This year, I decided it was high time I got back into painting, after a hiatus of nearly two years writing and self-publishing my autobiography on Amazon (a steep learning curve!), then formatting and publishing the old handwritten diaries of my great-great grandmother and great grandmother (which my father transcribed), and, for the first six months of this year, making and editing an audio recording of my autobiography.
A few months ago, I discovered the work of David Deamer, a plein-air painter who lives on Skye, and took the bold step of contacting him to ask if I could come and paint alongside him for a day or two. David kindly agreed, and I booked a B&B on Skye, dusted down my easel and paintbrushes, and drove up there one sunny September day.
Our first painting location was the Sligachan Bridge (pronounced Schlee-gachan). David painted the bridge and the river, with the Sligachan Hotel in the background, while I had a go at the magnificent view of the Cuillins with the Sligachan river in the foreground.
I came prepared with a midge net and midge repellant lotion, but to my surprise and relief, the midges had packed their bags and gone on holiday! (Last time Norma and I holidayed on Skye nearly 30 years ago, those ferocious creatures ate us alive, which is why we never went back!)
It seemed as if David had finished his painting before I got all my paints squeezed out on the palette. He goes out painting regularly, and has developed an economy of technique and an envious ability to ignore the curiosity of the tourists who come to watch him paint. (I find their attentions quite distracting. Either concentrate on the painting, or answer the questions! Next time I think I’ll take a pair of headphones and pretend I’m deaf). David went home while I stayed on to paint a watercolour of the bridge.
The above painting is currently available to purchase on eBay via For Sale Page (If it’s still live it’s still available!)
Next day, David suggested painting at the Quiraing (pronounced Kwirr-ang) an amazing mountain range at the North end of Skye.
He graciously agreed to let me shadow him as he worked, allowing me to practice the adage one of our art teaching lecturers drummed into us many years ago: “Most learning takes place by copying”. Again, David was finished before I was, so I decided to complete mine when I got home. I’m still not happy with the result and will probably come back to it later, when I can view it with a fresh eye.
Next day, David had other things to attend to, so I betook myself to an old harbour at a place called Meanish, to start a painting of the old herring curing building. I wasn’t happy with the final result, so I painted a fresh ground over it and put it down to experience.
It was there I met Liam and Wendy, two intrepid adventurers from Australia who were wild camping on the beach. They had ordered a fresh lobster to be cooked by one of the fishing boat crew and invited me to taste it! I wasn’t sure if I’d like it but found it wasn’t too bad. Not something I’d order off a menu though!
It was great to get out painting ‘on the spot’ (as James Fletcher-Watson used to say), and I’m relishing the prospect of further developing my technique by more regular forays into the beautiful Scottish landscape. I feel I’m on the brink of a breakthrough in the way I use paint. The aim is a looser, more atmospheric and impressionist interpretation of the subject, something that all the painters whose work I admire (Claude Monet, John Cunningham, Ken Howard, Jim McVicker, to name a few) make look effortless – but in reality only achieved after many ‘flying hours’ in front of their muse.