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.
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.
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.
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.