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Busman’s holiday

Hello everyone,

This time I’m writing from very warm and sunny Sri Lanka, where I have to come to recheck accommodation and arrangements for my up and coming ‘Vistas’ Sketching Holidays.

Yes! The website is now written, made and live, and you can see it here: www.sketchingholidays.co.uk
I do hope to see some of you joining me on these fantastic trips soon. I’m so excited to finally have the site up and running and to begin this new chapter in my working life!

Since my last update I have continued to work at Highland Stoneware in Lochinver, a job I have thoroughly enjoyed, and which I will be continuing when I return to the Scotland in February.

A few days ago I was in Madaba in Jordan, known as the ‘City of Mosaics’. I couldn’t resist checking out the ancient and new mosaic art there, as well as visiting one of the workshops, learning that they use a completely different technique than we have been using at Highland Stoneware. The style is also very different of course, with some works taking months and months of painstaking labour; every piece of stone is tiny and the overall surface very smooth and even. On returning to the Highlands I have a large mosaic project to complete in Ullapool, so I’m hoping that by February the weather will be suitable to get started on that…..using our own, somewhat quicker and quirkier methods!

While in Jordan I also noticed some very nice traditional silver jewellery. Not as easy to source as in Morocco (in Jordan as in much of the Middle East they tend to favour gold) and not always of the quality and type I look for, but what I did find was at a very attractive price. The rugs are also very beautiful; they are similar to Moroccan kilims although the patterns actually reminded me more of Mexican Oaxaca rugs which I am a big fan of. I did not purchase any rugs on this visit but if anyone has a genuine interest in either these or the silver jewellery from Jordan, give me a shout as I would be very happy for an excuse to visit that beautiful country again. In fact I am considering adding Wadi Rum to my Sketching Holiday portfolio although I would need to do a lot more research first. As always, please register your interest!

On my return I have 3 large pastel landscape commissions to do, then I will be painting a few stock items for the Lochinver Landscape gallery. After that I will be available for commission.

Meanwhile please enjoy looking at my new site www.sketchingholidays.co.uk and e-mail me all your queries!

Pottering, potting and pots

IMG_20150613_182945Although we are now a couple of weeks past the summer solstice, you wouldn’t know it, as we in the ‘Frozen North’ are still waiting for good weather. As I write the mountains of Suilven and Canisp are still under their duvets and look as if they will stay there all day. The strong winds which destroyed the delphiniums on Saturday (which, along with everything else in the garden, were very late on parade) has subsided but those of us who like to spend time outside, and who are trying to look after a garden as part of their living, are somewhat impatient.

I have known ‘summers’ like this before, however, and later on in the year we are sure to have the last laugh.
It’s still a beautiful place and I am lucky enough to have satisfying creative work inside as I explore the new and challenging skill of painting pottery using glazes.
Although we use watercolour brushes, that is where the similarity ends! The colours look entirely different once they are fired so at first it is like painting in the dark. Once used to that, it is then a matter of getting the consistency exactly right. Too much water and the colours will appear washed-out. Too little and the effects can be disasterous! But I am never one to shy from a challenge and along with some terrible results I have had some successes. When it works, this medium is truly stunning and I feel priviledged to be a part of this great local business.
As I wait for the chance to relocate, the Sketching Holidays website is being produced. I am excited to be able to announce departures to Italy, Morocco, Sri Lanka and to this beautiful part of Scotland. While we are waiting for the website to become ‘live’ you can contact me for details. Beginners very welcome!

Spring in Sussex

2015-01-29 17.50.09Since my last update, the winter months have seen me trundling around the UK visiting some old haunts as well as some old friends, pursuing a variety of short-term solutions to what is luckily a temporary problem, which has seen my globe-trotting wings clipped and creative juices somewhat stifled.

