Tag Archives: seascapes

Taking part in Landscape Artist of the Year 2023

Below – a speeded up video of the three paintings produced on the day

I swithered a bit on whether to post about my day on Landscape Artist of the Year 2023, mostly as I had no idea how the whole thing would come across. As it was, I think it was nicely edited – they edited out the fact that at one point, unbeknown to me I’d plastered half a tube of green paint across my face and hair!

If you’re selected to take part in the programme and if you’re anything like me, you’ll check out the participating artist’s blogs online to get an idea of how it feels to be there, painting in the most unlikely circumstances. I mean, you’d be hard-pressed to re-create a scenario less conducive to painting! So here’s my account of it all, and I hope it’s helpful…

I’d applied before to Laoty, but didn’t get selected. A friend had said ‘Rose, you’ve got to apply, do it, go on!” and I thought ‘why not?”. When I didn’t get selected the first time, I thought about it and realised that although it’s called landscape artist of the year, almost all views are urban. I can’t remember an episode, offhand, where there were no buildings or structures involved, so I painted Chancelot Mill for that reason. I was surprised to be accepted on the basis of the painting (described as ‘brutalist, painted in brutalist brushwork’ by the judges!) The work I produced on the day was a bit more characteristic of my style, though I’d never have selected that particular view to paint (I suspect few of the artists would).

Above; Chancelot Mill. Oil on 33×23 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2022

When I heard I’d been selected I was excited, a bit trepiditious and immediately wanted to know where the artists would be painting. The first few days (and right up to the event itself) is a flurry of answering questions from the producers, who are very encouraging (one said they’d like to buy my submission if it wasn’t snapped up after the show aired).

When I found out it was going to be Blackpool, I imagined it would be a view of Blackpool Tower, or that we’d have a choice of view where we might choose to look away from the sea front to paint the tower, or paint a beach scene. I would definitely choose the latter if it came down to it, but just in case, I had a look at Blackpool Tower online and did a couple of rough sketches!

Because I’m perhaps a bit anal (or, as I prefer to think; prepared!) I had a good look at the surrounding views on Google Street View once I learned the subject was to be Blackpool’s North Pier. Then (similarly to some of the other participants) I checked tide times.

What a disappointment to learn that the tide was going to be all the way out most of the day. A shocker in fact, since sea is one of my most painted subjects. I supposed at this point that we’d be painting a view of the pier, so I realised I’d be painting out of my comfort zone and just decided to turn up on the day and authentically respond as best I could to whatever was in front of my eyes!

Really it’s entirely a matter of luck for participants, in that sense – of viewpoint. It’s frustrating to know that you’ll be stuck in your pod all day and can’t find the view that moves or inspires you.

Take note also that even if it’s ok to take a close up photo and focus in on that, you won’t be able to see the photo unless you’ve brought an ipad or something bigger. Bright light will mean you can’t actually see your photo unless you have some way of printing it out.

My mistake was that I’m quite short-sighted and didn’t have time to get a new pair of glasses. Should have gone to Specsavers, that’s my big tip of the day to artists selected to participate. I kick myself for not bringing along a pair of binoculars or perhaps opera glasses, though I’ve no idea if such a thing exists, outside of antique shops.

If you’ve been selected for Laoty, are a bit short-sighted, pressed for time (my Laoty day was sandwiched between two exhibitions), take time to avail yourself of a device by which you can clearly see what’s there, because it might be many many hundreds of yards away with nothing in the foreground to give depth/perspective.

That mostly covers what happened to my painting efforts on the day, so I’ll get on to what it’s like to take part …

It’s like a small pop-up village consisting of a whole host of runners, camera people, judges, presenters, producers, technicians and who knows what else. On our arrival in Blackpool it was fun to play a game of ‘spot the pods’ with my partner Adam.

We wandered along the north pier and read inscriptions on the benches. Most of them had a dedication to someone passed away who’d loved sitting there, taking in the sun and sea. The sun and sea is everything in Blackpool. Take away the slightly grotty buildings, rickety pier, numerous run-down cafes, pubs and restaurants, big brash lit up signs and that’s what you’re left with – huge west coast skies and a luminous billowing sea (oh to have painted the sea as I saw it when we arrived, when the tide was coming in!)

