Here is a collection of landscapes all done directly in watercolour with no pen and ink. I am using Daniel Smith Watercolours, and trying different mixing combinations. All of these pictures are done with three or fewer colours, alone or mixed together. It seems to me that the fewer the better. The picture hangs together better if I don’t use many colours. And it’s faster.
The wooden sign from the main road said “Historic Site”, and pointed up a small road that lead steeply uphill. I was on my morning run and felt energetic, so I set off up there, keen to see the Historic Site. In Shetland, Historic Sites are often at the top of hills.
At the top of the first hill, there was no Historic Site, but a view of the next summit. I carried on. At the second summit there was no Historic Site either, just undulating hills in all directions. I was disheartened. I was also a long way from home base.
I turned around. In the distance was the island of Foula, which lurks on the horizon, looking menacing. Usually it’s seen across the sea. But from that second summit, Foula hovered above the green hills, too large, too grey, too abrupt in its cliffs. As I started running back downhill, Foula sank reluctantly, until it disappeared below the horizon and all around was again soft green hills, and sheep.
The next day I resolved to find the Historic Site. I went on a mega-walk. Here is my route:
You see marked the “Germattwatt Café” where I stopped on the way.
I found the Historic Site which, against all expectations and precedent, was not at the top of any hill, but low down. near the sea, on a promontory, and near a fishing lake. There were low ancient walls, and the distinctive patterns of undulations that indicate a dwelling, property divisions, field boundaries.
In tribute to the wisdom of the ancestors who chose this place I stopped a while. There was a good view up and down the estuary. Good fishing was to be had, both freshwater in the lake, and salt water in the sea. Such fishing was still being had. In the sea was the fish farm and the mussel farm. I drew a picture:
You see the stones of the Historic Site in the foreground. In the distance the “A971” makes its way East at the foot of the hill. The lines in the sea are the mussel farm. The high hill is the Ward of Browland. Here’s the Ordnance Survey Map. The arrow shows the direction I was looking when drawing the picture.
Then I walked on, following the sea. Here’s a drawing near the “pier” circled in red on the map.
The whole walk was 22km, and took 8 hours, including two hours of stops for drawing, refreshment and looking at the view.
Yesterday I was experimenting with Daniel Smith watercolours. The aim was to get a really good deep black with just two colours.
The Perinone Orange with Prussian Blue is particularly magic. Two quite pale colours suddenly combine to a carbon black. It’s like watching a chemical process. Although it is, of course, a physical process. These two colours are complementary, and together they absorb all the visible spectrum. Impressive.
I did other experiments:
Then I had a lot of colours left in the mixing tray. I didn’t want to throw them away, they looked so lovely and jewel-like in the mixing tray. So I made some sci-fi landscapes.
Shetland is a place of sky and water. I was working on reflections.
Experimenting with reflections
A sketch done on the beach at Burrastow
Here are reflections of rocks:
Here’s one that is almost abstract. Perhaps it reflects a mood.
The rocks round Burrastow each have a skirt of yellow and brown seaweed. So does the pier. There are lobsters down there.
I am using a new paintbox and experimenting with the colours.
You see the brown seaweed on the shore.
The island of Foula is sometimes visible from nearby cliffs. It is about 20 miles away, so it floats on the horizon. Foula is a mysterious place.
Here is another picture of Foula. The island disappeared while I was making these photos of my painting things.
Foula, from Uskie Geo
Painting things at Uskie Geo
Watercolour Box 3, Uskie Geo
I walked to Footabrough. Here’s the route, and some pictures of Footabrough.
A walk from Burrastow to Footabrough
On the way, there is a lagoon where the seals live. The arrow on the map shows the direction of the view in this drawing. The weird dots on the map are because I drew it on the left hand page of the sketchbook. I’d previously used that left-hand page to try out colours (see photo below). Note I am wearing gloves. This is July, in Shetland.
Lagoon of the seals, postcard sketch.
