'Traigh Bhan. Early Evening. Iona'. Mixed media on 12x12 inch wood board. Rose Strang 2020

Traigh Ban Series

'Traigh Bhan. Waves. Iona'. Mixed media on 12x12 inch wood board. Rose Strang 2020

‘Traigh Bhan. Waves. Iona’. Mixed media on 12×12 inch wood board. Rose Strang 2020

'Traigh Bhan, Turquoise. Iona'. Mixed media on 12x12 inch wood board. Rose Strang 2020

‘Traigh Bhan. Turquoise Sea. Iona’. Mixed media on 12×12 inch wood board. Rose Strang 2020

Above, the completed series of ‘Traigh Ban, Iona’. Traigh Ban is Scottish Gaelic for ‘white strand’ and is pronounced ‘try ban’. It’s the stretch of beach at the north-east end of the Isle of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. (Set as featured image at the top is Traigh Ban, Early Evening. Iona.)

I’ve painted Iona many times in the past few years, most recently during a winter artist’s residency in 2018. It’s an island famed for its religious history and its particular beauty. That’s a somewhat anodyne sounding statement, so to be more expressive – when I’m there I often feel that the colours are too luminous to be real – everything looks like a ridiculously beautiful  painting – it feels in a way superfluous to paint it, until you realise photography doesn’t capture it.

When the Limetree Gallery asked me for paintings for their summer exhibition, Iona was my first choice. I can’t be there this year as planned due to lockdown, but you can be sure it’s the first place I’ll visit when it’s possible. I had planned an arts project there this year with my partner (an animator, watercolourist and musician) and Devo, a filmmaker from New York, so these paintings are a bit of therapy for me in the meantime! We’d hoped to respond to the island’s beauty, atmosphere and history in numerous ways, so I hope that will go ahead in the not too distant future.

They’ll be available from the Limetree Gallery soon, but if you’re interested in reserving one, you can contact them from their website on this link – Limetree Gallery.

The gallery (and its partner gallery in Long Melford Suffolk) is owned and run by Sue and Stephen – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them over the years. We’ve had fun times and interesting conversations whenever there’s been a chance to meet in person, so as I’m currently enjoying an early evening gin and tonic I’ll raise a glass to Sue and Stephen –  long may your galleries continue to show and sell great work!

'Traigh Bhan Nam Monach. Iona'. Mixed media on 12x12 inch wood board. Rose Strang 2020

New paintings for the Limetree Gallery

'Sanna Sundown'. Mixed media on 12x12 inch wood board. Rose Strang 2020

In progress. ‘Sanna Sundown’ and at  top – Traigh Bhan Nam Monach, Iona

Today’s paintings in progress for the Limetree Gallery, Bristol. Traigh Bhan Nam Monach, Iona is complete. Sanna Sundown needs a bit more work. ‘Traigh Bhan Nam Monach’ means ‘white strand of the monks’.

How much would I like to be on that beach on Iona right now! I’d planned an arts project with my partner and a filmmaker from New York which would have been happening this month. (Sigh). Painting that crystal-clear turquoise sea was therapy anyway!

I went very loose and ‘painterly’ with these as I think that will work well for the Limetree Gallery. The brushwork is very spontaneous with just a few areas of detailed focus – it makes the eye work more and Limetree art buyers seem to enjoy this painterly approach that lets the viewer see more of the artist’s hand in the brushwork.

Needless to say, I enjoyed painting them and I’m happy with Iona, once I had that little sun-lit ripple at the bottom I was pretty much finished. I like the freshness of these and look forward to completing Sanna and another painting, tomorrow.

'North Berwick, Summer'. Mixed media on 18x18" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (NFS, Private Commission).

Finished Commission – North Berwick

Above: North Berwick, Summer. Mixed media on 18×18″ wood. Rose Strang 2020 (NFS, private commission).

I finally completed this private commission today and it will be winging its way to a new home soon!

The painting shows part of the headland past the town of North Berwick on the east coast of Scotland on a summer’s day in August.

This is one of my (and my family’s) favourite places to be. Though it’s just about thirty miles from Edinburgh, it always feels quite ‘away from it all’, the rocks are beautiful and as a kid it was heaven to play here, as an adult too!

The person who commissioned me works in a hospital, so I hope this painting is uplifting during a stressful time for folks in the NHS. Having said that, I hear that the non-Covid wards are not busy since everyone’s too scared to go into hospital for fear of either catching Covid or placing more strain on the NHS.

Below – a few photos showing some of the development of the painting. The challenge was capturing that lovely curve where sea meets land, also the dry August grass. The sea was not so much of a challenge once I’d toned down the rather too bright turquoise. You’d see bright turquoise on the west coast of Scotland but not the east coast!

The final touch was a lot of gesso splashed – it gives a sense of atmosphere and messing up a postcard-like view makes it more real – the way the eye sees in real life with peripheral vision and sun in our eyes, changing weather and so on.

It was both a challenge and a delight to paint, a big thank you to the person who commissioned this for giving me a really nice project during lockdown!

 

Art during Lockdown

Life goes on during lockdown!

At the moment I’m about to begin a private painting commission of North Berwick which I hugely look forward to. Deliveries are slow just now though so I’m awaiting new paints before I begin.

Exhibitions planned for this year will still go ahead virtually at least!

Here’s a list of current and upcoming exhibitions, also galleries showing my work on their websites.

EXHIBITIONS

2020

'Labyrinth'. Mixed media on 7.5 x 5.5. inch wood. Rose Strang, April 2020

‘Labyrinth’. Mixed media on 7.5 x 5.5. inch wood. Rose Strang, April 2020

March 19 – (end of lockdown?) Postcard From … Group exhibition. ‘Postcard From …’ was created as a response to Covid19, more than 80 artist members of the SSA (Society of Scottish Artists) are presenting their smaller works on this Facebook group page. All works £50 or less. Browse artworks on this link: Postcard From …

 

 

 

 

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

‘Postcard From my Livingroom’. Mixed media on 3×3 inch wood block. Rose Strang, March 2020. £38

May 20th to June 3rd. Postcard From … Projectroom2020. Created by Art North editor Ian McKay, Projectroom2020 is a response to Covid19 – comprising a virtual, multi-disciplinary gallery including several ‘floors’ and a cinema this virtual exhibition presents work by some of Scotland and Scandinavia’s most talented artists. Selected works from ‘Postcard From …’ will be on virtual exhibition in the cinema foyer from May 8th. In the meantime, have a browse on this link … Projectroom2020

 

 

GALLERIES

Covid19 means that offline exhibitions will be cancelled, however most galleries are continuing to show these online, read on for more information and links …

‘Dawn, Ardtoe’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019. £495

Limetree Gallery, Bristol. Search my artist’s page on the Limetree Gallery website on this link: Limetree, Rose Strang

 

 

 

 

‘Sanna Bay, dusk’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019. £550

Morningside Gallery, Edinburgh. Search my artist’s page on this link: Morningside Gallery, Rose Strang

 

 

 

 

‘Sanna Bay Sea’. Mixed media on 20×16″ wood board. Rose Strang 2019. £595

Resipole Gallery, Acharacle, Scotland. Resipole, Rose Strang

'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/ )