Friday, August 14, 2015

Falling apart

"Where the Forss Meets the Sea", watercolour, 25 x 36 cm

No, it's not me that's falling apart! It's another old building that I've seen deteriorating over the years. When I first came across it, there were just a couple of holes in the roof and it looked fairly sound. Those holes were enough, though, to allow the wind and rain to get to work. The roof timbers must have rotted, and when they could no longer carry the weight, they collapsed. It's sad to see, but it's a very organic process; almost like natural ageing.

The building stands right on the edge of the beach, where the River Forss runs into the sea. I don't know what its original purpose was. It's fairly substantial for this area; bigger than a croft house. It looks more like a larger farmhouse, but it seems a strange location for it. Maybe it had some involvement with fishing as well.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Old Farm at Backlass

"Old Farm at Backlass", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm

Rather a stark image, with nothing much to relieve the hard lines of the building. However it does, I think, convey the feeling of the place on a calm, clear day: a huge empty sky, an equally vast empty landscape, and the old buildings seeming incongruous in their isolation, now that they no longer serve a purpose*. Backlass is several miles beyond the end of the public road at Loch More. It is one of the more remote of the old farmsteads, and yet it was still inhabited less than a hundred years ago.

*The buildings may no longer be useful for humans, but they still serve a purpose for wildlife. Deer find shelter from the worst of the weather, and birds roost in the roofs. When we were there, a Barn Owl flew out of one of the open doorways. It was wonderful to see such a majestic bird gliding over the moorland.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Exhibition at Lyth Art Centre

The Summer Exhibition at Lyth Art Centre - - starts 1st July and runs until 31st August. The preview is 30th June 20.00 - 22.00.

I have a number of my paintings on show, including this one.

"A Farm in Snow", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stuck at Ryvoan Bothy

"Ryvoan Bothy", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm

Sometimes I have what I call 'Sticky' subjects. These are paintings that I get stuck on and can't seem to get right, despite trying several times. If the subject is a good one, I keep coming back to it because I don't like to be beaten. This is one of those subjects, which I have used up quite a few sheets of paper on over a number of years. I nearly said 'wasted paper', but I don't think work is ever a waste of time if something can be learned in the process.

The main problem was the wooded hillsides in the middle distance. Scots Pine trees tend to have a distinctive appearance, with tall trunks and branching tops. The forests have ragged edges, where individual seedlings have taken root. I wanted to convey some of that character, but I kept falling into the trap of  painting too carefully. I had to remind myself that the trees were only a supporting element; the main focus was the bothy. Ironically, when I stopped worrying about trying to make the trees look right, I got just the effect I was looking for. I literally hadn't been able to 'See the wood for the trees'!

I also had trouble with the brownish crimson colour of the heather in the foreground. It was quite dark in tonal value, but when I painted it that way it looked too dull and heavy. The solution I found was to make it lighter, and just pick out a few darker areas.

I feel I can put this subject behind me now, and when I have something similar to do in future I will have a better idea how to go about it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunrise on an Ancient Landscape

"Sunrise on Stac Pollaidh", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm

Stac Pollaidh, or Stack Polly in English, is one of the iconic mountains in Scotland. It's not very impressive in its height, but it's profile and location make it instantly recognisable to lovers of Scottish mountains. It lies in Assynt, which is an area in Sutherland, and also forms part of the North West Highlands Geopark. The rocks here are the oldest in Europe, and they contain some of the earliest evidence of life on Earth. It was in this area that some of the early pioneering work on geology was done by Benjamin Peach and John Horne. Assynt is truly one of the natural treasures of Scotland.