;Through Kintail 2′. Oil on 33×23″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
‘Through Kintail 3’ Oil on 14×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
Above (and below), today’s paintings in progress for the new Applecross series, which will be on show as part of a three-artist exhibition at the Limetree Gallery Bristol from the 31st October.
These paintings are all in progress, since they’re in oils and will take a bit longer to dry, but I’m happy with the way the series is developing. I’m exploring new subjects – travelling through the mountains of Kintail before arriving on the Applecross coast.
I’ve always enjoyed sketching from the car, it’s a nice test of observation and it often makes the eye work faster to see what’s essential. The three paintings titled ‘through Kintail’ capture the changing weather of the Highlands.
Though often misty and wet, the mood when there is strangely comforting – a soft gloom with the fresh wildness of heather and ferns. Against the deep ochres and greens the bracken turns a beautiful russet colour.
I love the feeling of reaching the coast after the rainy mountain valleys – the soft light of the west coast. I’ve tried to capture the dreamy mood of mist lifting from the sea on a calm sunny morning, and that distinctive sparkle where the clouds part above the sea and mountains. In ‘Ardban. Sea Shimmer’ I had to tone down the mountains of Skye which are so picture-esque they resemble a child’s ideal drawing of a mountain range! It’s better to smudge them up with some rainy clouds.
‘Through Kintail’. Oil on 14×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
‘Ardban. Sea Shimmer’. Oil on 14×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
‘Ardban,. Green Waves. Oil on14x11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
Today’s paintings in progress. More changes to Ardban Green Waves and Through Kintail. The new painitng – Ardban Sea Shimmer needs to dry a bit before I mist it up a bit more and work on the mountains.
‘Ardban,. Green Waves. Oil on14x11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
Today’s paintings – ‘Through Kintail’ and ‘Ardban. Green Waves’.
Ardban Green Waves is updated from last week as it needed warmer greens. ‘Kintail’ is a new subject and this photo of the painting isn’t capturing all the lovely textures as it’s not yet dry. I’m happy with it though and plan to paint this subject on a large scale.
The entire series is not just about Ardban in Applecross but the journey there through the atmospheric and dramatic mountains of Kintail then the Bealach na Ba. It’s quicker to take the bigger motorway but why do that when your journey is full of such beauty?!
The Gaelic title for Kintail is Cinn Tàile which means ‘head of the inlet’. In Highland clan times it was Mackenzie land and there’s a saying that goes something like ‘as long as there’s moorland in Kintail there will be herds’. Later on the way to Applecross you drive through the even more dramatic Bealach na Ba – pass of the cows – these ordinary descriptions don’t do justice to the landscape!
In ‘Kintail’ I wanted to capture the mystery of the Highlands, drenched, as they so often are, in mist and rain. Not a unique subject, but it’s the little details such as an ordinary green metal roof amidst these rich russets of bracken and the silver-grey watery clouds merging with dark mountains that make this impossible for an artist to resist!
Oils are perfect for the subject, like watercolours they merge and run into each other, creating serendipitous effects, but richer and deeper in tone. Most of the painting is abstract colours, with just the green roof to give definition, scale and composition.
While painting I’ve been listening to the excellent Rachel Walker. She sings in Gaelic but mercifully un-festooned by fey or whimsy! She used to upload a song each week and I particularly like this one (it suited the sweet/sombre mood of the painting) Bràigh Uige / The Braes of Uig – a song about grief, loss and the bittersweet unchanging beauty of the land. (You’ll be weeping by the end of it, sorry!) Lyrics translation below vid (courtesy of Rachel Walker’s website)
‘Ardban. Green Sea’. Oil on 17×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
Above, today’s paintings for the Applecross Series which launches at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol on 31st October. The featured painting at the top is ‘Road. Kintail’. Oil on 7×5″ wood.
I’m quite excited about ‘Road. Kintail’ as I love taking photos and sketching while in the car (as a passenger of course!) The road itself provides great perspective and it’s fun trying to sketch or photograph in a moving car. This has that optimistic holiday feel – going somewhere. I wonder if it will appeal to others the same way it does me.
I’m persevering with the oil paints. I love the effects but it’s so messy – I spend half my energy cleaning up at the end of the day!
That’s it for the week. My partner and I are designing a dress this weekend – our new creative adventure – oil-paint-covered hands and expensive fabric do not mix!
‘Ardban Evening’ Oil on 17×112 wood. Rose Strang 2020
‘Ardban, Morning Mist’ Oil on 17×112 wood. Rose Strang 2020
Today’s paintings of Applecross for the Limetree exhibition which launches 31st October.
A bit more experimentation today as I feel my way into this new series. These are both in oils – I wanted to say a bit more with less. It’s not quite getting there yet but these have more of the mood I’m trying to capture. I’ll be painting seven seas in different moods, also forests. Just to try something completely new I’ll be painting some road sketches sine the journey to Applecross is so dramatic.
These are actually the two paintings from yesterday, messed up! I’m struggling to find the way forward with the series which is normal at this stage though pretty tiring. I completely wiped out the stormier painting and sketched in oils, then added a top layer of oils to the other one. Neither painting seems to be improved upon but that’s the way it goes!
