Tag Archives: rose strang

New series in progress

(Work in progress). ‘Portrait of Donald Ferguson’. Oil on 5×7″ canvas. Rose Strang

Though I haven’t posted new works here in a while, I’ve been working on several things. They’re taking longer as I’m working in oils, which is a much slower process.

Above is an oil portrait of my friend Donald. It needs a bit more work and you can probably see I’m sort of winging it as I don’t really have a process with oils as yet. Once I’ve created a few more of these I’ll do larger portraits with a bit more life and characteristics of the subjects and I’ll also post more information about the people I’m painting.

Donald has been a great friend since the early 90’s, and this doesn’t hugely capture the aspects I’d like to (for example his mercurial, fun qualities – though he can be very contemplative as seen here) but as an exercise in observation and technique it’s worthwhile, and definitely looks like him! I’ll be adding more of these from now to Spring.

Here are a couple more showing progress ..

 

 

 

 

The other series I’m working on this year involves themes that have been on my mind since September last year. I’ve been exploring avenues of Medieval history. from a variety of angles I suppose.

This probably stems from a lifelong love of the ‘Narniad’ – the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, whose imaginative and immersive approach to fantasy belies a rigorous education in Classics, and a dedication to theology and Christianity in later life.

Lewis was deeply interested in the Neo-Platonic view of the cosmos, which was a complicated yet harmonious view of the universe and our place in it. It’s only in recent years (fifty years after Lewis’s death in 1963) that the writer Michael Ward realised that the seven books of Narnia were each inspired by the seven planets. He published his observations in a book I’m currently reading called Planet Narnia (published I think in about 2008).

Once I understood more about the neo Platonic view of planets, it was stunningly obvious that each of the books absolutely immerses you in the ideas and qualities of the planet it explores, though the relevant planet might not even be mentioned.

I’ll save this complicated and fascinating subject for future posts, but suffice to say for now I find it a magical and quite beautiful way of perceiving nature and the subjects I paint, so this year I’ll be painting something each month that corresponds to month, time of year and related subjects.

With the month of January relating to the planet Saturn (associated with black among other things) I’m working on a very large night-scape at the moment. This smaller painting was one I began on the Isle of Iona back in October; every night I’d go out to look at the stars in a sky unpolluted by human-made light. (If you’re as mesmerised by a clear starry sky as I am, you’ll know that I ended up with a nasty crick in my neck!)

‘Night-scape, Isle of Iona’. Acrylic and oil on 10×10″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The larger painting (in progress, below) is on a 40×40″ (about 3.5 feet) wood panel, in oils. Already I’m appreciating the density of colour and texture of oil paint, as contrasted with acrylic, I’m not appreciating how long it takes to dry, but as someone who’s pretty impatient temperamentally I suppose it gives me more time to consider the subject. I find it stymies my creative flow and inspiration somewhat, but the quality of paint adds something special to the process and finish. I also like the smell of linseed oil!

(In progress). ‘January’. Oil on 40×40″ wood panel.

 

‘Frog’ – poetry, music and painting

‘Wells of Arthur’s Seat, Swimming Toad, Hunter’s Bog’ Mixed media on 16 x 13 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2018 £250

I found time to edit this two-minute video – ‘Frog’ – featuring poetry and cello music by Alan Spence and Atzi Muramatsu, and my painting – ‘Swimming Frog, Hunter’s Bog’  – (more info below vid) ..

This was part of the launch event of ‘Wells of Arthur’s Seat’, which has been an incredibly rich experience – learning the history of the wells and their significance, collaborating with Alan and Atzi who responded with such artistic sensitivity to the ideas.

And of course the idyllic mid-summer’s night music performance on the summer solstice, at St Anthony’s Chapel on Arthur’s Seat, by the talented and wonderful Dominic Harris and Riley Briggs.

Watch my little vid of the evening here –

It’s a great parting note on which to leave Edinburgh for my up-coming painting trip to the Isle of Iona, where I’ll be painting purely en plein air, as they say, for a month, from a tent. The island is meaningful to me as I’ve been going there since I was 20 (back in the far mists of time!)  so I’ll post on that soon.

Thanks again to everyone involved in this last project, I think it will yield further fruit in future!

A Mid Summer Night’s Eve …

Summer Solstice – what better way to spend the longest day of the year than up on Arthur’s Seat in the sunshine, with friends, family and two of my favourite musicians – Dominic Harris (Dominic Waxing Lyrical) and Riley Briggs (Aberfeldy)

This was part of the ‘Wells of Arthur’s Seat’ project (which ends on Sunday).

