Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Some Recent Paintings

Loch Lochy

Sketching has taken a back seat recently ( as has this blog) because work has been very busy. However I have completed a few paintings which I have posted here.
 The weather has been colder this winter than we normally experience on the west coast and there have been  some glorious bright frosty days with the mountains looking very alpine. The ice climbers and skiers have had a very good season. Last Thursday I went up Ben Nevis in beautiful weather, although the top was in cloud .The ruins of the observatory were completely buried and the summit cairn which sits on a rock pedestal about 12 foot high was only just poking out of the surface of the snow.
 I find it far more pleasant climbing the Ben in the snow because my knees get less of a battering on the way down. In fact going down was very quick as I was able to glissade ( ie slide on my bum using an ice axe to control speed) down some sections- great fun but cold when you are wearing shorts! I took lots of photos which I hope to paint  soon. I avoided the last section of the tourist path by taking the path to the right of the Half Way Lochan and down to Torlundy.
Loch Lochy from the A82

Loch Eil from Torlundy.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Snowy Weather

I haven't written a blog post for a few weeks partly due to a lack of material . However I now realise that I have completed quite a few paintings. Here is a selection:
 Below is a picture I painted from a photo taken on a snowy run to Gairlochy and  along the Caledonian canal.We have had more snow this Winter than any other in the six years I've lived on the West coast.
The River at Gairlochy

A few weeks ago we ran out to Invermallie bothy on Loch Arkaig , a large well appointed bothy that I would like to stay in one day . On the way back there was a glorious sunset over the loch.

Sunset at Loch Arkaig

The Blackwater Chelmer Canal
Above is a painting of the canal near my parents home in Essex- one of my favourite running  routes. This reminds me that summer will return!

Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg
Last weekend we had a lot of snow. I climbed Carn Mor Dearg (the first mountain east of Ben Nevis). Once I had left the forest above Torlundy the mist cleared and I was in bright sunshine. A carpet of cloud filled the valley below with an  endless chain of  peaks poking through. The conditions were perfect! I was glad to find that somebody had already blazed the trail as the snow was thigh deep in places.
The above picture is from a photo I took on the way down. The sun was getting low but was illuminating a patch of cloud on top of Ben Nevis and the upper slopes of Carn Mor Dearg;

The River Lochy
Finally another painting of the river at Gairlochy  on another snowy day.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Winter Weather

We have had a good variety of weather over the last week. First there was high winds and rain. I was meant to go to Glen Dessary but the road beside Loch Arkaig was flooded.I tried to get through;driving very slowly and stoppng frequently to measure the depth of the water ahead. However once it started to to get as high as the air intake of the van I gave up and  backed up the single track road to dry land.
Later looking at the manual I read "When driving through water do not stop, do not go in water above the bottom of the body of the van and do not reverse."Fortunately despite doing three things wrong the vehicle appears unscathed. Two days later the weather changed completely and we had a dump of snow. The mountains looked amazing with their white coating and running with soft dry snow underfoot was delightful.
Today it was warmer and so was less pleasant; cold sleety rain rather than snow. It was very slippery as much of the snow had turned to ice. We went for a run on the forest trails under Aonach Mor but eventually retreated to the Pinemarten cafe for a coffee and the above sketch.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Aonach Mor

Two weeks ago we jogged up to the top restaurant on Aonach Mor . I painted the above sketch looking west down the length of Loch Eil.Since then there have been several falls of snow so the view would now be much more wintry.
Above is a quick pencil sketch of Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg on a rare clear day.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Autumn Sunrise

