Tuesday 24 September 2013

Making a start

Trying to make something of my Harris sketches whilst the images are still in my head. Perhaps it helps that I'm still up north (in Lochcarron) - feeling I'm still in the right part of the country. Although I'm missing the studio I am managing to work up here.

I started by going through all my sketches and photos, making notes and drawing little thumbnails.

 The view I had sketched most often was the view towards the North Harris Hills from Luskentyre. This was the pastel sketch I had done on our last evening of the holiday.
I had spent a bit of time on it and was not happy at the time, but looking at it again I thought it not bad for colour and composition. So I had a go at it in acrylics and gouache, trying to get that contrast in sea colours between the turquoise and the deep blue-black..

 Then I tried a more ambitious composition; the view towards Lewis from behind Huisnuish.
Here is the sketch I did on the spot

I thought it needed a portrait approach and I started off like this.
Then I worked more into it with the acrylic, added some conte crayon and it ended up like this. I was focusing on the choppy sea in the foreground and that lovely bright beach in the middle-distance.

I wasn't sure that this worked as a composition. Thought it might work better with some land in the foreground, and I thought I could identify some abstract values in the shape of the hills and the foreground rock. So my next version ended up like this.

 I still was not happy with it; maybe it's too overworked? Maybe I should go back to a square format? Anyway, decided to abandon this composition and started on a view of the two beaches, looking north from Seilebost.  Again I started in pencil, gouache and a thin acrylic wash. It had been a blustery day when I took the photo and I wanted to try and convey that.
Actually, I quite liked this effect, and I paused, determined not to spoil it. Then I carried on carefully in acrylic and conte, and it ended up like this.
I think this is finished and I also think this is the best so far. It has a lightness about it that I am always seeking - it's the sort of effect I'd like to achieve again. Whether I'll still like it in a few days time remains to be seen.

Plenty more to be done!

Monday 16 September 2013

A Week Exploring Harris

Just spent a week on Harris. It was really a holiday, but I got some sketching opportunities. This blog is a record of the week.
Day 1 was our best walk of the week. We were staying at Luskentyre and we climbed the hill directly behind the cottage - Beinn Dhubh. It's the highest hill on South Harris and a great viewpoint. Visibility was particularly good - we could see so many of the hills on the mainland stretching from north of An Teallach (couldn't quite decide which hills these were!) down to the Five Sisters at Kintail, and the Cuillins and maybe even Ben More on Mull. We also could see St Kilda...amazing!
I did a quick pastel sketch on the top, trying to capture the light on the water and the feeling of far-awayness.
And on the way down I couldn't resist doing a sketch looking down over the beach at Luskentyre, with the black mound of Chapeval on the right.
Day 2 was spent driving round South Harris, starting with Northton and a walk out to the 'temple' on Chapeval. We could see right down the chain of the Outer Hebrides. I tried a pastel sketch first.
And then a watercolour looking in a slightly different direction from a higher viewpoint. It should have been Peploe-esque....a rather poor effort...

Then it was down to Rodel. A lovely old pier and unusual harbour, but I did find it a bit dark.
The Church at Rodel is lovely, with terrific old carvings, but I had no time to sketch there. We drove on around the east side and resolved to return.
Day 3 was a bit wet, and so we abandoned plans to climb Clisham but still headed for North Harris. I had already done this sketch of the North Harris hills - not really able to fit them all into a pic.
We reached the end of the peninsula at Huishuish - more lovely beaches. We decided to walk out to the end of the point, overlooking the island of Scarp. I kept hoping the cloud would lift, but through the gloom a distan beach shone out in technicolour. I felt I had to try and capture the scene (looking towards Lewis - Scarp is on the left).
There were spectacular cliffs and a raging sea which I attempted to skech, but again was a bit constrained by the size of the sketchbook.

The road to Huisnuish was amazing: we drove through the grounds of a castle and also thought we had seen a couple of eagles just at the side of the road, and we later walked up to the bird hide - a good walk, but no more eagles.
Day 4 dawned with uncertain weather. We headed for Grosebay and the Harris Tweed shop, and then drove south along the bays and inlets. We had thought Mannish looked promising for a bit of an explore, and I wanted to try and get a fairly detailed sketch of the bays. We walked out beyond the village and I thought this place looked good with the peat terraces leading down the hill in the foreground.
Interesting walk with old fish pools, causeways and remains of old graves...plus a dead sheep etc. Back in Mannish there was lots of interest. An old corrugated iron shed
An old boat (not unlike the Dunbar Boat)
Another old shed (possibly a blackhouse in an earlier life?)
Difficult to drag myself away, really.
Day 5 we had a trip to Lewis - Great Bernera on a visit, and we also took in the iron age house at Bostah (absolutely amazing!) and then onto Callanish (a bit disappointing, but still worthwhile). We returned via Stornoway. Too much driving, and driving rain. It would be good to visit Lewis again.
Day 6 I decided to focus on Luskentyre. I had done a couple of evening sketches sitting on the beach. This one looking east in failing light.
And this looking west - no sunset in sight.
And from the window of the cottage I had done this quick watercolour in the early evening
I wanted to get a proper feel of this amazing beach.
And the shoreline
And looking into the sun, with the sparkly sea and shoreline patterns
And watching the clouds build up

And finally the grass above the shore
Not long enough, really but I now have loads of sketches and photos. I'm giving myself 4 weeks to work on these and produce a couple of paintings....and the good thing is I'll be able to keep the dream going (I hope).