Tag Archives: River Tweed

Cockenzie paintings

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Starting to experiment with the Cockenzie paintings, marking into wet gesso/marble dust. I’m going to wait for this to dry and scratch into dry paint then scrape back some of the edges. I’m really enjoying the subtle greys and minimal work, so I’m going to keep these very simple.


I’m also working on a River Tweed painting for my mum’s upcoming birthday. Again scratching into paint, this time green/black to white below, though at this stage I’m just marking it out. The figures, which are a bit vague at the moment, are my niece and her friends swimming; this was just after they’d all finished their exams and were in relaxed celebratory mood! This painting will take a lot more work – lots of detail and layers of varnish to get the lovely deep reflections on water…




Borders Country Day 15

'Hawk. River Tweed 2'. Acrylic on 20x16" canvas

‘Hawk. River Tweed 2’. Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas

Today’s painting – a larger version of ‘Hawk (River Tweed)’ on canvas.

This is the version from last week on 5×5 inch wood..

'Hawk. River Tweed'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood

‘Hawk. River Tweed’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

As this subject seems to work at a larger scale I might paint it at 40×40 inches on wood.

I think the wood background maybe suits this subject more than canvas. The highlights on water are  easier on wood, which I prime with white gesso and paint so it’s easy to scrape into the top layer of paint to create nice, sharp light effects. On canvas I usually make those sharp white edges with white paint and palette knife, which can somewhat take away from a more expressive line.


This weekend we took a trip to St Abbs Head in Berwickshire, which was a nice destination for Father’s Day combined with a spot of sketching and photography on the east coast of the Borders. And it was a suitably beautful, sunny day for the summer solstice.

Coldingham Sands

Coldingham Sands

St Abbs used be called Coldingham Shore (Coldingham Sands – are just a mile or so along the coast).

It’s popular with divers and surfers but it was only in the 19th century that people settled here, though it’s always been a place to fish.


In the 7th century, a monastery was set up near St Abb’s Head, by Aebbe of Coldingham, a former Princess turned Abbess. She was originally from the North of England but after her father was killed in war, she, her mother and brothers fled to Scotland. While there she converted to Christianity. When the conflict was over, she returned to England, then later set up monasteries in England and at Coldingham.

She was politically astute and helped prevent several conflicts (no doubt a valuable skill given the Borders history of violence!). I imagine her childhood must have taught the harshest lesson in the painful outcomes of violent conflict. After her death the monastery was abandoned and became a ruin, but her memory wasn’t forgotten..

Aebbe’s story was recorded and written down by 12th Century monks so that her legacy of peace remains to this day in the name of the village and headland – St Abbs.

Tomorrow I’ll begin paintings of this coastline.

Some photos from yesterday..

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Borders Country Day 12

'Blue Canoe (River Tweed)'. Acrylic on 10x10" wood panel

‘Blue Canoe (River Tweed)’. Acrylic on 10×10″ wood panel

Today’s painting –  a blue canoe on the River Tweed.

This is probably the last in the series of smaller studies for the upcoming Borders Country exhibition The Green Woods Free. Today’s painting features again our family canoe. I won’t give the name away of the person rowing, but he’s the son of a friend who took to canoeing like a duck to water!

The canoe itself is quite vintage, my dad built it back in the mists of time, and it’s still going strong. It’s more difficult to capsize (a good thing since both my dad and I are hopeless swimmers!)

Despite my instinctive fear of falling into deep water, I still love being in boats; boats of all sizes, whether ferries, speed boats or our humble canoe. It’s so peaceful.

There are still 8 paintings (including the one above) available from the small paintings of the Borders on wood viewable Here) I’m now tackling work on bigger canvas. Wish me luck!


Borders Country Day 9

'Hawk. River Tweed'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood

‘Hawk. River Tweed’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

'Glentress'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood

‘A Rainy Day in Glentress’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

Today’s paintings – a hawk swooping down to the River Tweed, and mist through the trees in the Forest of Glentress.

I’m nearly at the end of George Fraser’s ‘The Steel Bonnets’ – a book about the history of the Borders Reivers. It’s been harrowing reading.

The first chapters cover the lifestyle of the Borders Reivers and the final chapters deal with the wars during Henry the VIII’s time when devasating wars wrecked the lives of people in the Borders and beyond.

Engraving, showing Borders Reivers raid on Gilnockie Tower

Engraving, showing Borders Reivers raid on Gilnockie Tower

Accounts of the Reiver families have been difficult reading in themselves, never mind the later descriptions of  war. The Reiver’s life was one of constant feuding, raiding and violent conflict, across both sides of the Border. This was partly due to previous wars which wrecked the landscape and therefore the livelihood of Borders familes, but also it simply became a way of life, and despite authorities on both sides of the border appointing Wardens to try to calm the conflicts, the chaotic lifestyle became entrenched. (The Wardens themselves often became Reivers!)

It was lucrative too, and for those who’d perfected their Reiver skills it led to the accumulation of vast wealth; some of the titled landowners, whose estates line the Borders today, are their descendants.

The status of each Borders family or clan was diverse though, and within for example the Kerr family there would be everything from titled land owners in huge castles with an army of thousands, to people living in broken down hovels.

