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.
The Queen’s View – Acrylic in a Watercolour Moleskine
We passed this famous viewpoint on our way to our hotel in Kinloch Rannoch last week. This view is reputedly named after a spot beloved of Queen Isabella, the wife of Robert The Bruce. King Robert ruled Scotland from 1306 until 1329. Many today mistakenly think this spot is named after Queen Victoria who was on the throne from 1837 to 1901. Victoria and her consort Albert spent their holidays near this part of the country and it is assumed that the spot was named after a visit in 1866. She travelled, that day, “incognito” to avoid people – she seemed to dislike the constant attention of them. When staying at her retreat, “Balmoral” she told her servants that she was invisible to avoid them acknowledging her presence. Aye! A strange lot! Whoever this viewpoint is named after is irrelevant as it is quite spectacular. The eye looks up Loch Tummel towards the conical peak of Schiehallion on the far left. Over the head of the loch is Dunalastair Water (see previous post) which feeds Loch Tummel by the River Tummel. They are fed, themselves by Loch Rannoch – our destination. If you didn’t see this already, I shot a small video which includes the Queen’s View. Unfortunately the peace was shattered by RAF jets practising low flying – a sore point with many here. The video is at:
and the Queen’s View around 3mins 50 secs. (complete with jet fighters)
Creag Bhuidhe, by Dunalastair Water – Acrylic and watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
Gaelic is the ancient language sometimes used in this part of the country and becomes more widespread the further north and west one travels. Visitors need not be concerned. Most locals use English. Maps, however, still use the old Gaelic names and this can lead to confusion. Take this area, near Kinloch Rannoch. Nothing special about the place name here. Creag is the Gaelic word for Crag, cliff or rocky precipice. (Bhuidhe means “Yellow” so “Yellow Crag” – probably because of gorse or broom growing on the slopes). Most of the glens of Scotland were shaped by glacial action which left high, steeply-sided peaks with flat spaces (valleys or glens) in between them. This action also left scarred crags on the sides of the hills and these are still exposed to this day. It goes without saying that the main roads evolved along these glens – the main ones are known as “Passes”. The Lochs (lakes) collect in these glens. Dunalastair Water is one such loch. It is fairly small, joining the larger Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch. The crag, shown here, lies on the steep side of a smaller mountain – Beinn a’ Chuallaich, “Beinn” or “Ben” is the Scots word for “Mountain”. (I cannot get a translation for “Chuallaich”. Its probably named after a local place whose origins are lost in the mists of time). Its quite dangerous to try to navigate in our hills and mountains with a Gaelic dictionary. Half way up these slopes is an area called “Tom na Moine”. This suggests a “Field with a peat bog” – except there is no field and no peat bog. There might have been at one time but not now. People, lost on the Scottish mountains have been known to try to find non-existent features such as a forest long cut down but still called a forest on the map. I suppose with “sat-navs”, GPS etc getting lost is not the problem it used to be – if a signal is available.
Moss/Lichen on Oak Tree – Acrylic and watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
I was surprised to see many different native hardwoods during our recent trip. There has been, in the last 50years a tendency for vast conifer plantations to be grown for quick profit. Now the Forestry Commission has been busy planting more native species including the oak which once dominated Scotland. This drawing attempts to show the effects of parasitic growths in a very wet climate. The lichen and moss dominated this small wood in Glen Errochty. It was quite magical and I cannot do it justice.
Schiehallion, The Fairy Mountain – Watercolour/Acrylic in a Watercolour Moleskine
This was the view from our hotel at the end of the first day of our recent short break. The scene is the head of Loch Rannoch (Kinloch Rannoch) in the centre of Perthshire and Kinross which is in the middle of Scotland just below the main mountain ranges. Schiehallion is unique, here, as it is almost perfectly conical and, because of this, its mass can be almost perfectly estimated. In the late 1700′s , the astronomer royal Nevil Maskelyne spent around 4 months walking round the mountain, at different altitudes, observing how much a pendulum was attracted towards it. By calculating the mean deflection he was able to make, as it turned out, a fair estimate of the mass of the mountain and, by extrapolation, arrive at the mass of the earth. There was a spin off as the circuitous routes, he took, led to the development of contour lines for maps this work being carried out by Maskelyne’s assistant, Charles Hutton. Schiehallion is an easy climb but is one of the most rewarding as the Western Isles and most of the Scottish mountain ranges are visible on a good day. The last 200 metres are a bit of a pain as the summit is littered with huge boulders and much scrambling is required. I have climbed this hill once, in 1969. When my youngest, Andrew, decided to emigrate last year, he climbed it to give him something to remember us by. I did not put him up by telling him that it is supposed to be haunted – hence the name.
You can see this view towards the end of the video of our first day at:
There are other scenes, from this video, as well as lots of sketches I did, which might make decent Skineart posts but I’ll decide whether to do this at a later date.
