Skip to main content

Moorland Burning

"A Hill on Fire" - watercolour -- 16 x 26 cm

When I looked out of the window the other day, I saw this plume of smoke rising from the hill across the loch. It looked dramatic and I thought it would make an interesting subject, so I decided to paint it there and then. I wasn't sure how long the effect would last, so I decided not to do any drawing; I just wet a block of paper all over and floated in various colours. As the paper dried, I gradually defined some of the forms until I had built up a soft-edged impression of the subject. Then I left it to dry and finished the harder-edged areas later.

I don't know whether this fire was accidental or deliberate. The moors are managed with controlled burning at this time of year, known locally as 'Muirburn'. The mature heather is burned off to leave tender new growth for the grouse to feed on. However we also get wildfires in dry periods, and it has been fairly dry until recently.


  1. Very dramatic painting Keith. I like it. What did you add to the blue to create the clouds? i tend to use Light Red.

    1. Thanks Ray, it was Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna for the clouds, but I've used Light Red in the past a well.

  2. Good Morning Keith!... yet another beautifully crafted pastoral watercolour... blended with an interesting local commentary and historical footnote!

    I so enjoy touring about with you! I'll be back to posting this next week to share my travels over the past two weeks with my brother Don... and new paintings! Excited to return to my routine!

    Happy Easter to you and your family!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce, I look forward to hearing your news. I hope you had a good time.

      All the best,

  3. A beautiful painting, Keith; it is almost possible to smell the smoke.

    1. Thanks Diane, I hope it doesn't remind you too much of bush fires! I don't know whether you live in an area that's affected by them.

    2. Yes, we do get bushfires where we live, though we have been lucky these last few years. On one occasion, we had to evacuate as it looked as though the fire would sweep through the entire area; on another occasion, the fire had reached the outskirts of the town (and people were preparing to evacuate) when the wind suddenly changed. Your painting does remind me of bushfires, but, when they are really bad, the whole sky is the colour of smoke, and the sun often appears like a red ball.

    3. To have a bushfire heading your way must be a horrible experience. I'm glad you've been lucky so far, Diane.

  4. Hi Keith, it isn't easy to paint smoke in the distance, you have managed it perfectly. The colors in your painting are really lovely.

    1. Thanks Caroline. Yes it's tricky getting it just defined enough at the base, and then melting away into the sky above.

  5. The hard edge of white smoke in your painting makes it look very dramatic Keith, but underneath that is a lovely sleepy highland scene painted in your lovely effortless style.

    1. It was exactly that effect that caught my eye, Frank. I liked the way that the smoke arched over the sky and dissolved into the landscape underneath.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Moorland Fire

Moorland Fire Watercolour 25 x 36 cm
There is a definite feeling of approaching autumn now, with some cooler days and more unsettled weather. It hardly seems any time at all since the spring, when there was a long spell of dry weather and the moors were tinder-dry. There were a number of serious fires at the time and several nature reserves were badly damaged. I think they were mostly caused by accident or carelessness this time, but unfortunately there are people who seem to get satisfaction from starting fires deliberately.

The fire in this painting is of a different kind. Every year between, autumn and spring, shooting estates burn off small patches of moorland to leave a patchwork of heather. This encourages the breeding of grouse, with the old growth providing cover and the new shoots providing food. The operation has to be done very carefully, because fires can easily get out of control, and once the underlying peat starts to burn it can burn for days and is very difficult to p…

Christmas Wishes

A couple of my latest watercolours and -

Best Wishes to all for Christmas

"The Fuel Bowser", Watercolour, 24 x 18 cm

"View at Skelbo", Watercolour, 16 x 26 cm

Trying Out a Pochade Box

I had an old box for storing photographic transparencies that wasn't being used any more. It was just the right size to make a good pochade box, so I thought I would see what I could do with it. I fitted out the lid to hold two 8 x 10 inch panels, with the base holding the paints and brushes and a palette holding everything in place.

For its first trial I took it out to the same location as the previous post. This time it was raining, so it was an ideal opportunity to see how I would get on painting with the pochade inside my vehicle. It worked very well in the cramped conditions and was very easy to use.

When I had finished I just closed the lid and went home. Later, when I opened the box again, I found a blob of Pthalo Green right in the middle of the painting! I think the wood that I used for the palette was too flexible, so it had got pushed up into the lid. I was using acrylics, so normally it would have been easy to wash the green off. Unfortunately, I was trying out Atelie…