Above: Scottish Highlands – “…with rain on your eyelashes”. Oil on 48×48 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022.
The Scottish Highlands could be described as northern rainforest with an average of 182 inches of rain falling each year! Dreich! You might say, but it’s all about perspective …
The commissioner of the painting above, is Jamie Johnston, who lives in Colorado where she runs a wonderful organic bee farm that’s been in the family since 1908 – The Beekeeper’s Honey Boutique.
Jamie decided to get married in Scotland back in 2016 – ‘It rained the whole time’ she said, ‘but I loved it!’ She got in touch with me because she’d ordered a copy of the Folio Society’s publication of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd. (I’d been commissioned to provide paintngs for the book). Jamie described her enjoyment of the paintings while reading the book, which led to her contacting the Limetree Gallery who represent most of my work.
She particularly loved the rainy dark ones which I love painting – they reminded her of the rainy weather during her romantic holiday and wedding in the Scottish Highlands.
Jamie decided that what she’d really like was a large version for the walls of her new home. The remit was just to paint whatever I liked, as long as it captured something of the Scottish Highlands drenched in rain. As any artist knows, it’s such a pleasure to be given a free rein to experiment, so I immediately began to visualise how it might look and how I’d create the right feel and atmosphere.
Jamie had sent a few photos of her time in the Highlands, which were really lovely as photos, but she explained these were just to give a sense of the sort of thing that had caught her eye – she didn’t intend for me to copy them. I did use one of them as a starting point, for composition and because I liked the waterfall and cloudy skies. Once the basic composition was sketched in though, I just built up layers of paint, drips and splodges until it had what I thought was the right feel. I wanted to get the sense of the Highlands – that pelting rain can quickly turn to sunshine then back again in the course of a few minutes!
Also giving a true sense of how water forms the landscape in Scotland, cutting swathes through rock and landscape over time – and further back in time – the retreating glacial action that gave those hump-backed whale-like shapes to the mountains.
You never know if you’ve managed to capture what a person has in mind, so I was swithering a bit on whether to add more, or change the painting. In the end I decided to send the image to Jamie by email to see what she thought. Painting it was a pleasure, but how someone reacts is what makes the commission a success.
I opened the email with some trepidation, so you can imagine what a huge smile Jamie’s reply put on my face for the rest of the day! …
I am dying!!! WOW!!! It is soooo incredibly beautiful…even more so than I imagined possible!!! Like I literally cannot stop staring at it!!! Those clouds…the colors on the mountain…those colors of that mountain valley down below…SERIOUSLY…how do you do that?! That is incredible!!! The talent that you have contributed to this world literally blows me away!!! I’ve never used this many exclamation marks in my life but I am on such a high right now!!!
It is beautiful. I love it immensely. Thank you for sharing your talent with me. It makes me very happy knowing I get to hang this (the first picture we will hang in our new home) & I can have a coffee or glass of whiskey & just stare at it & get lost in my memories through your beautiful painting. THANK YOU!!! Love, love, love. You captured EVERYTHING I had hoped for & then some”.
This blew me away as a response – music to my ears indeed!! Jamie also gave me the go-ahead to title the painting and so I began to think of romantic poems by Scottish poets (I too find the rainy Highlands romantic!) my favourite was this little gem, by Edwin Morgan:
Kiss me with rain on your eyelashes,
come on, let us sway together,
under the trees, and to hell with thunder.
Edwin Morgan. 2004. (Poem commissioned by the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh for Valentine’s Day 2004).
Hence the title! Scottish Highlands – “…with rain on your eyelashes”. And here’s another photo to show scale ..
A HUGE thank you to Jamie for this really lovely commission – Jamie and partner can always expect a warm welcome here in Edinburgh should they return at some point. In the meantime, I too shall enjoy a wee whisky in front of it before it wings its way through the clouds to Colorado!