Sandwood Bay – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
Sandwood bay lies at the very north west of the Scottish mainland. This is the iconic view of the pristine sandy beach with the rocky headland protecting the immediate area from the prevailing storms. The sea stack is known, locally as “Am Buachaille” which means “The Shepherd” in Gaelic. There are many similar sea stacks around our coasts the best known being “The Old Man of Hoy” in the Orkney Islands. My post of 16/8/08 was of this stack.
Sandwood bay is considered to be among the most beautifully unspoiled beaches in the whole country, probably because it is so remote and hard to get to. To access the area you must walk a fair distance and this deters people so its always quiet and litter free. The bay sweeps around behind the artist to reveal a long series of lovely sand dunes. This view is not as impressive, from a painters’ point of view, as the one chosen – but its just as nice to be there – provided the rain keeps away and the wind is light.
Chatting to John, the other night, I explained a need to get into the Scottish Hills. Its a sort of pull which takes over now and then. To this end, Margaret and I will be away for a few days towards the end of this week as we feel to recharge the soul and breath the cold, fresh air. Watch this space for lots more stuff to bore you all with.
Dragonfly – Acrylic/Ink in a small Watercolour Moleskine
Continuing with different transparent background washes of acrylic paint.
There are many different types of dragonflies in the UK. Related to these are the Damselflies,Mayflies, Stoneflies and Lacewings. Insects, such as Lacewings are to be encouraged in the garden as they feed on many different types of aphids. Insect boxes or insect refuges made from piles of drinking straws, are a good way to allow them to overwinter in out of the way corners. The drawing shown is a “Hawker” which gets its name from its habit of hovering, like a hawk, about a specific piece of territory. This one is a “Blue Aeshna” which has a wingspan of just over three inches and is only found in Scotland. They, typically, live near stretches of water – there are many, at this time of year near Linlithgow Loch next to the palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born. I wonder if she marvelled at the beauty of these alarming looking, but completely harmless creatures? The biggest UK dragonfly is the “Emperor” whose wings span over four inches. They are fascinating things to watch and can startle the unwary with the noise from their four wings.
Zebra Outbreak – Acrylic, Ink and Gesso in a Watercolour Moleskine
This is a further experiment trying out a new product, namely “Transparent Acrylic Paint”. The original idea was to draw something which contrasted sharply between dark and light values. What better than a zebra! My drawing started life by drawing the stripes, with black ink, then washing the whole scene with the red/pink acrylic. I added the white areas with gesso afterwards and touched up some of the darks, again with the black ink, to finish the drawing.
It was only when drawing this animal that I remembered a few well-known facts about zebras. Zebras have an irrational fear of the colour pink. Upon the sight of this colour they run wild and stampede into the nearest waterhole, and then continue to drown themselves. Some zebras have also been known to go crazy if choirs of young boys are within hearing proximity. Around the 1950′s, a herd of zebras escaped from Edinburgh Zoo which, as you might know, is situated on Corstorphine Hill, here in Edinburgh. The hill was more remote in these days and the animals managed to hide and breed successfully. Now zebras are very fond of one particular thing – rhubarb. In those days, sweets (candy) were still hard to get as sugar was still rationed after WW2. Mothers used to give their children a poke (a paper bag)of poor quality sugar (more easily obtained) and a stick of rhubarb. The sour tasting rhubarb was dipped in the sugar and sucked by the youngsters. (This might explain the poor dental health at that time). It was noticed that, any child unfortunate enough to wander onto Corstorphine Hill was ambushed by the stripy beasties and their treats stolen. The good news was, as most folks know, rhubarb does something for the digestive system and the after effects helped the authority to track the zebras down. This also was made easier when someone remembered the fact that loads of noisy boys would panic the zebras into revealing themselves so the sugar/rhubarb laden kids stated to roam about in bands (Even today large groups of youths can be found roaming around Corstorphine Hill, especially after dark). Finally posters, like my drawing, were put in prominent positions on trees as it was hoped that the bright colour might unsettle the animals and cause then to reveal themselves. All this meant the zebra outbreak was soon contained and people no longer suffered from equinophobia.
Bluebell- Inktense in a small Watercolour Moleskine
I went for a walk in the Pentland Hills yesterday. I had taken lots of sketching materials with me and spent ages attempting large landscapes especially those shown in these photos:
Despite very warm weather it was, surprisingly, breezy late in the afternoon as the sea breezes started to kick in. I had forgotten my most important piece of drawing equipment – a rubber band to stop the pages of my sketchbook flapping about, so, frustratingly, I retreated to lower levels and made a quick sketch of a small clump of bluebells:
Can you recognise the part I drew? (right in the middle at the bottom). I finished (?) this at home and, while not the best of sketches, is a nice wee reminder of a pleasant day outside doing what I like best. Something to remember the day when in the middle of winter, Rose? Hope your snow has also retreated and that you can get out as well to inspire the rest of us.