Tag Archives: scottish landscape art

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!

'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

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!

'Aberlady Dunes'. Mixed media on 30x30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission, NFS).

Art Commissions

Above, Aberlady Dunes. Mixed media on 30×30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission).

Lockdown has been a good time to focus on private commissions. I’ve found it grounding and uplifting to focus on painting, and I think most people find art uplifting – a solace in strange and anxious times.

I accept most landscape commissions, even if it’s from a photo of someone’s favourite landscape, as long as I’ve been there and experienced that particular light, I’m able to paint it. I don’t aim for photo-realism. I deliberately keep brushwork as loose and expressive as possible and paint quickly for the sense of energy I’d feel if I was in situ. Painting En plein air is ideal of course, but with experience you can bring that same energy to painting in the studio.

The first commission this year – Aberlady Dunes – (above) was commissioned by a friend of the family who liked one of my previous smaller paintings of Aberlady. He’d lived on Lindisfarne some years ago and loved the sense of space  -stretching to the horizon across the marram grass to the sea and sand beyond.

North Berwick, Summer was commissioned by a doctor who lives in England who’d seen Aberlady Dunes and wondered if I could capture a stretch of his favourite coast near North Berwick, but on a smaller scale. I chose a spot that’s very familiar to me, just past the headland south of the town. It has many happy associations since I’ve been going there with family and friends since childhood, so it was a pleasure to paint.

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

‘North Berwick, Summer’. Mixed media on 18×18″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (Private Commission).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most recent – Sunrise, Ruby Bay, Fife  captures sunrise on Ruby Bay on the east coast of Scotland. It’s very large and I decided to experiment with acrylics and oils together with this one. I think I’m onto something as it came together in a very atmospheric way in the end. You can read more about painting it Here

'Sunrise, Ruby Bay. Fife. Acrylic and oil on 36x36" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (private commission)

‘Sunrise, Ruby Bay. Fife. Acrylic and oil on 36×36″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (private commission)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, the difference in light between the east and west coast of Scotland is very clear – especially at dawn or sunrise. This painting below shows dawn on the west coast – far more diffused, since the sun, rising from the east, doesn’t touch the sea till later – you see the sun’s warmth more in the under-lit clouds.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you like the look of these paintings and are interested in commissioning me, you can contact me at rose.strang@gmail.com

I’ll be happy to discuss price with you (the painting price varies according to size of course) and what mood or atmosphere you’re looking for. Below are a few more of my paintings showing a myriad of moods and atmosphere! …

 

 

'Sunrise, Ruby Bay. Fife. Acrylic and oil on 36x36" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (private commission)

Sunrise, Ruby Bay.

Above: Sunrise, Ruby Bay. Fife. Acrylic and oil on 36×36″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020.

Below, some details from the painting …

 

This latest private painting commission is of Ruby Bay in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. It’s so-called because if you sift through the small pebbles in the bay you can find tiny little garnets, not rubies as such but very like them!

Ruby Bay is on the Fife coastal path, near Elie Bay. It’s a beautiful stretch of coast-  the most famous beach on that stretch being St Andrews (of Chariots of Fire fame). The tower, built in 1779, is called Lady’s Tower as it was used by Lady Janet Anstruther (Janet Fall) as a bathing tower – a rich person’s beach hut if you like!

I wanted to capture the classic cool tones of an east coast sunrise – clear, cool and only slightly hazy. Looking at this painting in real life (it’s bigger than it seems form the photo at thirty six by thirty six inches) you sense movement from a calm tide about to recede from its high point. The lilac tones of pre-dawn are just about disappearing, replaced by clear turquoise. Lemon-yellow sunlight is just kissing the tips of the rocks, tower and grass.

The painting took about six days. It was started with gesso to lay down composition and background texture, then acrylics to get contrasts, the acid tones of lichen and the built up layers of rough-textured rock. Lastly I used oils for the sea and sky, and the cool light blue in the shadows.

It’s been a pleasure to paint  – complicated and with varying textures, but I think I’ve captured the calm and the pure light of sunrise in the east. I’m quite keen now to have another go on smaller wood panel to create a more abstract version.

The photos below show most stages of the painting …

 

 

'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!

 

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/ )