We walked down to look at the pods, which was a strange moment of realising I’d be in one of those soon. I spotted someone taking in the view, looking thoughtful and guessed it would be one of the artists. It turned out to be Finn, and as I’d had a look at the see-through marquee where all the painting submissions were mounted up, I asked which was his (one of my favourites from the line-up as it happened!)

Finn, Adam and I chatted about the view, or lack of it – ‘we’re painting that?!’ – the selected view was now obvious given the position of the pods. We wished each other luck and as it was getting dark, headed off to get some sleep.

Earlier Adam and I had checked in to a hotel then headed out for dinner. I’d decided to have a big glass of wine despite the threat of hangover, as I felt it would help me drift off to sleep. It did, and I woke at 6am ready to face the day. Drawing back the curtains I looked out on a sea-front drenched in rain. That didn’t discourage me though, as a I like a bit of atmospheric weather to paint.

It was easy to spot the artists as I arrived with all my painting things at 7am, since they were the only ones chatting under a rain shelter (the crew were all running around setting up and we weren’t to go into our pods until much later when the film crew were ready to film us setting up our paints etc).

We were given a bag of breakfast things and snacks, tea or coffee, then we were all miked up, which meant whatever you said and did could be listened into, but that was the least of our worries. Anyway the focus is presumably capturing what’s filmable, not the mutterings between artists about the awful viewpoint or occassional expletive when a painting goes wrong!

The first bit of filming was the artists arriving (the bit where they say ‘such and such is a professional artist from wherever’. We were paired up, I was to walk down with Gregory, who was one of the friendliest, most calm people I’ve encountered, so he made that bit easy. All of this had to be repeated a few times while they sorted out levels and angles or whatever camera-people have to do in such circumstances!

We were shown to our pods and they filmed the artists setting up. I’d brought a range of acrylics and water-mixable oils (I don’t use the usual oils as solvents irritate me), a sketch pad, pencils, pens, numerous rags, all my brushes and palette knives and a large piece of flat wood which almost covered my little side table. I use that as a palette so there’s room on the palette to experiment, but a lot of artists prefer something they can have in their hand during painting. I also brought three buckets for plenty of water changing (the helpers or ‘runners’? are on hand to change water if you need it though).

As it was a chilly day at first, but would get warmer later I wore a thin shirt, a hoodie and an anorak. I’d meant to bring a couple of head scarves and regretted not remembering them as my hair got in the way at times.

At this point the judges and presenters were milling around and I was curious who’d come up to say hello. Kathleen Soriano came up first and we chatted about my submission. Tai popped up and asked if I’d be warm enough – ‘Is this going to keep you warm?’ he asked plucking the sleeve of my anorak, a nice gesture which made me feel cared about! I could see his keen artist’s eye checking out my pallete and painting set up.

Anorak checking (photo Adam Brewster)

Then Nicky Seare (the producer who’d first contacted me to let me know I’d been selected) came across for a chat – a very chatty and enthusiastic person, whose job it was to get the artists talking on camera. No easy task since the instinct is to shut off outside noise and to focus when you’re painting. (I’ve often shouted at the TV; ‘let them get on with it!’) We all knew the drill though, having seen the programme, and knew we’d have to describe to some extent what we were up to!

The thing that doesn’t come across when watching Laoty is the timing of the event. I’d been trying to ascertain when we’d be painting throughout the day, but that was hard to pin down because of filming everything. It’s four hours off and on throughout a twelve hour day, from start to finish. You arrive at about 7am, start at approximately 10am, paint for a couple of hours, have a lunch break, then continue for two more hours, but with quite a few interruptions. Then the artists are photographed with their submission painting and at that stage the judges are selecting the three finalists.

The part where Joan Bakewell says ‘Artists, your time starts now!’ is amusing since there were several takes of us starting – we were briefed about that though; ‘Just pretend to start!’. Then there’s the real start, which is a tense moment obviously. I’d already decided I’d paint a somewhat distant view of the pier since (as mentioned) I’d not had time to get new glasses so I wasn’t able to see details. And of course it’s impossible to see a small camera image of a close up when you’re outdoors in bright light so I couldn’t work from that either.