For the battle hardened Borders Reivers, violence and war were normal, they were described as ‘scared of nothing’ and their outstanding skills in warfare were utilised by Kings on both sides. Also the feuds between Borders families were manipulated to form allegiances. Scottish fought on the English side, sometimes changing tactics mid-battle if that seemed a better plan.

P1230602While reading ‘Steel Bonnets’ it was thinking about ordinary Borders people that I found harowing. Fraser describes a widower with her children burned in their peel tower, the starvation of countless thousands of poor people because of the wrecked landscape. They’d plough fields during the night to avoid attack, but after ten years of war it must have been a bitter, miserable struggle. Also he describes, very briefly, the group of monks who held out bravely in Kelso Abbey during attack by Henry VIII’s army, but didn’t survive.

When I visited Kelso last weekend the ground was festooned with forget-me-nots, which seemed to me as symbolic as poppies; in rememberance of the ordinary people who never sought war and conflict.

'Forget-me-nots. Kelso'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood

‘Forget-me-nots. Kelso’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

Woven throughout the stories and Borders ballads though, references to hills, rivers and ‘forestes greene’ bring to my mind the image of a rich, medieval tapestry, and suggests the presence of faith and love of familiar landscape amidst war and fear. One Borders ballad titled Erlington made me smile, amidst all the grimness! The last line of this ballad inspires the title of my upcoming exhibition The green woods free

Borders Country Day 8

'Catherine in a Canoe, River Tweed'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood panel

‘Catherine in a Canoe, River Tweed’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood panel

'Neidpath Castle on the River Tweed'. Mixed media on 10x10" wood panel

‘Neidpath Castle on the River Tweed’. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood panel

Today’s paintings – Neidpath Castle on the banks of the River Tweed near Peebles, and my sister canoeing on the River Tweed near Peebles.

I rarely paint people in landscapes unless there’s an inspirational reason but today I decided to paint my sister Catherine canoeing on the River Tweed. Firstly it’s a nice image and I love the reflections on the water, but also because I think it captures her personality.

A friend, Jamie Cossar (who I interviewed in this post The Healing Island, about Lindisfarne) was around last night for dinner and described Catherine as ‘floating calmly and regally, like a swan’. No doubt Catherine will have a giggle at that description, as well as finding it quite flattering!

So in this picture, here she is floating regally, but also paddling quite athletically – under the surface there’s a lot of thinking and activity going on. My sister Catherine’s a therapist, whose skills I and many others have benefited from over the years, so today’s painting hopefully captures something of her personality. You can read more about Catherine’s work on her website Here

Neidpath Castle (which sits on a bend of the River Tweed about a mile from Peebles) was built in the late 14th century (there was an earlier 12th century version). It has a long complicated history and enjoyed visits from various literary ‘giants’ such as Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott. It’s said to be haunted…(of course!)

“The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of Jean Douglas, referred to by Sir Walter Scott as “the Maid of Neidpath”, the youngest daughter of William Douglas, Earl of March. Forbidden to marry the son of the laird of Tushielaw, who was considered below her station, she dwined while her lover was sent away. When he returned she was so wasted that he did not recognise her, causing her to die of a broken heart. She is reputed to appear clad in a full-length brown dress with a large white collar. Sir Walter Scott wrote a poem about her”.(Wikipedia)

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)

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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 rose.strang@gmail.com 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.

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Flaubert Gallery


Flaubert Gallery in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

It’s been a lovely spring day in Edinburgh today (despite slightly Siberian winds), not least because after a month of flu I’m finally on the mend!

Also I dropped in to have a look at my three Eigg paintings now on exhibition at the Flaubert Gallery in Stockbridge, then after an enjoyable chat with gallery owner Derek Gilchrist, we agreed I should do a solo show this Autumn. P1210079

It’s great to be on board with this excellent gallery and I’m really inspired about the new series of paintings I have in mind for the solo show.

The series will feature the dramatic landscapes of Borders country, from the Solway in the West to Berwick in the East. The paintings will take the viewer from the coastline near Dumfries, through the lushly forested valleys and hills near the ancient towns of Jedburgh, Melrose and Kelso, following the course of the River Tweed, then on to the wild East-coast seascapes with a visit to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) in the English Borders.

I really love the Scottish Borders, we (family an10298943_250319341839429_8318336951627099163_nd friends) often drive around the Borders at the weekend, and one of our favourite picnic spots (photo on right!) that we visit most summers is on the River Tweed near Peebles.

P1020475The photos to left and below show Neidpath Castle and the River Tweed and they echo the mood I’d like to capture for this series; the lush, inland country of the Borders which makes me think of verdant medieval tapestries! Also the wild seascapes to West and East. P1290475

I’m looking forward to painting this series which will include a lot of variety, and I’m also looking forward to showing at the Flaubert Gallery this year.


If you’re in Edinburgh I hope you’ll drop in to see all the excellent paintings on exhibition at the Flaubert just now (and if you’ve time, a coffee and chat with gallery owner Derek!). The Flaubert Gallery is in St Stephen’s Street, Stockbridge right next door to the Antiquary Bar (and all the cafes and interesting boutiques that make Stockbridge ideal for weekend meanderings!)