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.
With the announcement of lockdown in England happening again, on Sunday I quickly rearranged my plans to deliver a commission painting (“Here Comes the Sun“), arranging to meet them near the border. We had been due to meet on my way to my Higham Hall workshop; fingers crossed next March’s will be able to happen. I’m telling you this to explain why I’ve been on the lower part of Scotland’s east coast. Lots of paintable sites, white beaches for long walks, rocky shore and cliffs, plus pebbles and more pebbles. And two firsts for me: ducks drifting along the shore and swans eating in low-tide rock pools. These are some things that caught my eye:
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.
This time of year sunset happens later and later, getting to the point where I’d have to “stay up late” to see it. What happens before is as beautiful, when the sun reflects on the Minch (sea) in varying patterns of silvers, greys and blues. On a clear day, it’s so bright you can barely look at it; on cloudier days it’s a moody dance of shifting light and darks. This photo was taken earlier this week at around seven in the evening. As you can see the sun is still quite a few fingers above the horizon (each finger width being 15 minutes or so until sunset).
Now where did I put that tube of iridescent white again…?
The sun was in that stage on its was towards the horizon when things become golden as I wandered in the Uig Woodland this afternoon. Because the trees don’t have leaves at the moment, a sliver of sun reaches the river by the gate.
In the library of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, there are drawers you can pull out to see some exquisite miniature portraits. Amongst the historical portraits there’s this modern one, which felt like a reward for being curious enough to open the drawers:
That’s if you ever get past the central mural (tip: go up the stairs for a less neck-twisting, closer look).
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.
On my way to Patchings Art Festival, I stopped over in York. As well as visiting my favourite second-hand bookshops, I also went into the Minster. It’s been some years since I was last in a cathedral other than the small one in Inverness with its beautiful wooden interior. A tour was just about to start, so I tagged along, learning a mixture of things about the building and its history, including that it’s reckoned to have the best stained glass in England, and the oldest as it was not destroyed during the Reformation.