The Water of Leith – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
I thought you all might like a more colourful scene to cheer you up. This is taken from a photo, last autumn, near Dean Village which is right in the centre of Edinburgh. The river, The Water of Leith runs from the Pentalnd Hills down to Edinburgh’s main port at Leith. It has been described as a ribbon of silver running through the city. The banks team with wildlife – everything from kingfishers to badgers and even deer. One of the wardens, in the Royal Botanic Gardens, told me that there are more and more animals, such as deer, finding their way into Edinburgh by using this river as well as coming along old disused railway lines which are used as cycle pathways. I used to think the only visible deer were the “Old Dears” who drink coffee in the coffee shops.
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The Water of Leith – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
The Cowgate, Edinburgh – Watercolour with ink highlights on a Watercolour Moleskine
If you look at a map of Edinburgh you might notice that some streets cross over each other. Parts of the old town were built well below the High Street and the Castle but, when the town needed to expand thoroughfares were built, on bridges, above the old parts. This scene shows, I hope, the Cowgate where animals would be driven towards the Grassmarket which is just visible through the arch. The Grassmarket lies at the foot of the south side of Edinburgh Castle. It gained notoriety as a place for public executions, a fact that is marked by a brass plaque inserted into the ground at the end of this large, rectangular square. North Bridge, crossing over the Cowgate, is supported by the arch. There are many such bridges in the city and these, themselves, have become built upon over the centuries. It can be a bit confusing, albeit exciting and interesting, for visitors to find their way around this area. Just another way in which my adoptive city oozes historical charm.
Arthur’s Seat from Blackford Hill, Edinburgh – Watercolour on a Watercolour Moleskine
Edinburgh is supposed to be built on seven hills (Trying to be like Rome, Lisbon etc). The trouble is, most folk argue which of the many hills, in the city, should be included in the list. (Parts of the city are very hilly – just ask any cyclist). The main consensus is, however, that Arthur’s Seat is at the top of the list. The “Seat” can be seen on the right of the background and is an ancient volcano. It dominates Edinburgh’s skyline. It is supposed to look like a lion crouching but maybe our imagination is running riot here. To the immediate left are Salisbury Crags which overlook the old town and the New Scottish Parliament. The “built up area”, shown is between Arthur’s Seat and Blackford Hill and lies towards the southern part of Edinburgh. The city’s old observatory is on Blackford Hill but is rarely usable these days due to light pollution. To the left of this scene the Firth of Forth and the hills of Fife can be seen towards the north.
Edinburgh’s skyline as seen from Princes Street – Watercolour/Pencil & Pen on a Watercolour Moleskine
This is the view most visitors experience when looking up to the old town from the centre of the city. Not all the skyline is shown, for instance, Edinburgh Castle would be on the right of this picture while the east of the city would be placed to the left. To get everything in would mean a really long, thin drawing with tiny buildings.
The dark building, with towers at the corners is the home of the General assembly of the Church of Scotland and sits near the top of the Mound. It was temporarily used as the headquarters for Scotland’s Devolved Parliament until the Parliament moved to the foot of the Royal Mile, opposite Holyrood Palace. The dark tower, on the horizon to the left, is the crown-shaped steeple of the High Church of St. Giles while the building at the extreme left is the headquarters of the ill-fated Bank of Scotland which is a victim of the recent, so called, “credit crunch”.
Fleshmarket Close, Edinburgh’s Old Town – Ink/Inktense Pencils on a Watercolour Moleskine
The old town was built on a ridge running from Edinburgh Castle eastwards down to the Cannongate. Because of the limited space on either side of this ridge the only way to accommodate the ever increasing population was to build upwards and the first high rise dwellings became the norm. Some of these tenements reached seven stories high and they consisted of a maze of dire, cramped rooms. The only access to parts of these buildings was by through the narrow passageways, or closes, between them. Local traders used the closes for business – this is a drawing of Fleshmarket Close and would have had butchers selling mutton, beef and poultry to those who could afford such luxury. The drawing shows many downpipes to carry away waste and rain water. These would not have been in existence in the 1700s, waste and sewage was merely thrown out of the windows to be shovelled up the next day by the unfortunates employed for this task. To warn people against being covered in waste the tradition cry, “Gardyloo”, which was a corruption from the French “Gare de L’eau” – “beware of the water”, preceded the act of disposal. Needless to say disease was rife and was one of the main reasons why the city expended into the New Town to the north – again for those who could afford to move.
