Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Scotland Plein Air Painting Retreat - Interim Report 2

Old Sligachan Bridge 5x14 gouache

After a beautiful day at Uig, our next day we woke to the usual morning mist but a little more wind. The hills around us were truly socked in, so we headed south and west to Sligachan, in the heart of the Cuillins, to paint. On good weather days, a visit to Sligachan gives you beautiful views of both the Red and the Black Cuillins. The iconic scene here is the craggy summit of Sgurr-Nan-Gillean, towering high over the River Sligachan and the old stone bridge. But when we arrived, the peaks were hidden by cloud, and a raw, chill wind was blowing. We sought shelter where we could find it. I ended up hunkered down beneath the “new” bridge, with a fine view of the old bridge, and I was most comfortable there.

At lunchtime, we dined at the Sligachan Hotel (built in 1830). Hot coffee was welcome and ordered immediately, followed by fish and chips. Afterward, we headed out again, but now the weather was clearing, and sunlight shone on the summits. One of our participants asked me to demonstrate for her, which I did, painting Sgurr-Nan-Gillean wreathed in mist. Although painting retreats such as this one have no formal instruction, I am always happy to demonstrate when asked.

The next morning, the weather changed, and the usual morning clouds formed a higher, more solid deck. Although we had talked about heading west to Dunvegan Castle, Marion, our local artist guide, predicted it would be a “midgefest” over there, so we headed north up the Trotternish Peninsula instead, toward Staffin Bay. (It’s vital to have a guide so familiar with Skye’s weather and locations!) But first, we stopped for a visit to Skyeworks Gallery in Portree, where Marion shows her work, and also for some baked goods at the bakery there.

After additional stops at the Old Man of Storr--cars lined the road even though it was still quite early, as that is a popular hike--and at Kilt Rock, we arrived at Staffin where the weather quickly cleared. Sheep and their lambs wandered with abandon across the single-track road, some even napping rather unwisely right on the verge. We had views of croft houses and a pebble beach and a waterfall and islands and...well, it was all quite overwhelming.

After a mid-afternoon break at a cafe in Columba, we returned to Staffin Bay and continued on the single-track road to the end, where there is a pier and stunning views of cliffs. Several of us sat on along the concrete boat ramp to paint the cliffs.

There are few trees on Skye, so we’ve been in full sun most days. Here at 56 degrees north latitude, you wouldn’t think the sun would have much strength, but it does. That and the wind have turned my face quite red, so I will shortly be in search of sunblock.

 The Black Cuillins 5x7 gouache

Cliffs of Staffin Bay 5x7 gouache

Staffin Bay 5x7 gouache

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