Author Archives: surfsensei

Three Bridges.

There is a nice cycling route I can take from where I live now that is mostly free of motor traffic and that brings me into the ancient Kingdom of Fife at Kincardine, with its rows of red-tiled cottages that remind me of similar buildings I have seen in the Zuiderzeemuseum at Enkhuizen, in the Netherlands; whether there is any historical link I am not sure, though there is a lot of reclaimed land on the south of the river that is almost a classic polder.

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Today I went with the wind, out from Airth and over the Clackmannanshire Bridge on its row of smooth concrete pillars, along a narrow path behind the flood defences, keeping an eye out for interesting driftwood and sketching inspirations, then back over the old Kincardine bridge and then an old humped stone bridge that spans a substantial creek that appears to be a breeding ground for car tyres.  In the fields beside the narrow road, plump, curious heifers came over to greet me, blowing through their moist nostrils and nudging each other.  I noticed that their left ear tags included names for them, something I hadn’t noticed before; Miracle, Mauve, Lesley, Mirador… I turned to sketch the old bridge, then another small herd, sitting chewing their cud and making a colour contrast with the green grasses and Ochil Hills behind.

Finally, homewards past fields of wheat and other grains transforming into rustling gold, to make my dinner and get down, at last, to the task of renewing car insurance and organising my council tax. Prevarication has made me late to bed, again, but given me a good Sunday afternoon out and sketching.  So as I bid you good-night/day (depending upon your location), here are the results:

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Sketching & Gathering 2

Sketchbook, pigment ink pen with water-soluble Inktense pencil washes:

Sketcher-gatherer.

I’m getting settled into the new house, a mix of decorative and edible plants are growing in their new, crowded, pots outside, furniture in a functional style is taking form from former pallets and scaffolding planks and this period of very European weather is a welcome contrast to the winter cold and brexit chaos. I can sit outside with coffee and cake and watch a seagull seize the opportunity to help clear one of the other tables.

My painting fallow period is extending a bit, which feels fine. I’m still sorting out a space at home for artwork and am enjoying the three-dimensional process of working with wood to make useful things. In between work and domestic matters I am observing, reflecting, sketching and gathering impressions, ideas and inspiration from my local travels and occasional visits to galleries; two recent exhibitions in Edinburgh have given me much to mull over and aim to experiment with, once the outdoor conditions become relatively less inviting or distracting.

Chris Bushe’s wonderful impressionistic landscapes, on show at the Open Eye Gallery was inspiring. It was recommended to me by one of the staff in the nearby Greyfriars art shop, a rare example of a proper art shop with people who know their products. As soon as I stepped into the gallery I was struck by the scale and texture of his paintings, I felt a simultaneous sense of atmosphere of the open landscape and the almost physical sensation of the painted surface; content and surface, figurative and abstract elements coexisting. This is what I enjoy about painting with acrylic, perhaps I could grow to feel the same about oils with more practice too.

The Royal Scottish Academy open exhibition had a wonderfully broad range of work on show that got me thinking and filling sketchbook pages with thumbnail sketches and notes to browse through and decipher over subsequent coffee.

My cup is empty, the bus departs soon. Next post will have some recent sketches, clover from a fallow field, fixing nutrients for a future harvest.

Happy weekend to you!

Back on the ground

I’ve moved, a few miles closer to where I work and from two floors up in a flat back to the earth in a small cottage in an old village that was once a port until land was reclaimed, Dutch-style, and the Forth was pushed back a few hundred metres behind a long dyke.

It’s a good little sun-trap, better than I’d anticipated, and I can even get the internet to work by the cunning use of my mobile in an upstairs window!  Now begins the slower task of sorting and purging my stuff and designing storage shelving that fits the quirky dimensions of the new spaces and has some degree of aesthetic quality!  I may even be able to start doing some painting again , later in the Summer; for now, I have enough to do in wood.  I’m also well into making a dining table, to be followed by benches to go with it, a project I aim to finish in July.

Meantime, we are getting some wonderful weather, especially for Scotland, which makes for very pleasant cycling to work.  Yesterday evening, there was a beautiful sky, it looked like the angels had been combing their hair, between heaven and earth, swifts flew and whistled…

angels hair with swifts

Wild sketch, 1 of several. .

Phone charging opportunities are too infrequent at present to keep this blog updated en route so I’ll post something on return when I have mains electricity again.

Meanwhile, I’ve been lucky so far with the weather and winds, I had help uphill this afternoon, after a morning of beautiful cycling but arduous steep pushes on slopes up to 25%, rewarded by a long fast cruise into Scourie and a very pleasant campsite this afternoon.

I’ve made a reasonable number of sketches so far, lots more photos, though today I used the camera much more due to the need for making distance.

Here’s a sample from my first camp near the impressive Stac Pollaidh, a wild camp on a beach by the Loch:

Sketches to follow in due course. .

I am travelling northwards on a bumpy train, hoping to make the connection to go further into the north west of Scotland, then it’s pedal power to the camping site, a long day tomorrow.

Getting used to front panniers too. A big difference in the handling of the bike but much better balance of the load too, especially as I am carrying more clothing and food for cold weather.

Passing Birnam Wood, no sign of it moving today, so Dunsinane is safe. Pitlochry soon. My destination is Lairg, beyond Inverness.

A cycle tour begins, no time to sketch today, but that should be easier tomorrow.

Time to sleep a bit.

Safe journeys and a good weekend to you

Favourite places

I returned to mid-Wales, a week ago, to visit my mother, join the celebrations of a good friend’s birthday and meet friends not seen for a long time. It was good.

The surf forecast proved reliable too, though with strong winds that made it hard actually to catch the lovely waves that break here more often than people expect. The water was colder than I’d experienced there for years, about the same as the North Sea!

The next day, before going to visit an artist friend, I sketched the south end of the beach :

I’ve caught more of it than I’d thought at first. something to build upon.