Dominic Harris, me, and Riley Briggs

 

(Photo by Kenneth Duffy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We began the evening at my studio with cocktails (invented for this special occasion – Chartreuse, vodka, fresh lime and syrup of Sweet Cicely over crushed ice, titled an ‘Arthur’s Sprite’ by my friend Donald!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominic and Riley Briggs treated us all to a live acoustic set – which was melodious, full of invention and fun as always. I think this may be one of my favourite gigs – being a bit high on ‘Arthur’s Sprite’ cocktails – music, sunshine, the atmosphere and conviviality.

My camera’s sound was playing up with the wind, but still I think my vid below captures some of the atmosphere…

What a special evening, as Dominic said ‘this isn’t one we’ll forget’. My warm thanks to Dominic and Riley.

Tomorrow afternoon (Sunday 24th) is the last day of the exhibition, so if you’re in Edinburgh drop by for a cup of tea (or glass of wine!). You can view the paintings Here

Society of Scottish Artists

Photo – at the launch of 2018’s SSA Annual Open Exhibition

It was really lovely to be selected, along with 16 other artists,  as a Professional Member of the SSA recently.

The SSA (Society of Scottish Artists) is an artist-led organisation which holds an annual exhibition every year at the the RSA.

 

 

 

Artists are selected for; actively practising professionally within one or more branches of the visual arts and are selected in recognition of their talent and dedication in this field. 

It means I can add ‘SSA’ to the end of my name, which is nice! The SSA is a friendly, supportive organisation, run by its president, award-winning artist Sharon Quigley and a team of artists selected each year. Its honorary President is Richard Demarco CBE.

In addition to the SSA Annual Open, they organise a year-round programme of national and international exhibitions, also events, residencies and workshops.

If you’re interested, here’s a brief history of the SSA (copied from SSA website)  …

“The Society of Scottish Artists was founded in 1891, and held its first Annual Exhibition in the Royal Scottish Academy Gallery – then the Royal Institution. Its inaugural catalogue laid forth the SSA’s function as:

“… being formed with a view to holding an Annual Exhibition in Edinburgh, to give inducement to the younger Artists to produce more important and original works by providing hanging space for such works. The opportunity has also been taken to obtain for the Society’s Exhibition examples of all Schools of Modern Art from distinguished living Artists…”

The SSA and the members and government of the RSA enjoyed an uneasy relationship during the early years of the SSA’s existence. The SSA was seen as a “rebellious” and “progressive” group, while the RSA represented the more traditional and conservative stance. After many appeals, however, including some to the Queen and the House of Commons, the SSA secured the use of the RSA galleries for its Annual Exhibition from 1902.

There are few Scottish artists of note who have not, at one time or another, been involved with the SSA, with Presidents including James Cadenhead, Stanley Cursiter, William McTaggart, Edward Gage, George Wyllie and Barbara Rae. The roll call of members and exhibitors is also impressive, including –The Glasgow Boys (Guthrie, McGregor, Walton, Hornel and Roche), the Scottish Colourists (Cadell and Peploe), John Duncan, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William McTaggart to name but a few.

The SSA also strove to represent the more “adventurous” work being done abroad and so exhibitions included the work of the Post Impressionists, Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse and Van Gogh in 1913 and, in the same year, the Futurist, Gino Severini showed work. In 1922 the Sociey presented work by Picasso, Daumier, Degas and Forain. In 1931, the Society showed, for the first time in the UK, twelve canvases by the then highly controversial Edvard Munch who went on to become a member of the Society.

In 1934 the SSA showed a selection of work by international living artists including Paul Klee. At this exhibition, the Scottish National Gallery bought his “Approaching Snowstorm“, which is now on show in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Prices for work then ranged from £35 to £350, with a head in pastel by Picasso costing £210, while framed etchings by Matisse, Picasso and Salvador Dali were available for £5 each.

The SSA has continued in this vein to the present day, always willing to show the controversial, the unique and the most adventurous and challenging work available. Its network of artist members and contacts throughout the world gives it access to some of the most interesting work by contemporary artists, which it endeavours to bring to a Scottish public.

A fully illustrated history of the Society of Scottish Artists can be found in the book, published by the Society in its centenary year, “The First Hundred Years“. This book is available from the Society. Please CONTACT US for further details.”

