Isle of Lewis and Harris touring residency 2022

Our first day took us right down to Rodel , South Harris from where we travelled east along the Golden road and back to Horgabost on the west coast for the night. I was looking forward to taking roads we had not yet travelled and i was not disappointed . In contrast to the vast sands and open spaces on the west coast the eastside gave us  low lying rocky outcrops ,tidal inlets and bays , sheltered by the minch and with an outlookout across the water to the Isle of Skye , the landscape offered something new around every turn but it was the shape of the rocks on the west side coast when we ruturned to Horgabost that caught my full attention , here i got to try out my new sketchbooks for the first time and was delighted later on that evening to discover  some orangey/yellow pigment in the bare ground at the roadside just alongside our stop for the night ,  collected labelled and ready to be made into paint , you will see it featured in one of my Harris inspired paintings later in the project.

How could i visit Harris for inspiration without spending some time at Luskentyre sands . The colours here are incredible so too are the patterns made naturally in the sand , glistening streams and pools , turquoise seas and surrounding  salt marches , all sounds unbelievable right ? , overwhelmingly beautiful and a real challenge to represent artistically i did my best to sketch out some ideas before we took to the road and headed back past Tarbet and onto the island of Scalpay. The drive to the Scalpay bridge took us through some impressive mountain scenery , the suprise came as soon as we landed on the island because Scalpay has a style all of it's own . My first impression was of cosy harbour villages , smugglers coves , flowers , ferns , gardens and personality , quite a contrast to much of the main islands style. I liked it there and i spent some time sketching and enjoying the sunshine overlooking one of the many working harbours before we travelled on to find our spot in the mountains to camp down for the night , onwards towards north Harris tomorrow

Heading into north Harris today we travelled my favourite section of road , winding steeply down the mountainside overlooking seaforth Island and dropping into the river Sgaladail valley , its a fairground ride with an unbeatable view i was too busy oogling to capture in sketch but loch Seaforth offers many an opportunity for the artist and i caught a classic view from a convinient view point further down the route. Our next stop was Aline community woodland where we took to the walking paths to soak up the atmosphere . The restortive action of spending time in the woods is undeniable and i searched here for a view to use in one of my project paintings to celebrate this glorious area of the island. We were pleased to find the woods brimming with several varieties of mushrooms and i found myself sketching the river Ruadh as it carved a rocky path between the pines. Here i spotted and collected some gorgeous orange pigment now labelled and ready for paint making .Walking onwards towards the tree lined loch i found the view i had been searching for , and it was a good job i captured it there and then because the following morning a blanket of mist lay heavily over  forest completely wiping out the view. 

Our day began in Aline woodlands Harris where we were shrouded in mist and unable to see much beyond our feet so we made a decision to head home to Bernera , refresh supplies and cross our fingers that the weather would improve ... and it did so off we went again. That afternoon we headed across to Uig as far south as the road will take you to our favourite place so far Mealista. Spending the afternoon here foraging the vast pebbled beach i found three different soft stone pigments to use for paint making , what a find that made my day. I took the chance to sketch the view across the water to the mountains of Harris ,  Scarp and Mealista island ,enjoying the now sunny weather and pinching myself that this was now my job. I find myself at great peace here , maybe it's the remoteness or the outlook  across the wild Atlantic, roaring and agitated yet guarded by the towering mountains to the east i don't know ? but we have enjoyed time here before and i know we will be back. We spent the night camped at the seashore and were treated to a stunning sunset that evening. Packed up and heading back north we stopped off at Mangersta beach ,strewn with half burried washed in logs, we found a rocky cove benig beaten by the crashing tide. the shape of the rocks here intrested me and i made some sketches for refrence. We took a tip off from a neighbour as we went on our way and followed a road less travelled to the most impressive of Uigs lochs , flanked on three sides by towering craggy mountains , in places the water was almost black with shade , i had to sketch this it was a magical place to see. Our last stop that day was cliff , where we parked above the beach and i took the chance to sketch the impressive rocks that make up the gently curving cove. 

