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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Scotland Plein Air Painting Retreat - Interim Report 4

Dunvegan Castle View 5x14 gouache by Michael Chesley Johnson

A plein air painting retreat of this length needs some down time, and that’s what we had on Friday. Rather than travel, we stayed in Portree. Some of us painted the view just off the deck of our cottage, others hiked to the waterfront with their gear; and we all did it on our own relaxed schedules. I made a couple of little sketches from the beach--a nice breeze kept me cool--and later hiked to the town pier to paint among the tourists. Space was tight in that area, as much of the view was taken up with private pocket gardens associated with the self-catering cottages that lined the waterfront. And as it was lunchtime, the tourists who weren’t staying at these cottages either had to stand to eat their takeaway sandwiches or perch on the edge of the public pier. Now and then, a squadron of seagulls would dive into the crowd to snatch away some treat. (Tourists, don’t feed the gulls; your leftover chips will cause a riot.)

The next day was the day of the Skye Marathon. Ordinarily, if you want to avoid road closures, you get a very early start. But this marathon started oddly late, not until after 10, so we had no trouble avoiding it when we left at our usual time. We headed for the tiny fishing village of Stein, on the Waternish peninsula. The village consists of a cluster of white row houses, one of which is the Stein Inn. It’s the oldest inn on Skye, having been built in 1794.

I painted first down by the beach, capturing a lonely croft house on a bit of land jutting out into the loch, and then moved to the private seating area of the Inn to paint a street view. (As in Portree, the waterfront right in front of the Inn and other buildings consists of private parks, but as we were having lunch there later, we were allowed.) Hans from Holland stopped by as he carried coffee out for him and his wife. “I will have my coffee first, and then I will see what you are doing, all right?” When he returned, he admitted he was a watercolor painter and proceeded to show me his work on a smartphone with a screen the size of a box of matches.

That afternoon, we drove to Dunvegan Castle, home of the chiefs of the MacLeod clan, and painted the view a third of a mile past it, where you see the castle tiny in the distance, topped by a little flag and surrounded by water and islets. It looked like a storybook illustration. Afterward, I left the others painting and hiked back to the castle for a tour. I saw things on the walk that I wouldn’t have seen if I’d driven--giant, mossy trees that must have been two hundred years old, and half-hidden stone buildings, covered in vines liked some yet-undiscovered Mayan ruin.

Portree Pier 5x7 gouache by Michael Chesley Johnson

Portree Bay View 5x7 gouache by Michael Chesley Johnson

Incoming Tide 5x7 gouache by Michael Chesley Johnson
Stein Croft House 5x

Stein Street 5x7 gouache by Michael Chesley Johnson

Lunch at the Stein Inn

From within Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle