Tag Archives: scottish landscape art

Coast

Above, Sanna Bay 2. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 47×47 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022. One of four works still available at The Resipole Gallery (please contact the gallery for queries).

Thank you to the buyers who bought the following paintings, I hope they bring pleasure for many years to come! This has absolutely been one of my favourite series to paint, created while I was up north in Ardnamurchan with my partner Adam in May this year, it was such a beautiful time…

The following paintings are still available from the Resipole, please contact the gallery with any queries. Thank you – Resipole Gallery

And for those who might not have seen it yet, our arrangement of a beautiful song first created by songwriter Donald McColl (from Acharacle, Ardnamurchan) in the 1970s. The video features wonderful footage of Ardamurchan from our trip there this year, and some paintings in progress.

Ardnamurchan in May. New series …

Above – Silver Walk, Ardnamurchan. Oil on 34 by 24 inch wood. Rose Strang 2022.

This painting is the first in a series I’m creating for an exhibition which launches 12th June at the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan. The show will feature work by myself and landscape artist Jim Wright.

It’s such a pleasure to create a series for the Resipole as it means I get the chance to travel up to Ardnamurchan for inspiration. It’s a beautuful part of Scotland, quite remote and unspoiled, though these days there are more visitors than when I first came, in 1992.

I was entranced by the ancient forest of birch and oak growing all the way down to the sea, and of course Castle Tioram, which featured in my Planet Narnia paintings inspired by the book Planet Narnia, and the cosmos as understood in the Medieval imagination.

I  wrote about the forests of Ardnamurch in 2018, exploring the idea of a community of trees and the discovery by scientist Suzanne Simmard that trees ‘talk’ or communicate as an eco-system, through mycelium – a complex root system of fungus that sends ‘signals’ from tree to tree.

Wandering through the forests of Ardnamurchan, you really feel the alive-ness of the forests here, many of which have been left untouched for hundreds of years. In the case of Ariundel oak forest in east Ardnamurchan, thousands of years!

So in this new series, I’m tackling a subject I’ve long wanted to paint – the Silver Walk near Castle Tioram. We went there a couple of weeks ago in early May, a time at which the forest is at its most vibrant I think. It was shimmeringly beautiful, luminous in fresh green leaves and the seas reflecting cerulean blue skies. Sometimes when I’m in a place like this I feel almost overwhelmed – my mind, emotions and senses being flooded with luminous colour. It felt idyllic too that it was warm enough to sit there in a T-shirt and paint some sketches!

I think my painting above is a good start, I want to keep it loose and light in feel to express the feeling of Ardnamurchan in May.

I’ll be posting the paintings as they’re created every couple of days. In the meantime, here are a few photos of us in Ardnamurchan this May! ..

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

From the Mountains to the Sea

I’m delighted to see that my large painting ‘Through Kintail 2’ (above) has sold in the latest Limetree Gallery exhibition From the Mountains to the Sea. I think it looks considerably better in real life than from a photo, so I was very pleased to see it exhibited ‘in real life’ since most exhibitions during lockdown have been online.

Two of my paintings remain in the exhibition; ‘Through Kintail 3’ and ‘Through Kintail 4’, images below. You can browse these, and the other beautiful works in the exhibition on the gallery website Here

This series was created as part of a wonderful journey to Ardban in Applecross. Getting there takes you through the mountains of Kintail which looked so classicly Highland-y in their autumn colours and misty weather. I love road paintings which always give the sense of a journey.

This year I’ll be exhibiting in an exciting new two-person exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan, more details to follow! …

Painting The Living Mountain. Artist’s Journal Pt 4

(Image above – Looking back towards the Monadliath Mountains. Photo Adam Brewster) 2021).

Pt 1: Here

Pt 2: Here

Pt 3: Here

Pt 4: Here

Pt 5: Here

Pt 6: Here

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting an artist’s diary about creating a series of paintings for The Folio Society’s publication of The Living Mountain, by author Nan Shepherd.

(The Folio Society edition of Nan Shephard’s The Living Mountain illustrated by Rose Strang and introduced by Robert Macfarlane is exclusively available at www.foliosociety.com)

Link to book …

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, published by the Folio Society 2021

Pt 4: In the Cairngorms

 

It wasn’t until March 11th 2021 that Adam and I finally arrived the Cairngorms. There had been numerous setbacks with most places closed due to lockdown. We finally found and booked a self-catering hut at Glentruim Lodge on the south west side of the Cairngorms (off the road that runs north to Aviemore).

The roads from Edinburgh to Glentruim were almost empty, which made for easier driving, and luckily no snow. On arriving we explored the area – a river valley surrounded by low hills with a view of the snowy peaks beyond. Tall beech trees towered over our hut and a family of red squirrels darted around the trunks – disappearing as soon as a camera emerged. I found the grace of these beeches compelling and thought of including them in the painting series, though I’d heard they weren’t considered native to Scotland. Later though, I discovered that they are in fact most likely native to Britain, having naturally spread north to Scotland following the end of the last ice-age.

