Monthly Archives: May 2015

Borders Country Day 6

Today’s paintings – various experimentations. (This is all on the same wood panel, number 5 is the last version)

It’s been a frustrating day where I couldn’t quite capture the effects I wanted, so with time and light running out I decided just to play about with effects. I think I’m almost happy with number 5 so will persevere with this tomorrow. It’s odd how certain paintings ‘paint themselves’ and others most definitely don’t! On a good day I’d have finished two.

Grey Mare's Tail

Grey Mare’s Tail

The view is of the hills approaching the Grey Mare’s Tail before you go down to the bottom of the waterfall. So far I haven’t walked to the top of the waterfall but hope to do this next month.

The hill on the right in the paintings is (I think) called Watch Knowe which is where the Covenanters (Presbytarians who’d signed a treaty to say they didn’t accept that the monarchy were appointed by divine right) would watch out for government troops entering the town of Moffat. I look forward to seeing the same view in less harrowing circumstances!

Tomorrow I’m off for another trip to the Borders, not sure where yet, but I’ll be posting paintings from the trip on Monday.

A lamb enjoying its day out at the Grey Mare’s Tail..





Borders Country Day 5

St Mary's Loch. Acrylic on 10x10" wood panel

St Mary’s Loch. Acrylic on 10×10″ wood panel



Today’s painting – a view of St Mary’s Loch on a brisk spring day

Overlooking the loch is a statue of James Hogg; 18th -19th century shepherd, novelist, poet and song writer born in Ettrick near St Mary’s Loch. He’d be very familiar with this view, so perhaps I’ll dedicate today’s spring painting to him, as I sense his life was beset by gloom.


P1210567Hogg was variously celebrated and ridiculed by Edinburgh’s gliteratti of the time who nicknamed him ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’ due to his rural, modest beginnings, and caricatured him quite cruelly in literary publications. He was described by Wordsworth (who wrote a poem in appreciation of Hogg after his death) as both ‘uncouth’ and ‘a genius’!

This was the dawn of the Victorian era, which perhaps partly explains these attitudes. The previous, more creative and intellectually pioneering atmosphere of Edinburgh’s Enlightenment had been welcoming to Robert Burns (a hero and inspiration to Hogg) despite his similar rural beginnings, earthiness and pithy observations of society.

Maybe Hogg was born in the wrong generation, or just didn’t fit in with city people, he seems to have always been somewhat on the periphery of the literary in-crowds, never at the centre. Though he was on occassions part of the most famous literary circles at the time.

The work he’s best known for, ‘The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner’ describes the fictional memoirs of a man who kills those he considers to be sinners, though that’s a very simplistic description of a complicated novel which, though its quite obscure, can be interpreted as a dark critique of Scottish Calvinism and religious hypocrisy.

It was not until the early 20th century, long after Hogg’s death, that his work was P1210580rediscovered and more seriously appreciated. Author Irvine Welsh cites the book as an inspiration and I can see why; this was a brutal work in subject matter, but also an incisive attack on hypocrisy. Hogg was born to a fairly poor but cultured family and worked for the early part of his life in the most low paid of jobs, in later life he was often destitute, so this critique of society was perhaps in some ways a reflection of his personal experience of the prejudice  and sanctimonious attitudes of society at his time – though as relevant today as then, albeit cloaked in different guise!

Hogg’s favourite haunt was Tibbie Shiels Inn, which still exists as a very nice Inn and pub, situated towards the end of St Mary’s Loch. My painting looks south from the north end of the loch. Tibbie Shiels Inn is a mile or so along the road.

If I was to meet Hogg on the way to the pub he’d be walking down the hills from the east, ahead of me. He and Tibbie (the pub’s landlady) got on very well apparently, in fact it seems he got on well with quite a few women ( a feature he shared in common with Burns!). As others have mentioned, it’s fitting that his statue looks out directly to the hills of his youth with Tibbie Shiel’s Inn in the foreground.

More descriptions of his life and work on these links from Wikipedia and the The Ettrick and Yarrow Borders website..

