Painting of Rathillet Cottages

Cottages at Rathillet, Fife

Fresh off the easel today is this wee painting of the hamlet of Rathillet, just beside the A92 in Fife. I really enjoyed working on this and even managed to remember to shoot some video of the event!

I travelled this road nearly every day for 16 years and always promised myself I would come and paint this scene one day. I think it’s the juxtaposition of the row of pan-tiled, red roofed cottages with the stately tree beside the road and the gorse covered hill in the background that excited my artistic senses. The gorse is a spectacular golden orangey colour at this time of year, which contrasts beautifully with the blue sky. Just wish I was more accomplished…but I’m working on that!

Rathillet was the home of Covenanter David Hackston who was hung drawn and quartered at Edinburgh in 1680 for his part in the Covenanting struggle to win religious freedom in Scotland. The story of the Scottish Covenanters needs to be understood against the backdrop of Reformation history, during a time of great religious and civil upheaval throughout Britain and Europe. A minority of the Covenanters, including Hackston, took up arms in response to the brutal oppression of Charles the second who wanted to reintroduce the idea that the King had a “Divine right” to rule both church and state. The Covenanters believed that God, not the king, had the sole authority in the church and that the Bible, the Word of God was the sole authority in spiritual and religious matters.

In 1662 over 300 Protestant ministers were evicted from their parishes and many of their congregations followed them into the fields where they preached at “Conventicles” in the open air, all over Scotland. In 1663 the government attempted to restrict people’s freedom to attend these conventicles and so the persecution of those who opposed the state on grounds of conscience began.

Hackston’s brutal execution is recorded in all its savagery in the old legal records. Scottish poet Henry Inglis wrote of the shocking event:

They hewed Rathillet limb from limb, and as each fragment fell 

Shorn from the bruised and quivering trunk, these ministers of hell 

Howled round about him like a pack of fiendish hounds at bay, 

Upon the watch to whet their fangs in some incarnate prey : 

One agony of death they deemed too great a boon to give; 

And twice from off the cursed tree 

With all a tiger’s clemency 

They set the writhing carcass free 

And brought it back to live.

They were Christians and they cut the heart from out the living man, 

And waved it as a flag is waved upon the battle’s van ; 

And burned it as a beast is burned some idol to appease, 

And cast the human ashes round like incense on the breeze : 

And they did it in the name of God ! Where were His lightnings then, 

That came not with consuming fire 

To light the everlasting pyre 

For these blaspheming men ? 

Look round on Scotland’s ruined fanes on shattered arch and wall, 

On roofless aisle and broken font on column, tomb, and stall 

Laid waste within the sunniest spots of this our happy land 

As waste as lieth Nineveh upon the desert strand, 

The lightning of a nation’s wrath has smote them with decay : 

The Faith their reeking altars fed 

With life-blood of -the saints, is fled; 

In Heaven the martyrs have their bed 

The Covenant lives for Aye.

Today, religious freedom is under renewed assault and true disciples of Christ must once again be prepared to suffer and even lay down their lives for the noble cause of religious tolerance, freedom of conscience and the right to worship and serve God according to one’s convictions.

pillars of hercules painting

Pillars of Hercules

Painted this the other day. Oil on 10″ x 8″ canvas covered board. A lovely spring day albeit still a bit cold out of the sun. This May has been one of the coldest I remember – more like March or April weather. Anyway, “The Pillars of Hercules” Organic Farm Shop and Cafe – the subject of this painting – is a well known local rendezvous where you can get a delicious morning coffee or lunch. Many folks walk from The Falkland Estate through the woods, stop here for a rest and a bite to eat and then walk back. Falkland Estate is a great place to refresh the spirit and “recharge the batteries”.  Norma and I once had a delicious plate of “Borsch” (Beetroot Soup) at the Pillars; we’ve been back a few times but have never seen it on the menu since! (P.S. the village of Falkland is one of Fife’s hidden treasures with its ancient Palace, now administered by the National Trust for Scotland, erstwhile home of the Stuart kings, notably James V, father of Mary Queen of Scots, who died at Falkland Palace and on hearing of her birth six days before his death, is reported to have said “”it came wi a lass and it will gang wi a lass”, predicting the demise of the Stuart dynasty).