One artist was more savvy though and took their camera into the loo to have a look at details of their photo without all the bright sunlight, I wish I’d thought of that!

My approach was to quell my nerves by making some loose relaxed brushmarks to start – my thinking being that at this stage I could be experimental before I’d painted more detail. That worked well for me as it’s how I paint generally. In fact it’s the one thing that did work for me on the day as the pier was a hugely difficult subject to simplify. I think the judges were right in saying I could have taken the best part of the first painting (the sky) and created a different composition on the second one. The problem was that I didn’t have the option of a closer view of the pier, and sadly there was no sea to see!

My ideal view would have been from the actual pier itself and I’d imagined they’d set pods up there. I’m not convinced that the folks who set up the pods are thinking about the view from an artist’s perspective. Or probably where they set up is restricted by access and power supplies. Anyway, this is why, when you read comments by viewers, they’re often complaining that the artists don’t tackle the actual subject. The reason for that is (I think) that they have to be creative with composition in order to make a well-composed painting since they’ve not had any say in the composition that’s in front of them. That’s probably the main challenge in fact. And I think if you’re lucky enough to get to the finals, at which stage you get to choose your composition and show the judges something new, you have the best chance of showing what you’re capable of.

During painting Tai came over to ask about my new green-hair look! He also commented ‘that’s a beautiful sky’ which was encouraging. One of the producers, Nicky Seare commented, amusingly – ‘that’s like the Hollywood handshake!’. Kate was also very engaging. I found her warm, someone with natural camaraderie and, similar to Tai, I got the impression she did genuinely care about the contestants. I never got the chance to chat much with Joan Bakewell or Stephen Mangan, though at one point I caught his eye when we were both laughing at the repeated (‘let’s pretend’) ‘artists, begin now’ filming scenario!

I was also very amused at the stage where I started a new painting. Adam had been watching from the sidelines and he also noted that as soon as I decided to put a new piece of wood on the easel, a drove of cameras descended on me, with producer Nicky Seare asking ‘Why have you decided to start a new painting Rose?’ (When watching the programme it was described as a ‘drastic measure’ or something similar). When I change over to a new painting in reality it’s such a non event, and a normal part of my process, I found it amusing that it was even noticed. Everything has to be filmed though, and the camera people probably prefer it when artists work steadily and slowly throughout the day, so I had to be filmed again taking off one piece of wood and setting up another.

A drove of cameras. (photo Adam Brewster 2022)

Later on, I knew I was getting nowhere and decided to just have a sit on my stool to contemplate the changing scenery in front of me. That was apparently a cause for cameras to descend again, with one of the producers asking ‘Is it easy for you Rose? Is it not a challenge?’ They’d rightly observed that I was relaxing, maybe feeling a bit demotivated. I think the questions were designed to galvanise me and elicit a response. Understandable, but in fact that was a moment that might have allowed some new ideas to drift into mind, or maybe not. Drifting is not really something that comes naturally in those circumstances though, especially when you have a camera up on the right of the pod roof, click, click, clicking away every few seconds (which is how they capture the fascinating speeded up painting-process videos).

Chatting with some of the other artists after we’d stopped painting, it was clear many of us felt pretty drained. In real life painting scenarios, you get to sit back and contemplate in a more relaxed way, your rhythms are not disrupted, but during a day of being filmed the pressure feels fairly constant. I’d attempted to break the tension by chatting to some of the helpers, or going over to catch up on what was happening with Adam, but it’s tiring because of the constant focus over so many hours (and I say that as someone who can paint non-stop for hours quite happily in normal circumstances). I think producing anything approaching your normal level of painting is quite an achievement while being filmed for a programme, so to say it’s given me a whole new level of appreciation for all the artists taking part in Laoty and Paoty is an understatement.

I knew I was capable of much better, so it was a sad moment not being chosen as one of the final three, a feeling no doubt echoed by the other artists who weren’t selected. I also felt bad for Adam, who had faith I’d get selected too. In fact his words were ‘I feel a bit empty, I was just thinking you’d definitely be on to the next one and it feels weird we won’t be doing this again!’, that made my heart pang, and made me feel it was harder on him than me in many ways!

