Category Archives: sketchbook

Square Two.

Resisting the urge to go for a walk onto the gloriously snowy Ochil Hills today, the second small painting has emerged from sketchbook onto canvas.

Ben Cleuch, highest of the Ochil Hills, from my upstairs window.

I am remembering a walk on the beach at Scheveningen, Den Haag, after a refreshing swim by the pier. Finding a café table, sheltered by glass panels from the wind, sketching people on the sand. This girl caught my eye, absorbed in her sand sculpture despite a strengthening wind, embodying the essence of one of the great joys of childhood.

Square Two:

Girl playing in the sand on a windy beach.
On the beach – square two. Oil on canvas board 10 x 10cm
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Square One

I bought a few very small canvas boards, while my car was in a garage in Glasgow. I plan to work on a selection of sketchbook material on them. Sketches of people, singly or in groups, transient situations and relationships in composition and implied or inferred between the subjects.

Today is a good day for painting, it’s damp and chilly outside, sleet has given way to snow and now slow rain. I’m enjoying getting used to the feel of the oils too.

Square One…

Summer day in West Park, Wolverhampton, four people sitting in the shade.
Square One – West Park.
Oil on canvas board 10 x 10cm

Misty Sunday

It’s been a cold, damp, misty day, good for staying indoors and painting. .. so I did.

A fresh air walk to the river this morning gave me some warm-up inspiration, a couple of quick sketches, then back to start on the next version of a painting from a dramatic day on Ben Vorlich, near Loch Lomond.

I’m trying oils, new for me, and beginning to like the feel and extended workability of the paint. A small detail, here:

Tomorrow’s forecast may tempt me out onto the hills, as I have a day’s leave, but it’s a good feeling to have a clear focus for some artwork.

More soon. Have a good week.

A favourite view, harvest of fire, air, earth, space.

Among the benefits of cycling to work is the ability to stop and enjoy the splendid views around here, be they of the mountains or a small plant or insect.  Unencumbered by a car for which to find a parking space, I can pull over and take photos or make sketches fairly spontaneously; time and weather are the only limitations.

From both of my main routes into Stirling, the mound of the Castle and old city seems to mimic the near/distant forms of the mountains beyond; Stuc a Chroin, Ben Vorlich and, left and west, Ben Ledi and Ben Venue, all fine summits that lead into further glorious vistas, space defined by forms.

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I stopped here yesterday afternoon, in strong wind and bright sunshine after morning rain and cloud, sketched while holding the pages of the book still.  A mile of so further on, I gathered a perfect giant puffball mushroom which has made two delicious meals, the first time I’ve tried this wonderful fungus; harvesting earth.

The fields are full of gold which the farmers are steadily gathering in, grains of various kinds and hay for silage.  Above and behind, the wind is gathered and turned into electricity.  The harvest of sun and wind.  It is stirring ideas for some painting in due course.

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Harvest of sun and wind.

Sunday sketch

It’s been a slow, overcast, misty day, damp and good for indoor things.

I went outside though, down to the great river… a quick sketch before returning with the rich scents of mud, water, wet grass and wild roses filling my mind while Cormorants hung out their wings to dry in the humid air, high above the low-tide water on a navigation marker.

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An afternoon of words, with echoing visual and olfactory impressions in the back of my mind and a background hum of contentment over having achieved one sketch today.

In a few hours, Monday… have a good week.

Evening exploration – hidden waterfalls, smugglers’ caves.

Yesterday late afternoon, after a successful trip to get a new expedition rucksack to replace my old worn-out pack, I decided on a quick walk up onto the edge of the Ochil Hills through the deep and atmospheric Alva Glen.  Previously I’d left the woodland by a path that leads up onto open hillsides and a steady ascent to the ridges above.  This time I decided to turn left and follow the path further up the glen itself; gorge is really a better term.

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The path becomes precipitous, in these lower and more popular parts there is a sturdy fence to prevent a fall into the deep gorge below, hissing with concealed waterfalls in deep channels with occasional huge rounded boulders that indicate a period of immensely powerful spate, probably resulting from the collapse of lakes forming above behind ice walls as the Ice Age gave way to a warmer climate.  Many of the trees here struggle up against vertical rock, exposed roots enlarged and contorted by long gripping the cracks and edges in their upward growth; long, arthritic twisting limbs supporting trunks with dramatic shapes, reaching for the narrow band of sky.

I emerged from the forested section onto a rougher, rockier path around a tall spur and pinnacle.  As I reached the top, I saw the dark overhang of the so-called smugglers’ cave below me, where the hard lavas had resisted the water and only given way in a grudging compromise with a thin, dark channel for the water that had scooped out a cave-like section.  Climbing beyond on steadily narrower paths on a steep slope, I kept an eye out for future small camping spots, mindful of the occasional undercut soil and fragile nature of the path.

The gorge continues, with at least one hanging valley discharging a tall and lovely waterfall into another wooded and atmospheric bowl on the eastern side.  I saw this as I climbed up the western slope through short-grazed bilberry plants and, a welcome change from bracken, well-established ferns and heather.  I had to choose whether to stop and sketch, my original aim, or press on to reach the head of the glen; I chose to sketch before returning.

Evening cool was setting in and I wanted to get back in reasonable time before sunset so the studies were quick.  I enjoyed the process and think I’ve captured something of the feel of the view there.  My phone battery was too low to take photos so I spent some time just looking, letting go as best I could of the concepts that kept popping into my mind and that I find interfere with clear perception and inspiration.  I don’t think I had much success but the practice is the thing.

 

Later, at home, looking back through my landscape sketchbook, I found these from a bigger day on Ben More and Stob Binnein in the snow back in March, when I found a sheltered snow seat on the south side of the summit of Stob Binnein and made some quick studies in water-soluble Inktense pencils, tried to add a wash and found the water freezing in the brush despite the bright sunlight.

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Looking SE from Stob Binnein – Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin

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Ochil Hills – walking to Rough Castle Roman fort.

A few days earlier, I’d taken a walk from my flat in Falkirk to the old Roman fort known as Rough Castle, a major encampment on the Antonine Wall.  The snow remained on the hills, no longer keeping us off work, but the clouds were low, the hills hints of different tones.  Then the clouds made gaps and the hills revealed themselves briefly, partly camouflaged by their snowy coat.

There are a lot of full berries growing on the Rowan trees, some say that is a sign of a hard winter to come.  I’m looking at a new pair of winter mountain boots, a purchase for the Autumn, more comfortable than my present ones and better for arduous winter days and icy slopes.

In the meantime I’m also looking again at my sketching and painting equipment, at ways of making it more efficient and easy to use on the hills, lightweight and fitting the practical demands of being outdoors in what may be poor conditions. I’m looking back at the studies I made in acrylic on brown card last year during a trip to Mull.  I’d like to do more like that but am still getting the hang of dealing with paint, water, slow drying in damp air and the rigors of a box squashed into a rucksack.  Work in progress.

 

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: