Drawing Adventure: The Isle of Skye

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Gosh, so it’s been a little while since I posted (okay half a year!)…but rather than bore you with excuses and apologies, i’d like to share photos, sketches and a few tales from my trip to the Isle of Skye last Summer.

My trip to the Shetland Islands a few years back got me hooked on sweeping Scottish landscapes, remote cliffs and ancient, rugged coastline…I wanted more and decided to make Skye the next destination on my Scottish bucket list. So after a spot of planning, my boyfriend and I picked up our hire car in Edinburgh and set off for a week of adventure…

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The Fairy Pools

For the first part of the trip we’d hired a cottage in Elgol on the more southerly part of the Isle. It was a traditional crofter’s house with a thatched roof, thick stone walls and a wood burning stove – not that we needed it…our trip had luckily co-incided with freakishly hot Summer weather! We decided to take advantage of this and seek out the Fairy Pools.

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The pools are located beneath the Black Cuillin Mountain range. The water flows down through the valley forming a variety of pools that make for a nice walk and a good wild dip! They were quite busy when we visited due to the heat, but we were determined to find our own pool to swim in. After a bit of wading and shimmying around boulders, we discovered the perfect spot. A high walled, deep pool, complete with its own waterfall. We enjoyed a magical swim to ourselves. I floated on my back, looking up at the crashing water and dragonflies zipping overhead.

 

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We enjoyed our picnic (port salut cheese sandwiches, salt & vinegar crisps, apples, oat cakes and ginger biscuits) and warmed up in the sun before heading back downstream to do some sketching. I drew a nearby peak, using watercolours to capture the rich rusty colour of the banks and my sharpie pen to pick out the details of wild flowers.

 

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Elgol Beach

The good weather continued the next day and we decided to explore Elgol beach. The sea was turquoise blue and distant peaks were visible across the water. Crumbling cliffs encircled the stony beach and pretty little cottages dotted the hillside. We clambered up the small cliff near the harbour arm for a better view and set up to draw on the spongy, rabbit nibbled grass.

 

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As the day grew hotter, we were desperate for a dip, but it took some time to find a suitable spot. The water’s edge was covered in slippery seaweed and ghostly jellyfish were waiting at every possible entry point! After seeking some local advice, we discovered this particular variety were the non-stinging kind.

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For the rest of the golden afternoon and in to the evening we sunbathed, dipped, painted and slept on the large flat rocks at the end of the beach. The sun got lower and sparkled off the water, fishing boats became silhouetted, bobbing in the distance.

 

Ruined Church & Portree

For the second part of our trip we were based on the North of the Isle at Monkstadt. It would take us a couple of hours to make the drive there, so we decided to break up the journey with a few stops. First, we were keen to explore a ruined church we had spotted on our day trips. Sheep grazed in the abandoned graveyard. The church roof had crumbled away, plants and branches were taking over its walls and growing a new, natural roof.

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Portree, the capital of Skye, is recognisable for its row of pretty, pastel houses on the harbour wall. After refuelling in a cafe, we spent some time absorbing and interpreting the view in our sketchbooks. Another dip in the harbour waters was much icier than expected.

 

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The Old Man of Storr

Over half way through the trip, our luck with the weather changed. So on a bright but windy day we decided to visit the famous landmark; a tall pinnacle of rock that towers up and is easily visible when driving around much of the Northern part of the Isle. The jagged ridge and surrounding slopes wouldn’t look out of place in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (we actually watched all 3 films during our stay as Adam hadn’t seen them!).

 

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We made our way up on the slippy, precarious path. The black prongs of rock and the Old Man looked spectacular as we drew near. Spying tiny people who had scrambled all the way up to his foot gave us a sense of scale. Deciding that route was a little too precarious for us, we set up in the stunning, boulder strewn valley below. As I sketched and Adam painted we realised we were being stalked by a curious weasel, the only other being near us at the time. Such a vast and remote space, it felt unnerving and exciting to be there.

 

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Boat trip from Uig

Having spent time on the land and beaches, we were keen to get a different perspective and see the Isle from the water. In Uig harbour we joined a boat tour that took us around the Trotternish Peninsula on a vintage, 1940’s fishing vessel. The friendly, knowledgeable guides told us about the history and wildlife of the area. We saw a variety of seabirds, including the irresistible puffins and a group of languid seals. The weather was changeable but we were warmed up with a hot flask of tea and shortbread provided by our hosts.

 

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Magical Skye

It really was a magical trip. The Isle is wild, a fantasy realm. Driving on the narrow, craggy roads, we passed lunar-esque landscapes, steep valleys, dark mountains and lochs. After our sunny start we got the whole range of weather, torrential rain, high winds that chase the clouds and incredibly dense fog! At the end of each day’s explorations we’d relax with a hearty meal in the cosy cottages and review our reportage; illustrations, paintings, photos and even drone footage for a totally different view of our surroundings.