I think though, that the fact I was just about to launch an exhibition at the Resipole Gallery and the Limetree Gallery soon after, and that there was loads to distract us afterwards helped a lot. About a day after Laoty finished, we were driving up north to the beautiful wilds of Ardnamurchan for an exhibition opening. The paintings I’d produced for that had been a dream of a process as it’s such a stunning landscape in May. Plus, we couldn’t feel down for long since just the month before we’d got engaged!

Once filming ended and I’d exchanged emails and social media contacts with some of the artists, it was suggested we all go for a drink, but I just felt exhausted, so we went back to our hotel to clean up (I had a tonne of green paint in my hair!) and went out to eat. We found an Italian restaurant and settled in there, not realising till we sat down that the entire panel of judges and presenters and a few producers were sitting right next to us! (it was dark in the restaurant compared to the bright light outside). I went over to say a quick hello, Tai and Kate were super-friendly, though I bet by this time they must also have felt a bit drained by the 12 hour day!

I thought Finn’s painting was a very worthy winner, he’d realised the restrictions of the view, and planned a strong composition. I loved the pier painting part of Suzon’s painting, but I think my personal favourite was Efua’s – it was so complex, truly painterly and had presence. I think it would have been no surprise if any of the other artist’s paintings had been selected for the final three, sometimes the judges maybe have a favourite, and the two other runners up are not so carefully thought through, possibly? It can’t be easy judging.

I hope if you’re selected to take part in next year’s Laoty you’ve found this blog post helpful. And don’t worry about how you’ll appear on camera (I was dreading it but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too cringeing!) It’s not in the producer’s interests to make you look bad and they’ll edit out any obvious clangers, plus I think maybe they use nice filters or whatever to balance out the colours so everyone looks healthy, not washed out by bright light etc! Some people have asked if I’d apply again. After seeing the programme and thinking about it all, yes I would consider it. This year is way too busy but maybe in 2024 if the programme’s still running. (one thing I’d say though, is that they should offer more in the way of expenses to participating artists. I think younger artists particularly might struggle with that, it’s not as if art brings in a big income, unless you’re really well-known or your work is in constant demand).

I really enjoyed meeting the artists and helpers in particular, and I was super impressed by the skills and talents of all who take part in making the programme which is quite the production number – really fascinating to observe. And thanks to Tai for being genuinely kind when they chatted to us after the selections, he said ‘bad luck, wrong subject on the day maybe?’. Maybe, but mostly I should have gone to Specsavers!

Above all, huge love and gratitude to Adam who was there with me all the way!

Adam, Blackpool, 2022. (photo Rose Strang)

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.

Summer Exhibition Limetree

Above: Sanna Bay, May. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 19.5 by 19.5 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022. Below Primroses. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 19.5×19.5″ canvas. Rose Strang 2022

min 'Primroses, Ardnamurchan'. Oil on 19.5x19.5 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022

These two paintings are for the upcoming Summer Exhibition at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol, which launches on the 15th July and continues until August 31st.

They take inspiration from my recent trip to Ardnamurchan where I created a series of works for Coast – a two-artist exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan (link Here)

It’s interesting that these two new paintings look more distilled and dreamlike than the rest of the series, which must be to do with them being created later, not immediately following my trip there. The one subject I hadn’t painted was the beautiful primroses that decorate the banks of the Silver Walk near Castle Tioram. I love the way they emerge from dark crevices in May, looking so delicate and fresh – beautiful wild flowers that grow abundantly on the west coast.

Donald McColl sang about the landscape of Ardnamurchan (and primroses!) in his beautiful song ‘Nach Falbh thu air and Turas Leam?’, and here’s our arrangement of the song again, featuring footage of Ardnamurchan and some of the painting process …

(Exhibition of the two paintings above from 15th July to 31st August at the Limetree Gallery Bristol.)

Connections

Above, chatting to people at the opening of ‘Coast’, at The Resipole Gallery a few days ago. The exhibition features paintings by myself, painter Jim Wright and ceramics artist Helen Michie, until 22nd July.

This has a been a very special year for many reasons – I’ve loved painting this series of Ardnamurchan for the Resipole and felt fully immersed in the season of May and June there, exploring the Silver Walk near Castle Tioram and the stunning coast at Sanna Bay.