The weather over the last few weeks has been very wet but recently rather than monotonous  continual drizzle we have had sharp sudden showers interspersed with dramatic skies - big dark centred clouds and splashes of blue sky.On the hills the grasses and  bracken have turned to beautiful red russet tones;Autumn seems to have come on very suddenly.
However this week we had two days - yes two whole days without rain. Monday was a spectacular day; I left home before 6 am to run to work. Passing through fields in total darkness the gates glittered with frost in the beam of my head torch and the frozen grass crunched under my feet..Above there were a few stars visible. It was the first really frosty morning since the Spring.
 Recently most of my running commute has been in the dark but on Monday due to the change in the clocks there was soon a glimmer of dawn in the East. This developed until the underside of a bank of cloud was illuminated a gorgeous salmon pink by the first rays of the sun . As I ran past Nevis Range and on towards Torlundy the cloud cleared though squally showers could be seen beyond the mountains. The colours brightened and brightened until Ben  Nevis was silhouetted against a brilliant yellow and orange sky fading to blue /purple clouds to the South. It really did look as if the sky was on fire. The summit of the Ben was wreathed in pink tinged clouds.I took lots of photographs and  nearly collided with a cyclist as I couldn't take my eyes off the heavens.
 Within an hour of these pyrotechnics the sky had returned to its normal gun metal gray.
Ben Nevis- painted from a photo taken from Torlundy on Monday

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Small Paintings

Today I've been painting some small ( 14cm x 9cm) pictures for sale at The Gallery In The Fort; a small gallery in town. Here is a selection.
Loch Arkaig

Loch Lochy

The North Face of Ben Nevis
Loch Linnhe
The loch pictures are all similar in composition but the fun bit is painting the skies and  the reflections in the water. Painting small pictures allows some experimentation with techniques without the risk of ruining a large painting .

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Visit to Kinbreak Bothy

I was recently given a copy of The Scottish Bothy Bible by Geoff Allan.
It is a lovely book lavishly illustrated with photographs of the hills and the bothies. I realised that despite having lived in Lochaber for 5 years I haven't stayed in many of the local bothies. Seeking to remedy this I went to Kinbreak bothy in Glenkingie last weekend.
 I got Helen to drop me off at Glenfinnan .I took the track north under the viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter movie and on to Glenfinnan Lodge.Beyond there the path climbs to col and then descends into Gleann Cuirnean. It was very dramatic landscape although low cloud mist and rain obscured most of it.The stags were rutting; their loud bellowing adding to the gothic atmosphere.
Looking from the col into Gleann Cuirnean

.Lower down the path became boggy and narrow. There were some beautiful waterfalls. Finally I was sloshing through the swamp in Glendessary , I spotted two wild boar but they were quite small and ran away squealing.  Next I took the steep path over to Glenkingie, It started off as a good track but soon became very boggy. Several times I went in up to my hips. I was was quite relieved when I finally spotted the red roof of the Kinbreak bothy. There was once a house  at Kinbreak which was inhabited until the 1940's by the local shepherd, however it is now a ruin and  only the byre remains.
The ground floor of the bothy is very basic with a cobbled floor and stone walls but the loft has been made into a snug living space . There are a couple of settles a fireplace and a table .
I set up my little wood stove in the fire place and brewed a mug of tea with a few bits of wood  I had carried in. After eating I drank some whisky  then went to bed feeling well satisfied with my day.The bothy book had several references to Larry the bothy mouse. I heard him in the night scampering  here and  there but it was too dark to see what he was up to.
I rose early and was away by 6.30 .Crossing the burn by the bothy in the dark was tricky as it was swollen by all the recent rain.I trudged back over the hill and  through the bogs and was in Glendessary by 8am . I then had a long trek along the road beside Loch Arkaig.The road was initially a relief after the bogs but soon I was wishing for an end to the tarmac. The morning started wet and windy but later the weather cleared and there were brief periods of sunshine.The loch was glorious with the autumn colours starting  to show on the hills and the water reflecting  the blue sky.
Loch Arkaig is very long but eventually I reached its head and  went through  the dark mile to Clunes.(The dark mile is stretch of road hemmed in by the hills creating a damp, dark and mossy place) .At Clunes I managed to get a phone signal so phoned Helen for a lift home. I could have jogged the remaining  7 miles but was a bit weary of the road.
I really enjoyed staying at Kinbreak and am inspired to visit more local bothies.

Loch Arkaig Looking West