Bone Caves

Further south from Smoo Cave, which I wrote about recently, there is another limestone cave system near Inchnadamph. The Bone Caves are a group of four caves, which were probably formed at the end of the last Ice Age by melting ice. Excavations have revealed the bones of various animals, including Lynx; Brown Bear; Arctic Fox; Reindeer; and even a Polar Bear. Human skeletons were also found, dating from earlier than 2,000 BC.

Materials used:
Bockingford Rough paper, 300 gsm
Rembrandt Artists' Watercolours -
Raw Sienna
Raw Umber
Burnt Sienna
French Ultramarine
Pthalo Green

Stage 1
I made a brief drawing with a 2B pencil to give me some guidelines to work to. Then I dampened the paper all over and applied weak washes, letting them run together without worrying too much about keeping to the pencil lines.

The colours used were French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna for the grey; Burnt Sienna with a little French Ultramarine for the brown; and Raw Umber and Pthalo Green for the greens.

I made the mistake of adding more paint when the paper had dried too much, resulting in some run-backs in a few places. I wasn't worried about it though, because I knew I could use them to my advantage later.

Stage 2
When the first washes had dried, I used darker versions of mostly the same mixtures to define the forms more. I softened the edges in places with a damp brush. I also added a couple of figures at this stage.

Final Stage
I finished by painting the cave entrances, and a few darker areas to further define form and texture.

"The Bone Caves at Inchnadamph" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm


  1. Hi there Keith!... An unusual beginning for this painting. Everything seems to emerge out of that misty wash and come into focus just as one would with achieve using a camera lens.

    The finished piece has a wonderful lead in which effectively traps the eye in the cave entrance usings the figures... which supply a secondary function of creating scale for an uotherwise flat subject! A very successful and clever compositional strategy!

    Enjoyable play-by-play commentary and historical tour as well.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce,....An unusual beginning, but likely to become usual for me I think. I like the way I can get the main scheme of colours and values established early. I also like allowing the paint to flow naturally, leading to softness and texture.

      All the best,


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