Tag Archives: Scottish artists

Themes – Trees

Above: Spring Sycamore. Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas. Rose Strang 2013

As I’m currently painting a private commission which must remain secret until October 2021, I thought I’d post themed blogs in the meantime. Today’s theme is Trees.

My last theme was Sea. In the next few weeks I’ll also share my paintings on the themes of mountains, portraits, winter, abstraction, imagination and collaborations

It’s easy to imagine dryads or sidhe (faerie folk) hiding behinds trees in ancient forests. Many children’s stories or fantasies are set in the woods; think Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Robin Hood! Trees seem to spark imagination – for good or ill (think of all those spooky tales or films set in forests!) I’ve wondered why this is – perhaps it’s the fact that in a forest so much is hidden – it’s a metaphor for the unconscious, for the unlawful and rebelious.

I find that painting trees requires loose brushwork (or loose line if it’s drawing) though in a different way from sea painting – not so much gestural as allowing the paint to drip and splash, leaving patches to imagination, with a strong sense of light/dark to bring depth so the viewer is led into the forest.

When painting forests of the Scottish Borders in 2014, I was inspired by the last line of a Borders Ballad called Erlinton, about a girl who escapes to the forests to be with her lover; now we shall walk the green-wood free. To me that line beautifully evokes the idea of Medieval tapestries and tales. So with that in mind, to enhance your viewing pleasure of the tree paintings below, here’s a music piece for lute by William Byrd – Will you Walk the Woods so Wild –  Byrd

Or if you prefer, here’s a beautiful performance of Dvorik’s Silent Woods from From the Bohemian Forest –  Silent Woods

I’ve headed each set below with these terms: Spring  Summer  Autumn  Winter

Spring

My favourite time of year – from the softening of air in March, to the explosion of flowers in April and May. I think it’s inspired my best tree paintings! Spring Sycamore, below, was bought by my dad in 2013. Probably because it was painted after a walk we took in spring near Queensferry. My dad passed away in 2016 and is remembered with great love by everyone who knew him. When we were kids he’d make tree swings in Queensferry forest with lassoe techniques on the highest branches of huge beech trees, so you could swing down an entire valley, terrifying at first, then exhiliarating! As he used to say, tongue in cheek (perhaps?) ‘if a kid isnae terrified it’s no a proper game’!

I was quite happy with the minimal paintings from the Water of Leith series below, I wanted to capture more with less (they’ve not sold though!) Spring Chinoiserie was a bit of a nod to Pollock, who expressed the energy of nature with rhythmic drips and splashes of household paint. Some works here – Pollock

Bare trees are all about lyrical line – I’m also thinking of beautiful tree drawings by the wonderful illustrator Pauline Baynes. Link to her drawings – Baynes

Summer

Emma and Friends (below) captures something of the idyllic feel of summer I hope. It’s of my niece and her friends after they’d completed their final school exams. They took a swim in the River Tweed and the green light of summer transformed them into luminous mythical nyads!  Most of these tree and forest paintings in 2014 were from a series inspired by Borders Ballads, as mentioned in my intro above. Technique-wise, I was more than a little inspired by a painting I love by Peter Doig  – scroll down on link to ‘Concrete Cabin’ – Doig

Autumn

Autumn can crackle with electric blue skies and neon oranges, or glow gently in a somnabulic way that makes me feel pleasantly gloomy and introspective. It signals hibernation to come, decay and the passing of time, with the smell of mulchy leaves and woodsmoke in the air, it’s almost clichedly poetic I suppose. Last year I’d planned a series inspired by October in a Highland mountain valley, but the focus for now is my current commission (to be revealed in October this year).

Gustav Klimt’s birches are unsurpassed I think – Klimt

Winter

Although spring is my favourite time of year, winter is endlessly inspiring creatively. The starkness and subtleties of tone make us focus on line and contrast. The monochrome work below; Canonhill Park – is the only time I’ve used a very definite technique as oppposed to experimental – the white blobs are impasto against a black ink flat background, I quite liked it it, but only for this one-off subject.

The paintings of Scottish artists Calum McClure and Andrew MacKenzie focus on line and nature, rather than colour. Winter trees feature in much of their work. McClure’s paintings are lyrical, loose and painterly, MacKenzie’s are more contained, with minimalist composition and delicate line – McClure

–   MacKenzie

Lastly, no post about trees would be complete without mention of Arthur Rackham. For anyone brought up with books featuring Rackham’s illustrations, ‘Rackham-esque’ is an unofficial term for magical-looking trees! Rackham

In the next blog the theme is mountains

Themes – Sea

Above: Pisces Moon, Isle of Iona. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2018.

As I’m currently painting a private commission which must remain secret until October 2021, I thought I’d post themed blogs in the meantime. Today’s theme is Sea.

In the next few weeks I’ll also share my paintings on the themes of trees, mountains, portraits, winter, abstraction, imagination and collaborations

Our emotional and physiological response to the ocean means that it’s one of the most painted themes in fine art. Capturing a visceral sense of its translucence, movement, moods and light is challenging and there are limitless approaches. To enhance your viewing pleasure, here are a couple of music pieces that conjure moods of the sea! A beautiful song by Ishbel MacAskill:  An Ataireachd Ard  and a timeless sound from the Hebrides: Lewisian Psalm Singing

I’ve headed each set below with these terms: Movement, turbulence.   Light, sun.   Night, dark moods.   Colour, translucence.

Movement, turbulence

Painting movement is best achieved by making a mess I find! I try to keep the paint loose – as soon as I lose that freeness of brushstrokes it disappears. I’ve noticed that if anyone’s watching this process it looks stressful – just as it seems I’ve carefully captured a moving wave it’s time to mess that up and recreate it in looser strokes. This is one of the advantages of working in oils or acrylics, with watercolour you have to strategise more carefully. In the process of messing it up several times though, texture and interest is created.

One of the best compliments I ever recieved as an artist was when the curator of French fine art from Scotland’s National Gallery bought two of my paintings and compared them to Courbet, Encouraging praise indeed – Courbet was an Impressionist known for his wild waves. An example of Courbet’s waves on this link; Courbet

 

Light, sun

Every landscape artist is obsessed with the way light creates landscape. Capturing the essentials of light on sea is a constant challenge. Some artists simply make a precise copy from a photo, but that usually just creates a flatness and lack of energy and there seems not much point in recreating a photo, except for practice. The artists I most admire are those who can say everything about light with very little – something I still struggle with. One of my favourites in that regard is Alex Katz. His paintings appear simple until you realise how much he expresses with minimal marks. Alex Katz painting here – Katz

 

Night, dark moods

Probably the least commercial works are those that explore a more sombre mood. That doesn’t change my fascination with the subject though – it’s poetic and inspiring. We see landscape by light, so when there’s minimal light it has an emotional effect – we seek the light in the painting with a heightened focus. When painting in the introspective winter months, it’s instinctive to paint in a darker or more monochrome pallete. (subtleties of colour can be really difficult in the dark light of a Scottish winter). Tacita Dean, a hugely talented artist, captures an ominous mood in her chalk on blackboard works, yet there’s a romance to them that speaks of our long history of sea tales. Tacita Dean

 

Colour, translucence

Nothing expresses the unique quality of a particular sea more than colour and transclucency. The sea on Iona on Scotland’s west coast is transparent, impossibly turquoise and clear, whereas on the east coast it’s more opaque and grey-toned, even in bright sunlight. This is down to light (sun rise and sunset in east or west) pollution and geology – the sand on Iona is pinkish white, in North Berwick it’s warm brownish yellow. Go farther south to Cornwall and the sea is still magically green or turquoise but with less gem-like clarity because of a warmer-toned sun. Capturing clarity in paint is a case of clean contrasts and layers of colour. Also I find that a well-placed blob of seaweed in the shallows with just a hint of sunlit white froth on top can work well! Basically though it’s a challenge, and again I wish I could say more with less.  Hockney’s paintings come to mind, view more here Hockney

Joan Eardley’s paintings of the sea have beautiful subtlety of colour and texture, to my mind, unmatched. One of her paintings on this link Eardley

Lastly, the Scottish Colourists are the yardstick by which artists are measured in terms of understanding sea and colour! Colourists

In a few days I’ll share images and links to artworks on the theme of trees.

