Orcadian Sunset – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
It never really gets too dark around midsummer in the Orkney Islands. This is from a photograph I took some years ago just after Midsummer Day. It is 11.30pm. The building, in the foreground, is the Standing Stones Hotel where we stayed. It is named after one of the many Neolithic features on the Orkney Islands, in this case – the Standing Stones of Stenness. Follow this link and you will see the stones as well as the hotel in the background:
Although my scene looks placid it was a different picture the next day as the wind had risen and there were huge waves on this small loch. It gets very windy in Orkney. We were due to take a small ferry to Sanday later that morning, which is one of the remoter islands. Fortunately the wind dropped and my breakfast stayed down.
Its Festival Time – Ink and Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
Another Edinburgh Festival draws to a close. The Festival started after WW2 and has grown into, arguably, the largest arts festival globally. Although it is known as “The Edinburgh Festival” there are, actually, many different gatherings. The whole of the city is transformed for three weeks and its population increases dramatically. WE are lucky, staying on the outskirts of Edinburgh, as we can pick and choose when to visit but it can be a bit wearing for folks who live and work in the town.
This is a view of East Prince’s Street Gardens, lit up with powerful lights to highlight the Scott Monument. This was a bit of a challenge but I think I’ve managed to convey the general mood.
Near Aberlady Nature Reserve, East Lothian – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine
This flat sandy area lies to the East of Edinburgh. The background shows the distant shores of Fife across the Firth of Forth while the headland, on the right, is where the famous Gullane golf courses are. Just beyond these lies the Muirfield Golf Course which is home to the “Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers” where the Open is sometime played.
I was speaking to a friend, recently, who has suffered from back pain. I told her about the large concrete blocks which litter this area and mentioned that my mother had fallen against one, in 1942 and injured her back. She suffered from back trouble from then on. You understand I was trying to cheer my friend up, nice guy that I am. These blocks, measuring about 8ft-10ft each way, were scattered along this coastline to deter enemy landing craft. This must have constituted a huge effort. Many of these obstacles are still with us and have become part of the local scenery, reminding us of those dark days. My painting shows just three of them.
Routine Maintenance, Isle of Mull – Watercolour and Acrylic in a Watercolour Moleskine
From a photograph taken earlier this year. When the locals need to carry out routine maintenance and repairs on their small fishing boats , rather than hire expensive lifting devices, they merely allow the larger “Spring Tides” to lift their craft above the normal high water mark. This gives them about 10 days to do the work and, of course, they cannot get the boats back into the water before the next large tide. No problem. Life passes at a leisurely pace here. They reckon that there are about 12 words, in the Gaelic language which mean the same as the Spanish “Mañana” but none of them convey the same sense of urgency .
An Old Friend – Watercolour and Gouache in a Watercolour Moleskine
Nothing special about this except it was started last Sunday on a sketching trip to Almondell Park. I had planned to leave the main path, next to the suspension bridge which is at the play area/barbecue facility but the noise – and the mouth watering smell of grilling burgers suggested I should go no further. This is the scene, just before crossing the bridge. The canopy of trees is so dense, at this time of year, I didn’t realise that it had been raining heavily until I left the shelter of this tree, one I have sketched many times. I wondered why the smell of food had ceased and the children had become quieter.
After the Storm – Gouache in a Watercolour Moleskine
Done with a limited palette of three colours, this is from a photograph of Scotland’s west coast just south of Oban. The prevailing weather is from the west – in this case the right hand side of the page I’ve tried to show how quickly things can change over here. One minute there is bright sunshine then a squall flies in and it is hard to escape the heavy rain which is usually accompanied by strong winds. Then, as quickly as the weather moved in it becomes clear again with the remnants of the storm vanishing eastwards. I can just about smell the clean, clear air resulting from this quick cleansing. Goes to show why we have so many green landscapes.
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?
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