Tag Archives: ardnamurchan

Sanna Bay – Paintings and Video

Paintings on exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan

I mentioned a while ago that my friend, musician Donald Ferguson, might compose a piece for guitar to accompany my recent paintings of Sanna Bay in Ardnamurchan, and here it is! (links to paintings below video) …

The atmosphere and mood Donald creates here is entrancing – from the impetus of traveling through beautiful scenery from Glencoe to the Ardnamurchan peninsula, to the peace of arriving at Sanna Bay on the farthest west coast of Scotland.

Here are the links to the two galleries exhibiting these new works – you can contact them there with any queries …

Resipole Gallery: https://www.resipolestudios.co.uk/rose-strang

Morningside Gallery – http://www.morningsidegallery.co.uk/4_artists/strang/index.htm

A flurry of creativity …

'Sanna Bay, sand dune'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

‘Sanna Bay, sand dune’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

Above, one of my paintings in progress (more below).

It’s been non-stop creativity since I got back from Ardnamurchan!

Here’s a holiday video I made, called Road Sketches, it was fun to get back into video-making with something informal, and I think it has a nice mood ..

The rest of the paintings in progress so far …

'Sanna Bay,afternoon'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

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

'Sanna Bay, dusk'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

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

'Ardnamurchan, Sheep'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

‘Ardnamurchan, Sheep’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

 

Sunart and Ardnamurchan

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019

Words and photos can’t do justice to the beauty of Ardnamurchan and Sunart. What an utterly inspiring experience it was.

Hopefully my upcoming paintings will capture something of how it feels to stand on the beach of Sanna. The light there makes you feel you’ve entered a different dimension, or as though you’re seeing beyond normal perceptions – everything opens up, including your self.

Which sounds as though I was on some sort of druggy trip, and it is a sort of high, but it’s more hyper-reality, almost raw in a way. It was an emotional experience, which is often how it feels when you’re in these places. It’s strange to return to Edinburgh – nice to be back home and what’s familiar, but it feels several steps removed from Sanna and Ariundel forest, so I must keep it alive in my mind and imagination for the paintings I’ll be working on, because nice as these photos are they don’t get what it’s like to be there.

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took hundreds of photos, made various sketches and I’ll create a couple of edited videos as well as paintings I think. Also my friend Donald (who was an excellent companion throughout the trip), will hopefully be recording a guitar response to the videos once they’re made. Donald felt similarly moved by the experience; as he described it  –

‘the ocean, that was the most cosmic for me, looking beyond the sky, then inside the forest, walking the leaf-strewn path, then the wild and windy moors and glens from a speeding metal box’.

Absolutely. Something I’ve always really loved about these journeys is the contrast between the road-trip/car-time – chatting and playing music, the sound of the engine and the feel of impetus – then when you leave that small human-made world of your ‘speeding metal box’ and stand still on a beach of epic proportions looking out to the Atlantic – the almost shock of silence and space.

Also, Sanna is I think the most beautiful beach of the west coast and islands of Scotland I’ve seen. It felt sad to leave and I found myself walking backwards for several minutes as we headed back to the car. It was getting towards evening and it’s a long drive across the wildest parts of the Ardnamurchan peninsula on single-track roads …

We also stopped that day at Castle Tioram, which has to be one of the world’s most beautiful settings for a castle. This is my third visit there, and each time I learn more about the area, the centuries of history and its golden age before Culloden and the Highland clearances. (I wrote about this in a previous post, link Here).

Castle Tioram, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Castle Tioram, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In that blog post I also talked about Ariundle oakwood in Sunart (which is before you head out west on the proper peninsula of Ardnamurchan). Suaineart ghorm an daraich – Green Sunart of the Oaks.

We visited Ariundle the next day and it was such a contrasting experience to the epic feel of Sanna. Such a gentle feeling amidst all those multi-hued mossy hillocks, flowing streams and lichen-covered oaks. (I made sure to pick up a pile of oak twigs for my niece, who wants to frame a couple of oak-leaves she was given at the hobbit-land place she visited in New Zealand!).

Ariundle – it is quite a Tolkien-esque sounding name don’t you think? It means shieling (or ‘settlement’) in the fair meadow. It’s heartening to see how much conservation work is going on there to preserve it – Ariundle is a remnant of the ancient oakwoods that once stretched from Portugal to Norway along the Atlantic coast – hence why it’s described as Atlantic oakwood.

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I discovered a new hobby on the return to Edinburgh – sketching the surrounding landscape from the car, it makes you quickly focus on the obvious points, shapes and lines – here they are (scenes from Corran ferry, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Balquhidder) …

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I always like to visit Balquhidder before returning to Edinburgh, as it’s the last part of the Highlands before the relative flatness of Lothian – it eases the shock of re-entering the city I suppose!