These walkways are really steep and can be exhausting. Visitors please bring oxygen and climbing shoes.
Running for the bus, Princes Street, Wednesday 21st January 2009 – Watercolour and Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine.
When the old town of Edinburgh became too crowded, a “new town” to the north was planned. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Town_of_Edinburgh
The main street, between this new town and old Edinburgh was called Princes Street. The original name was to be St Giles Street but it was decided to name it in honour of the three sons (princes) of King George 111. (1738 – 1820) Princes street is just over one mile in length and is unique, among most European Capitals’ main shopping streets in that there are no buildings, shops etc on its south side. This means that shoppers, on the north side, have an uninterrupted view of the gardens and, of course, Edinburgh Castle.
P.S. We didn’t catch the bus and I was fuming! I was, however, really humbled a while later when the next bus came. On board was a young man in a wheelchair. He had lost both legs. I realised that he wouldn’t be able to run for any bus. We should give thanks for our blessings – often!
West Prince’s Street Gardens, Winter – Dilute Indian Ink on a Regular Moleskine
This follows a lengthy discussion recently about getting colour to sit on the pages of a regular sketchbook. I had just about given up on trying to add tone to my original Moleskine when I discovered, by chance, that dilute Indian ink sits on the surface then granulates. I hope this might be of some interest to some of you. If the ink is applied by brush it can then be “smoothed” over larger areas.
This is the West Gardens in central Edinburgh. I suspect many folk will make use of the benches, donated in memory of departed loved ones, this year as Prince’s Street will be closed to traffic to make way for the new tramway system. Prince’s Street is up the hill on the right while Edinburgh Castle is just to the left of this scene. The gardens are home to hundreds of ravenous squirrels and pigeons which can get quite aggressive if not offered titbits. Visitors beware!
Strong Shadows, late afternoon – Merchiston Place, Edinburgh. Ink/Inktense on a watercolour Moleskine.
After last night’s disturbed sleep we went for a spot of lunch in this, up market area of Edinburgh. This was mainly to revisit old haunts as I haven’t been here for some time but we felt the need to treat ourselves to some “Retail Therapy” as well. I remember this area quite well as I was a student here 40 years ago. Napier University is just around the corner – I was there all that time ago studying engineering. The houses are still very expensive, even more so than back then – this one would cost a million or so now. One thing hasn’t changed. The streets are lined with many magnificent trees which are a joy, especially in the warmer seasons. As we floated homewards, along the street, towards our parked car; full of lemonade and grilled salmon, I was very taken with the strong, black shadows cast by the setting sun and I’ve tried to capture this in the painting. Incidentally – the expensive-looking car in the foreground, is NOT ours.
Turner Revisited – Pencil with Blue/Grey washes (just like Turner) in watercolour, on a watercolour Moleskine.
Every January, for the last century, the National Art Gallery; in Edinburgh, exhibits the Henry Vaughan collection of 38 watercolours by JMW Turner. Vaughan’s bequest stipulated that the darkest month of the year was to be chosen as this would protect the paintings from harmful light. I’ve been going for many years and never fail to find something new in these wonderful creations. This “posting” is inspired by one of my favourites – Old Dover Harbour http://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/online_az/4:322/result/0/19212?initial=T&artistId=5582&artistName=Joseph%20Mallord%20William%20Turner&submit=1 but I did not want to even remotely plagiarise his work. Where Turner painted 18th century cargo vessels I’ve attempted to depict sailing trawlers from a hundred years later. (I even made a model boat to get some of the proportions correct). I’ve had a lot of fun doing this and hope its been worthwhile. 2009 is going to be great as the gallery will host a major Turner exhibition entitled “Turner and Italy”.
Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle, Midnight Celebrations. Watercolour and “Christmas Glitter” on a watercolour Moleskine – an experiment. Taken with flash photgraphy to highlight glitter.
A guid New Year to ane an’ a’
An’ mony may ye see,
An’ during a’ the years to come,
O happy may ye be. (trad. Scots song)