'Labyrinth'. Mixed media on 7.5 x 6.5 inches. Rose Strang, April 2020

Labyrinth

Today’s painting – Labyrinth. Mixed media on 7.5 x 5.5 wood. Rose Strang 2020.

(side view) ‘Labyrinth’. Mixed media on 7.5 x 6.5 inches. Rose Strang, April 2020

This painting will feature as part of the up-coming exhibition on projectroom2020, set up by Art North (edited by Ian McKay) which goes live tonight at 7pm on this webpage: projectroom2020

I painted this as a response to the current situation. Whatever your thoughts about what’s caused it, how to deal with it, the lockdown and whether it’s being dealt with in the right way or not, there’s no doubt it’s pretty bewildering, hence the labyrinth from a window.

It’s a painting from a photo I took a few years ago from a window in Traquair House in the borders of Scotland. The labyrinth was actually extremely difficult to work out – it’s a strange experience – as I remember it – humbling for my friend and I, as we grew ever more exhausted and frustrated!

 

The view is tranquil though. Spring is here, we have quiet and solitude, less pollution and time to meditate on life. I don’t doubt how hard it is for most people to feel calm though – we don’t know what’s going to happen, for most of us the future financial situation is daunting. I can’t distill this experience just now, so this painting simply says something about my feelings at the moment.

This painting will feature as part of the up-coming exhibition on Project Room 2020 as part of  Postcard From …  a facebook group I set up to bring artists together during Covid19

Wishing everyone the very best of health and happiness!

'Aberlady Dunes'. Mixed media on 30x30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission, NFS).

New Commission – ‘Aberlady’

Above, my new commission, painted for a friend – Aberlady Dunes. Mixed media on 30×30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission, NFS).

I wanted the feel of walking towards the sea through tufty marram grass, sunlight traveling towards you. There’s the sense of changing weather – a soft sky that might rain a little, or break up into glorious sunshine.

This image shows scale …

(To show scale)' Aberlady Dunes'. Mixed media on 30x30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission, NFS).

(To show scale)’ Aberlady Dunes’. Mixed media on 30×30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission, NFS).

Like many self employed artists, I’m thinking ahead to how I might sell work when this year’s exhibitions won’t be going ahead due to the Covid pandemic. I’d prefer to live by selling artworks, not by applying for Universal Credit.

Not only does it seem the government is not prepared for the millions of freelancers out there, I’d want to see those who need it most being the first recipients of benefits.

 

 

 

Who knows how long we’ll be in lockdown? I have time to paint so if you’d like a painting that captures your favourite landscape, feel free to commission me to paint something for you, whether it’s a few inches big, or up to several feet! I usually charge a third of the payment up front, then the rest when a client is happy with the work. Email me on rose.strang@gmail.com if you’d like to chat about a possible commission.

The photos below show some of the process of painting ‘Aberlady’.

Keep well folks! X

'Aberlady' in progress. Rose Strang 2020

1. ‘Aberlady’ in progress. Rose Strang 2020

2. 'Aberlady' in progress. Rose Strang 2020

2. ‘Aberlady’ in progress. Rose Strang 2020

3. 'Aberlady' in progress. Rose Strang 2020

3. ‘Aberlady’ in progress. Rose Strang 2020

4 'Aberlady' in progress. Rose Strang 2020

4 ‘Aberlady’ in progress. Rose Strang 2020

 

 

 

'Aberlady' in progress. Rose Strang 2020

New commission, progress …

Above, progress on my new painting commission ‘Aberlady’.

And here’s me painting it in my new temporary studio! …

I’m currently staying with my partner so we can be in one place during the Covid pandemic. I’m happy with the arrangement; luckily we get on very well (hence the relationship!) but even more so since I brought in my painting supplies and computer. We can settle down here and hope that this situation passes at a not unforeseeable time in the nearer rather than later future!

It’s a very strange time isn’t it? We went shopping yesterday, a security guard was posted outside the shop letting one in and one out at a time, so there were no more than around ten people in the shop.

