Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Venetian Red

"The Old Man of Stoer", watercolour, 17 x 14 cm

For many years I have used the same palette of colours, mostly based on the Sienna and Umber earth pigments with a few primaries for mixing. However, recently I have been looking at new options to see whether I can make my paintings a bit brighter. One addition I have been considering is a red oxide. In the past I've used Light Red, but it didn't seem to offer much more than I could get with Burnt Sienna. In this painting I used Venetian Red and it seems more useful: it makes a nice muted pink, and a purple/grey with French Ultramarine. It was perfect for the red sandstone rock in this subject.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Back to the Irthing Valley

"A Break in the Clouds, Irthing Valley", watercolour, 24 x 35 cm

I have been clearing out and tidying my studio, and in the process I have been looking through my old paintings. I found this one that I painted about ten years ago, when I used to live in the Irthing Valley in North Cumbria. I think I was unhappy with it at the time because the clouds at the top were too dark and rough, but now I really like the sense of dramatic light and I'm not so concerned with a 'finished' appearance.


Friday, September 18, 2015

In the Shadow of Foinaven

"Loch Dionard, below Foinaven, watercolour, 24 x 36 cm


For lovers of wild landscapes, there can be few places in Scotland better than North-West Sutherland. The rocks here have been dated to 3 billion years old, and whenever I visit this area I am aware of a sense of both great age and timelessness. A human lifespan is tiny compared with geological time, and so the landscape seems to be unchanging. And yet we can see how the rocks have been thrust up and folded, and then worn away by glaciers, in a process that seems almost incomprehensible. It's a place for allowing the mind to wander and wonder.





Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Seago Country

"On Hill of Forss" - watercolour - 24 x 35 cm


One of my favourite painters is Edward Seago. He was working around the middle of the Twentieth Century, and many of his paintings were of the landscapes around his home in Norfolk, in the east of England. It's a very flat area, with lots of waterways and lakes, but the main feature of his paintings was the big expanse of sky. Scotland isn't normally thought of as being flat, but Caithness is sometimes known as the "Lowlands beyond the Highlands", and it is predominantly low-lying and open. Like Norfolk, the skies are big and have a wonderful variety of cloud formations.

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.

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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Exhibition at Lyth Art Centre

The Summer Exhibition at Lyth Art Centre - http://www.lytharts.org.uk - 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.

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.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Into the Flow Country

"Beyond Loch More", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm


A public road runs out through Strathmore, as far as Loch More, but beyond that there are only estate and forestry tracks. One route leads through the Flow Country for 16 miles, to the next strath at Forsinard. Another route goes to the south, into the mountains around Braemore. In good weather, either route makes a great day out on foot or bicycle.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lochdhu Lodge

"Lochdhu Lodge" - watercolour - 25 x 36 cm


I was on a long bike ride one day, when I came round a corner and saw this building. It was surprising to find such an imposing house in the middle of an area of forestry plantations. I found out later that it's called Lochdhu Lodge, and that it was built towards the end of the 19th Century for Victorian shooting parties. It probably owes its existence to the nearby railway, which meant that building materials could be brought in easily.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dunnet Forest

"A Walk in Dunnet Forest" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm


Dunnet Forest is one of the few areas of mixed woodland in Caithness. It was originally a commercial conifer plantation, but it was purchased by Scottish Natural Heritage and is now managed as a community woodland. The Dunnet Forest Trust has done a lot of work, clearing areas of fallen trees and replanting with native species. They have also created an extensive network of paths and it's possible to walk quite a long way, and even get a bit lost! With all the open space in the county, it makes a nice change to experience a woodland setting, with all its sounds and smells.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Grasping the Moment

"Rocks and Trees, Dunbeath Strath" - watercolour - 25 x 36 cm


When I made a sketch of this place, high up Dunbeath Strath, my main impression was one of wildness and tranquillity. Admittedly, there were sheep grazing nearby, and there was a man-made fishing pool in the river below, but these didn't impact much on the sense of isolation. Imagine my surprise on my next visit when I found that a large log cabin had been built there. It appears to be a shelter for fishing parties from the estate that owns the land.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Borgie Falls


"Borgie Falls" - watercolour - 25 x 36 cm

Borgie Falls will be well-known to people who fish on the River Borgie, in Northern Sutherland. It must be exciting to see the salmon, leaping up the waterfall to reach their spawning grounds higher up the river.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Loch Loyal Boathouse

"Boathouse on Loch Loyal" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm


Most of the larger lochs in this area have a boathouse, for storing fishing boats and equipment. This lovely one on Loch Loyal is unusual in having a turf roof.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Golspie and the Moray Firth

"Golspie Pier" - watercolour - 15 x 36 cm


A view from the beach at Golspie on the east coast of Sutherland. The coastline in the distance is Morayshire, on the other side of the Moray Firth. The rolling hills there are so different from the mountains of Sutherland, and the stretch of water is so big, that sometimes it feels like looking across to a different country.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quarry Buildings

"Old Quarry Workings, Dirlot" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm



Usually I find old buildings more interesting than modern ones: they seem to sit more naturally in the landscape, and they have a sense of history about them. These concrete quarry buildings are probably only about 50 years old. They're not used any more, and I suppose they are beginning to acquire a patina of age, but I think it was all the different angles and shadows that attracted me to this subject.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter Light

"Snow and Winter Light" - watercolour - 13 x 19 cm


I love the soft skies that we get at this time of year. With the sun low in the sky and setting in the south-west, it throws warm light onto the clouds behind Morven. When the hills are covered with snow as well, there are some dramatic subjects.

Having been laid low with a cold for a week, this was a nice little piece to get back into my rhythm again.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sand Dunes at Dunnet Bay

"Sand Dunes at Dunnet Bay" - watercolour - 25 x 36 cm


Dunnet Bay is a wonderful area for scenery and nature. Two miles of broad beach are backed by a system of high sand dunes. Some parts of the dunes are stabilised by marram grass, while others are areas of shifting sand. Behind the dunes the sand has been blown far inland, covering the peat, and forming a distinctive habitat, which is protected as the Dunnet Links National Nature Reserve.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Halkirk


"Old Cottage in Halkirk" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm

Halkirk is the nearest village in my local area. Most of it was created in the 19th Century, around a bridge on the River Thurso. It was laid out on a grid pattern of houses, with individual plots of land. Many of the original houses have been replaced or modernised, but there are still a few old cottages, which make it possible to imagine how the village would have looked originally.