Photos: A Little Way Up the River Rha

River Rha

It’s only taken me 10 years to go up the path in the bit of the Uig woodland that follows the River Rha rather than the River Conon. Why I haven’t been before is hard to put into words: I knew there was a waterfall there, but I wasn’t ready for it yet, I was still busy looking at what I’d already been in. It’s not that I think I’ve finished looking at this, more that I felt able to add to it. If you’re thinking “what is she going on about”, I’ll throw in the concept of “slow looking” and stop there.

I had it all to myself. It felt so familiar, like two kloofs I grew up with, Disa Gorge and Koffie Kloof n the Hottentots Holland Mountains. Though the water was even colder.

The Woodland Trust have built a sturdy path, with steps for long-legs.

River Rha

Looking down river:River Rha

River Rha

This contrast between broad and green / twiggy and brown could be interesting to explore as an abstracted, textured painting.

River Rha

River Rha

Enjoying the big boulders I was reminded of a workshop participant who said “I think you’ve cured me of my fear of rocks” and wondered how she’d respond to these moss-draped monsters.River Rha

My first drawing was a semi-continuous line looking at the rocks and trees, in pencil. Sketchbook is A3 size. The drawing ultimately covered both pages. River Rha sketching

Sitting in the same spot as above, but turned to the right.

My fourth drawing, in ink. Sketching River RhaI messed up the drawn lines when I dabbed at some ink with a piece of paper towel (that “turn it to a clean piece so you don’t inadvertently stamp on ink” error) and then tried to rescue it with some darker ink on the lower waterfall rocks. I’m okay with the result, but liked the earlier version more.

When the in-house art critic first saw the drawing he was looking at it sideways, generating a cautious “uh-huh, urm, what?” response until I turned the sketchbook ninety degrees. Think I need to add a “this way up” arrow to the page!

Photos: Out & About on Skye

Sligachan clouds

Lochalsf Art FairPhotos taken on the journey to drop off my paintings for the Lochalsh Art Fair which is on until Wednesday.

First stop was the classic view towards the Cuillin. A visitor who was parked here, looking on her phone when I stopped, got out and asked me what the speed limit was because everyone seemed to be wanting to go really fast. I later saw her pull into a parking spot to let cars past.
View towards Sligachan

Second stop the most-photographed-waterfall-on-Skye:
Most photographed waterfall on Skye

Though it’s more the view in the opposite direction I still want to paint:
stream to Loch Ainort

Obligatory Eilean Donan Castle shot:
Eilean Donan Castle

What caught my eye far more were the patterns by the road bridge:
Shore colours Dornie

Went into Balmacara for the “dark wood”:

And stopped near Kyle for hillside colours (last of the purple heather and bracken turning autumnal) :
Heather colours Kyle

Obligatory shot from the bridge at Sligachan (it wasn’t really this dark, I had the exposure set for the bright cloud):
Sligachan clouds

Plus moody clouds:
moody clouds

Abstract minimalism with Glamaig:
Glamaig Sligachan Skye

Reflection of the sun:
Reflections Sligachan Skye

And the usually ignored beautiful little bridge:
Bridge Sligachan Skye

Stopped at Aros (outskirts of Portree) for a photo of the house across the bay with its becoming-autumnal trees:
Across the Bay Portree

And headed into the pine plantation (thanks for the reminder of how rich a location that is Izzy!):
Forest fallen trunk Skye

Tree bark

Tree growth old man's beard

Moss on tree trunk Skye

And a final stop for moody cloudsand sea near home:
Skye cloudscape

PS: I think I’ve got my websites all moved to the new webhost, but if you see anything strange or missing, let me know! I’ve seen some quotation marks changed to question marks!

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.

Photos: On the Ferry on a Sunny Hebridean Spring Day

Yesterday I caught the ferry from Uig to Tarbert to deliver a painting, being met at the terminal because the ferry turns around rapidly, 20 minutes between scheduled arrival and departure. It was a nary-a-cloud-in-the-sky day with glorious sunshine, albeit wish-I’d-remembered-my-gloves cold.

This is the painting:

SOLD. “Neighbourhood Watch” 60x80cm

My Head in the Clouds

Driving home yesterday from my usual Saturday at Skyeworks, I was compelled to stop and take some snaps of the clouds. The light was simply too beautiful and dramatic to resist. (I also thought the group of photographers I’d passed at Uig Hotel with their tripods and long lenses aimed at the incoming ferry were in the wrong spot!)

Clouds Over Trotternish 3

Clouds Over Trotternish 1
The rectangular shape in the photo above is the “allow people to pass” single-track roadsign, not the megalith from the film “2001”.

Clouds Over Trotternish 2

The layers of light and dark, the light pinks and yellows behind the purple darks, the streaks of rain connecting land and clod, the calm blues above the drama. The photos were taking facing north. The sun was low on the horizon, and behind me on the left.

There are various contemporary Scottish landscape artists whose compositions are dominated by clouds, which is one of the reasons I’ve mainly created compositions with only a sliver of sky. But it’s tempting to add cloudscapes to my seascapes…

A Grave Lesson

In the old cemetery at Kilmuir (north Trotternish, Skye), dominated by the tall memorial to Flora MacDonald, there’s another gravestone that to me is a reminder that sometimes not finishing something will make it more memorable.


“Here lie the remains of Charles MacKarter whose fame as an honest man and remarkable piper will survive this generation for his manners were easy and regular as his music and the melody of his fingers will”

There’s apparently no record of the rest of the inscription was, so we’ll never know what the melody of his fingers will do. But this is probably the second-most photographed tombstone in the cemetery; if you watch people, the finished inscriptions on the other graves mostly get ignored but most come and have a look at this one. Things left unsaid and implied can be more intriguing, where they might have gone. A painting may be finished long before everything is neatly sorted out. A grave lesson.


The third most photographed is probably the knight. The house-shaped shadow of another tombstone falling on him was serendipitous.







5 Days of Creative Retreating (Part 3: Photos of Nature)

There’s an abundance of inspiring landscape/seascape at Gardenstown, with the changing light and weather adding variations throughout the day. These are a few moments I felt compelled to photograph:

Kate Downie retreat (97)
Bright wheatfields on a headland near Pennan
Kate Downie retreat (87)
Pretending I’m Van Gogh.while information gathering out on location.. though it’s mixed grass not wheat
Kate Downie retreat (42)
View from The Creative Retreat studio, with the hillside reflection turning the sea green
Kate Downie retreat (25)
Sun breaking through downpour catching the fronts of waves as they rolled in
Kate Downie retreat (123)
Surely amongst the most photographed laundry in Scotland… the beach-side washing lines in Crovie
Kate Downie retreat (152)
Weird cloud shape, and saw similar the next day again.
Kate Downie retreat (155)
Rippled reflections
Kate Downie retreat (157)
Echoes: shape of ruin gable vs slippage.
Kate Downie retreat (183)
Pebble pastels.
Kate Downie retreat (298)
Harbour water.
Kate Downie retreat (270)
Looking back along the beach to Gardenstown