Perhaps it was the marked contrast to being confined to the city throughout most of lockdown, but these trees and the general atmosphere of the valley felt more exuberantly alive to me than usual. The beeches looked almost as if they were throwing their branches into the bright blue sky. My painting takes me all over Scotland, to places more remote than where we were staying in the Cairngorms – Ardnamurchan, Sutherland or Torridon for example are beautiful, remote places near the sea.

Maybe it was the sheer scale of the Cairngorms though – the sense of larger than life mountains, trees and weather. I was reminded again of passages from MacDonald’s or Lewis’s descriptions of nature – trees on the verge of dancing, squirrels on the verge of speaking.

It was also the sense of uninterrupted nature – a stark contrast to trees in the city, because however lovely individual city trees can be – they’re not an eco-system or a community of trees interacting with each other. In 2018 when I’d been painting my series in response to C.S. Lewis’s Narniad, I’d learned (through reading Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia) that Prince Caspian is inspired by the Medieval concept of Mars. Not just the God of War, as more commonly understood, but the concept of valour or courage – an ‘iron will’, and also ‘Mars Sylvanus’ – the vigorous energy of early spring. Mar-ch, with leaves shooting from the branches of trees. Birches in March become purplish-red just before they produce their first leaves, as Nan Shepherd observes in The Quarry Wood – their branches coloured like blood-veins.

While painting and researching Prince Caspian/Mars, I’d also learned something of the nature of a forest. A scientist called Suzanne Simard had discovered that trees send nutrients to each other, they are all interdependent. At the time of writing this journal, I’m also reading Robert MacFarlane’s Underland, which contains one chapter with an absolutely fascinating account of Simard’s discoveries of the complex root systems of forests.

The trees outside our cabin in the Cairngorms ‘felt’ exuberantly alive because they were exactly that – they communicated a sense of energy – not simply through the visual indicators of fresh air in the lichen that festooned the trees, the restless red squirrels, numerous birds or the scent of crystal clean air, it was the energy of uninterrupted growth and health.

The next morning when we stepped out of our cabin to look at the weather we were greeted with a beautiful snow and frost covered landscape.  Our ‘wows’ were quickly superseded by ‘oh sh*ts’ however, as this made it seem less likely we’d be able to get in to the mountains. On checking our phones we discovered that Emma (our mountain guide) had already contacted us to say ‘Looks like winter has returned!’ She seemed sure we’d find a way in though.

We’d already had the disappointing news that we’d not be able to enter the Cairngorms through the northerly route and areas Nan explored so often. This was because the ski road leading most of the way into the Cairngorms had been closed for the season. ‘The best ski-ing weather we’ve seen in years – and no-one can enjoy it!’ Liam and Emma had commented.

Emma’s advice was to walk up to the plateau from the southwest, from Glen Feshie up to Carn Ban Mor (from Gaelic, meaning ‘The big pale cairn’). Since Emma seemed optimistic we could still climb, we got in our little car and headed north along the motorway to meet Emma at Auchlean carpark. The carpark was off the motorway and a few miles into the mountain valley and we soon realised the snow-covered roads would be an issue.

I rang Emma, who asked; ‘Are you in a four-wheel drive?’. I managed not to snort as I explained ‘no it’s just an ordinary car’. We agreed to meet as far along the road as our un-Cairngormworthy car would take us.  We spotted Emma at the road to the carpark and stopped. A quick discussion ensued; ‘Do you think you have Covid?’ ‘No’. ‘Well, it’s a short drive, just two minutes and I’ll keep the window open’.

Before leaving Emma’s car she quickly fitted us with crash helmets and ice picks; “Just in case we encounter slippy ice further up the paths” Emma explained cheerfully. I began to picture accounts I’d read of climbers hanging on to the edge of ice chasms on the slopes of Everest, hands immobilised by frostbite. Then I reassured myself with the thought that at least we wouldn’t run out of oxygen. That situation, described as the death zone, only happens at 8000 metres and Carn Ban Mor is only 1052 metres high! What were the crash helmets for? ‘There’s almost zero chance of an avalanche, it’s just a safety measure’ Emma replied reassuringly.

As we walked up the lower slopes through a forest of pines sparkling with fresh snow, I asked Emma about how she became a mountain guide. She explained that she’d grown up in the Cairngorms and that she’d always climbed, and that training really took that to a different level; ‘The difference is – you know and can say exactly where you at any moment, not just have the ability to get out of tricky situations or a sudden change in weather’. (Being able to give 100% accurate GPS coordinates would of course be the difference between life and death, if a climber breaks a leg on a mist-covered mountain).