I have tried to capture the freshness of the spring sunshine through the trees which are just beginning to burst into leaf. I feel as if I’m on a journey of rediscovery of my artistic development. A journey that’s challenging yet rewarding. Challenging because I am painfully aware of the distance I still have to travel before I reach the standards of skill that I’m aiming for, and rewarding in so many ways, especially in the rediscovery of the sheer pleasure and satisfaction of working direct from the motif “en Plein Air”. There really is very little to compare with a painting session in a quiet corner of the countryside, interacting with a subject that gets the artistic juices flowing. I feel very privileged to be able to do this even though I still have a long way to go in the development of my technique.

a Note about the unusual name on THE SOIL ASSOCIATION WEBSITE says:
“Why ‘Pillars of Hercules’  
The name goes back a long time. It seems to refer to stones that were next to the house where they used to rest coffins on the way up to an old burial ground at Kilgour Farm further up the road. According to Greek mythology, the Pillars of Hercules were the limits of the known world. This could explain why the farm’s salads are described as being ‘out of this world’.”                                                          
and It’s also the name of a pub in london!
photo of tree painting

Country lane, near Charlottetown, Fife

Managed to get out and do a bit of painting today. At last!

I had in mind to paint one of the farm buildings near this lane but came across this rustic corner and decided to paint it instead! It was a beautiful day, sunny, birds singing, so peaceful – until out of the blue came an RAF jet screaming past directly overhead. Thankfully it was gone just about as soon as it appeared! This was my first painting excursion outdoors this year, so it was good to get started again and be reminded of how much I enjoy painting “on the spot”.


Cottage, Isle of Lewis

Cottage, Isle of Lewis

I saw this cottage when Norma and I were on holiday in the Outer Hebrides a few years ago. The rusty red corrugated iron roof on the shed caught my eye, as did the light glinting off the dry-stane dykes. The washing flapping in the breeze tells us that this was “a good drying day!” Fortunately the weather was kind to us and we have very happy memories of our stay in the hamlet of Ness, away up on the Northernmost tip of Lewis. The people are so friendly and the landscape is quite unique. Well worth the ferry trips necessary in order to get there!

big cat-x00

My Social Media Dilemma

I was about to paste the previous post to this one as a url link on my Facebook page to let folks have a look at my latest paintings. However, since I had just listed two paintings as an experiment on eBay, I then thought, “I’ll just double check whether eBay have any advice about sharing listings on Facebook”. To my consternation, I discovered that eBay have a somewhat confusing and also rather intimidating policy on sharing auction listing links on any social media sites. I reluctantly decided to stay within what at first sight seemed to me to be an excessive and obstructive rule.

Apparently, you can only share a link to a “Fixed Price/Buy it Now” listing, because if you dare to share an auction listing on FB, you will then according to eBay, have to block all your friends on Facebook from bidding – otherwise you will be deemed guilty of the very serious crime of “Shill Bidding” and could be struck off eBay! (“Oh, Help M’Boab!”) For a start, I wouldn’t even know where to begin blocking my Facebook friends from bidding on my eBay listings!

The reason eBay give for this *apparently* draconian policy, is that one’s FB friends could get an unfair advantage over eBayers who are not on one’s friends list and would thereby lose out because they didn’t see your FB post. All terribly fair and proper I must say.

Sadly then, I have had to conclude that discretion is the better part of valour. I certainly do not wish either myself or my friends to be found guilty – even inadvertently – of breaking eBay’s rules and I certainly do not want to incur the wrath of the dreaded eBay Police!!

So, here’s my dilemma – unless I only list my paintings on eBay as a static and boring “Fixed Price/Buy it Now” listing, instead of an exciting “Auction” listing – (or alternatively, sell them in a completely different marketplace) – then I’m not allowed to use social media to promote my work.

I just hope none of my Facebook friends like my paintings enough to place a bid… Yikes!! Cold shivers going down my spine at the very thought!

P.S. On a serious note, I would never ever condone Shill Bidding and would be as anxious as eBay is to prevent it. It’s just really annoying that the crooks have spoiled things for the majority of us honest folks, most of whom had never heard of Shill Bidding let alone entertained the idea of trying to cheat the system for dishonest gain.
Still life with casserole dish and jugx00
“Still Life with Casserole and Milk Jug” Oil on gesso primed board, 6″ X 6″