made all the difference to the final result.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Highland 'Postie'

"Highland 'Postie'", watercolour, 25 x 36 cm

This was one of those subjects that turn up by chance sometimes. I had been out sketching this view and was walking back, when a post van passed me. I had seen him coming across the moor in the distance, and the striking colour of the vehicle in the vast, empty, landscape gave me the idea for an unusual painting. My own van happens to be the same make and model, so I was able to use that to get a drawing at the right angle. Then I just had to combine my sketches into one drawing to paint from.