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Showing posts from 2019

Frozen Landscape

Frozen Landscape, watercolour, 16 x 26 cm
Available - £140

I often think that the Flow Country can look like an Arctic landscape at times. Especially in freezing temperatures, this kind of scene reminds me of images I have seen of places like Svalbard.

Snow at Dirlot

Snow at Dirlot, watercolour, 16 x 26 cm
Available - £140
We haven't had this much snow yet - this was painted from a sketch - but it's turned much colder, so it could happen at any time.

Autumn Tree in Dunbeath Strath

Autumn Tree in Dunbeath Strath, watercolour, 16 x26 cm
Available - £140
A sunny autumn day in a woodland landscape; could there be a better subject for an artist!

Feeding Time

Feeding Time - watercolour, 16 x 26 cm
Available - £140
One way to get your models in a nice composition, and not moving around - catch them at feeding time!

Calm Anchorage at Morar

Calm Anchorage at Morar, watercolour, 25 x 36 cm
Available, £240
The area of western Scotland known as Morar is part of a National Scenic Area, and famous for its white sandy beaches. It was featured in the film "Local Hero".

Roadside Cottages at Sarclet

Roadside Cottages at Sarclet, watercolour, 16 x 26 cm
Available, £140

A group of the long, single-storey crofters' cottages that are typical of rural Caithness.

Kilchurn Castle

Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe, watercolour, 25 x 36 cm
Available for £240

Kilchurn Castle was built in the 15th Century, and was one of the strongholds of the Clan Campbell. It stands at the head of Loch awe, in the shadow of the mountain, Ben Cruachan.

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The Monument at Glenfinnan

The Monument at Glenfinnan, watercolour, 15 x 25 cm.

Available  £140

In 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised his standard at Glenfinnan, and began his attempt to reclaim the throne for his father, James Stuart. This was the start of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, which ultimately ended in failure at the Battle of Culloden. The Glenfinnan Monument was erected in 1815, in tribute to the clansmen who died for the cause.
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The Beekeeper

The Beekeeper, watercolour, 13 x 18 cm.
Available £70

One of my neighbours is a part-time beekeeper, and when I saw him working at his bee-hives I thought it would make an interesting subject. He was using smoke to pacify the bees while he opened the hives.

Old Fishing Station at Forse

Old Fishing Station at Forse, watercolour, 16 x 26 cm.

I came across these old buildings, tucked into the cliffs, on a walk along the coast. They are hidden away and forgotten now, but they were probably connected with the herring fishing industry, like many other shoreline ruins.

Loch More and the Flow Country

Loch More and the Flow Country, watercolour, 25 x 36 cm.

Loch Calder Moorings

Loch Calder Moorings, watercolour, 16 x 26 cm

In Search of Autumn in Dunbeath Strath

I'm always a bit jealous of people who live in areas where there are a lot of trees, at this time of year: the colours are so beautiful. There are only a few places in Caithness where there are trees in any number, so when the sun was shining today, we decided to go looking for them.

One of the best places is Dunbeath Strath, where the birch and oak woods line the sides of the gorge, and make a very pleasant walk along the river. Further on, the path climbs up onto the open moorland, with wider views, and the colours of the bracken and heather are added to the mix.

At times like this, Caithness always looks at its best, and it feels like there is no better place on Earth!

MeyGen Tidal Energy Project

The sea between the island of Stroma and the Mainland has very strong tidal currents, where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea meet. This has made it an ideal site for the first commercial tidal power generation project in Scotland, and currently the largest in the World. The turbines are in the form of large propellers, similar to wind turbines. It's good to see a World-leading project based here in Scotland, and the Country is well on the way to having most of its energy from renewable sources.

I am concerned about the effect on marine life, particularly the whales and dolphins which are often seen in these waters, but I hope the environmental impact is being monitored and taken into account.

The ship in the painting was in the process of servicing one of the turbines.

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Recent Exhibits

These were the paintings that I exhibited at the Society of Caithness artists exhibition in Thurso recently. Two were sold and the other two are still available.