 

'Beinn Odhar Bheag, Glenfinnan'. Acrylic and oil on 33x23" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

Glenfinnan

Today’s paintings – above; Beinn Odhar Bheag, Glenfinnan. Acrylic and oil on 33×23″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020 . Below, a forest stream in Glenfinnan …

'Glenfinnan, Forest and Stream'. Oil on 33 x 23" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

‘Glenfinnan, Forest and Stream’. Oil on 33 x 23″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

 

These are for the Limetree Gallery, Bristol, for their upcoming Christmas show which launches December 3rd and ends December 31st. (If you have any queries, please contact them on their website).

I think that allthough these two paintings show a different style, they do reflect the fact that the mountains look quite ominous from a distance. Up closer, on the lower slopes at least, the flora, trees and wildlife bring you closer and it can feel less intimidating. Farther up is a different matter! Beinn Odhar means a dun-coloured hill and Bheag means smaller (as opposed to Mhor which means big).

New Project

Between now and April next year I’m working on a new and very exciting project for a new client, unfortunately I can’t reveal what it is until October next year! So I won’t be uploading any of those particular paintings until October 2021. I’ll still post occassionally and might feature a few interviews here, with artists, or anyone creatively engaged with landscape. After April I’ll no doubt begin a new series and will post that here.

Below, a clickable image of Beinn Odhar Beag, Glenfinnan (the one above doesn’t enlarge) ..

'Beinn Odhar Bheag, Glenfinnan'. Acrylic and oil on 33x23" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

‘Beinn Odhar Bheag, Glenfinnan’. Acrylic and oil on 33×23″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

The Road to the Isles …

Back in the mists of time in my twenties, one of my favourite parts of the journey to the west coast – ‘the road to the isles’ – was the stop at Glenfinnan House. After the splendour of Glen Coe (my photos and sketches, from the moving car, below) you arrive at the top of Loch Shiel …

If you were to take a boat along the loch you’d arrive at Castle Tioram in the far west of Scotland. A little road on the left takes you through the trees to Glenfinnan House Hotel. At first it looks a bit imposing, but on entering you’re met with a roaring log fire in the entrance room and offered a cup or glass of whatever you like.  I remember the first time I visited -sitting in a comfy chair that looked out over Loch Shiel and the awe-inspiring mountains beyond – feeling the silence after the noise of city and roads.

It’s well-known now as the spot where the Hogwarts express drives over the viaduct, but Harry Potter hadn’t yet been invented when I used to stop here for a drink. (To locals it’s always been known as the spot where Charles Edward Stewart gathered the Highland clans for the last ill-fated Jacobite rebellion.) I’ve always wanted to stay overnight at Glenfinnan and last weekend that little dream came true (an early birthday present from my partner Adam since lockdown would have made it impossible later this year!)

I loved it – the warmth and hospitality, the scent of woodsmoke in the air, wild venison and mash for dinner, a huge glass of red wine to take up to our room with its medieval-looking furniture and ancient paintings of Highland scenery, and in the morning the view from our room of mountains over the tree-tops.

Most of all the October colours – misty russets and lilacs, flooded lochs and streams entranced me. I was reminded of George MacDonald’s descriptions of mountain colours and rain floods in The Princess and the Goblin.

 

When I mentioned our trip there to my mum I detected a hint of envy; ‘aaah, in October, with its melancoholy beauty…’ she sighed! My mum used to visit Glenfinnan House some years ago. She’d travel up there with friends and enjoy a drink (or five!) since she was lucky enough to have friends who knew the locals well! She agrees with me that it feels like the heart of the Highlands.

My next series (which I’ll begin next week) will be inspired by the rich colours of October seen through mist and rain, not disimilar to ‘Through Kintail’ in my last series but in a lighter, more delicate palette.

