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Showing posts from 2011

A Big View for a Big Painting

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The Cuillins from Elgol Watercolour 36 x 51 cm I have a commission to do which is going to be a half-sheet painting (14 x 20 inches). I haven't painted at this size recently, so I thought I should get some practice. I searched through my sketchbooks for a suitably dramatic subject and chose this famous view of the mountains of Skye. It's a view that's been painted by many artists of the past and it still attracts painters today. It's one of those timeless places where nothing seems to change very much.

Moorland Fire

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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 dif

Loch an Ruathair

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Loch an Ruathair Watercolour 18 x 25 cm This is another view in the Forsinard area. The loch is on the edge of the Flows at the head of Strath Kildonan.

Forsinard Flows

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Forsinard Flows Watercolour 18 x 26 cm One of the best places to find out about the Flow Country is the RSPB's 'Forsinard Flows' nature reserve. This extensive area of peat bog is the nearest we get to true wilderness here in Britain. Large parts of it have been planted with commercial forestry in the past, but the RSPB are working to clear the trees and return the bog to something like its natural state. Click HERE to see a 40 minute film about The Flow Country and its wildlife.

Trying Out a Pochade Box

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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

On the Ramparts

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On Stob Coire an t-Sneachda Watercolour 25 x 36 cm This is another view of the edge of the Cairngorms plateau. On this northern side there is a series of deep corries, like the ramparts of a castle surmounted by rocky battlements. The sun barely reaches into these deep places and snow often lies here throughout the summer. Coire an t-Sneachda means 'Corrie of the snow'.

The Hills Which Turned Blue

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Crags on Cairn Lochan Watercolour 26 x 36 cm The old name for The Cairngorms range of mountains is 'Am Monadh Ruadh', or The Red Hills. The name probably refers to the pink colour of the granite, which makes them glow red in the setting sun. However, in modern times the whole range has come to be known by the name of one of its mountains, Cairn Gorm. This has led to an amusing paradox: Cairn Gorm means 'Blue Hill', so The Red Hills have now become The Blue Hills! Also, signs in the National Park are in Gaelic and English, so the mountains are red or blue, depending upon which language is used.

Duncansby Head

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Below the Stacks at Duncansby Head Watercolour 26 x 36 cm There is a popular sporting challenge, which involves walking or cycling the length of the British mainland. The usual starting point is the rugged coast of Land's End, in Cornwall, in the far south-west. The finishing point is John o' Groats, but it really ought to be Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly point in mainland Britain. However, I believe that Lands End now has a theme park, which must distract from the experience for those who are looking for a sense of natural drama. Fortunately, Duncansby Head is unspoilt, so long may it remain 'Land's End to John o' Groats'!

Hoy from Stromness

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Hoy from Stromness Watercolour 25 x 36 cm The final part of our short journey to Orkney takes us into the approaches to Stromness. These sheltered waters are quiet now, but during both World Wars they must have been very busy. Scapa Flow was an important naval base and there would have been constant movement of ships out to the Atlantic and back. The old concrete bunkers and gun-emplacements can still be seen lining the shore.

Kame of Hoy

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Kame of Hoy Watercolour 16 x 26 cm Continuing on our journey to Orkney, we pass around the Kame of Hoy. Here the rampart of sheer cliffs comes to an end and soon the first farms appear, with fields leading down to the coast. We are now entering the Hoy Sound, one of the narrow waterways leading to the sheltered anchorage of Scapa Flow. 

St. John's Head, Hoy

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St. John's Head, Hoy Watercolour 16 x 26 cm The ferry crossing from Scrabster to Stromness in the Orkney Isles must be one of the finest in the UK. There is the usual excitement of a journey over the sea to an island, but this one also has the bonus of the spectacular cliffs of Hoy. When the tide and sea conditions are right, the ship sails quite close to the coast, giving a good view. The most well-known feature is the sea-stack of The Old Man of Hoy , but surprisingly it is completely overshadowed by the 351m cliffs of St. John's Head, which are the highest in Britain.