"Strathy Point Lighthouse", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm Sold

"Ben Loyal and the Kyle of Tongue", watercolour, 35 x 51 cm

 "The River at Thurso", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm Sold

"Moored Boat on Loch Calder", watercolour, 25 x 36 cm

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Limekilns are found in limestone country, where the soils are thin, and they were used to produce fertiliser. The limestone was burnt at high temperature to produce lime, which was then mixed with water to produce quicklime. When it was spread on fields, it reduced the acidity and improved the fertility.

Broubster Clearance Village

Throughout the Highlands in the Nineteenth Century, tenant farmers were evicted from their homes, or 'crofts', during the notorious Highland Clearances. Landowners, in a drive for efficiency and more profitable land use, wanted to replace the old system of small-holdings with large sheep ranches. The crofters were forced out of their scattered homes, often in a brutal manner, and re-housed in new communities. The land that they were given was often of poor quality and they had to work hard to maintain even a subsistence level of life. During this period many people took up the offer of a new life overseas, emigrating to Canada, New Zealand and Australia, where their descendants still have strong links with Scotland.

In 1839 tenants from the estates of Broubster and Shurrery, in Caithness, were resettled in a new village. Land was provided for them, but they probably had to build their own houses. The dwellings were in the form of long-houses, which consisted of a …


For much of it's early history, Wick was little more than a small collection of buildings at the mouth of the River Wick. However in the 19th Century, prosperity came to the town as a result of the growth of the fishing industry. Fleets sailed out of Wick, and other ports, in search of the huge shoals of herring that were in the North Sea at that time. This was happening at the same time that the Highland Clearances* were driving people out of their homes in much of Northern Scotland. Large numbers of these Highlanders were attracted to the fishing ports in search of work. In Wick it led to the construction of a new town, Pultneytown, on the south side of the river. The two communities were administered separately for many years, but eventually they were merged into one town. Sadly for Wick, the herring stocks crashed under the pressure of over-fishing, and the prosperous times came to an end.

Some imposing buildings were constructed during the prosperous years, incl…

The Shelter Stone

Throughout Scotland climbers, and other users of the mountains, share knowledge of places which can be used as rough overnight shelters. They are often known by the old Scottish word, 'howff'. One such place is at the head of Loch Avon in the Cairngorm Mountains. The Gaelic name for it is Clach Dion, and it consists of a large boulder resting on a number of smaller stones. Long ago someone must have discovered the natural cavity underneath, with enough space for four or five people. For centuries ever since it has been used as a refuge from the severe mountain weather, although some people might not find it easy to sleep with such a huge boulder above them!

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Balnakeil Beach

The community of Balnakeil lies at the furthest North-westerly point on the British mainland. It is well-known for its Craft Village, an experiment begun in the 1970's to turn disused military buildings into an artistic centre. The project was a success and the site now has various businesses, including a bookshop and restaurant, and a popular chocolate shop!
Below the village lies Balnakeil Beach, a long stretch of sand around one side of a narrow bay, with turquoise water and backed by towering sand-dunes. The beach leads to the end of a promontory at Faraid Head, where the Ministery of Defence still has a presence in the form of a small radar station. This is used to monitor military excercises which take place every year at nearby Cape Wrath.

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Shelter Stone Crag

The south-western end of Loch Avon, in the Cairngorm Mountains, is over-looked by the dramatic Shelter Stone Crag. It is named after a massive boulder that lies at its foot, at the bottom of the light area in the painting. The rock is positioned in such a way that there is a large cavity beneath it, which can be been used as an overnight shelter for travellers in this remote area.

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Sail Gharbh, Quinag

The mountain known as Quinag, or "The Milking Pail" in English, has three peaks. The highest is Sail Gharbh meaning "The rough Heal".

Quinag is managed by The John Muir Trust, a conservation charity dedicated to preserving wild places -

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The Dounreay Dome

One of the bestl-known landmarks in Caithness is the white dome of Dounreay Nuclear Power Station. The first nuclear facility in Britain was built here in this remote location in the 1950's. Despite the dangers it was generally welcomed by local residents because of the prosperity that it brought to a declining region.

Dounreay is no longer operational and is being decommissioned. Current plans are for the dome to be dismantled, despite calls for it to be preserved as a monument.