Lagoon of the seals, sketchbook sketch
Here are the headlands north of Footabrough. They have marvellous names: Knowe of Banascord, The Hamar and West Stack, Gerdipaddle, Skerries of Watsness. The picture is from Braganess, south of Footabrough.
This is a characteristic Shetland scene. It shows the remembered view across the Weisdale Voe.
As you see, there was a lot of wind and fine rain. Here are some local drawings around Burrastow (click to enlarge).
On the way to Burrastow I stayed in my favourite Shetland B&B: Hayhoull, in Bigton in South Mainland. It is right next to the amazing St Ninian’s Isle, which is connected to the Mainland by a strip of sand.
On this trip I also did quick sketches using pen and ink. Each of these takes about 10-20 minutes.
This print shows a dialogue, or perhaps an exploration. Are they perhaps looking down a tunnel? Or watching a sunset?
This is a chine collé print from a copper etched plate. The paper is thin Japanese paper brought to me by kind friends directly from “Paper Nao” in Tokyo. You can see how the plate was made on this link: Strange landscapes from wood
The plain print, with no chine collé, looks like this:
The coloured bits are placed on top of the plate, glue side up. I’ve described the process on this link: The chine collé process
Here is work in progress:
Ink: Gutenberg black from Intaglio Printmaker.
Glue the little bits of paper on the *top*. Note the tweezers.
The coloured paper is “fibre silk” paper from “GreatArt.com”
I lift it with tweezers and put it to dry on another piece of newsprint. When dry, I move it carefully to the plate: glue side UP.
The village of Montcigoux has a house with a long roof.
Note also the extraordinary number of electricity cables. The plan is to put them underground. This was in progress. But so far not on this side of the village.
The queue at Limoges airport Passport Controle took 1 hour. There were only two officials and a huge number of people on the aircraft.
We went to Brantôme, a town on the River Dronne. It’s on an island in the river. There’s a food market on Fridays. At the cafe I sketched the Abbey.
We walked by the river and found a poem on a stone tablet. I wrote it in my notebook.
With the help of friends, I am still puzzling out what the poem says. Here’s the latest attempt:
Philosopher, it is there, right at the end of the convent Whose façade is washed by the River Dronne in flood That in this enclave, having spent the summer under the majestic elm trees While leaving your monastic cell to its gigantic books You would be in free dialogue with your memories.
All suggestions, improvements and interpretations welcome. The verb “jaser” seems to mean “gossip”, but perhaps “faire jaser” has a different meaning. Any ideas? I also assumed that the “G.B.” was the writer “Brantôme”. Georges Brantôme I guessed. But no, the writer Brantôme is Pierre. Here’s what Wikipedia says:
Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme (c. 1540 – 15 July 1614), also known as the abbé de Brantôme, was a French historian, soldier and biographer.
I rather get the impression from his Wikipedia entry that the abbé de Brantôme was more of a chronicler than a poet. So who is “G.B.”? I definitely need to go back to Brantôme to have a closer look at that stone plaque. And to buy more of that cheese with nettles in, made by a Dutchman who has settled in France, and sold to us by his son.
“Is it French cheese?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, in the manner of someone embarking on a long explanation, “the milk is from French cows, and it was made in France….”. But, evidently, it was made by his father, a Dutch man, using a Dutch process. So is the cheese French? Is that even a useful question?
Here’s a view of the abbey from the restaurant where we had lunch:
I sketched in Périgord last year. See this link: Montcigoux
One of my pictures is now on the wall of the house it depicts.
We walked up the Diktamos gorge. It is deep and leafy. Here is an impression drawn that evening, trying to show you the dark depths of the gorge, the high rocky walls, and the leaves. John is shown, sitting on a stone, bottom centre left.
On the way to the airport we stopped in Agia Triada. I had 45 minutes to do a sketch. This is pen and ink.
It’s a three hour flight. One has to do something. I revisited the Diktamos gorge in pen and ink. The game was to use as few lines as possible, by not taking the pen off the paper. This is 3 lines.