You head off the motorway after Edinchip on a little bypass, then you see the Mhor84 cafe, which serves excellent coffee and nice cakes, but if there’s time it’s nice to drive under the bridge and towards the village of Balquhidder then along the beautiful shores of Loch Voil. It’s always fairly quiet as the road ends after a few miles at the end of the loch – after that it would be a lo-o-ng and arduous walk over the mountains west to the coast again, if you wanted to keep going.

After a mile or so along the loch, you get to Monachyle Mhor Hotel, where you can stop for a drink by the open fire if it’s cold, or if it’s warm sit outside admiring oak trees, shimmering loch and mountain valleys. The hotel interior is lovely (if a bit ‘Farrow and Ball’ – you know – tasteful chalky paint finishes in deep colours or neutrals!) also they have an impressive art collection – it’s kind of perfect, as hotels go, I’ve yet to find out how much it costs to actually stay there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I’ve been gessoe-ing up my wood panels. I’ll make a little road-trip video, then it’ll be on with the paintings, and a fuller video with paintings and music, wish me luck! In a few days I’ll post the first video, and also some info about an upcoming three-person exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Sunart, which I’m looking forward to. I’m not forgetting that these paintings are part of my planets series. March is related to Mars – war, heroism and sacrifice, also early spring – Mars Silvanus –  new leaves – and the corresponding Narnian book, Prince Caspian. More on that too in later posts …

Painting trip to Ardnamurchan

Ardnamurchan, Ardtoe. (photo Rose Strang)

On the 22nd March I’m off to Ardnamurchan again on the west coast of Scotland. I’ll be painting Ariundle Oakwood and the coast of Ardtoe, including Castle Tioram.

I’m traveling there with my friend Donald, who’s a  talented guitarist, and I’m hoping I can also capture some nice video footage of the landscape with accompanying guitar sounds! Here’s my recent sketch of Donald playing ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a vid of Donald and Charlotte playing at the Open studio eve in December last year ..

I’ll be dropping in to the Resipole Gallery again, it’s a lovely space, and I’m happy to be showing some larger works there (of Ardnamurchan) for their new exhibition from 17th May this year (I’ll also be showing paintings from Ardnamurchan at the Morningside Gallery, Edinburgh from this April)

The trip will continue exploration of the Planets series, this time the planet Mars, which in Medieval times was associated with war but also early spring and trees – hence the trip to Ariundle oakwood. I’ve never actually visited the wood before and look forward to it. It’s a remnant of the ancient oakwoods which once stretched all the way along the Atlantic coastline from Portugal to Norway.

Some photos of Ariundle, and Ardtoe (these are stock photos, I’ll have many of my own photos after the trip) …

Ariundle

Ardtoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some maps showing where we’ll be ..

 

Planets Series, Jupiter – day 1

Above – a preliminary rough sketch for the Jupiter painting.

Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away all together. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down on to the forest floor and overhead you could see the blue sky through the treetops.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I’m sketching ideas for my new painting ‘Jupiter’, second in a series of seven paintings inspired by the seven planets as understood in Medieval cosmology, and the seven books of Narnia, which (as the writer Michael Ward discovered) were themselves inspired by the seven planets.

(you can view all the previous posts from my home page – ‘Home’ menu above)

What’s Jupiterian about the painting and excerpt above you may ask! Firstly, the planet associated with the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is Jupiter, secondly it’s coming up to the right time of year; in the order of Medieval planets Jupiter comes after Saturn. Saturn is associated with winter, Jupiter represents the overcoming of Saturn and long winter. Not quite the arrival of spring (associated with Mars) but around now the days become longer, we see the first snowdrops, and in the wildest most ancient woodlands the arrival of the beautiful star-like seven-petaled wood anemone (associated with the north wind and Jupiter). Winter is losing its hold at last.

Snowdrop illustration by Pauline Baynes, Narnia Chronicles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius and Pisces (this is the Medieval view of planets, so Neptune, Uranus and Pluto were not viewable at the time) was seen as the ruler of all the planets. Jove (Roman title) also relates to Zeus (Greek title) and Thor, god of thunder, storm and the north wind.

Subjects associated with Jupiter were higher learning, the law, theology,  the cosmos and the sea. Qualities – joviality (optimism, laughter), honesty and kingship. Colours – azure, purple. Animals – horses, dolphins and various others including the mythical centaur. Plants – wood anenome, dandelions (among many others). Trees – Oak mainly (associated with Thor). Day – Thursday. Order of planets …

(image from website http://www.planetnarnia.com )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also … wardrobes – you can look it up yourself in Medieval planet associations!

‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. ‘Ward Robes’ – robes worn by kings and members of the court. Fur coats worn by Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy discovered in the wardrobe before they enter the land of Narnia through the wardrobe. In the book, Tumnus the faun asks Lucy how she got into Narnia ‘I – I got in through the wardrobe in the spare room’. Tumnus replies – ‘Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?’.  All appropriately ‘jovial’ – Lewis was himself a Sagittarian!

