Scottish Highlands 2018
Setting off to Scotland from London in a heatwave and finding a sun-bathed mountain landscape on arrival at Brynaport the next day was a delight. We kept fingers crossed it would stay sunny for the painting course despite a somewhat doubtful weather forecast. We were lucky and on our first day’s painting we strolled into the surrounds of Brynaport from where you can view the village just below and were able to capture the dramatic landscape of the Torridon Hills across the Loch, a row of small cottages in the foreground. The occasional goat and sheep added a lively element to the scene. Nevertheless, we were pleased to come back to the studio for a cup of tea and a scrumptious slice of home made cake – one of many baked by our fantastic cook Alison, who also produced outstanding evening meals every night not to mention a deliciously varied breakfast menu.
But I mustn’t get carried away with the culinary delights. The next visual feast encountered on our second outing down the village street was the dramatic shore line of Loch Kishorn. Here the small village of Achintraid is comprised of whitewashed cottages along the waters edge. It was nice enough to have our packed lunch right then and there after the morning's painting. To follow on from the previous day’s watercolour session, I made another painting demonstration, this time of the close-by water on the Loch, and the distant mountains on the opposite shore. The tricky bit is always to keep the distance soft, only applying thin layers of watercolour paint and reserving the strong, potent colours for details nearby. As things move further and further away from the viewer the view becomes hazier while the contrast between light and dark in the foreground becomes stronger and sharper. For our colour choice we had help: the golden ochre seaweed covering the receding pebbled beach was a wonderful contrast to the blues/purples and acid greens on the slopes leading to the high up mountain pass to Aplecross.
The next day we stayed closer to home, since there were some dark looking clouds on the horizon. But we were not put off by this and ventured out, down the narrow path opposite Brynaport to the rocky cove with views to either end of the Loch. The three meter high old fishnet drying poles seemingly growing out of the pebbly beach were a perfect focal point, leading the eye past a large rocky outcrop across the water. We had just managed to finish drawing and starting to paint when we noticed the first rain drops. A swift withdrawal to the spacious studio and we were back on the easel to continue work where we left off. This also gave me an opportunity for a special studio session teaching a simple technique to paint rocks, stones and pebbles in the foreground.
The weather improved the next day and the great outdoors was calling again. We found a gorgeous spot from where the vista stretches via the Loch towards the Isle of Skye’s mountainous outline. Half way across another smaller Island makes a visual stepping stone into the picture. The odd boat, a couple of cottages surrounded by gardens, two caves just above the tide line and a choice of high hills and mountains make this a stunning scene to paint in any medium. As usual I choose to demonstrate in watercolour, paying particular attention to the boulders in the foreground and the light on the water surface. A magical day and none of us wanted to return to the studio despite the tempting cake. Finishing off the day in high spirits, my husband James who was also part of the 'gang', and myself played a couple of songs - me on my trusty Ukulele accompanying James’ singing and playing his guitar. A rare sight and pleasure to see a young girl already so versed on the bagpipes – apparently a male dominated area.
The last day inevitably came and this time we turned our gaze more inland. The bridge at the foot hills of the road to Applecross was a good choice since it has not only great views of the huge expanse of receding estuary, but also a lovely cafe only a stroll away. In no time we each found a beautiful painting spot and started on the last watercolour of the week. Some of us focused on the old stone bridge under which jumping salmon were spotted, while others concentrated on the ever enlarging area of the estuary with the tidal waters shimmering in the distance. Needless to say we did not want to pack up and go, but we were looking forward to the evenings showing of our work and returned to the studio early afternoon, joining the three of our group who stayed behind to finish of watercolours they had been working on. There was not enough space in the studio to hang all the many wonderful paintings we had produced during the week so we selected the ‘best’.
Before dinner we all gathered in the studio, our paintings on display, a glass of champagne to celebrate and delicious canapés to staff off ‘hunger'. It was impressive to see everybody’s work and a joy to be able to exchange tips and chat informally about painting, life and and plans for the next painting trip. Gillian and Mark Pattinson our generous hosts and in whose home we had come to stay joined us too with some friends. This was also a chance to thank their daughter Fiona who - together with her daughter Sophie - run the course with me and who is also - like her mother Gillian - a talented painter. A chance also to thank Ally, the person behind all those friendly emails, Anne and all the others who made this such an extremely creative and fun week, never to forget. And then, just to top things off, the Pattinson’s grand-daughter Polly piped us triumphantly from the studio.
Coming home to my London studio takes some adjusting after having spent so much time in the company of such a lovely, lively group of painters and colleagues. I will ‘cushion the blow’ by traveling to Germany to meet friends and family for a couple of days, and then off to Devon for more painting adventures!
Wishing you a summer full of colour, painting, and the the sun to go with it,