Saturday, 29 August 2015

Drawing a beautiful place

There has been very little time recently for drawing, painting or doing anything overtly creative at all. But it has been a wonderful rest and I feel there are lots of thoughts, images and colours stored away for future use ... whenever that is.

One of the few sketches I did accomplish was completed in about 10 minutes during a patch of sunshine in a favourite spot in Glen Tanar, Aberdeenshire.


This place is timeless. We have been visiting it for almost 40 years. The trees grow, the stones in the river move and water flow varies with rainfall and the seasons but it remains essentially itself, unspoilt, natural and beautiful. We go every time we visit this part of Scotland. It is like a pilgrimage for us all. I draw every time I visit and that is part of the pilgrimage - trying with varying success to capture the sense of the place.

The visit this time was particularly special. It was wonderful to watch our daughter and her husband introduce their small children to it. May they grow up to treasure the place as much as we do. 

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Brown and Orkney

We're home now but I'm still processing all my impressions of our fascinating trip to Northern Scotland and Orkney. Alongside this comes the current rainbow-and-beyond demand for images featuring brown. The two things seemed to go well together as so many of the colours on Orkney are muted and subdued and so often feature shades of brown, be it the pale, bleached brown of driftwood or fence posts, the purple-brown of heather and peat moorland or the myriad of browns in the rocks.

I offer a selection of my favourite (appropriately coloured) photos.

The first was taken on South Ronaldsay, looking towards the Scottish mainland. In my choice, I was attracted by the rust-coloured tinges to the vegetation and the soft grey-brown of the fence posts ... and, if I'm honest, by the fact that the sun was shining so gloriously and the fact that we were just about to enjoy the most wonderful fish lunch in the Skerries Bistro at Burwick. (What a lunch that was, and what a view!)


This next photo was in stark contrast with its sombre greeny browns and was taken on a grey evening looking across the moorland towards Hoy.


With so many views of the coastline, it was not difficult to find brown and tan seaweed washed up on a rocky beach ...


... or crab pots in a pile ...


... and a beautiful wooden hulled boat undergoing a refit, both in the harbour in Kirkwall.


Last of all comes a photo taken in a small rural museum, Kirbuster Farm, replete with almost every brown you can imagine.


This house is the last un-restored example of a traditional 'firehoose' still in existence in Northern Europe. It is a unique survival.There were hundreds if not thousands of similar houses all over Orkney and Northern Scotland and this house represents the type of housing that was still being experienced by those who were by no means the poorest members of society in the mid 19th century. The house has a central hearth with no chimney and a stone neuk bed. Smoke escapes through a large square hole in the roof. The family owned some simple wooden furniture and a selection of cooking pots but life was undeniably incredibly hard. 

Now as it is a museum, a peat fire is kept burning when the house is open to the public to heighten the realism and the main room was full of peat smoke when we visited. The smell lingered throughout the house. It was a cool grey day in summer and, despite the fire, the house was chilly. I can only begin to imagine what life would have been like in a house like that in the dark and raw cold of a northern winter. To think that this house was occupied (amazingly) until the 1960s when I was in my teens was horrifying and most thought-provoking for a cosseted English southerner who feels the cold and maybe has no idea what real hard work is like.


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Paper 53 and drawing

Since leaving Orkney on Saturday, I've downloaded the hundreds of photos I took onto my iPad. As I look at them arranged on the screen, I'm struck by all the hills, islands and stretches of water that appear in them. They offer so many possibilities.

I've also been playing with the drawing package Paper (by 53 and a free download). I've had it downloaded and waiting to be used almost since I bought my iPad a few months ago but have had only had the very briefest of plays with it so far. As we have a few days remaining before we return home finally at the end of this week, I'm spending a gentle evening combining the two thoughts in some monochrome experiments. I include the two most successful below. 



Although I'm not sure this offers everything I'm looking for in a drawing package, it is simple and easy to use. I will experiment further to improve my control of the size and outline of the shapes as I draw them.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Italian Church Orkney

I had not planned a second post today but this morning we visited the Italian Church on Lamb Holm and I felt so moved by what I saw that I wanted to share its story.

It is a tiny Orkney church with a poignant history. It was begun in 1943 to serve the population of Italian prisoners of war who were stationed at Camp 60 on the island.


After their capture in North Africa, the prisoners were brought there to construct barriers (Churchill's barriers) across the channels between the small southern islands of Orkney to prevent access to Scapa Flow. It was strenuous work and they were far from home. The chapel provided much needed solace.

It was built from two Nissen huts, placed end to end, bleak and stark without the extraordinary
paintings inside and the ornate facade at the entrance. This was planned and executed by the prisoners under the guidance of Domenico Chiocchetti, an Italian painter. He and the other prisoners painted the interior to resemble carved stonework and tiles.


He painted a Madonna and Child behind the altar replicating a painting by Nicolo Barabino, a copy of which he had carried with him from Italy.


Most touching of all for us was the dedication of the chapel to the Queen of Peace, all the more so because of the many Italian visitors who were visiting the site at the same time as us. The little chapel is now carefully preserved and is the focus for connections between Chiocchetti's home village of Moena and Orkney. Children from local schools and musical groups make regular exchange visits. A lasting friendship has been forged from the hardship of war.

Orkney landscape

The Orkney landscape is beautiful - green fields, gently rounded heather-covered hills and views of water everywhere you turn. The islands are small so the sea and the coast are never far away - lovely little bays and fjord-like fingers of tidal water edged with acid green seaweeds. Inland, there are dozens of small lochs reeded and brilliant blue when the sun shines.



There are lovely views across the harbours and small towns, in this case of Stromness on the western side of the Msinland.


And lots of ruins ...


of which more, much more, later ...




Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Large skies and a ferry trip

The wide open spaces of the north of Scotland give grand and impressive skies when the weather relents and the rain stops. Perhaps in fact these skies result as much from the variable and unpredictable weather itself as from the character of the landscape. Either way, it is one of the pleasures of visiting this area for me.

I've taken many photos over the years but for this post, I've chosen five favourites from this trip. The first was taken on the beach at St Cyrus on the Aberdeenshire coast last week.


Then there are three from the Orkney Islands during the brief spell of warm sunny weather of the last three days (how lucky we've been).





The final photo shown was taken last Saturday in John O' Groats on the Scottish mainland just before we boarded the ferry to Orkney.



Sunday, 9 August 2015

Walking, jumping and looking

The other day, we walked up to the Burn O'Vat (near Dinnet in Aberdeenshire) with our grand children and son in law. It was a lovely short walk just suited to small legs with lots of opportunity to look at frogs and flowers, and at fish in the burn and to jump in muddy puddles (I was very tempted to join in), to wade through the clear flowing water and to climb up the rocks of the waterfall.


... And yes they did get wet (very) but the weather relented and the sun came out and no one minded at all. 

But now we have all moved on. They have gone to meet up with the other grand parents on the west coast of Scotland and we are on our way to the Orkney Islands for a week of bird watching and visiting the sites of ancient habitation to be found all over the islands.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Scottish holidays

Summer in northeast Scotland is so often fickle - there's little sitting on a beach or enjoying hot sunshine - but much beautiful scenery, many long walks and things uniquely and unmistakably Scottish to enjoy.

On Saturday, we went with the grandchildren to the Highland Games at Aboyne. It is sport and entertainment like nowhere else. There are massed bands, highland dancing, a tug of war contest and races and competitions and dizzying fairground rides ... and mostly this time the rain held off.