(From SSA website – http://www.s-s-a.org

Private View – Wells of Arthur’s Seat

Saturday’s Private View of Wells of Arthur’s Seat was a wee oasis of healing, arts and magic!

All paintings in the series can be viewed Here . Background ideas of the project Here

I look forward to sharing the poems and music (I’m editing video tomorrow), which I hope will convey the atmosphere created on Saturday –  the sense of calm – of water, flora and fauna, and my delight at the way Atzi Muramatsu and Alan Spence interpreted this.

Photo – Liza Horan http://mediamoxie.com/

Photo – Donald Ferguson

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the evening, for me, was Alan Spence reciting his poem Frog, with Atzi finding sounds on his cello that captured the very essence of water, or the spring of a frog’s legs as it plops into the water!

Alan introduced this frog poem last of all, describing how the Haiku poets (particularly Basho, and Japanese artists) often referenced the frog.

One of my paintings was titled ‘Swimming Frog, Hunter’s Bog’ – an appealing and amusing rhyme for a poet’s ear! As he explained – “Hunter’s Bog meets Basho’s frog – the last line of one of Basho’s poems is sometimes translated as the sound of the water” …

FROG

there’s this wee frog

in hunter’s bog –

furuike ya…

in hunter’s bog

just this

wee frog

kawazu tobikimu…

just this wee frog

mizu no oto

the sound

                    the water

the sound of the water

(Alan Spence June 2018)

 

That really made me smile! The pleasing simplicity and evocation of happiness in nature – especially after all my walks in Hunter’s Bog on Arthur’s Seat this past year.

In the next two weeks I’ll post a video featuring the music, poetry and paintings. (We will also be developing the project in September this year, to show to a bigger audience).

Lastly, my warm thanks to the following …

Atzi and Alan, for inspiration, and love of the arts. Donald, Sabine, mum and Catherine for helping make the event happen, and their support and enthusiasm. David Finnie, for buying my paintings and being such a welcome presence at these events, as are his wife Fiona and daughter Sarah, for such friendly and responsive presence.

Thanks to Scott Terris for bringing flowers, and Liza Horan (owner of Media Moxie) for these lovely words on Facebook –

As the windy rain transmuted to a vibrant sunset, Rose Strang shared a very special collaboration with Atzi on cello and Alan Spence on verses of haiku. The paintings sang of Arthur’s Seat and St. Anthony’s Well within, while the strings bounded high and sunk low, and the colorful haiku captured the rhythm of the place. Congrats and thanks for sharing your spirit and work.

Thanks to all for coming – you’re always welcome!

Also, someone anonymously left these flowers outside the door during the event. Thank you too! How fitting, when the healing rituals of Arthur’s Seat’s wells were sometimes completed with a gift of flowers …

Edinburgh in the Snow (and a brief history of Edinburgh!)

Not for sale. Edinburgh Snow (High Street and Arthur’s Seat from Regent Road). Mixed media on 22×16 inch found wood panel. Rose Strang 2018

Today’s finished painting of Edinburgh in the snow. I’ll be submitting this for competition next month, wish it luck!

The view is from Regent Road looking across to Salisbury Crags on Arthur’s Seat. In the foreground you can see buildings of the Royal MIle obscured by snow.

I’ve deliberately kept it vague since that’s how it appears as you walk into a snow blizzard along Regent Road, which is underneath Calton Hill halfway down to the valley of the Royal Mile or High Street (my photo below from a few weeks ago) …

Walking along Regent Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also wanted to get across the ‘feel’ of the Old Town, with its medieval buildings and wood timbers, hence the exposed wood in the painting and roughened edges, blurring old and modern buildings. Some close-up details below showing texture …

 

 

 

Edinburgh has just been voted the most popular tourist destination in the UK, and living here can make us a bit blasé about the features that make the city so unique and appealing, but the recent snow seemed to bring everyone out of winter hibernation. Arthur’s Seat was thronging with folks enjoying the snow – kids on sledges, a plethora of snowpeople! I slid about in the snow with my pal Donald, and it was great to see and experience…

 

 

And although I felt thwarted in my plans to get to the Cairngorms this spring due to train cancellations, I ended up appreciating Edinburgh instead. It is truly beautiful in the snow, hence these recent paintings (I’m working on a couple more).

So for those of you who don’t know so much about Edinburgh, and in the spirit of internationalism (and let’s face it, without the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh would be a fairly boring place arts and people-wise, not-with-standing my dear Edinburgh family and friends!) I thought I’d include some brief words about Edinburgh’s history.

