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The Passing of Time

"All Our Yesterdays" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm

I have often passed by this old cottage and thought that it would make a nice subject in a rustic kind of way. There are lots of these old buildings in Caithness, and as I was painting this I realised that they represent a specific point in time. Within living memory some of them were still being lived in and worked as small farmsteads, but in a generation or two they will have disappeared; worn down by a combination of weather and neglect.
We tend to think of the times that we live in as being the most important, but in fact they are transient, and future generations will think of us as being just as much a part of history as we do of our ancestors. I expect there is a moral to be taken from that: Maybe that we should embrace change because it is inevitable, and that resisting it holds us back. Equally, it could be argued that we should preserve memories of the past as a reminder of our development as people. Perhaps we need a balance of the two.
I painted the sky that way for compositional reasons, but it occurs to me now that the change in the weather echoes the theme of change generally, and gives an extra dimension to the painting. My title for the piece comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”


  1. Good morning Keith!... Such a wonderful way to start off my day! Your post is one of your best for so many reasons. The painting mimics life itself and wonderfully captures the transience of life... both in subject and in colour.

    Balance is everything in life Keith as you have stated. Moderation is necessary in all aspects of life. But in our youth and ignorance we do out of our human instincts... "strut and fret"... too much!

    I love Shakespeare's work... its messages bear out every aspect off human existence. All one need do is... get a glove and get in the game! Humanity is little changed in many respects... History repeats itself.

    I do respect the outlook of your comments more than the pessimism of the Bard in your quote. A great post!

    Good painting... and changing!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce, writing this post made me realise that the passing of time is becoming a theme in my work. I suppose it's not surprising, living in a landscape where the rocks are billions of years old, and all around is evidence of the history of Mankind.

      Thanks for the visit, and I'm glad to give you a good start to the day.

      All the best,

  2. Hi Keith Great painting I like the composition of the sky and colors the buildings doors are a nice accent.
    Have a great day.


    1. Thanks Phil, yes I invented the red doors for the sake of adding a bit of colour.

  3. I like the painting very much Keith and your comments are interesting and thought provoking. I have to admit I envy you having these relics within easy reach. Change is inevitable it's true. As indicated, I live in Milton Keynes. Most of the city's infrastructure went up in the 70's and 80's and some of it was cutting edge, almost futuristic back then. In less than 50 years, most of it looks grubby, tired, tacky and completely devoid of elegance or inspiration. Compare that to this old building, oozing with character and romance, growing naturally into the landscape, it's edges softening with the passage of time. Once upon a time there were a lot of buildings like this all over the country. Change? It may well be inevitable... But it's not always for the best.

    1. Hello Kev and thanks for your comments. Yes, concrete doesn't age very well does it. Whereas buildings made of stone automatically seem part of the landscape they have come from.

  4. Hi Keith I think the exciting thing about being a landscape artist is that we are able to witness both the past and the present and create our own version of it all in our work. I notice the way so much of what I see on the coastline appears not to have changed much though of course it has over the years. I am especially fond of Corgarff castle near Strathdon, an old fort I still get a sense of being back in the old days when I look out of one of the rear turret windows to the old original road that was used way back in 1550! Bonny painting Keith.

    1. Hi Caroline, I know what you mean about Corgaff Castle: you almost expect to see Jacobites or Redcoats! I must paint that sometime.

      All the best,

  5. Oh, that is so true, Keith. Time IS so transient, and memories ARE so important. One of the problems with present society is the tendency to keep pushing into the future, trying to find the experience, the idea, the 'thing' that will give it - so it believes - the ultimate thrill. Your painting shows us so clearly that the 'thrill' (or whatever one wants to call it) is already with us - it is just a matter of appreciating the past.

    1. Yes, I think that is a Buddhist philosophy: that always striving for more excitement only leads to unhappiness, and the way to true contentment lies in appreciating what we already have.

  6. Isn't it strange Keith, how something old that has been neglected, is wasting or rusting way can be turned into a thing of great beauty in the hands of an artist.

    1. Very true Frank, something to do with the patina of age I think. Equally, it's often difficult to make a modern building look interesting.

  7. Very moody and beautiful painting!! Love the signs of time on this old building, nicely composed image.

    best regards, isabella


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