Interrupted By a Caw

I was at one of my favourite, albeit rarely sketched, locations…

… absorbed by the colours and textures …

… and that blocked-up door …

… when I was startled by a loud, single “caw”, from above me. Glancing up, there was a crow sitting on the top of the wall, looking down at me.

I’ve probably watched too many programmes where birds are harbingers, but right now the photo below feels like it’s the image for the cover of a book I will one day write with the art and poetry from this year that I’m not yet ready to share.

Photos: Colours of Autumn

A stroll down the road to the postbox this morning became a stroll in the colours of autumn, of greens giving way to yellows and browns, of moss clinging to fenceposts and dead branches, and reflections in the surface water on the road. Steps taken amidst small joys.

Photos: Rock Watching, Again

The location: Camus Mor, Isle of Skye (again)
The time: Mid-afternoon, low tide (felt like it was the lowest I’ve seen the tide here)
Supposed to be doing: Painting some magnificent seascape in oils (always approach a painting with optimism!)
Actually doing: Being distracted by the patterns in the rocks and listening to the waves (never gets old)

Black and grey and yellow and green and blue
I didn’t get a photo with a “nice wave” crashing on the shore, so you’ll have to imagine it
Didn’t get very far with this painting; will try again another day
Not the eyes of a monster trapped in the concrete
Built vs Nature
I see your dark cracks and raise you a thin white stripe

Reflections & Old Boats

These photos were taken at the top of Loch Harport (look for Carbost on a map of Skye), heading towards high tide, on a windstill morning. Some were taken as a reminder of the context of the other photos, some as information or photos references for paintings, and some I think work only as photographs.

The latter got me thinking about the differences in composition between paintings and photos, not only cropping a scene but also depth of field (what’s in focus and what isn’t). I also realised how much easier I find it to narrow my focus on details when I’m exploring a landscape with my camera, or just walking along looking, than when I’m sitting with a sketchbook and tend to feel I want to get “everything” in.

The reflections in the mirror-still sea make me want to add the caption: “Don’t sneeze!”

What the photos don’t show are the midges, which love summer windstill days. I’ll be back in the autumn when they’ve gone and the hills are wearing different colours.

Photos: Snow at Slig

Snow at Sligachan

Each season has its own beauty. Snow shows the shape of the landscape anew, stretched tight over the skeleton (until more falls, then it lies like a comforter), in a more limited palette of sepias, umbers, whites, blue-greys, and at times bright blue in the sky. Perylene green’s a useful colour too.

Snow at Sligachan
Snow at Sligachan
Snow at Sligachan
Snow at Sligachan
Snow at Sligachan
Sligachan bridge with ambulance

Photos: Sketching at Low Spring Tide

Sea wall vs cliffs Camus Mor Isle of Skye

It happened to be low tide when I went out with my sketchbook yesterday, extra low as it’s spring tide. Even more of those enticing rocks to sketch, but which viewpoint would I choose, where would I sit? I wandered out a bit, further than ‘normal’, awkwardly as the rocks were rather slippery, getting distracted by pattern and colour.

This slab of black rock has become a favourite, and against the sun I was mesmerized once again. But beautiful as this was, I can’t sit with my back to the sea, even when I know it’s hours until high tide.

These are not fossilized dinosaur brains:

This is not where I spilt yellow paint:

Justification/evidence for adding lines of colour amongst my rock drawings:

There’s something about a pile of old rope:

Nature vs built environment. This is my favourite photo from the day but it also makes me wonder why I’ never noticed this juxtaposition before; perhaps because I usually sit on the wall rather than stand looking up at it:

Sea wall vs cliffs Camus Mor Isle of Skye

Eventually I did pick a sketching spot, against a big stone that broke the breeze:

Then a rain shower snuck up behind me. Suffice to say, watercolour isn’t a wet-weather medium.

Photos: Sketching at Uig Bay

Yesterday afternoon I was at the Uig woodland, mostly sitting at the shore looking towards the ferry pier and Waternish Peninsula. This is a favourite spot, but this time the light was particularly beautiful, the juxtaposition of light and dark shapes, the clouds. Minimal colour when looking into the sun, but not entirely monochrome.

If I moved a little, there could be some green in the foreground.

This is the wide view you see when you emerge from trees.

A few steps further back.

Puddles and reflections can be distracting.

Where I sat to sketch, on an array of flattish stones, the grassy lump being a bit damp.

My sketching kit: watercolour box (my indulgent, big one which holds a flat and a rigger brush), pencil box (with coloured pencils, sharpener, and some acrylic inks, Payne’s grey, yellow, and red earth), watercolour paper (A3 350gsm NOT) in a plastic folder which also acts as a board, couple of clips to hold paper, water container , and a bag to carry it in.

I don’t regard any of these as successful pieces, but they do all have potential for being continued /reworked in the studio.

The first, the one on the left, has bits that work but don’t work together.; this might be resolved by overworking it with pastel or opaque paint. The middle one I stopped because I liked what the hematite watercolour was doing but suddenly thought I wanted more rocks/seaweed in the composition but would mess it up if I tried to alter it, and so started the third. That lacks contrast, but the 350g paper needed to dry totally so that subsequent layers of paint didn’t just spread around and soak in. It’s a “stopped too early” painting.

Will I rework these? Maybe, rather than probably. What my fingers are itching to do is to paint the greys and light on a large canvas, lots of texture and interesting greys.

I Can’t Paint It Like That!

Sitting in the sunshine listening to the tinkling of the river at Sligachan today (I mean sketching), I looked left towards the Bundt-cake peak (I mean Glamaig) and noticed a triangle of cloud that you could impossibly put in a painting as it’ll just look wrong.

Fake Cloud (or why you need to leave things out of a landscape painting)

Picturesque cloud stretching high above, a sea of calm grey-blue rhythms, and parts of the band of islands that is the Outer Hebrides. As paintable as it comes.

Except for one thing. And I don’t mean the patch of pines poking in on the left.

It’s that improbable bit of sun-light cloud on top of the island.

Solutions:
1. Leave it out if you know the shape of the island.
2. Omit the sunshine on it if you don’t.