I’ll be starting the Glefinnan series next week. A heartfelt thank you to Adam for the magical experience and inspiration – who knows how many months until we travel again? Our time at Glenfinnan will be cherished in memory and in paint!

'Through Kintail'. Oil on 14x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

A Subtle Touch

'Ardban. Shimmering Sea'. Oil on 14x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Ardban. Shimmering Sea’. Oil on 14×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

My latest paintings series of Ardban and Kintail are now on exhibition at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol. The exhibition launches from the 31st of October but you can reserve paintings now or make enquiries at the gallery on the link below which shows the full catalogue of works by myself, Anna King and Mhairi McGregor…

A Subtle Touch – Exhibition at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol

The series follows a journey through the Highland Glen of Kintail, then the peace and tranquility of Ardban in Applecross. All the works are oil on wood and sizes vary from 14 by 11 inches to 33 by 23 inches. The link above has all details of prices, sizes and contacts at the gallery.

I’m honoured to be showing alongside two artists whose work I admire, and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to show at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol. My only regret is that I can’t travel down to the launch, with Covid restrictions making that a bit unpredictable. I can’t complain though, it’s been a pleasure to paint and I’m lucky to be able to keep working on creative projects!

Wishing everyone the very best of health and happiness!

Kintail to Ardban

Below – the complete series Kintail to Ardban created for a three-artist exhibition opening at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol on the 31st of October.

Applecross series day 7

;Through Kintail 2'. Oil on 33x23" wood. Rose Strang 2020

;Through Kintail 2′. Oil on 33×23″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

'Through Kintail 3' Oil on 14x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Through Kintail 3’ Oil on 14×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

Above (and below), today’s paintings in progress for the new Applecross series, which will be on show as part of a three-artist exhibition at the Limetree Gallery Bristol from the 31st October.

These paintings are all in progress, since they’re in oils and will take a bit longer to dry, but I’m happy with the way the series is developing. I’m exploring new subjects – travelling through the mountains of Kintail before arriving on the Applecross coast.

I’ve always enjoyed sketching from the car, it’s a nice test of observation and it often makes the eye work faster to see what’s essential. The three paintings titled ‘through Kintail’ capture the changing weather of the Highlands.

Though often misty and wet, the mood when there is strangely comforting – a soft gloom with the fresh wildness of heather and ferns. Against the deep ochres and greens the bracken turns a beautiful russet colour.

I love the feeling of reaching the coast after the rainy mountain valleys – the soft light of the west coast. I’ve tried to capture the dreamy mood of mist lifting from the sea on a calm sunny morning, and that distinctive sparkle where the clouds part above the sea and mountains. In ‘Ardban. Sea Shimmer’ I had to tone down the mountains of Skye which are so picture-esque they resemble a child’s ideal drawing of a mountain range! It’s better to smudge them up with some rainy clouds.

More paintings tomorrow …

'Through Kintail'. Oil on 14x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

Applecross Series day 5

'Ardban,. Green Waves. Oil on14x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Ardban,. Green Waves. Oil on14x11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

Today’s paintings – ‘Through Kintail’ and ‘Ardban. Green Waves’.

Ardban Green Waves is updated from last week as it needed warmer greens. ‘Kintail’ is a new subject and this photo of the painting isn’t capturing all the lovely textures as it’s not yet dry. I’m happy with it though and plan to paint this subject on a large scale.

The entire series is not just about Ardban in Applecross but the journey there through the atmospheric and dramatic mountains of Kintail then the Bealach na Ba. It’s quicker to take the bigger motorway but why do that when your journey is full of such beauty?!

The Gaelic title for Kintail is Cinn Tàile which means ‘head of the inlet’. In Highland clan times it was Mackenzie land and there’s a saying that goes something like ‘as long as there’s moorland in Kintail there will be herds’. Later on the way to Applecross you drive through the even more dramatic Bealach na Ba – pass of the cows –  these ordinary descriptions don’t do justice to the landscape!

In ‘Kintail’ I wanted to capture the mystery of the Highlands, drenched, as they so often are, in mist and rain. Not a unique subject, but it’s the little details such as an ordinary green metal roof amidst these rich russets of bracken and the silver-grey watery clouds merging with dark mountains that make this impossible for an artist to resist!

