Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Lairig Ghru

I've just come back from a trip down to the Cairngorms. The weather was pretty wet but I managed to get a couple of days of hill-walking. It was great to be up among some of the highest mountains in Scotland and I got some good sketches and photographs.

I didn't take my watercolour box with me this time as I intended to try using watercolour pencils. I haven't had much success with them previously, but when you are sketching on a mountain in gale-force winds, it's much easier to hold a few pencils instead of a paint-box and water pot. They are so much more convenient that I think it's worth persevering with them. I used a small selection of Derwent watercolour pencils, three Karisma Graphite Aquarelle pencils and a Pentel waterbrush. This last item is very useful for sketching as you don't have to carry a separate water pot and keep dipping the brush in it.

The first walk I did was into the Lairig Ghru, one of the two great passes through the Cairngorms and an ancient route for travellers. The route took me below the Northern Corries of Cairngorm to the Chalamain Gap, a remnant of the last Ice-age.

The Chalamain Gap
Karisma Graphite Aquarelle pencils on A5 cartridge paper

The Chalamain Gap

Once I had scrambled over the boulders that filled the Gap I descended into the Lairig Ghru.

Entering The Lairig Ghru

Mountains towered on either side and steep scree-covered slopes closed in on the path. I could have found lots of subjects to sketch, but I had to limit myself a bit as I wanted to reach the top of the pass.

The Lairig Ghru and Lurchers Crag

Eventually I reached the top and had some sandwiches while I sketched the view down the other side.

Looking south from the Pools of Dee

I returned by the same route and sketched some of the views I hadn't done on the way up. The weather had been good and the day was only spoiled by the midges which descended on me whenever I stopped. Regular applications of insect-repellent were required!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mission-house at Dirlot

Mission-house at Dirlot
Watercolour, 22 x 33 cm

This is the old Presbyterian chapel and mission-house at Dirlot. There seems to have been a minister here from the late 18th Century. He was known as a Missionary and his house was the Mission-house. His Mission covered a very large area of boggy moorland and he would have covered most of it on foot. They took their religion very seriously in those days!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Uncharted Territory

Dirlot Gorge
watercolour, 22 x 33 cm

I've discovered a new area to explore, thanks to a neighbour. I was out in Strathmore discussing a painting commission with him and he told me about Dirlot Gorge. He had grown up in the area and offered to show me around, so we had an interesting time exploring his old haunts. There is some wonderful scenery there and I could see several subjects for paintings straight away.

The River Thurso runs through a beautiful gorge, which is a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest'. There is an old chapel, a very ruined castle and some Neolithic stone rows. Apparently there was also a high glacial ridge, but unfortunately that was quarried away in the 1950's.

I went back yesterday to paint the gorge, but the warm weather has brought all the biting insects out. The worst ones, for me, are the clegs. They bite me even through my clothes. I put up with it for as long as I could, but I rushed the painting and ruined it in the end. I painted this version at home from the original.