 

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With two Scottish forays under my belt, I can’t wait for another trip…I just have to decide which gem to explore next.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my @Owlstation Instagram account where you can discover more videos, sketches and photos from this Drawing Adventure! Landscape photographs taken by Adam Clague.

 

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Kelogsloops Watercolour Tutorials

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I’ve been using watercolours in my work for some time now. I don’t remember ever being formally taught how to paint with them but have always enjoyed experimenting and using them in my own way to capture what I see. However, a recent project called for lots of watercolour work and I realised I was keen to learn more about the medium and how to use it ‘properly’.

For some reason I’d convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to find the ‘right’ sort of watercolour tutorial for me, so had almost given up before trying. I wanted something that would show the paints being used in a more illustrative and unusual way. Then, one YouTube search for ‘watercolour illustration tutorial’ later, I discovered Kelogsloops videos


Apart from being a crazily talented Illustrator, Kelogsloops aka Hieu Nguyen is a brilliant teacher. I started by watching his 6 minute introduction to watercolour and picked up several ideas and set-up techniques that had never occurred to me before! I then went on to watch one of his process videos (for his illustration below) and his techniques for ‘Wet on Dry’ painting (shown above). He teaches at a steady pace, carefully explaining what he is doing and why, with lots of useful summaries and tips.

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It’s been humbling to watch these and remember that there is always more to learn and explore with any medium. Taking the time to look around for the right tutorial or ask for help and recommendations when you need them is really worth doing. And finally, that there isn’t really a ‘proper’ way to paint with watercolours – anything goes!

All artwork and videos created by Kelogsloops and used here without the artist’s permission.

Back to the Wild

Owlstation_wolf and mountain view_2018I made this drawing about a month ago, shortly before this year’s drawing adventure to the Isle of Skye. I wanted to loosen up, get experimental and indulge in drawing some of my favourite subject matter; animals, trees and mountains – before heading to the Highlands. I began with watercolour, then worked back in over the top with a fuzzy dark pencil and a few bright splashes of coloured chalk.

I’m VERY excited to share pictures, photos and hopefully a video or two of the Skye trip as soon as possible, so do stay tuned! The first pictures should make their way to my Instagram soon and i’ll follow those up with a more detailed blogpost after.

 

Stylish Beings #2

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I’m continuing my exercise of drawing every pin on my Pinterest board ‘Stylish Beings’. This is a place where I collect images of icons, celebrities and well dressed folk that I think are especially cool! I did lose momentum recently as life got a little busy, but i’m getting back into the flow of it now.

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I’m enjoying working my way through the board, remembering the people and outfits that I had pinned and getting excited about how I could draw them. It’s pleasing when I discover that a particular medium fits a celebrity well. For example scratchy, black ink is perfect for rendering Alison Mosshart’s mussy bed hair!

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Each pin provides its own little challenge, with some that I expected to be easy turning out to be very complicated and vice versa. *Spoilers* upcoming pins on my radar include rocker Brody Dalle, actress Winona Rider and the iconic Elizabeth Taylor.

Stylish Beings

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I set myself an exercise to draw every pin on my Pinterest board ‘Stylish Beings’. This is a board where I’ve been pinning people I think are particularly cool, glam or fascinating. So far it has about 200 pins and I thought it would be good drawing practice to have a crack at sketching each and every one.

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I’m forcing myself not to get too precious about it…so far I’ve drawn 39 and it’s safe to say that a good number of those will never see the light of day, but the more I draw the more i’m creating drawings that i’m really happy with and enjoying playing about with media and style. If I do a bad one, I drop it and move on to the next.

Capturing the likenesses is something I want to work on too, but hopefully by the time I get to pin #200 that will start to improve! Here’s a little selection of some of my faves so far:

 

Tea & Typography

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I’ve been wanting to have a crack at making some patterns for a while now. Today’s trip to a French style cafe in Clapham with jars of intriguing tea stacked on the counter gave me the idea for this one. I suspect there are a few tricks to making patterns that I am yet to learn, I shall have to do some research. These are a mix of watercolour, pen and messy ink for the typography…it is good fun making a mess sometimes!

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Travel Sketchbook

I got to draw in some really spectacular spots while I was away and have some lovely memories of times sat sketching. A rainy day at a Chinese pearl market sheltering in a restaurant doorway. Hiding in the shade on a sandy New Zealand beach not realising my ankles were being eaten alive by sand flies. Losing my tour group in the mountains of Longji after staying behind too long to finish a drawing…actually the last two don’t sound that great but they really were good experiences!

Some pages are just super quick sketches but there are a few studies in there that took a couple of hours or more to finish. Plenty of pencil, some oil pastel and a fair bit of watercolour which is fast becoming one of my favourite mediums.