Hot, cold, dry & fresh!

Spring arrived early this year. March in the western Highlands is usually a lacklustre, grey-brown month with weak light and too much cold dampness to think about sketching outside. If I’m not overseas in Morocco or La Gomera with a painting group I’m normally up in my attic studio looking for inspiration or hand-painting ceramics indoors at Highland Stoneware.

Suddenly, though, in the middle of the month the sun came out warm as summer and we were caught on the hop. It felt so right but was clearly so wrong… as we were, so believe it as now the icy rain has returned with a vengeance, but at least we had a welcome reminding glimpse of what is (hopefully) on its way.

Despite my vow to keep my backpack ready at all times, complete with a sketchbook – one that isn’t already full – and watercolours, brushes and pens, water container, kitchen paper, packable waterproof and emergency snack bar, somehow it had become mysteriously depleted over the winter. As I set off for my first proper walk of the year I grabbed it without checking it; in any case I didn’t imagine I’d have the chance to do any painting. I was just happy to be out.

The day became warmer, however and on my way home I couldn’t resist a quick capture of Canisp peeping above the dried-out hillside, a thin ribbon of water weaving its way towards the loch beside the local primary school. (I defy any school building to have such a picture-perfect location.) I grabbed my pen, but it, too, was dried out. No problem, I seemed to have four others. Unfortunately, they were all empty! Now I was uncomfortable, having to break my worsening habit of relying too heavily on the pen, and going straight in with the colour. The wind, although not strong, was surprisingly drying and it reminded me of being in the desert! There was nothing for it but to throw the colours at the page and let them be.

It’s not my finest effort but it was done with joy – the first outdoor sketch of 2022. I’m looking forward to many more so watch this space!