I managed a short visit to friends and family in Morocco in October, reminding myself once again what a fantastic painting environment the country provides, spurring me on to finalise my Painting Holidays portfolio. Better late than never, the website is in the first stages of construction as we speak.
A brief but very enjoyable spell in the Lake District early in 2015 has made me wonder about the sketching possibilities there also. It is, of course,  immersion in unspeakable beauty, although the area does suffer from unpredictable weather, probably even more so than NW Scotland and is also so much busier. That said, it is very accessible from most parts of the UK so any feedback – enthusiastic or otherwise – on this as a Sketching Holiday destination would be greatly appreciated.
As always, if anyone has a particular destination in mind (anywhere in the world) which they are desperate to explore and paint, I am open to suggestions and ready to discuss and organise customised trips.
Now as the sun has reappeared over the horizon in the northern hemisphere I am preparing to return to my default summer location of Lochinver, where I’ll be doing some pottery decorating at Highland Stoneware along with some gardening; probably more mosaics if I’m lucky, and of course, keeping the gallery topped up.
Meanwhile I am enjoying some line-and-wash work of my friends’ childrens’ pets!


September 2014

So suddenly the summer of 2014, which has been a relatively dry and often hot one, is hurtling to a close. The bracken is golden amongst the purple heather and the trees are slowly, if reluctantly, beginning to develop the odd yellow leaf. It is by no means autumn yet though, and chanterelles continue to sprout forth under the birches as they have since June, in what must be one of their longest seasons ever!

As for me, I have become hooked on the art (which perhaps has a little science thrown in) of mosaic-making. What started as a few test circles on flower planters progressed through the huge ‘seascape’-themed vase back onto circles, this time on the main wall leading to the Highland Stoneware showroom. here in Lochinver.

I can’t think of anything nicer on a hot summer’s day than standing a stone’s throw from our otter-infested bay doing giant jigsaws of my own creation, using the most delicious pieces of broken crockery, breathing new life into them and feeling satisfaction and pride as the visitors take photographs of them all.
If I could make a full-time career of this I surely would, although as the days become cooler my thoughts are turning to warmer climes once again and it’s time to focus more intensely on my Painting Holidays Abroad project, which I hoped to have started by this October.
Alas still no completed website, although anyone interested in sketching trips to Sri Lanka or Morocco should contact me as there may well be groups going this winter.

While I plan to leave Lochinver and the UK by the middle of November, I will be returning regularly enough to ensure the Lochinver Landscapes gallery always has a selection of my work
Meanwhile, as always, I can be contacted (and commissioned) here.

Back for the summer!

Hello everyone,

Greetings from damp, misty Lochinver where I have been rained off for the day.

I arrived back on the West coast at the beginning of March, and it was rather a shock to the system. A winter on the beautiful island of Langkawi (Malaysia) and a plan to return ‘home’ for a month or so in April just as Spring should be arriving was rudely curtailed by the premature departure of my tenant, and the subsequent decision to put my Lochinver flat on the market.

I was as lucky as ever, though, to land some of the most enjoyable work I’ve ever had: challenging, creative and fun, I’ve spent the last few weeks learning the art (and science!) of mosaics. Even better, the raw materials are the delicious, yet broken (or unsaleable) pieces of colourful, decorated ceramics from Highland Stoneware.

Not only do I get to spend a lot of time ogling all the beautiful pots, but I get to smash them up and play with them as well. A bit of a shame, admittedly, but they look great in mosaic form too, and I’ve been practicing on the cement plant tubs on the road leading to the showroom, in which I have also been trying to grow some flowers, ready for the coming tourist season.

Sadly, the deer come and decimate the flowers, but so far have not attempted to eat my mosaics!

After my trip to Morocco in October, I spent a month on tiny Lembongan Island off Bali, with the intention of finalising and writing up the website for my forthcoming Painting Holiday programme (www.paintingholidaysabroad.co.uk). I did indeed manage to do a lot of the work on this but also found myself painting a bright, fishy mural on the side of a swimming pool… yet another new, fun skill which I hope to use again. This time the complaint was that it was sometimes TOO hot, and lying on the concrete to paint could only be done with the aid of a yoga mat… apologies to Yoga Shack, Lembongan for the paint spillages on your mats!