The streets sounded quiet because there were so few cars – people don’t have the same need to be anywhere, they can’t work, or visit people. Lots of people were out walking and jogging though, looking slightly confused, tense, or just chatting as normal. I know I’m already missing friends and family – being able to drop in for a visit, or just worrying about people and what’s to come.

There’s a sense of general anxiety and I’ve felt that myself. Luckily I learned how to deal with panic attacks about twenty years ago when I went through a time of acute anxiety over a year. My approach was partly mind-over-matter, but mostly the discovery that running for ten minutes got rid of the panics. I posted about this the other day on Facebook and it was shared by a few people, so here’s a little piece of advice if you feel anxious (everyone finds different things helpful, but this is worth a try)…

Anyone feeling anxious … speaking as someone who used to suffer from panic attacks, I highly recommend getting properly out of breath for at least 5 mins. Running, jogging on the spot, dancing or whatever. It works because it fools our limbic system into thinking we’ve dealt with the scary lion. Our system is primitive in some regards. Adrenaline/fear feels the same whether a real lion is growling at you, or if too many bills come in at once. If you see what I mean Keep well folks xx

 

Sold. 'Still Life. April 2020'. Mixed media on 3x3 inch wood block. Rose Strang 2019. £90

#CovidArt

My new ‘landscape’ painting, above!

'Postcard From ... mY Livingroom. Covid19'. Mixed media on 3x3 inch wood block. Rose Strang 2019. £38

‘Postcard From … My Livingroom. Covid19’. Mixed media on 3×3 inch wood block. Rose Strang 2019. £38

'Postcard From ... mY Livingroom. Covid19'. Mixed media on 3x3 inch wood block. Rose Strang 2019. £38

‘Postcard From … My Livingroom. Covid19’. Mixed media on 3×3 inch wood block. Rose Strang 2019. £38

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not self isolating entirely (as far as I know I don’t have Covid yet) but each foray outdoors and back in again is becoming quite a planning expedition!

 

I feel for everyone now whose income or health is affected, it’s very stressful. I’m finding online arts communities especially uplifting at the moment. There’s been a surge of new projects to help self-employed artists get together online, new platforms on which to show and sell artworks and support each other.

I’m a member of the SSA (Scottish Society of Artists) which has hundreds of members across Scotland, so I suggested the idea of ‘Postcard From …’ to the community. It’s a facebook open group in which SSA artist members can post artworks, each at £50 or less in any medium. Visitors to the facebook page can join, comment, view or buy the artworks as they wish.

Here it is!…

Postcard From …

I set it up yesterday and so far there are 25 members and counting. Artworks should start coming in soon and I’m excited to see what will be on show. Feel free to visit the page and ask to join. All welcome!

Scotland’s contemporary arts magazine Art North, edited by Ian McKay, is also setting up a project called …

projectroom2020

It will also be on website, instagram etc. Ian is collecting ideas for online art projects during Covid and I’ll be adding artworks from ‘Postcard From…’ to the project. I’ll post that here once it gets going too.

In recent posts I talked about my new project – from Iona, via Aberlady to Lindisfarne, looking at pilgrims journeys past and present. That’s on hold for now, but I’m very glad to be painting a new commission for a friend, which will still be on the theme since it’s of the wild grass and long beaches of Aberlady – a reassuringly familar subject! I’ll be posting that here soon.

Painting seems a safe occupation in these times. A friend of mine works sometimes on the Covid ward in Edinburgh. I’m sure everyone knows the drill about hand-washing etc, but I know that the NHS will soon be completely overwhelmed. They haven’t been given adequate protection in many hospitals, so clearly NHS staff will be getting ill, while more and more people show up with Covid, as well as the usual health emergencies.

I heard that private hospital bed companies are charging large amounts of money for extra hospital beds, which if true is criminal. I’ve read about how the pandemic was handled and contained in China, which involved using surveillance to note which people (for example) had traveled on a train with a Covid sufferer on board. All people on the train were tracked and enforced to self-isolate by law. In Italy of course entire towns were isolated.