Borders Country Day 4

'Moffat Hills', Acrylic on 10x10" wood panel

‘Moffat Hills’, Acrylic on 10×10″ wood panel



Today’s painting – the Moffat hills just past the small town of Moffat, in the valley of Annandale near Dumfriesshire. (This is a larger painting at 10×10 inches)




Here’s the first sketch developed later in the studio…









The character of Borders hills is not disimilar to the Yorkshire Dales in some areas, but on a smaller scale. I love the rolling shapes, dappled light and subtle gradations of colour of these hills and as I become more familiar with painting the Borders I’d like the brushwork to become looser – more expressive of the landscape’s rythms.

Grey Mare's Tail

Grey Mare’s Tail

This is near the source of the River Tweed. As you drive up into the hills the landscape becomes wilder, more stark, leaving behind the lush, tree-filled river valleys. This is also where you’ll find the Grey Mare’s Tail and the Devil’s Beeftub – thus named because it was where the Borders Reivers would hide their stolen cattle after one of their moonlit raids!

Devil's Beeftub (image from

Devil’s Beeftub (image from

I’ve mentioned a little of the Reivers history in a previous post – particularly how grim it was. This was all captured in the Borders Ballads of the time.




39662d0054ea2f3fc6e72daf869ed936At the moment I’m exploring a wealth of poetry and song inspired by the Borders, from past to present, and I hope to make these part of the theme of exhibitions later in the year.

I’ll leave you with a contemporary poem which I discovered a few days ago (on the excellent Scottish Poetry Library website), by Valerie Gillies. It’s beautifully evocative, both of the Borders landscape and its history. She mentions many places, among them Talla; a natural loch developed now into a resevoir, also along this stretch of countryside..

Stream Rhythm by Valerie Gillies..

The Powskein, the knife-slash,
then Cor Water, the long marsh,
Badlieu, all mossy-grey,
a wet spot through the day,
Smid Hope, the blacksmith’s yards,
Glencraigie, rock-hard,
Fingland, with white gravel,
shining on bright pebbles,
and Hawkshaw, if it could talk,
the haunt of the hunting hawk.
Fruid water, the running one,
swift flow in shallow current,
Glenbreck, in speckled folds,
Glenwhappen, the whaup calls.
Menzion, at the standing stones,
Talla, the waterfall foams
Gameshope, a winter month,
back of the wind, a shivery one,
Glencotho where the cuckoo’s heard,
Glenrusco whose skin is fair,
bark from wood, the stripping-bare,
Kirk Burn of the grouse hen,
the hare’s stone at Hearthstane,
Glenheurie has the yew wood.
The wolfhunt land is a Polmood
where Kings came to hold assize,
every kind of fruit tree thrives.
Kingledores, the champion’s gateway,
Holms’ meadows, islands of greenery.
Hopecarton, old fort in the midden,
Drumelzier, Medlar’s dun is hidden.
The Scrape burn, the gash in the hill,
a rough scart, see it you will,
the little Louran, a chatterbox burn,
the loud voice, the shouting one.
Manor’s stony settlements rise,
Posso the pleasance, earthly paradise,
Hundleshope and Waddenhope,
a man’s name in hollow court.

Time passing, blooms in places,
people there tell differences
on the ground by a tributary,
name a feature, give stability.
It’s for a man who’s not yet born,
it’s a place for a future dawn.

Borders Country – Day 2

‘Tweed River near Peebles 2′. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

‘Tweed River near Peebles 2′. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

‘Water Reflections (River Tweed) 2’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

‘Water Reflections (River Tweed) 2’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

Today’s paintings – two studies of the River Tweed.

As mentioned in last Sunday’s post this year I’ll be painting the Borders landscapes of Scotland and England.

There’s no particular topical reason for this (Scottish independence for example) – I just decided to paint the Borders because it’s such a familiar landscape and I’ve been visiting the area since I was a girl.

In summer we usually spend quite a lot of time at the River Tweed – building fires, canoeing, or just sitting around enjoying a picnic.

Borders countryside is quite gentle compared to the Scottish Highlands, or even the Yorkshire Dales farther south, but there’s definitely a distinct Borders look and feel; characteristic rolling hills, the patchwork of farmland, tree plantations, un-tended areas of wilderness that are variously verdant and lush, or stark and bleak.

