Tag Archives: scottish landscape artists

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 complete series

Above – Pine Trees, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan. Acrylic and oil on 47×47″ canvas. Rose Strang 2022

This last painting completes the series for the upcoming exhibition at the Resipole Gallery, launching 12th June this year.

These give an idea of scale …

All paintings in the series below.

By Monday I’ll hopefully be posting progress on the video I’m editing, it’ll be a busy weekend!

Ardnamurchan series day 4

Above – Sanna Bay 2. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 47×47″ canvas. Rose Strang 2022

A serendipitous painting today – I started sketching in the composition lightly in paint and decided I liked the tranquil simplicity of it. I might add a tiny bit of detail to the clump or rock and seaweed on the left but happily I think I’ve captured something of the luminous stillness of Sanna Bay.

I’ve never painted at this size (47 by 47 inches – about 4 by 4 feet) but it felt quite free-ing surprisingly. I have one more painting to complete at this larger size then all seven will be finished.

This series is for the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan. The exhibition (a two-person exhibition with artist Jim Wright) launches on Sunday June 12th.

Yesterday I mentioned the song I’m learning by Donald McColl. His family have kindly granted permission for me to record the song and I’m now learning the Scottish Gaelic lyrics phonetically, with a lot of help from Ceit Langhorne who’s a Scottish Gaelic translator and singer who I first met on the isle of Eigg in 2014 at a ceilidh.

I remember asking Ceit if she knew any songs of the sea which she did, so I recorded it under a beautiful full moon on Eigg. Here’s my post from the time! –

Gaelic song on Eigg by Ceit Langhorne

I hope to record the song soon and will post that here when it’s finished.

Ardnamurchan series day 3

Above – Birches, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 31×31 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022

Below – Tioram, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 31×31 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022

2 Tioram, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan

Two more paintings for the series of Ardnamurchan, which I’m creating for the Resipole Gallery. Exhibition launches 12th June this year. I’ll be travelling up from Edinburgh for the launch so if you’re planning to drop in I’ll be there to say hello!

I’m also working on recording a song, discovered in the the archives of the School of Scottish Studies. It’s by a singer and songwriter called Donald McColl and it’s about the flora and fauna of Ardnamurchan. I’ll be adding it to a video I’m also making about the series.

More on all of that soon!

From Iona to Staffa

Above Iona to Staffa 3. Oil on 12 x 12 inch wood.

This series is inspired by a trip to the islands of Iona and Staffa last year. Although I’ve been visiting Iona since about 1991, I’d never been to Staffa – surely one of the wonders of the world with its astonishing hexagonal basaltic columns and sea caves surging with green water.

At first I wanted to capture something of the feel of the journey, which was in fact quite wild – in a small boat on a tumultuous sea in dazzling sunshine – we even saw dolphins! It was the underlying sense of myth that stayed with me though.

Iona’s spiritual history is well-known – St Columba, an Irish prince said to be exiled because of a violent dispute, travelled to Iona and began a life of spiritual contemplation with a group of monks back in the 6th century. His journeys around Scotland are remembered in history, also in tales of miracles. He was no doubt a complicated human being who’d lived a violent life in Ireland, who changed during his time on Iona – devoting his life to religion.

The island itself was said to have a druidic past. This is part speculation as those times weren’t recorded in written language in the same way as  Christian history was. Place names around the island do suggest this pre-Christian history though. It’s suggested that the Book of Kells was written by monks on Iona some time in the 9th century, but the book is now at Trinity College Dublin. Some believe the book was created in Kells, Ireland, but if you consider the fact that part of north-east Ireland and the west coast of Scotland were essentially one nation at the time, called Dalriada or Dál Riata, then it could make sense that the book might be written in the peace of Iona and taken to Kells when Iona was later attacked by Vikings.

Monks were drawn to such places at this time in the past, in the spirit of the ‘Desert Fathers and Mothers’ – a tradition inspired by Jesus’s contemplation in the desert. Basically, anywhere remote and removed from society was seen as ‘desert’ – a place to contemplate God.

Staffa, which is about 7 miles from Iona, has a mythical history stretching far back into the mists of time! It’s other name is Fingal’s Cave – inspired the myth of Fingal (Fin means light and forms part of the name of the port on Mull from where you travel to Iona – Fionphort) from ancient celtic stories. This can be a confusing subject because there was in fact a series of poems called ‘Ossian’s Tale’, created by author James MacPherson, about Fingal, but this series of poems was discovered to be ‘fake’ – not the work of a real person called Fingal from the ancient Celtic past. The stories were gathered from ancient Celtic poems though, and so it is a fascinating work.

