Tag Archives: plein air sketches

Over the sea and under the sky on the island of light

sea view from Neist Point, Skye

sparkling sea, looking west from Neist Point

We just came back from a trip to Skye. It’s a cold island with beautiful silver light that many artists try to capture in paint. I think Winifred Nicholson managed it but I haven’t seen any other painters succeed. Still, that was no reason not to attempt a few sketches of my own, with a possible bigger studio work in mind. The sea shimmered and the coral beach looked like a tropical lagoon.

This was a hasty plein air attempt carried out on a beach miles from anywhere. I sometimes wonder about such places, visited after hours of walking, and wonder if I’ll ever visit them again.

Dibidal beach sketch, mixed media

remote beach at Dibidal, Skye, with white sand and surf, mixed media, sketchbook work, approx 8 inches square

The tropical shores of Skye.

photo of coral beach, skye

the coral beach

On the Durinish coast there are many outlandish rock formations, including MacLeod’s forbidding Maidens, seen in the distance, waiting to surprise unwary travellers.

Sea of the Hebrides sketchbook painting

Sea of the Hebrides, mixed media sketchbook work, approx 8 inches square

On the way to the sparkling sea views near the lighthouse you pass through the otherworldly landscape of Waterstein.

at waterstein on the isle of skye

Waterstein

The local beach, virtually ignored by tourists, is just as delightful as any of Skye’s more famous locations.

loch Pooltiel watercolour sketch

watercolour sketch of loch Pooltiel painted from the beach at Glendale, approx 5 inches square

Where is this place?

Bowland landscape plein air drawing in pencil, A5

plein air pencil sketch, A5, drawn somewhere in the Bowland landscape, perhaps around Whitewell?

A place I went for a walk in about 15 or so years ago has turned into a mystical landscape somewhere in the back of my brain. I can see it now in my mind’s eye; it’s very green, cloudy and peaceful with nothing but hills and trees and it’s very damp, because it has been raining for a long time. In spite of being wet it is a beautiful place with rounded hills sweeping up and away and revealing further rises behind, which could be reached if you were to walk on, through a valley opening and beyond. It’s a very secret, mysterious place shrouded in mist. I know I made sketches of the landscape when I was there and I think I know which ones they are in my tiny sketchbook, but I can’t be completely sure.

The drawing above is the one I’m most sure of. There is also another one, obviously sketched in no time at all (maybe we were getting cold) that seems to be of the same place.

pencil drawing created in the Bowland hills

quick plein air pencil sketch in unknown Bowland landscape, A5

A subsequent watercolour sketch went a bit strange.

watercolour on Arches paper of landscape in wild colours

wild colours watercolour, 8 inches square on Arches paper

So I tried again, trying to keep the colours and shapes a bit more true, but it lacks the spirit of the place.

small watercolour painting of a Bowland landscape

somewhere in Bowland … a small watercolour painting

Finally I made the first sketch into a huge charcoal drawing as preparation for a possible painting.

A1 charcoal drawing of a Bowland landscape

charcoal drawing created from small pencil sketch of Bowland, A1 paper

When I walked in the real place I was on a camping trip with Andi, who was ill. My planned route turned out to be 14 miles in all: seven there and seven back. We did stop at an inn in the middle of nowhere at the halfway point but Andi was extremely stoical to tramp all that way through wet fields. I seem to remember him collapsing with a grateful sigh when we got back to the tent and not really moving until the next day. It might be interesting to go back one day but maybe not – you can never really go back. It might be better to reimagine.