As mentioned in a previous post, I created a video featuring our new arrangement of a song about Ardnamurchan, originally written by songwriter Donald McColl, so I was delighted when the project featured in an artcle in the National, here it is! –

https://www.thenational.scot/news/20203905.landscape-artist-rose-strang-unearths-rare-scottish-gaelic-gem/

The exhibition launch on Sunday 12th was a pleasure to attend. It’s a four-hour drive to Ardnamurchan but worth every minute for what turned out to be a very enjoyable meeting with the other artists, Jim Wright and Helen Michie, as well as gallery owner Andrew Sinclair and gallery manager Kerrie Robinson.

They did a fantastic job of presenting the exhibition, I think the colours, themes and mood of the works compliment each other beautifully …

It was lovely to hear the music of the McColl family (from a CD collection of pieces) played alongside our recent song arrangement, but especially enjoyable to hear live music from fellow exhibitor Jim Wright, who not only paints beautifully but also sings folk songs and plays guitar, all adding to the convivial atmosphere!

 

 

The best thing about this year though, is this! …

Adam and I got engaged! It’s a very special ring; the stone is taken from a rock I found on the Isle of Iona about thirty years ago. It’s from a rare seam of white marble streaked with green serpentine that’s found on the south coast of the island – the same stone was used for the alter of Iona Abbey.

Adam asked if he could take a small piece from my rock to use for the ring, which he’d designed and had cast in white gold. He polished up the rough cast ring, sawed the tiny piece off the rock, then buffed it down to fit, before sealing the stone in the encricling metal and giving the stone a final burnish.

To say I’m happy is an understatement. I think all those summery whites and greens in my Ardnamurchan paintings are saying something about the way I feel about it all … from the heart and soul.

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 …

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

 

Applecross Series day 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s paintings in progress. More changes to Ardban Green Waves and Through Kintail. The new painitng – Ardban Sea Shimmer needs to dry a bit before I mist it up a bit more and work on the mountains.

Tomorrow I’ll start the large Through Kintail!

'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
(In progress). Ardban Waves, Evening. Mixed media on 17x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

Psalms and the Sea

Above  – paintings in progress for the upcoming exhibition at the Limetree gallery, Bristol. 31st October.

This is a new series for the Limtetree, which I started while on holiday last week in the Applecross Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland.

Thanks to the ever-changing west coast weather, the sea changes its mood constantly, but I’ve never seen a white rainbow before! (see photo below). The cottage we stayed in is a forty minute walk from the road, so you have to take all your food, equipment and bedding on your back. It’s part of the charm of staying here, but we prepared ourselves for our arrival by taking more walks up Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat for a few weeks beforehand – it definitely enhances the experience to be fit enough to explore a bit.

 

Applecross is reached by driving up the Bealach na Ba (the pass of the cows) which is always a pretty dramatic experience visually, more than that though, the journey up this single track road with few passing places seems to inspire the entire spectrum of human behaviour – it’s quite entertaining!

 

You can see traces, in the remains of cottages everywhere, attesting to the fact that these coasts were home to larger communities in the past, many of whom would have struggled in the years after the Highland Clearances. That history has been written about extensively so I won’t go into it here, except to say that it played into my response to the landscape to an extent, and will come in to the mood of my paintings. I sense that though these communities struggled, they loved the landscape and its many moods and it was part of their faith.

Applecross is an area of ancient Christian pilgrimage from the 7th century and traces of that past include a classic 7th century stone Celtic cross –  now housed in Edinburgh’s Museum of Scotland

My friend Donald (who organised the holiday as he’s been visiting the area for many years) played some Lewisian/Hebridean Psalm singing while we were in the cottage; it speaks of a tight-knit religious community, but also (to my imagination anyway) it evokes the ebb and flow of the changing sea. Here’s a video clip …

 

I’ll be adding to the paintings series here over the next few weeks, so if you like the look of any of the paintings and would like to reserve one before the exhibition, please contact the Limetree Gallery on this link – https://www.limetreegallery.com/contact/

Lastly, some more photos from our stay. Thanks again to Donald, Adam and Catherine for a lovely and hugely inspiring week!

 

 

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!