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).
Looking at these photos you need to add a soundtrack of gulls and shags and wind. I came here several times, sketching in different mediums, struggling against tendency to straighten and shorten the ‘leg’. Most mornings I had it to myself. At low tide you can walk almost to the rock without getting your feet wet. One afternoon, at high tide, there were three women who swam out to it, without wetsuits.
I spent last week on the ‘other side’ of Scotland, on the North Sea coast, from Findhorn to Aberdour. Looking and sketching, listening to and watching birds and waves, thinking and trying not to think, planning and dreaming, walking along a long sandy beach and sitting at rocky coves, taking photos for possible future painting projects and snaps of many an interesting bit of rocky shore. These photos are a few things that caught my eye.
After visiting the new Dundee V&A, my Ma and I popped into the city’s McManus Art Gallery and Museum to look at the paintings. It’s another beautiful piece of architecture, opened in 1867 and restored between 2006 and 2009 (see photos). Worth it just for the three Joan Eardley’s.
Loving the V&A in London as I do, a visit to the newV&A Museum in Dundee has been on my wishlist since it opened last September. My Ma and I got there on a drizzly Sunday at the end of May, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The building was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and photos don’t begin to do it justice. Clever, beautiful, mesmerizing design inside and out. It took a while and many photos before we went inside.
V&A Dundee holds an interesting permenent display of Scottish design history, plus a few ‘other bits’ and a pay-to-see temporary exhibition (entry to the rest is free). It’s not big, leaving me wishing for perhaps a bit more, but without museum fatigue or feeling I couldn’t stop to look slowly at everything that caught my eye .
The lighting was blissfully subdued. There are interactive displays but well integrated and balanced with ‘traditional’ displays of “object + info panel”. My favourites were the cross section of the cables used for the new Queensferry bridge and discovering that kaleidoscopes were invented in 1816 (in Scotland, by a David Brewster). It’s a mix of eras and subjects, I loved it, and will go again some day.
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.
Looking down river:
This contrast between broad and green / twiggy and brown could be interesting to explore as an abstracted, textured painting.
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.
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.
Sitting in the same spot as above, but turned to the right.
My fourth drawing, in ink. I 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 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.
Second stop the most-photographed-waterfall-on-Skye:
Though it’s more the view in the opposite direction I still want to paint:
Obligatory Eilean Donan Castle shot:
What caught my eye far more were the patterns by the road bridge:
Went into Balmacara for the “dark wood”:
And stopped near Kyle for hillside colours (last of the purple heather and bracken turning autumnal) :
Obligatory shot from the bridge at Sligachan (it wasn’t really this dark, I had the exposure set for the bright cloud):
Plus moody clouds:
Abstract minimalism with Glamaig:
Reflection of the sun:
And the usually ignored beautiful little bridge:
Stopped at Aros (outskirts of Portree) for a photo of the house across the bay with its becoming-autumnal trees:
And headed into the pine plantation (thanks for the reminder of how rich a location that is Izzy!):
And a final stop for moody cloudsand sea near home:
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!
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.