We don’t want that level of state intervention here. It’s possible though, since all of us are tracked through mobiles etc. I thought this post I saw recently put it clearly as regards the Covid issues about to face us – https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-the-hammer-and-the-dance-be9337092b56

If, like me, your income will take a hit in this time, here’s a useful link about support for self employed and small businesses ..

Help for small businesses

Wishing everyone the very best of health!

Project progress …

‘Aberlady. Winter Light’. Mixed media on 13×13 wood panel. Rose Strang 2020.

‘Aberlady Bay. Dusk’. Mixed media on 13×13 wood panel. Rose Strang 2020.

Above, today’s paintings of Aberlady – different moods and ways of painting the landscape.

I mentioned a while back that I’m taking things slower this year. I think I’ve maybe painted too busily these past few years, and it’s time to have a deeper think about the ideas that inspire me. It’s good to have a bit more time to contemplate and let projects grow more organically.

This year I’m working on three large paintings in response to the 7th century pilgrim’s route from the Isle of Iona to the isle of Lindisfarne, via Aberlady on the east coast of Scotland.

I’m collaborating with my partner Adam, who’s creating music and probably paintings too in response to the places and ideas. I’m creating a little video of each place, so eventually there will be a video showing footage of landscapes, music by Adam and paintings by myself.

I want to explore what pilgrimage meant in those days in contrast to now. We often talk about ‘mindfulness’ or the peace of solitude and retreat, but what is it really like to remain in solitude or silence for weeks on end? I know that I found it a challenge when I camped on Iona by myself for twenty one days in 2018. Part of that was physical challenge (slugs crawling up the tent, numerous over-friendly spiders that hitched a lift on my clothing whenever I entered the sleeping compartment, howling winds shaking the tent all night for the best part of twenty one days, also the sound of the Corncrake is really not pleasant to my ear!) but it also shook up my emotions. There were beautiful moments, but you have to be self-contained on such adventures; how you relate to people changes somehow.

My plan is to talk to some modern-day pilgrims; people who’ve immersed themselves in these landscapes of Iona and Lindisfarne in a spiritual or personal search for meaning. One of those people is a family friend called Jamie. Jamie was a monk for many years, he also lived on the Isle of Lindisfarne for a time, serving the community there as part of the Hilda and St Aidan Centre.

He took a deep commitment into his spiritual path, at one stage taking a long-term vow of silence to contemplate and, I suppose, face deeper questions about faith and commitment. (You can view an earlier post in which I interviewed Jamie here: The Healing Island).

I was delighted that Jamie recently commissioned me to paint a large-scale painting of Aberlady for his home. It will be an absolute pleasure to paint. I’ll be posting our interview on this blog later this year and it will be (I hope!) a more close and personal exploration of faith and healing, landscape and solitude.

Taking vows of silence, or seeking solitude in remote places is challenging. Recently I contacted a film producer and artist acquaintance to chat about all these ideas; landscape, creativity, healing, spirituality and pilgrimage past and present … and I’m excited about the results of our email conversation. It looks like this project may expand beyond my little video and three large paintings!

I’ll post more about this soon once a few more details are confirmed…

Aberlady mysteries …

Aberlady (in progress) 2020 Rose Strang

Above, one of today’s painting experiments.

I’m playing around with ideas for this year’s project, which will be three paintings, a video, also music by Adam Brewster, inspired by the 7th century Celtic pilgrim’s route from Iona to Lindisfarne via Aberlady. Aberlady was on the route between the islands of Iona and Lindisfarne, on the east coast of Scotland between Edinburgh and Berwick.

Although I’ve been visiting this area all my life, I never realised Aberlady’s importance until I discovered info on the Aberlady Conservation Society’s website. Clues are found in place names and from the 7th century Celtic cross discovered at Aberlady which was very similar to those found in Lindisfarne, which also related to crosses in Iona.

Image from website – eastlothianheritage.co.uk

Iona and Lindisfarne are famous for their ancient abbeys of course, but Aberlady’s only apparent claim to fame was its railway station, which shut down in the 1970s. Since then it’s mostly known to people as the village you drive through on your way to Aberlady nature trail, or the road to North Berwick and Berwick-upon-Tweed. I remember as kids we sometimes stopped there on our way back from North Berwick to buy fish and chips, it just seemed a sleepy sort of place, not significant at all.