My aim is to semi-abstract the paintings a little to get the mood in a more loose or painterly way. I don’t want a painting that simply says ‘this is what the sea looked like on Monday’. Abstracting paintings is the most difficult thing to do since you’re attempting to retain the essential things, colours, shapes and so on. It takes a more discerning eye and focused mind to spot what works – a state of mind I lacked somewhat today. Ah well, it’s good to get started at least. More painting tomorrow. ..
(In progress). Ardban Waves, Evening. Mixed media on 17×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020
(In progress) Ardban, In-coming Tide. Mixed media on 14×112 wood. Rose Strang 2020
Above – paintings in progress for the upcoming exhibition at the Limetree gallery, Bristol. 31st October.
This is a new series for the Limtetree, which I started while on holiday last week in the Applecross Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland.
Thanks to the ever-changing west coast weather, the sea changes its mood constantly, but I’ve never seen a white rainbow before! (see photo below). The cottage we stayed in is a forty minute walk from the road, so you have to take all your food, equipment and bedding on your back. It’s part of the charm of staying here, but we prepared ourselves for our arrival by taking more walks up Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat for a few weeks beforehand – it definitely enhances the experience to be fit enough to explore a bit.
Cottage. Photo, Rose Strang 2020
Morning Mist. Photo Rose Strang 2020
Applecross is reached by driving up the Bealach na Ba (the pass of the cows) which is always a pretty dramatic experience visually, more than that though, the journey up this single track road with few passing places seems to inspire the entire spectrum of human behaviour – it’s quite entertaining!
Bealach na Ba. Photo Adam Brewster 2020
Bealach na Ba. Photo Adam Brewster 2020
You can see traces, in the remains of cottages everywhere, attesting to the fact that these coasts were home to larger communities in the past, many of whom would have struggled in the years after the Highland Clearances. That history has been written about extensively so I won’t go into it here, except to say that it played into my response to the landscape to an extent, and will come in to the mood of my paintings. I sense that though these communities struggled, they loved the landscape and its many moods and it was part of their faith.
Applecross is an area of ancient Christian pilgrimage from the 7th century and traces of that past include a classic 7th century stone Celtic cross – now housed in Edinburgh’s Museum of Scotland
My friend Donald (who organised the holiday as he’s been visiting the area for many years) played some Lewisian/Hebridean Psalm singing while we were in the cottage; it speaks of a tight-knit religious community, but also (to my imagination anyway) it evokes the ebb and flow of the changing sea. Here’s a video clip …
I’ll be adding to the paintings series here over the next few weeks, so if you like the look of any of the paintings and would like to reserve one before the exhibition, please contact the Limetree Gallery on this link – https://www.limetreegallery.com/contact/
Lastly, some more photos from our stay. Thanks again to Donald, Adam and Catherine for a lovely and hugely inspiring week!
From left: Donald, Catherine, Rose, Adam. Photo Adam Brewster 2020
Above, ‘Stormy Sea. Ardban’. Charcoal on 31×22″ paper. Rose Strang 2019.
‘Off to Wander’ is the title of a book I received in the post yesterday …
‘Off to Wander’. Mary McCormick
(Excerpt) ‘Off to Wander’. Mary McCormick
I met Mary McCormick while on an artist’s residency on the Isle of Iona in Autumn 2018. I was very grateful for her grounded presence in the hostel, which attracted numerous interesting characters, not all easy to get along with! Mary decided to close her gardening business at the age of 68, to travel around the world on a shoestring budget. Iona was one of her last destinations before she returned to the US to find work conserving its depleted grasslands.
Her book is a real inspiration to me as I’m attempting to write a series of small books to accompany my paintings – it’s proving a challenge! Not the writing (which I enjoy) but the choices on what to keep in or out of the books, how much information, how formal or informal and so on.
I love the fragments of experience in Mary’s book and the non-linear style. Have a read of the small excerpt above which is a lovely example of Mary’s humour and meditative observations. If you’d like to buy a copy you can contact Mary McCormick via email on:
email@example.com and if she has enough copies left she’ll post it out to you.
I’m off for a wander myself next week (with my partner Adam, my friend Donald, and sister, Catherine) to the wonderful Applecross Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. We were there last year, during which time I painted a series for a gallery in Fortwilliam.
This year I’m painting a series of new works for the Limetree Gallery, Bristol. The exhibition opens 31st October and (lockdown restrictions willing) I’ll be traveling down there to meet people (one-to-one) who are interested in the paintings. I’m honoured to be showing alongside two artists whose work I admire: Anna King and Mhairi McGregor .
As always I’ll update painting progress from Applecross. In the meantime, here are some lovely pictures from our stay last year!
Perfect! Photo by Donald Ferguson
Sheep. Rose Strang
Preparing paper in the sea. Adam Brewster
Painting watercolours. Photo Rose Strang
Cottage. Rose Strang
Euan, Adam and Donald (playing guitar) outside the cottage. Rose Strang