There are numerous lochs, reservoirs, castles, Peel towers and rivers. Dry-stone dykes, sheep – loads of them, and horses (an excuse for me to paint horses, which I love to do!) And of course there are the west and east coastlines in Dumfries and at Berwick.

It’s very varied, which is why I’m looking forward to painting this series so much. As always, I’ll blog about the places I paint since that’s all part of the fun. People, the arts, places to visit and so on. Also, the Borders country has a very dramatic history – due partly to wars between Scotland and England.

Engraving, showing Borders Reivers raid on Gilnockie Tower

Engraving, showing Borders Reivers raid on Gilnockie Tower

‘Reiving’ (raiding cattle and other resources across the borders) became a way of life for many in the Borders.

In the first place this was through necessity – as a side effect of war and its devastating impact on the land, but then even in peace time Border Reivers chose to live this way, and they didn’t take kindly to being monitored  by the authorities of the time!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of research and in tomorrow’s blog, I’ll explore more about the Border Reivers. You’ve maybe read or heard of Sir Walter Scott’s famous stories about the Borders, and though factual in terms of names and some events, these were highly romanticised.

Statue of Borders Reiver, Galashiels

Statue of Borders Reiver, Galashiels

In fact, the more I read about Border Reivers history (Charles MacDonald Fraser’s ‘Steel Bonnets’ among other books) the more it sounds like a cross between cowboys, guerilla warfare and the Mafiosi (but more anarchic!)

Nowadays the Borders are as calm and safe as it gets – sleepy villages with antiques shops and small art galleries, sheep farmers, baroque hotels. You’d never guess its dark and difficult history, the only clues to the past in the landscape are the occasional Peel Towers (defensive look-out towers) dotted around the countryside, and of course there’s a wealth of literature and history to be explored in the numerous books on the subject, also castles, abbeys, ancient houses and museums

So how did this area change so radically after the Union of the Crowns in 1707? I suspect that this may reveal yet more grim history. It’s not all gloom though – there are Borders Ballads and poems, not to mention the beautiful landscape of which I have many happy memories, and there’s another reason I want to explore Borders history; one of the most notorious Borders Clans or families were the Kerrs, and as my Grandmother was a Kerr, I definitely have ancestors from the Borders!

So this year’s blog will be a combo of painting forays and ‘Who do you think you are’ minus the celebrity angle!

Today’s paintings again, from different angles, showing texture/size etc. (All paintings at 5×5 inches are available to buy at £57 each, or £100 for two)

P1220144 P1220151 P1220139




Borders Country


‘River Tweed near Peebles 1’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

'River Tweed near Peebles 2'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood

‘Water Reflections (River Tweed)’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

The two small paintings above and right show views of the River Tweed in the Borders of Scotland, a favourite family picnic spot for as long as I can remember.

These are the very first in a new series for my 2015 project which explores the dramatic landscapes of Borders country, from Dumfries in the West to Berwick in the East.

Each month I’ll be painting  landscape and exploring the history and culture of each area, then blogging the new paintings and experiences here.


The project will take me on a journey from the West coast of Scotland then through the densely forested river valleys and hills near the ancient towns of Jedburgh, Melrose and Kelso, following the course of the River Tweed then on to the East-coast seascape, ending at Lindisfarne (Holy Island) in the English Borders.


Flaubert Gallery, St Stephen’s St, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

The paintings (on wood and canvas) will range from small to large with every size in between, and they’ll be available to buy here online, and as part of exhibitions throughout the year.  

Exhibitions for 2015 in Edinburgh include the Whitespace Gallery, Howe Street  in July, and the Flaubert Gallery in early Autumn

For the Flaubert I’ll be showing a series of twenty five 4×4 ft paintings (exclusive to the gallery) on wood panels, capturing the beautiful Borders landscape from coast to coast.

If you’re interested in buying the smaller works throughout the year, such as those below, email me at and I’ll post the painting to you within the week. 5×5 inch paintings are £57 each (or two for £100). They’re ready to hang, or can be propped on a shelf.

P1210162 P1210165