Sketchbook, pigment ink pen with water-soluble Inktense pencil washes:
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!
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:
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.
I’ve felt dissatisfied with my art recently, stuck, able to see where I’d like to be but not able to make the moves that actually take me there, or getting bogged down in the details or technicalities and losing the experience that caught me in the first place.
Last week, in a weather imposed break from work – heavy snow led to them shutting down for 3 days – I took a walk through the lovely woods nearby, returning along what remains of the Antonine Wall, trees growing where once were Romans.
A young but twisted birch tree caught my eye, the snow and light giving it a quality of appearance as if drawn. The wind was cold and another blizzard squall beginning. I looked at it, held by the colours and quality of it, took a photo and moved on.
It stayed in my mind, on the way back home.
I thought I’d done enough sketching, a few minutes before, hands cold enough to feel I could use that as an excuse.
Looking back at the photographs, I tried a couple of small sketches. Something was niggling my mind, just before bed, I did another study, pen dipped in ink, scratching the paper, watercolour quickly applied. .. A result I felt happy with, to sleep upon.
Now, this evening, again a little late, before bed, a study of myself in the big mirrors. Drawing pen, quick, then watercolour with a very limited palette. Allowing rather than trying to put into practice what I’d learned from the tree. .
First new step, maybe..
Monday was a contrast to the weekend. After a splendid couple of days in the mountains, camping in a wild place and achieving my objectives of ascending Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin, I had a day at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh to visit the “Ages of Wonder” exhibition of Scottish art.
I had carried a small box of watercolours, some of the pans I’ve had since I was in my late teens, before the age of home computers, when the only mobile phones were on Star Trek! My plan had been to use them on the mountain but the combination of strong, cold wind and freezing air with the exhilaration and desire for movement meant that I only made a couple of quick pencil sketches from the summit. It was only on the walk out, later on, that I was struck in the sunset by the glowing quality of the land and, more subtly, sky and attempted to capture something of this with the paints; partially successful.
Relaxing in cafes and in the gallery, I felt the urge to sketch and, later found the superb Greyfriars Art Shop, in Dundas Street, where I found both a type of palette that I’d seen in a demonstration recently and decided to try some new colours from tubes rather than pans, to allow me to use the paint in greater density than is easy with pans. The same demonstration left me feeling re-inspired to explore watercolours again, for their qualities and also the relative ease of use in the typically awkward situations I end up painting in, even at home; it’s why I do not use oils, despite several people urging me to do so, it’s just not practical in my present situation.
It’s reminded me that I really enjoy sketching, both with pencil and pen, and like what can be achieved with watercolours, even if I have so far largely failed to get the kind of results I would really like.
Here are some of them. I may write more in due course about the exhibition and my impressions of some of the works, but I have an early start in the morning and need to sleep soon… and there is a heap of dull but necessary paperwork to be sorted…. I hope for a stormy weekend in which to deal with it and leave me feeling I can play more freely… self-created inefficiency for which I alone am responsible.
I hope you like the sketches.
I had another visit to Edinburgh Zoo, today, driving a small group of students and their teacher to participate in a busy day of workshops. I had some time in the crisp cold to watch the chimpanzees, Capuchin monkeys and penguins.
Spending time near the primates in particular, I felt a strong sense of how similar we are, with many shared needs, desires, objectives; albeit differing in detail and complexity. It was almost a physical sensation of parallel experience. I found myself wondering, what are you thinking ? What are you preoccupied by at the moment? What are you experiencing? What is your own untold, and untellable, story?