A Walk in the Woods – Acrylic and Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
This is inspired by Bill Bryson’s book of the same name where he described hiking the Appalachian Trail. ISBN 0385 408161
I re-read this recently to find out about the threat, by disease or climate change, which is effecting many native American trees. Its worth reading this book if only for Bryson’s humour. My favourite pieces are near the beginning where he starts to get concerned about tales of bear attacks. He then discovers that bears seem to like Snickers. Later, when joined by a friend, Stephen Katz, he is further dismayed to learn that Katz has brought along lots of emergency supplies – Lots of Snickers.
North Berwick Golf Course, West Links – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
This is the first hole of North Berwick’s West Links or Course. The history of the club goes back to the 1830′s so its well established. This hole is named “Point Garry – Out which means your tee shot is aimed at the point which is just on the very right of this painting. Just over this hill is the green with the beach adjacent on its right – a true seaside links course. The first drive can be a terrifying experience – especially when there are folks with sketchbooks just over the wooden boundary fence. This course has evolved in a true natural way. It has been fitted into the landscape rather than the land being altered to suit the course. There are two outstanding holes here. The 13th, called “Pitt” needs two good shots the second across a stone wall just in front of the green. The 15th, the “Redan” is 190 yards long and is a brute of a par 3. Arnold Palmer, no less, described this as one of his all time favourites. The hole has been copied all over the world. The word “links” has come to mean the useless piece of land between good farming ground and the sea – the piece that links the two. Changed days! It costs £80.00 for a round during the week. Some piece of useless land! The most famous links are those of the Old Course of St Andrews, just north across the Firth of Forth and where this week’s Open Championship will be contested.
I used a bit of artistic license in this painting as my short video of North Berwick shows.
In order to get some contrast between the building in the distance and the sky I added some more trees and made the sky more stormy. You won’t tell – will you?
This was inspired by Wagner’s opera Der fliegende Holländer although the myth of a ship that can never go home existed long before Wagner made it popular. The ghost ship sometimes appears out of the mist or suddenly on a clear day. People, trapped on board, call out sending messages to folks in the living world – but these people, in the real world, are long dead. Spooky – what? Most people, in the north and west of Europe, will empathise with this tale being superstitious “maritime folks”. The painting is part of a series I did for a friend who wanted to illustrate the tale for some young schoolchildren, the reason it’s not in a Moleskine. Hope you don’t mind.
Although I don’t understand many of Richard Wagner’s works I think some of the music, especially the great overtures of Tannhäuser, Die Meistersinger and, especially Lohengrin are inspiring. I used to time myself, going to work in the morning, by listening to some of these overtures. If, for instance, I could get to my school before the opening to Tannhäuser was finished then I had made good time on the motorway. Mind you, some people are less enthusiastic about his operas. One once said Lohengrin started at 7.00pm and you looked at your watch, three hours later – and it was only 7.30pm.
Red Craig, Glen Clova – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
This was the first “real hill” I ever climbed – at the age of six. We camped at the foot of this modest hill, at the start of Scotland’s Grampian Mountains, and ascended it that evening. Its about 2000 ft high. I remember two things about that climb. There was the remains of an old forest halfway up. The wood, left was a dry fossilised grey colour and looked as if it had been there for centuries although a great storm, in the 1950′s, flattened huge amounts of trees and this was probably part of that. There also seemed to be thousands of rabbits which fled, in every direction, as we approached. Strange the things we remember. These days the rabbits have been much eradicated although they are on the increase while fresh forests, planted soon after my epic achievement, are now filling the land. Massive amounts of trees were planted after the war to replace the thousands needed for the war effort.
My scene shows another phenomenon, not entirely Scottish. One of the reasons for the huge amount of rainfall is the prevailing west winds, from the Atlantic, sweep up the hills resulting in increased precipitation. I believe this is known as “Orographic” precipitation resulting in “Adiabatic” cooling and condensation – is that correct, John? Whatever it’s called it can get very wet and windy as the scene tries to show. Just after the initial sketches for this painting, the sky darkened and the wind increased followed by a few inches of the wet stuff. Scotland, especially west facing Scotland, doesn’t have a climate. It has weather.
Glen Doll, towards Jock’s Road – Ink and Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
A couple of weeks ago we visited this area. I had not been back here since 1963. My dad and I used to camp in the adjacent Glen Clova where the river South Esk runs. I remember leaving the camp site in 1958 and dad singing a song about “Farewell to the mountains” – rather badly. I’ve just looked this up:
This is from the film, Davy Crockett – King of the wild frontier. Farewell was on the flip side of the record although I’m not sure if it was this version:
You’all remember the Davy Crockett craze of 1957? Yes you do. Don’t deny it! Kids used to run about with toy guns wearing granny’s fox fur on their heads
One of dad’s ambitions was to walk to Braemar, via Jock’s Road which can be seen – its the cleft between the two hills in the centre horizon. He tried a few time but something always spoiled things. Bad weather was the usual cause – five men lost their lives on this mountain pass almost 50 years ago. His last attempt ground to a halt, in brilliant weather, when one of his companions suffered a severe asthma attack. I should have picked up the baton but, somehow, never did. This walk is relatively easy – in good conditions. It is the first half of one of the great Scottish walks, the second half is from Braemar to Aviemore via the great Cairngorm mountain pass – Lairig Ghru. Both parts of the “walk” are to be undertaken seriously. I was with a party of newly graduated teachers in 1969, walking through this pass in the height of summer. Of of the lads collapsed under the stain and despite all our efforts, died. Turned out he had an unknown heart condition. I often think of him.
Fortingall Yew, Perthshire – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
The Fortingall Yew tree stands in the grounds of Fortingall Churchyard in Perthshire, here in Scotland. This is an ancient plant – various estimates say its between 2000 and 5000 years old although recent research suggest nearer the 2000 year mark. Just think! It was around at the time of Christ. Because yews are long lived they were planted near churches as a reminder of our past. Why this one has lasted so long is a mystery but DNA samples are currently being used by The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh to investigate this.
We came across this during our recent holiday in these parts. The tree is encased behind railings to keep inquisitive hands away so I was only able to take a few photos and a small video, through the bars. My painting, therefore, uses a fair amount of artistic license. This painting suggests there are more than one tree but the separate trunks are all connected by roots and underground growth. The tree features at the start of this clip:
People in my country, used to believe in the mystical powers of long-lived trees. We are not alone here as many other cultures worshipped their native trees. We used to think the yew could tell us of all its past as well as forecasting the future and people would pilgrimage to places like this to ask what lies ahead. Here is a song, sung by Battlefield Band, built around this myth.
For those trying to understand what this song is about, here is a link which might help
Gliders at Portmoak, Scotlandwell. – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
I have always been fascinated by aircraft and joined the RAF Cadet Force when at High School. This led to a number of flights in various aircraft and, had I stayed in the cadets long enough would have undergone pilot training. About this time, in the early 1960′s, I would cycle from Kirkcaldy to this small airfield on the shores of Loch Leven to watch the gliders. I must have been keen (and fit) for its a 35 mile round trip.
Last week, returning from Falkland Palace, we made a short detour to revive some childhood memories. The Scottish Gliding Centre is still here and we watched some nice flying on a hot sunny day. I shot a small video of our visit which is not very good as I was having difficulty pick up the machines at long range against the white clouds. My video shows the two methods of launching namely gliders being towed by a light aircraft or towed by a winch. You just might make out the winch cable in a couple of shots which has a parachute just under the glider. When the glider is released, the parachute allows the cable to to be recovered without killing anyone. When the gliders are set free they invariably head for the slopes of the Bishop Hill where a combination of updraughts and thermals can keep these things aloft for hours.
The Scottish Gliding Centre have a great information web site. This is their Home Page. On it there is a brilliant wee video. If you watch it you will see many lovely shots of this area including Loch Leven. Around 5.00 minutes you see some islands on the loch. The small one, to the right, is where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the small castle in 1567.
Falkland Palace – Watercolour with ink highlights in an A3 Watercolour Moleskine
Falkland is a small village nestling below the Lomond Hills in Fife, not far from St Andrews. It has a long history as it grew up around the Palace which was a favourite retreat for the Stuart monarchy. Because of this historical connection, it became Scotland’s first conservation area in 1970. The palace and gardens are situated right in the centre of the village. The whole area has a lovely calm, old world feel about it.
The palace itself is not too big – it was used as a hunting lodge for the likes of James V and later, Mary Stuart. Up until fairly recently it was privately owned and occupied but is now in the care of The National Trust for Scotland. The gardens are quire extensive boasting many fine large trees and planted borders. The only surviving “Real Tennis” court, in Scotland, lies in these gardens. When we visited, last week, the rafters were being used by nesting swallows:
I hope my painting does it justice. This is the first time I have submitted a post using an A3 Moleskine so I had to photograph it. I did this, outside, as I have had some difficulty with the “white balance” settings on my camera, indoor shots not being quite right.
Errochty Dam – Watercolour/Ink in a Watercolour Moleskine
This small dam lies at the head of Glen Errochty about 8 miles to the north of Kinloch Rannoch. There are many small, and quite a few large, dams in Scotland the idea is to generate hydroelectric power. Lots of the existing structures were built in the 1950′s. It was said, at the time, that the electricity to be generated would be so plentiful it would be too cheap to “meter”. Alas, this was not to be as demand for power has increased, and continues to increase, annually. Despite having 85% of the UK’s hydro power (we have lots of rain in Scotland) our fuel bills are still too much. The latest schemes, for “renewable energy” are now being concentrated on wind and tidal power. Maybe, one day, electricity will come at a reasonable price.