I’m in the Scottish Borders for a few days, and have been looking forward to seeing the rock slabs at Skateraw on a really low tide. My two painting friends weren’t entirely convinced by the joys of plein-air painting in a nippy wind off the North Sea, but I have been looking forward to this for weeks so was determined to get out my oil paints and tucked myself in behind a rock shelf.
This is as far as I got with my oil painting before I gave up because I was too cold, and walked over to the other side of the headland which was more sheltered from the wind. There’s an enticing layered bit with a tumble of rocks beneath.
And a bit further to the right the concrete rectangles of a nuclear power station. The brutal lines of this building have a beauty of a very different kind to me.
I have also done two ink sketches in my new Octopus sketchbook, which has fold-out pages, adding colour later in the warmth of indoors.
<cue: Teddy Bear’s picnic music> If you go down to the woods today, beneath the trees where nobody sees, hide and seek as long as you please, ’cause that’s the way you slow down and really begin to see the colours and textures on individual trees.
One of the things I love about the Uig woodland in early spring is that the undergrowth hasn’t regrown yet, so it’s easy to step up to trees away from the path. Yesterday I found myself focusing on the colours and textures of tree trunks.
A set of photos taken at Staffin beach as I narrowed my attention to small sections. Pattern, texture, and colours. I took these after I’d walked along the beach and back; I don’t get to a beach and ignore the wide views and sea to focus in on smaller things immediately.
The in-house art critic and I went to a favourite piece of seaside yesterday during a break in the stormy weather, enjoying the tranquillity and gentle sounds. There’s this black slab of rock that I think looks like fossilized dinosaur brains. We talked about how it would’ve been an impossibly big dinosaur, the speed the rock must have cooled at given its grain, why this slab is horizontal compared to the vertical hexagonal columns on the hillside, how the hexagons were formed, about intrusions and conglomerate, and how had I managed to resist picking up that stripey pebble. This is my favourite photo, so colour-coordinated with my favourite bit of rock, they seem one. (And the skew horizon is inadvertent, not a metaphor.)
If you’re interested in the ‘real’ dinosaurs of Skye, this book is available from Skye’s Fossil Museum:
The crisp, cold winter’s light this morning at the water’s edge at Uig Bay created sharp edges and contrasts, which I am enjoying converted into black-and-white. Being low tide, the ‘hairy rocks’ from this month’s painting project were well out of the water.
I needed to post an order for a copy of my Sheep Counting Book (destined for someone with a January birthday who loves sheep) so parked at the community hall in Uig and walked through the woodland to the post office. Lots of iced-up mud, bare branches, and vibrant greens.
Woke up to a world of white, to the view being transformed into almost monochrome, shades of “interesting whites”. And silence as the wind has dropped. After giving the studio cats breakfast and putting the kettle on, I went out to enjoy that crunch-crunch of snow underfoot. Friends who lives in latitudes where you sit in snow for months will have to indulge my excitement as it’s rare for me to have it at garden level.
This time of year, this far north (57°N), the sun sleeps in late (sunrise today 08:58), doesn’t stay for long (sunset today 15:40), and doesn’t get very high in the sky. It makes seeing sunrise/sunset easy, and for a moodiness during the day. Driving around the “north end” this morning to see a friend, I stopped a few times to snap some photos.
First the Trotternish Ridge, looking south:
Then reflections in a little loch:
And then low-tide reflections at the beach at Staffin:
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.