Briefly though, today I decided for the first time to check overall blog stats since 2013 and it turns out that visitors to this blog include folks from, in order of most views:

UK, US, Germany, France, Poland, Australia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland, Greece, Japan,  Brazil, Belgium, Russia, India, New Zealand, Denmark, Columbia, Portugal, Dominican Republic, South Korea, Singapore, Quatar,  Hong Kong, Austria, Norway, Mexico, Jordan, Serbia, Turkey, Romania, Brazil, Czech Republic, Finland, Chile, Pakistan,  Hungary, UAE, Croatia, Slovenia, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand, ,  Philippines, Malaysia, Luxenburg, Argentina, Taiwan, Georgia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, China, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Malta, Nigeria, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Moldova, Albania, Panama, Vietnam and loads more going into vistor numbers under 50.

So, thank you to folks taking interest in an obscure Scottish painter’s blog!

Anyway, here we go with a condensed Edinburgh history (illustrated with my own photos) …

A condensed Edinburgh history …

Edinburgh Castle from Grassmarket

Edinburgh’s dramatic landscape was formed by volcanic activity that took place between around 358 and 298 million years ago.

The view from Edinburgh in my painting above sits between two of Edinburgh’s extinct volcanos – Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat. If my painting panned to the right you’d also see Edinburgh Castle on top of the volcanic plug that forms the base of the castle.

After volcanic activity ceased, the landscape was submerged under sea water. Sedimentary rock (formed by waves of sediment washed over the land by water over millions of years) then began to form the Salisbury Crags (the cliff seen in my painting and in photo to the right), which were gradually tilted up to their current dramatic angle as pressure eased after the ice age.

The ice-age sculpted Edinburgh’s landscape into the shape it retains to this day – for example the ‘spine’ that forms the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood House was formed by retreating glaciers dragging or depositing debris with them to create a trail behind each hill and mountain.

18th cent’ map. ‘Spine’ of the Royal Mile, castle on left, Holyrood Palace at the right, at the bottom of the hill. http://www.royal-mile.com/maps/royalmile18thc.

These rocky promontories must have had immediate appeal to early settlers as look-out spots;  almost all of the summits of Edinburgh’s volcanic hills reveal signs of early bronze age people.

Although I’ve been walking around Arthur’s Seat since I was a kid, the fact that I now live so close to it has inspired me to explore more, and I’m beginning to get an ‘eye’ (with the help of my archaeologist friend Sabine!) for Bronze-age remains (shapes or patterns in the land as opposed to actual buildings) not to mention spotting Edinburgh’s early sites of worship, healing or spiritual interest – such as wells; the traces of which can be found alongside later Christian religious buildings and sites (more on this in later blogs).

Edinburgh in twilight from Arthur’s Seat. The castle easily spotable on the horizon

If we’re thinking about a definitive beginning for Edinburgh though, it would clearly be the Castle Rock; easily defendable with its sheer basalt cliffs. It was called Dun Edin (‘dun’ means hill) and we know that there were settlers there from at least 850BC

As more people settled around the dun, or rock, the city would have grown in reputation as a stronghold or well-defended fort.

 

 

The castle itself (or the original building) was built from around the 12th century. To protect the growing city that began to grow along the ‘spine’ of the Royal Mile down to Holyrood Abbey, a wall (the Flodden Wall, remains of which can be seen today) was built around the city, and this was the catalyst for the distinct, tall buildings or tenements that lined the Royal Mile or High Street.

A charming, cleaned up ‘close’ in Edinburgh’s High street today

Builders built upwards, not outwards, because of the restricting wall. As centuries passed this created fairly unsavoury conditions (extremely unsavoury by today’s standards!). Packed into twelve storey tenements, Edinburgh’s effluent had nowhere to go and (readers from Edinburgh will groan with boredom at this point, having heard this story too many times) the oft-heard cry of gardez l’eau (pronounced GARRRDY LOO! with a strong Scottish accent!)  rang in the streets as residents chucked the contents of their chamber pots into the filthy cobbled streets below.

(Edinburgh had long-held connections with France, for many reasons, hence the familiarity with French language)

Old Edinburgh featured narrow closes between the closely packed buildings

Disease was rife, and no matter how posh you might be, you lived cheek-by-jowl with ordinary folks. On top of that, numerous open fires in such a small, over-inhabited space meant that the High Street was black with soot and smoke, hence Edinburgh’s nick-name of ‘auld reekie’ (old stinky).

