We’ve been in the highlands of Scotland for a fortnight now. A late holiday timed to give us a feel for the light, people and weather up here in the off-season, as we consider moving here permanently some time in the next three years.
The ever changing light and much varied cloud cover through the last week led me to the conclusion that I needed to start my Scottish journey by resolving the technical challenges that painting in the Scottish Highlands presents at this time of year. To explore these I have focused on my normal landscape style, albeit on very small canvasses, and principally concentrated on trying to represent the lighting effects.
For an artist used to working in a semi-abstract style, producing composites in a closed studio, this has been an interesting experience. Whilst light is important in my work, my style means that I can simply produce appropriate lighting effects on the canvas. Light is not the subject, nor do I normally rely on it for atmosphere. Stepping out of my comfort zone by changing both subject and style and focusing on the technical aspects of painting has been a struggle at times. I’ve been working in a front room with large windows, facing the sea, and the northern edge of the Torridons. A lot of what I’ve painted has been what I can see from my painting position – though I have introduced some elements for both dramatic effect and technical reasons. Once again this is not my normal approach, in fact the only things that have remained constant have been the palette knife and the colours I’ve used. The skyscape and consequently light have been changing by the minute, which has added enormously to the challenges and increased my admiration for the technical excellence displayed by painters of straight landscapes.
Wave is also another small piece. In fact at 24 x 18cm even smaller than Last harbour. This has also been a challenge, I could fit 25 paintings this size into my average canvas area. The largest piece I’ve done up here has been 30 x 24cm (Dark clouds looming – click Here). I have used the same knives that I would use for a painting 20 times the size, and learning to adjust my knife control to avoid smudging outside of the immediate painting area has been hair tearing fun.
Final thoughts on the journey. As a painter it’s been challenging, frustrating, inspiring and delightful in equal measure. Late November is not a time for vivid colours. We’ve had one good sunset and a couple of clear nights, both of these would have been interesting to paint, but that will have to wait. Have I found enough to sustain me as an artist? I think so, though it is only by living here that I will be able to introduce the social commentary that is an essential component of my practice. Of one thing I’m sure though. I will be bringing back with me a new perspective on painting, and lots of ideas about how I will develop my work. I’m happy, and I hope you have enjoyed the fruits of my labour 😉