I always find this sort of thing quite moving – the changing significance of places through time (just think of the discovery of Richard III’s remains, discovered some years ago, under a carpark!)

Near Aberlady you’ll find places named after St Bathan, such as Abbey St Bathans. Nowadays there’s a Kirk there, the abbey no longer remains, just the name.

It’s now believed that this name refers to Baithéne mac Brénaind, the second abbot of Iona after St Columba’s death. Bathan (a contemporary and disciple of Columba’s) would have continued Columba’s legacy – to spread Christianity through Britain, which was exactly why Lindisfarne monastery was created.

The ‘Bathan’ or Baithéne – related place names between Aberlady and Lindisfarne (and the 7th cent’ Celtic cross at Aberlady) therefore mark the fact that this was an important pilgrim’s route from the 7th century.

Image from website – eastlothianheritage.co.uk

At Abbey St Bathans you can see the remains of a 12th century Cistercian Priory, nothing relating to Bathan. In the 1960’s though, excavations revealed an ancient midden, with pottery remains and dedications to St Bathan. Even more significant – the remains of an iron-age broch were found, also a knife dating back to the iron age.

 

Brochs were very important buildings of the iron age, marking the sites of places that were significant then, if not now. Orkney, for example, has the remains of ancient brochs.  Just think of the significance of the Ness of Brodgar and its stone circle in Orkney – far older than Stonehenge and far more significant in its time, though why it was so significant is still a mystery.

This is maybe part of what I want to express with my paintings of Aberlady, Iona and Lindisfarne – peering back through the mists of time, feeling the human significance of a place without fully knowing its story – enjoying the mystery and trying to make sense of it through a combination of fact and creative instinct. The creative part allows me to retain respect, and I suppose wonder, for the sacredness of these places; so their significance and inspiration is not reduced to mere fact.

For those interested in the creative process (see images below) – I painted the dunes and coast of Aberlady a few days ago, then today covered this in a  film of gesso (semi-transparent white paint usually used to prime the surface of canvas etc before painting) then wiped that back to reveal the landscape through mist. I then re-gessoed the painting and wiped out an area to reveal a sort of window to the landscape. I re-gessoed the painting, popped it in the oven to dry, then I drew the line of Scotland’s east coast and the pilgrim’s route from Aberlady to Lindisfarne.

I played around with carbon paper and a rotary thing to create the dotted line that suggests a route or footpath, then I scrubbed off the surface layer of gesso with steel wool which destroyed the painting underneath, but I quite liked the effect. I also love the look of black carbon paper with mysterious markings that are difficult to see.

All of this will (eventually) result in a series of three interesting paintings on a much larger scale at some point later this year!

(Thanks to the Aberlady Conservation Society and East Lothian Heritage for Aberlady pilgrim’s route info. Find out more here: http://eastlothianheritage.co.uk/aberladyconservationsociety/linking-iona-and-lindisfarne/ )

 

 

 

 

Exhibitions and available paintings 2020

The following paintings are currently on exhibition and available for sale. If you’re interested in any of these paintings, please contact the gallery websites listed above each series…

Limetree Gallery, Bristol. Gallery website: https://www.limetreegallery.com/

 

The Lime Tree An Ealdhain Gallery, Fortwilliam, Scotland.

Gallery contact:  info@limetreefortwilliam.co.uk  +44 (0)1397701806

 

Morningside Gallery, Edinburgh.  Website: https://www.morningsidegallery.co.uk/

 

 

Aberlady

‘Aberlady 1’. Mixed media on 5×6″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Aberlady 2’. Mixed media on 5×6″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

Above, today’s quick paintings of Aberlady.

I’m experimenting with atmospheric depictions of Aberlady’s coastline for this year’s project which follows the 7th century pilgrim’s journey from Iona to Lindisfarne via Aberlady.

In March I’ll be traveling to Lindisfarne, then Iona in May. The plan is a series of three large paintings which capture the timeless atmosphere of these places. Also a video which I’m in the process of editing, with music composed by Adam Brewster.