I won’t get too detailed here about the confusion of myth, and translations from original Scottish Gaelic myths and stories by McPherson – Ossian’s Tale does mention numerous place names that still exist, and which made up Dalriada in Scotland and north-east Ireland in the third century. The myths probably refer to an ancient warrior, said to be a giant, who created Staffa as a stepping stone from Ireland to Scotland. This refers to ‘The Giant’s Causeway’ on the coast of northern Ireland which shares the same hexagonal basaltic stone features as Staffa.

Well, that’s a lot of info, which may give an idea of why I wanted to capture a sense of myth from my trip to Staffa from Iona! It doesn’t really explain the way I feel about such an experience though. Suffice to say, it stimulates my imagination and despite the numerous tourists that throng the islands these days, I still feel the spiritual pull of these places.

I used to visualise lying in a wooden boat in the crystal clear green water of the Sound of Iona, rocking gently on the waves in the sun. Where Iona feels gentle, Staffa feels almost overwhelmingly dramatic –  you feel you’ve taken part in a real life myth when you travel there.

I’ll end this post with some of my photos of Staffa …

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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Iona Paintings

Above, Misty Evening, North End Iona. Oil on 6×6″ wood. Rose Strang 2021.

The painting above (and two paintings below) were painted after a trip to Iona last month in mild weather. The feel is very different from the last time I was on the island in winter 2018 when the skies and sea were stormy and dramatic. This time Iona was green, tranquil and contemplative with calm weather.

These are the small start to a larger series I’ll be painting starting from next week, in response to the landscapes of Kilmartin and Iona. More on that soon.

In the meantime, contact me if you’re interested in these small paintings, at rose.strang@gmail.com

 

'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 ..

Applecross Series day 3

'Ardban Evening' Oil on 17x112 wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Ardban Evening’ Oil on 17×112 wood. Rose Strang 2020

'Ardban, Morning Mist' Oil on 17x112 wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Ardban, Morning Mist’ Oil on 17×112 wood. Rose Strang 2020

Today’s paintings of Applecross for the Limetree exhibition which launches 31st October.

A bit more experimentation today as I feel my way into this new series. These are both in oils – I wanted to say a bit more with less. It’s not quite getting there yet but these have more of the mood I’m trying to capture. I’ll be painting seven seas in different moods, also forests. Just to try something completely new I’ll be painting some road sketches sine the journey to Applecross is so dramatic.

More tomorrow …

Stormy Sea.Sold. 'Stormy Sea. Ardban'. Charcoal on 31x22" paper. Rose Strang 2019

Off to Wander …

Above, ‘Stormy Sea. Ardban’. Charcoal on 31×22″ paper. Rose Strang 2019.

‘Off to Wander’ is the title of  a book I received in the post yesterday …

'Off to Wander'. Mary McCormick

‘Off to Wander’. Mary McCormick

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Excerpt) 'Off to Wander'. Mary McCormick

(Excerpt) ‘Off to Wander’. Mary McCormick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Mary McCormick while on an artist’s residency on the Isle of Iona in Autumn 2018. I was very grateful for her grounded presence in the hostel, which attracted numerous interesting characters, not all easy to get along with! Mary decided to close her gardening business at the age of 68, to travel around the world on a shoestring budget. Iona was one of her last destinations before she returned to the US to find work conserving its depleted grasslands.

Her book is a real inspiration to me as I’m attempting to write a series of small books to accompany my paintings – it’s proving a challenge! Not the writing (which I enjoy) but the choices on what to keep in or out of the books, how much information, how formal or informal and so on.

I love the fragments of experience in Mary’s book and the non-linear style. Have a read of the small excerpt above which is a lovely example of Mary’s humour and meditative observations. If you’d like to buy a copy you can contact Mary McCormick via email on:

offtowander@swcp.com and if she has enough copies left she’ll post it out to you.

I’m off for a wander myself next week (with my partner Adam, my friend Donald, and sister, Catherine)  to the wonderful Applecross Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. We were there last year, during which time I painted a series for a gallery in Fortwilliam.

This year I’m painting a series of new works for the Limetree Gallery, Bristol. The exhibition opens 31st October and (lockdown restrictions willing) I’ll be traveling down there to meet people (one-to-one) who are interested in the paintings. I’m honoured to be showing alongside two artists whose work I admire: Anna King and Mhairi McGregor .

As always I’ll update painting progress from Applecross. In the meantime, here are some lovely pictures from our stay last year!