Dunnottar Castle is quite possibly THE perfect landscape painter’s subject. Sitting atop a magestic outcrop of rusty red sandstone, surrounded by constantly changing seas and skies, it’s sheer immensity and magnificence are breathtaking – the scene simply demands to be painted!
My favourite place to paint!
The above painting is the view from the little bridge that spans the deep gully and leads to the cliffs on the western side of the castle. Those cliffs have also been a favourite haunt of mine over the past few months and are a great spot to paint en plein air (below).
After spending several months working on this particular painting – and trying do the scene the justice it deserves – it will be great to see it hanging at the Aberdeen Art Fair (AAF) from this Friday.
Muckle Flugga (Old Norse Mikla Flugey, meaning “large steep-sided island”) is the northernmost point of the British Isles and, in my own humble opinion, has to be one of the most dramatic lighthouse locations on Earth.
I hope to have captured something of the rugged nature of the rock itself, but also of the precariousness of that lonely lighthouse perched upon it. The perpetual crashing of great ocean waves has done little to change this scene since the lighthouse was built in 1854. But nothing lasts for ever – apart from oil paintings hopefully!
Last week I spent a fantastic 4 days travelling down to The Mull of Galloway via every lighthouse I could find en route. The sun was blazing and the sunsets were magnificent all the way! I also visited the towns of Girvan, Turnberry and lovely Portpatrick, and had a wander round Culzean Castle too.
In a snug wee Portpatrick pub last Friday evening, I had the very good fortune to find myself sitting next to a chap called Rab and his wife Kate. Rab just so happens to be the son of a lighthouse keeper, so we spent the whole evening getting acquainted over beer and whiskey and chatting about the various lighthouses he’d grown up in, including Corsewall Head which I’d spent that very afternoon visiting; as well as Tod Head and Kinnaird Head which I’d been at only the week before. His father also spent 5 years 12 miles out in the North Sea off Arbroath on one of the most famous and notorious reefs on the planet (and my own home lighthouse) The Bell Rock. It turned out to be one of those very serendipitous evenings. Rab now runs an engineering company that is contracted by the Northern Lighthouse Board to maintain some of Scotland’s more remote lighthouses, and he kindly offered me the chance some day to go along with him for the ride on one of his jobs. I will have to earn my keep though, maybe even getting a chance to fling some paint at a ‘real’ lighthouse instead of just at a painting of one!
So here are a few of the best photos from the many hundreds I took. It’s not all about lighthouses though. I got some shots of boats, harbours and birds too.
I will be attempting to translate some of these and the many others I’ve been taking into artworks for an exhibition at the end of this year. But, unfortunately, I won’t be doing any of that this week since I sprained my painting hand whilst attempting to show my daughter how not to use her new skateboard!
So today I’ll be heading north again to get my campervan’s gearbox fixed in Stonehaven. I might even have time to visit Scurdie Ness lighthouse near Ferryden, which just so happens to be up for sale (if you happen to have a spare £360K in your back pocket and always dreamed of owning your own lighthouse!).
Here’s a map of all the Scottish lighthouses that I found at Ardnamurchan Point. There’s a lot of them! Almost 100 and pretty much all built by the Stevenson family within 100 years from the first (the Bell Rock) which was finished in 1810. I hope to get to as many as possible over the next few months as part of my project, The Lights That Never Go Out, An Artistic Odyssey From Muckle Flugga To The Mull of Galloway.
So after a day spent washing clothes and repacking the campervan after the Easter trip to the west coast, I’m off again to spend the next few days and nights sketching and photographing the lighthouses between Montrose and Fraserburgh. Tonight I’m hoping for a clear and starry sky (ie. no fog horn!) spent at the foot of Rattray Head.