This made sense in the light of the haunting descriptions I’d read in The Living Mountain (or heard about from friends or family) of the utterly disconcerting experience of navigating a way out of white mist in which you can’t see beyond a foot. In previous years, I’d climbed several mountains with an ex-partner, Tim. He’d learned how to navigate well, but wasn’t so foolhardy he’d walk into a blizzard given a choice. I remember one day we’d walked up into the Trossachs (a mountain region in Central Scotland) and were just about to climb onto the plateau towards the summit when a white-out blizzard descended. It was lucky we were standing next to a cliff. We simply stood there till it passed, then when the air cleared took the opportunity to walk quickly to the summit where we enjoyed blue skies and a view of Loch Katrine far below.

My mum (Gillian) had been the more intrepid mountain climber though. Her partner at the time, Des, was a geologist by training and had extensive mountain climbing experience. I’ll never forget her description of a sudden blizzard as they navigated via map and compass down to a bothy and safety. She said that all she could actually see was the front of her anorak, which became encrusted with a growing hillock of icy snow crystals. I can well imagine her relief on reaching the bothy, warmth and safety.

It’s in conditions such as these that Nan would doubtless have found herself on occasions. Alone too. I think her imaginative descriptions, visionary insights and musings might lead the inexperienced to imagine her as floating elf-like along the mountain paths in a continual reverie! It’s clear that as well as excellent navigation skills, she must have had muscles (and nerves) of steel!

Our guide Emma pointed out the tracks and marks left by various animals as we walked through the snowy wood. She wasn’t what I’d expected as guide (I suppose Adam and I had somehow imagined a tough militaristic sort) Emma looked quite arty, with a mane of light red hair and green eyes; very Scottish! We chatted about Nan, and she agreed that she must have been an incredibly experienced climber – absolutely in her element in this arctic landscape.

As Emma explained, the Cairngorms are in fact a micro-climate, a ‘mini – Arctic’ in effect, with all the temperatures, weather conditions, flora and fauna associated with the Arctic. We were by now emerging from the woodland and as the trees thinned out we were able to look back at the astonishing views behind us of the snow-covered Monadliath mountains to the west of the Cairngorms.

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Resipole Gallery

I’m delighted to be exhibiting again with the Resipole Gallery, one of Scotland’s most respected (and most remote!) galleries. I’ve sold many paintings there over the years and they are now showing my latest series, created this summer on the isle of Iona. It’s a delight to show in the same gallery as artists I’ve admired for many years including Anna King, Lottie Glob, and Kate Foster.

Here are the three paintings (below), and this link takes you to my page on the Resipole website where you can view or buy the paintings Resipole Gallery, Rose Strang

 

Resipole Studios and Gallery is situated on the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast and I’ve travelled there many times since the early 1990’s, most recently in 2019 when I attended an exhibition opening. The drive to Ardnamurchan is surely one of the most dramatic in Europe! Here are a few of my photos …

'Cliffs of Griburn, Loch na Keal. Mull'. Oil on 20x20 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2021

Loch na Keal on the Isle of Mull

Above: The Cliffs of Griburn, Loch na Keal. Mull. Oil on 20×20 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2021. (please contact the Limetree Gallery if you’re interested in the painting above or have any questions about buying it, on this link Limetree Gallery)

In the past week or so I was busy on a private commission of paintings of Loch na Keal on the beautiful Isle of Mull. This was for someone who wanted two paintings showing the changing light and weather of Loch na Keal. He wanted particular views – of the dramatic cliffs of Griburn and Eorsa Island on the loch – views very familiar to his wife, for whose birthday the paintings were commissioned.

‘Changing Weather, Loch Na Keal’. Oil on 20×20 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2021
‘Autumn Light Over Loch Na Keal’. Oil on 20×20 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2021
‘Cliffs of Griburn, Loch na Keal. Mull’. Oil on 20×20 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2021

I was very touched by his care in describing the features he wanted to include and the fact his wife particularly enjoyed the changing clouds and colours of the sky. I decided to paint three views so he would have a choice of two from those. He decided on Autumn Light Over Loch Na Keal and Changing Weather, Loch Na Keal which I do agree make a lovely pair of paintings, showing the colours of autumn and clouds forming and re-forming over the loch.

The remaining painting The Cliffs of Griburn, Loch na Keal. Mull is, I think, a more dramatic view. It gives a sense of approaching land from a boat, which I always find very compelling since it’s a view you’d never see other than from a boat. It’s now available from the Limetree Gallery. You can contact them on the link above if you’re interested in the painting or have any questions about it.

Thanks very much to John for this lovely commission. He tells me that his wife Sarah loves the paintings, which is music to my ears. What a beautiful place to live, and to paint!

You can view the Limetree Exhibition Brochure on this link ..

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!