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Ben Stack

When viewed from a North-westerly direction Ben Stack is a perfect mountain. If you asked a child to draw a mountian it would probably look like Ben Stack, a perfect cone in shape. From other directions it can be seen that it's really a long and narrow ridge. Several other mountains in Sutherland have the same sort of shape, which is a result of the geology and the action of glaciers. It's possible that during the last Ice Age Ben Stack may have been a Nunatak, a geological term for a mountain whose peak rises above the surrounding ice sheet.

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Reay Church

At the time when the Vikings ruled over a kingdom in Orkney, they also had settlements in Caithness. These were mainly around the north and east coasts, and in those areas there was a significant influence on the language and culture. Some of that legacy can be seen in several Scandinavian-style churches, such as this one at Reay. Other examples are at Dunnet and Canisbay.

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The Lairig Ghru

One of the great mountain passes of Scotland, the Lairig Ghru runs for around 40 km or 25 miles through the Cairngorm Mountains. It has been used for centuries by people traveling from Deeside in the south, to Strathspey in the north. No roads have been built through it so it is still only a rough path. The origin of the name is unclear. The first part is the Scottish Gaelic for 'mountain pass', but the second part could have several different meanings.

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Slioch and Loch Maree

Slioch means 'Spear' in gaelic, presumably from the broad, flat metal blade found on some spears. The mountain rises above beautiful Loch Maree, with its many wooded islands.

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The Chalamain Gap

This is one of the classic walking routes in the Cairngorms. It's a narrow pass filled with large boulders which make progress difficult. The route leads from Glenmore through to the pass of the Lairig Ghru, and then to join the paths climbing Braeriach.

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Blog Comments

It has come to my attention that there has been a problem for some people when trying to leave comments. They seem to disappear when the 'Publish' button is clicked. I have now changed the commenting method to a pop-up window, and that seems to have solved the problem. If you are one of the people who have been affected by this, I hope you won't have any further problems, but please send me an email if you do.

I have also changed the template, as I have seen some suggestions that they can sometimes cause problems.

While I have been looking into the issue, I have discovered comments from some time ago that I haven't been notified about. If some of these were yours, I am sorry about that. I value all comments and try to reply to all of them.

Inspired by Sargent

At Christmas I received a present of a book: 'John Singer Sargent Watercolors' by Erica E. Hirshler and Teresa A. Carbone. I've always admired Sargent's work in the medium, and this book is full of lots of wonderful, large illustrations.

Looking at some of the enlarged details, I was struck by how boldly the paint was applied. Sometimes the marks seem almost abstract until they are viewed from a distance. Then they coalesce into a wonderfully vibrant impression of the subject. In some ways his way of working seems quite modern.

It was interesting, as well, to see the variation in the thickness of the application. In some areas the paint is thin and transparent , while in others it is thick and opaque, so much so that sometimes cracking has occurred as the paint has dried. Look how effectively opaque paint has been used in the painting below, especially in the hands of the right-of-centre figure:

Sargent was, on many occasions, experimenting with innovative techniq…


Torrisdale is on beautiful Torrisdale Bay, at the mouth of the River Borgie, on the northern coast of Sutherland. It is a remote community of scattered crofts and houses, and is a place of timeless tranquillity.

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Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head is the most northerly point on the Mainland of Scotland. The lighthouse stands on the top of 100m/300ft high cliffs, which are home to large colonies of sea-birds. The views are spectacular, across the 14.5km/9 miles of the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands.

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The Flow Country and Ben Klibreck

This view from Ben Dorrery is looking over the Forsinard Flows nature reserve, towards the mountains of Ben Griam Beg and Ben Griam Mor, and snow-covered Ben Klibreck in the far distance. Forsinard is part of the Flow Country, the largest area of blanket bog in Europe.

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Link to a film about Forsinard -

Ruthven Barracks

Ruthven Barracks, near Kingussie, was built to garrison troops during the Jacobite uprisings of the Eighteenth Century. It was one of a number of fortifications, including Fort Augustus and Fort William, which were set up at strategic points on the new network of military roads.

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Berriedale Water

The landscape of Caithness consists mostly of rolling hills covered with farmland and moorland. However in the south of the county there is a range of mountains, including the peaks of Morven and Scaraben. Berriedale Water flows through this range, and forms a deep gorge as it follows a winding course out to the sea.

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