My painting sketch above is a simple, stylised painting of the ruined Castle Tioram in Ardnamaurchan on the west coast of Scotland (which, incidentally is where the Resipole Gallery is situated, which exhibits my paintings).

Castle Tioram, photo Rose Strang September 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jupiterian themes in the sketch include oak trees, moss, azure, sea, kingship (castle), some snow, and a suggestion of wood anemones.

Ardnamurchan is wild – one of the most un-touched areas of the west coast of Scotland. I associate the castle imaginatively with the Narnian castle of Cair Paravel (also the Jupiterian idea of kingship or rulership) particularly as it’s experienced in Prince Caspian, in the spine-tingling passage when the children find themselves near the sea, surrounded by a thicket of ancient trees growing down to the beach, up above on the rocks they discover the ruins of a castle, and decide to camp there for the night, then gradually realise it is in fact Cair Paravel where they once ruled as kings and queens, but while they’ve been back in England for a year or so, hundreds of years have passed in Narnia  …

In my previous painting, ‘Saturn’, there’s a reference to the castle there too, but it’s night so you can’t see its form. Once I paint the large version of Jupiter, there will be more Jupiterean themes – wood anemones among the snow will be a clear foreground feature, and hopefully I’ll be able to paint the feeling of wind in the treetops (Jupiter ruling wind and thunder).

Ardnamurchan

 

Ardnamurchan coast

My two latest paintings of Iona (below) will be included in the new Autumn group show at the Resipole Gallery on the beautiful Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland.

The show runs from the 7th September to 31st October. Link and info about the gallery here .. Autumn Show

 

‘Storm coming, Goirtean Beag beach, West Coast of Iona. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood panel. Rose Strang, August 2018

‘Storm, Goirtean Beag beach, West Coast of Iona’. Mixed media on 1px10″ wood panel. Rose Strang, August 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could have posted the paintings but decided instead to deliver them in person, not just because Ardnamurchan is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt landscapes of Scotland, but also to meet gallery owner Andrew Sinclair. I think it’s always good to meet in person and, if the paintings do well, I hope to show more there.

The Resipole Gallery was launched in 2004 by Andrew Sinclair on his return to Ardnamurchan after his graduation from Goldsmith’s Art College in London. He and his family are from the area (they own a farm there) and the gallery was formerly an agricultural byre which he renovated over two years. I enjoyed chatting away with Andrew, my friend Sabine and I were impressed with his energy, vision and resourcefulness!

It’s a beautifully designed space which shows a range of artists from lesser-known to renowned (they recently held an excellent exhibition of works by Jon Schueler), the gallery also provides studio space for local artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last time I was in Ardnamurchan was around 1992. The landscape hasn’t changed much, but the world has become a busier place – and I suppose we’re all feeling the effects of this (not least in Edinburgh with the August festival and festival fringe) so I felt mixed about the clearly very wealthy new settlers in the area. You do meet local or indigenous people here and there – most who have remained have adapted to change by branching out into the tourist industry or similar.

The houses of the newer settlers are immaculate – grand designs-esque, but there’s a sense of ‘keep out’, an excluding atmosphere perhaps. I suppose this change is inevitable. Former communities with little money had to rely on each other during the long hard winters. Some places in Scotland retain this idea of community – places like Knoydart, Eigg or Achiltibuie for example. It’s not just that it feels different, it is different and I’m certainly not alone in believing that this approach – sharing resources, creating sustainable energy systems for all to use, community buy-outs and so on – is the only way forward.

Similarly to Iona though, the landscape remains the same, for now at least given what appears to be inexorable climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in 1992 or thereabouts, I was driving around the west coast with a friend from Italy, wild camping and therefore looking for the wildest places – we discovered Ardnamurchan and Moidart by chance. I remember being entranced by the area around Castle Tioram, the forests that grew all the way down to the coast and high into the mountains. This was what Scotland’s landscape used to look like almost everywhere …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Castle Tioram again, I felt deeply moved by the landscape – it’s difficult to put into words what felt so moving, except the obvious fact that it’s beautiful and as yet relatively unspoilt. – you breathe in the most wonderful scent of spicy ferns, the honey of heather, pine trees and salty seaweed. I will definitely be going back there to paint next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this year though, I’ve booked two weeks at Iona hostel at Lagandorain on the Isle of Iona for Oct/Nov’ and look forward to experiencing the island at a quieter (though colder!) time – more on that in a future post …

On the subject of unspoilt landscape, this is a link to one of my favourite documentaries, about the history of Scotland’s trees, presented by the excellent Dr Ian Stewart. (I shared this in a previous post some time ago but it’s worth sharing again!) ..