From Bali to Langkawi, where I spent my time sketching with my new love – watercolour – as well as my old favourite inks; doing a spot of gardening; looking after chickens, cats and dogs; cooking in a vegan lunch cafe and best of all, on a luxury yacht charter sailing the stunning, island-dotted waters around Langkawi, which is very close to the Thai border.

The turquoise waters and jungle-clad, limestone outcrops with deserted, pale sand beaches provided an endless inspiration and I always took my sketchbook onto the boat with me, whether or not I got the chance to use it.

I met some wonderful people while I was in this fabulous place and I plan to return again as soon as I can… I am seriously considering adding it to my Painting Holiday destination portfolio despite the rather long flight time from Europe. It’s a popular destination for Australians!

Now back in Scotland and I am, of course, restocking the gallery  ‘Lochinver Landscapes’ with some new work, which will be ongoing until the end of the summer.

There have been a steady stream of visitors to Lochinver and into the gallery and we are hoping for a busy summer season, as well as a dry one.

If anyone is in the area during the next few months and would like a chat about any of my work or projects, do get in touch. Or look out for me lying on my belly with a piece of broken crockery in my hand and a puzzled expression on my face!

Welcome aboard…

Dear all…thank you for your interest in my website.

I’m here to give everyone news of where I am and what I’m doing as it has been quite some time since I was in familiar surroundings and my usual ‘habitat’ of Coigach/Assynt and Picture Shack!

I have just returned from a trip to Morocco after a 5 year absence. During my time there, apart from catching up with family and friends, revisiting all my old haunts and wallowing in the sometimes overpoweringly familiar sensations and memories, I was able to recheck my favourite painting spots and accommodations in order to restart my painting holidays there, so watch this space!

After leaving Picture Shack 2 summers ago and handing over the gallery premises to John, under the new name of Lochinver Landscapes, Picture Shack (as it was) has gone into hibernation once more, allowing me the freedom to concentrate on other ventures such as the painting holidays, teaching and more travel, which I always crave. My paintings are still on sale in Lochinver Landscapes alongside John’s photos and also displayed virtually and sold online via www.pictureshack.co.uk (or use the link on this site).

Finally breaking free from Lochinver and its undeniably strong pull, I spent winter 2012-13 in sweltering, intoxicating Sri Lanka where I researched and designed 2 painting holidays, soon to appear on my website www.paintingholidaysabroad.co.uk. The holidays just need a few final tweaks so once again, watch this space!

I would have dearly loved to remain in Sri Lanka as it’s a very special place; very healing, comforting and inspiring, not to mention the smiling faces, gorgeous beaches and delicious food! Alas it is not as simple as I might have hoped and instead I ended up in an equally stunning location, totally different but no less fabulous: the Italian Dolomites.


Teaching watercolours to groups and individuals on holiday with Colletts’ Mountain Holidays (www.collettsmountainholidays.co.uk) … while learning a lot myself, too, as watercolour has not been my usual medium … I was able to spend every day outside in a beautiful mountain environment, mostly in perfect sunshine, although with the odd snowstorm thrown in! In addition I have a new love in my life as I discovered the sensuality and versatility of watercolours, taking my own work in a new direction.

I also managed a lot of wonderful walks including a couple of the famous ‘via ferratas’ (high level, protected paths where you need to clip yourself onto a cable) and have returned fitter than I have been for ages. Now I just need to keep it up during the next phase of my life’s journey, which will include Malaysia and Bali.

I plan to be in Asia for the whole of the European winter, although life can take unexpected turns and I have no fixed plans at this stage. I aim to provide updates here when I can but in the meantime if anyone would like to contact me about any of my businesses or just to say hi, please feel free to drop me a line.

Wishing everyone a wonderful winter!