There’s loads to be inspired by, but at this stage I’m not sure how I’ll choose to paint these places. The paintings above capture something of the dreamlike nature of Aberlady with its subdued east coast light and long stretches of marram grass covered dunes.

Aberlady coast. Film still, Rose Strang

This part of the coast is a nature reserve and it’s a 30 minute walk to the beach across grassy plains with a multitude of wild birds and occasional deer. Few people take the walk, so even in summer it feels as though you’re on an island. Folks who know how cold the east coast sea can be will hopefully be impressed when I say that Adam and I swam there last summer! However, that’s only because there’s a long stretch of shallow sea bed so it actually feels relatively warm since the sun heats up the water as it passes over long stretches of sun-warmed sand.

I’ve always felt there was a special atmosphere there and recently this was enhanced with the discovery of the remains of an ancient 12th century Carmelite Monastery, hidden away near an ancient yew forest near Luffness Castle.

One corner of the monastery remains intact and as you walk around it there’s a slight shock when you discover the weather-worn sculpture of an ancient knight under a crumbling stone archway (film still below). No-one knows who he might have been. A local V.I.P. perhaps, or an early pilgrim? The sculpture will feature in my video. More on that in coming months …

Aberlady knight. Film still, Rose Strang

 

 

 

 

Three paintings

Photo: Aberlady. Rose Strang 2020

This year I’ll be working on an arts and music project with Adam Brewster in response to three places: the isle of Iona, Aberlady and the isle of Lindisfarne. Other collaborators will also probably be involved as the project develops, such as Donald Ferguson and Atzi Muramatsu.

I’ve worked with Adam, Atzi and Donald on previous projects, all viewable on the ‘Collaborations’ tab in the menu above,so I’m very excited about this one!

The theme is loosely based around the fact that in the 7th century, the route from Iona to Lindisfarne via Aberlady was a pilgrim route. Our project will involve themes I’ve been exploring for many years – landscape, spirituality and history and not least the element of mystery since not much is known of those times!

Pilgrim map from website: eastlothianheritage.co.uk

Pilgrim map from website: eastlothianheritage.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam will be creating music for the project and I’ll also edit a video showing footage of the places interspersed with Adam’s music and the three paintings.

Other than that, I plan to paint a bit less frenetically this year and solely on request, for example if a gallery would like to put on a solo or small group show, or private commissions, which will give me time to develop paintings more slowly and to explore themes in more depth.

I’ll post updates as I go, in the meantime, here are some photos of our recent trip to Aberlady and paintings from Iona and Lindisfarne from previous years …

Aberlady. Rose Strang 2020

Aberlady. Rose Strang 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lindisfarne, 2014

Iona, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Music for Advent; Merry Christmas!

(Private commission). ‘Ardban Light’. Mixed media on 23×16 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

I mentioned a while back that a friend in the US, Clay Clarkson, commissioned me to paint something for a music CD cover that expressed hope after a long night. I painted ‘Ardban Light’ (above) in response.

Clay has now put together a CD with with music written by himself, friends and family for Advent, titled ‘Songs for the Long Night: An Advent Journey’; I’m honoured that my painting adorns this excellent CD!

You can listen to the songs (and buy the CD) Here.

All the songs are great, beautifully produced – a few of the songs are written by Clay and there’s one in particular ‘How Will it Be’ which I think is lovely. It features Clay’s daughter, Joy, singing. She shares with Clay a quality of voice that makes you want to listen – authentic, meaningful and with beautiful, melifluous tone. The CD is very Christian in theme, so it’s definitely one for those who find this time of year particularly meaningful; not just a time for family and gift-giving but a celebration of Christ.

I’m truly honoured that Clay chose my painting as the CD cover. I’m not part of any religious group as such, but I was very inspired by the subject and theme and painting this has been meaningful for me on my own spiritual journey.

Well done to Clay, Joy and all musicians and singers involved in the CD; lovely work, beautifully produced, which I’m sure will be welcomed and appreciated by many over Advent.

Here’s the link again … Songs for the Long Night

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!