We began the northern part of the tour in stornoway where , inspired by the wonderful work i had seen in an exhibition by the painter Donald Smith i headed over to the harbour side of town to capture it's distinguishing colours , buildings and shapes before turning my attention to the shining boats and crossing lines of the full and bustling harbours pontoons.   Already seeing the makings of a vibrant , busy painting to represent the towns eclectic mix of buildings, styles and fishing heritage i made some sketches to refrence  my ideas for future use in the studio . From here we headed east out to the village of Holm where the end of the road brings you to not one but two bays each different from the other. One bay is a sandy crescent with a small harbour and relitavly large pier at it's end , the other is strewn with a sweet shop of multicolured pebbles and hosts a beautiful view between turf topped cliffs of outlaying islands and the distant north edge of the isle of Skye. I worked quickly on capturing the shape of the land and darkened silhouettes that sit powerful and sturdy along the horizon and had just found a brilliant cache of pigment in the bare cliff edge when a rain shower threatened to spoil all my efforts. It seemed i had got away lightly because behind us as we headed toward the braighe was the most impressive of storm clouds hanging menacingly low over the north end of Tolsta . We stopped at braighe beach where i took the chance to make a few sketches of the scene developing across the water , it seemed the only place to have dodged the storm was Tolsta head which jutted out from behind the dark mass. Unlucky for us Tolsta was right where we were heading next and the journey to our  destination was a wet and dismal one.

Tolsta today , we headed north with a huge storm cloud overhead that burst just as we arrived at the impressive sea stacks and sandy white bay of Garry beach , some rushed and dampened sketches later i sought shelter inside the van and after enjoying a warm cup of tea we headed a little further  up the road to the suprising and pituresque Garry bridge . Also known as 'the bridge to nowhere ' the bridge built by Lord leverhulme as part of a plan to build a new road to connect this part of the island to the Butt of lewis was never completed and only parts of the route and the concrete bridge suspended above the lush and  tumbling  valley gorge remains. I love it because out here amidst the natural  uninhabited landscape the bridge seems completely out of place and is a totally unexpected find. The shape of the bridge itself is rather beautiful and i find myself in deep appreciation of the micro-climate it's presence here has made , allowing for a multitude of lush plants , ferns and trees to inhabit the craggy vally sides , the scene is truley reminicent of the gardens of stornoway castle itself. From here we made the journey west across Barvas moor which by now is begining to lose the fresh green colours and purple swayths of heather we saw just weeks ago in favour of an autumnal burnished glow . Travelling along the west edge of the island our next destination is port of Ness . A village centered around it's working harbour , with a stunning stretch of beach to it's right side port of Ness is packed with all the charm you would hope to find in a location such as this. It appears there are three parts to the harbour contruction , each in it's own state of disrepair and each offering something visually different from the other there is plenty here for an artist to be inspired by. I took my opportunity to make a few sketches and found captuing  the many different angles of the harbour walls quite challenging to represent but despite this i am fairy certain i will be looking to this place as the muse for one of my exhibition paintings. I was pleased to discover some orange pigment in a section of bare bank too that i could use for making my 'made from Ness oil paint '.

Wow , we spent the night at Eoropie beach and what a beautiful sunset . Once we had made our way through the vast and undulating sand dunes we were met by a long stretch of pristine coast with a bank of full and dramatic clouds hanging lazily across the horizon , each perfect detail  reflected back in the glossy wet sand and interupted only by the crashing of the waves onto the shore . To one end of the beach a rocky outcrop with an almost square hole carved right through it by the never ceasing crashing of the tide , to the other i found a bare cliff edge that hosted the most varied and plentiful cache of pigments i have found in a single area yet , i was thrilled . Onward the next day we paid a visit to the Trussel stone , the largest single standing stone in Scotland , the mighty stone stands six meters in height and at two meters wide it is a fantastic sight . Pertched on the hill overlooking the coast and said by the locals to mark a battle site there is little more known of the history of the giant stone but as one of the islands many mysterious megalith's and with towering presence i would recomend that it is well worth a look and if you want a hug , i did and on a four degree September morning , that big old stone was suprisingly warm ? . Our next stop was at Loch Shawbost bay , another suprise the bay was as stunning as it was unusual and  i can best describe it as having three distinct sections. There was a large loch to the south from which ran a stream that tumbled under a little stone road bridge and onto a rocky area of the right hand shoreline , then a large barricade area of sand dune that stretched across the lochs length separating it from a gently curving white sanded bay to the left . I loved it here , there was so much to see i realy didn't know where to begin sketching first. here in the cliff i found more pigment and this time i got some sizable peices , very satisfied we packed up to move onto our last destination for the day Dalbeg beach . A small bay where the tide came crashing in with gusto,  the cliffs here are carved with creveises , some now just stacks left surrounded by the water there was somthing romantic  about it's craggy coves that was reminicent of a good pirate story. The cliffs here were very wet but i did extract some iron based earth i hope to be able to dry out for use as pigment.