The magnificent views of mountains and lochs mingled with the sweet scent of foxgloves greeted me as we drove up the drive to Brynaport, our base for the weeks painting course in the Scottish Highlands. The warm welcome by Gillian and Mark Pattinson made made us feel at home straight away. This time however it was not as usual Gilian herself, but her charming daughter Fiona who run the course with me. After a first of many super delicious meals prepared by our splendid cook Alice on the night of our arrival, we were well prepared to ‘inspect’ the painting territory on Sunday morning. And what a fine view it was, down to the little village of Achintraid and across the Loch towards the Torridon Hills with Applecross on the other side of the 2053 ft high 'Bealach na Ba' pass. To begin with we settled our chairs and easels nearer to the house, where a row of old cottages made for a good foreground subject to our paintings of the mountains in the far distance. The day’s work almost done, we gathered in the studio at teatime to finish details and round of the day with a slice of home-baked cake.
Warming up to our surroundings, we were itching to go a bit further down the lane to the waters edge of Loch Kishorn. Whitewashed fishermen's cottages punctuate the shore of the loch on one side, and the bay on the opposite offers a wonderful view towards the mountains. Luckily there was an almost hidden old building behind a prominent fire tree and some picturesquely rusty sheds to give a nearside object to our composition - simplifying the grand scene and making it more intimate. We kept close to the water the following day and drove the short distance to the eastern side of the loch. The skyline of hills and mountains (including the Isle of Skye) at the far end are breathtaking. Some of us felt inspired to tackle the panoramic view, while others were fascinated by the receding tide, exposing more and more beach and rocks, beneath a group of houses on the shore. I gave a special demonstration including rocks, as the foreground often proves the most tricky area, rather than the landscape itself.
One fine evening the high mountains were clear and a small expedition of painters took the winding road over the pass to Applecross to admire the rocks, steep gulleys and views from the top down into the valley. I had opted for another cup of tea and a sketch at Brynaport, since it stays very light until dinner time. Because of the wonderful light we were able to watch impressive sunsets and cloud formations through the conservatory windows where we enjoyed our dinners every night.
Not rocks but boats came into view when we visited Lochcarron. The village stretches for almost 2 miles, meandering along the shore of the loch. At the entrance, a little cove with boats made the perfect composition complete with beach, a wooden post and bright red buoys on ropes slung over board. The first impression of a boat scene can be a bit daunting, but it is surprising how quickly everybody, including the less experienced painters and beginners, got to grips with those shapes. At the end of the day we all agreed that it had been great fun and we had something to show for it, as well.
Inevitably the last day approached much too fast, but we were determined not to let the parting pains get to us prematurely, and ventured out to the nearby lake surrounded by the most stunning hills and mountains. The sun came out as we arrived, and lit up ridges and slopes making the water-lillies on the lake sparkle like snow flakes. Again there was a difficult choice: should we gaze towards the distant landscape with the wooden bridge and stream in the foreground, face the hill with the old shed and foxgloves in the meadow or throw ourselves into the wild rocky landscape head on? As it turned out, we all found our special subject including a couple of more abstract paintings inspired by the Highlands.
Later that day and after yet another piece of delicious cake we prepared for the informal showing of our paintings. It's always such a pleasure for everybody to see the the many different paintings of the week. We painted similar subjects, however the personal ways in which scenes were captured was very impressive. Everybody had been able to take advice from my daily demonstrations and teaching, but had also managed to retain their individual style. And I feel that is what painting is all about - to create a personal vision of the landscape encountered.
We said good by to friends and colleagues with a heavy heart and the promise of meeting again soon. With a big thank you to all at Brynaport, who made truly made us feel at home and looked after us so well and all the best for this summer's painting,
"Wonderful locations to paint and such enjoyable company."
"Your painting demonstrations were really helpful and I feel I have moved forward with my watercolours."
"Fun, great food and inspiring tuition. It was the best."