This issue (for Edinburgh’s rich inhabitants anyway) was finally addressed when an architecture design competition was held in the mid 18th century and a young architect called James Craig won (I think he was in his early to mid-twenties at the time, I’m not fact-checking most of this but do correct me if I’m wrong!).

James Craig’s plan for the New Town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

new town splendour

The plan was to create an entirely new area outside the High Street/Royal Mile, across the valley (which now contains Princes Street Gardens and Waverley train station) to the north of the old town, hence why this area of Georgian architecture is called ‘the New Town’ to this day.

All the filth that had accumulated in the Nor Loch (the loch or lake below and to the north of the Castle Rock) was dredged, this, and the detritus from building the new town, was used to form a bridge south to north from old town to new town.

This was called the Mound, and atop of this now sits two of Edinburgh’s most elegant buildings; Edinburgh’s National Art Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy of Arts (Stock photo above right, looking west along Princes Street).

Only the richest inhabitants of Edinburgh could afford this new luxury accommodation, so people in Edinburgh’s Old Town still had to muddle along with their chamber pots, and up to the 1970’s, the High Street was seen as a bit seedy. Nowadays, it’s the most distinct part of historic Edinburgh and the most popular tourist destination. It retains an extraordinary level of historical features, not disimilar to cities such as York, which was similarly ‘neglected’, thankfully, for the sake of history at least.

This brings us pretty close to the present day, but the18a and 1900’s were truly, literally, headier times to say the least. Maybe it was imbibing all that volcanic spring water, but Scotland’s Enlightenment (much of which was born from, or whirred around the hub of Edinburgh)  is rightly perceived as impressive for a wee, chilly country in the north (read more Here)

As a born and bred Edinburgher, thinking about the sheer magnitude, depth and breadth of invention, creativity and brain power of Edinburgh’s Enlightenment days brings a tear to my eye!

Yet, as I wander around the slopes of Arthur’s Seat, the voices I wish I knew more about are those of Edinburgh’s less vocal past; ordinary folks who held sacred vigil at the wells of Arthur’s Seat, long before the hand of organised (politicised) religion silenced their voices and beliefs. We only know what their thoughts and beliefs may have been because of the numerous court cases at the time of the Protestant Reformation …

That will be the subject of my next painting series; the wells and springs of Arthur’s Seat. I know I’ve mentioned it several times, but it’s a bit ambitious, I’ve been researching alot – there is much mystery to reveal (genuinely, I’ve discovered some interesting, possibly new information about those times) and so I have now postponed the exhibition and event to the 21st June.

St Anthony’s spring, Arthur’s Seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hebrides day 5

p1110653Back home in Edinburgh after an incredible week in the West Highlands and Hebrides – a journey which took us through Achiltibuie then the isles of Lewis, Harris and Skye.

I’ll continue this series of blog posts under the general title of ‘Hebrides – day 6’ etc, until we decide on a title for our project (a collaboration between myself, poet Louise Palfreyman and cellist/compser Atzi Muramatsu).

It’s in early stages at the moment, but we hope to raise funds for a longer stay in the Hebrides, on Lewis and Harris particularly.

Louise and I p1110350will continue to work closely, sharinguntitled ideas as we develop paintings and poems began on our journey, which we’ll blog and share every week or so with a round up of the work produced as we go.

Today I’ve been sifting through the hundreds of photos, sketches and videos from our journey. Looking through photos of Harris confirms what we felt while staying there – it’s a magical place (which I managed to blog about despite the frustrating on/off internet connection! Link to post Here)

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I described it as ‘Marshwiggle territory’ which may have flummoxed those unfamiliar with the Narnia Chronicles, for whom I include this excellent illustration on the right, by Pauline Baynes.

 

More photos of Harris..

 

I’ll also be editing a video this week which will hopefully capture the magic and inspiration of our trip, also our paintings, poems and music.

As mentioned in my blog post about Lewis and Harris, we met with poet Ian Stephen in Stornaway last week. One of the poems he recited for us came to mind today while I thought of the silvery moonscape vistas of Harris, with red berries of rowan trees growing alongside its sea lochs.

Ian’s poem echoes the gentleness we felt there, the sense that you can open heart and imagination to the atmosphere…

Should we plant a rowan here

at the sea-loch side?

The seed of red berriesfor-all-of-us

for imagination,

to germinate

in this day

when leaves mould

and stars die

 

A hawthorn for healing,

spur and leaf balm.

Rooting for

the pair of us

and for us all.

 

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