Oils are perfect for the subject, like watercolours they merge and run into each other, creating serendipitous effects, but richer and deeper in tone. Most of the painting is abstract colours, with just the green roof to give definition, scale and composition.

While painting I’ve been listening to the excellent Rachel Walker. She sings in Gaelic but mercifully un-festooned by fey or whimsy! She used to upload a song each week and I particularly like this one (it suited the sweet/sombre mood of the painting)  Bràigh Uige / The Braes of Uig – a song about grief, loss and the bittersweet unchanging beauty of the land. (You’ll be weeping by the end of it, sorry!) Lyrics translation below vid (courtesy of Rachel Walker’s website)

Tha na féidh am Bràigh Uige The deer are in Brae Uige
Bràigh Uige, Bràigh Uige In Brae Uige, in Brae Uige
Tha na féidh am Bràigh Uige The deer are in Brae Uige
‘S e mo dhiùbhail mar thachair My loss is what happened
Tha mo shealgair gun éirigh My hunter will not rise
Gun éirigh, gun éirigh Will not rise, will not rise
Tha mo shealgair gun éirigh My hunter will not rise
‘S tha na féidh air na leacainn And the deer are on the slopes
Tha mo shealgair ‘na shìneadh My hunter is lying stretched
‘Na shìneadh, ‘na shìneadh Lying prostate, lying stretched
Tha mo shealgair ‘na shìneadh My hunter is lying stretched
Anns an fhrìth gun tighinn dhachaidh In the deer-forest, and has not come home
Tha mo crodh air na lóintean My cows are on the brook-meadows
Na lóintean, na lóintean The brook-meadows, the brook-meadows
Tha mo crodh air na lóintean My cows are on the brook-meadows
‘S na laoigh òga mu’n casan And their young calves at their feet
Iad gun togail ri aonaich They have not been driven up the hillside
Ri aonaich, ri aonaich Up the hillside, up the hillside
Iad gun togail ri aonaich They have not been driven up the hillside
Fireach fraoich agus glacan Heathery mountain or the hollows
Gura fuar lag na h-àiridh Cold is the Hollow of the Sheiling
Na h-àiridh, na h-àiridh The Sheiling, the Sheiling
Gura fuar lag na h-àiridh Cold is the Hollow of the Sheiling
‘S tha mo ghràdh fo na leacaibh And my love lies under the flag-stones
Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò
Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò
Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò
Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò Hillinn o ‘s na hill iù ò
'Road. Kintail' Oil on 7x5" wood. Rose Strang 2020

Applecross Series day 4

'Ardban. Green Sea'. Oil on 17x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Ardban. Green Sea’. Oil on 17×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

Above, today’s paintings for the Applecross Series which launches at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol on 31st October. The featured painting at the top is ‘Road. Kintail’. Oil on 7×5″ wood.

I’m quite excited about ‘Road. Kintail’ as I love taking photos and sketching while in the car (as a passenger of course!) The road itself provides great perspective and it’s fun trying to sketch or photograph in a moving car. This has that optimistic holiday feel – going somewhere. I wonder if it will appeal to others the same way it does me.

I’m persevering with the oil paints. I love the effects but it’s so messy – I spend half my energy cleaning up at the end of the day!

That’s it for the week. My partner and I are designing a dress this weekend – our new creative adventure – oil-paint-covered hands and expensive fabric do not mix!

More paintings on Tuesday …

Boats

'Boats in Lindisfarne Harbour, Early Evening'. Oil on 19x10 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

‘Boats in Lindisfarne Harbour, Early Evening’. Oil on 19×10 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

'Oil Tanker Near North Berwick'. Oil on 19x11 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

‘Oil Tanker Near North Berwick’. Oil on 19×11 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

Above, yesterday’s paintings of boats. I thought I’d send them in for the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual award.

I’d ran out out of non toxic solvent and used turps – horrible stuff, I felt quite sick and am still recovering, hence the short post!