Thursday 31 May 2012

A donation to Art in Healthcare, & two new paintings of the Aberdeenshire coast (including... birds!)

Four or five years ago I became aware of Art in Healthcare, a charity that sources original artworks for the wards and corridors of hospitals and medical centres. I've been lucky to not often have call to be in hospital, but I still know that art on walls makes a huge difference to the feel of such places. Drawings and paintings and photos brighten and bring interest. They prompt and allow the mind to wander for a few moments from the anxiety of health. This is a charity I'm delighted to support...
Two or three years ago it crossed my mind that I might donate something to the AiH collection.
About a year ago a member of the Board suggested I might like to do the same.
Six months ago I contacted them with the offer of two donated paintings.
Three days ago I finally got round to delivering them! 
Here they are:

coastal defences, Aberdeen, 50x50cm, acrylic on canvas

I painted these two pieces a number of years ago as part of a series looking at the coastline between Aberdeen and Peterhead. My mum was born and brought up in Peterhead and Jennifer (my girlfriend) studied at Aberdeen Uni, so I know the area well. It's a fantastic stretch of coast, really varied in terms of scenery and a huge amount of birdlife.

Directly north of Aberdeen are long swathes of white beach - old wartime bunkers and lookout-posts emerge at odd angles from the sand.

The estuary at Newburgh is spring nest site for sandwich and arctic terns, plus a few common and little. Thousands of eider ducks feed, court, and raise young here and at one point earlier this year the grey & common seals numbered at least five hundred;

Beyond Cruden Bay the ruins of Slains Castle stand on the cliffs - supposed inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. Fall from some of the windows or towers and you'd plummet directly down to waves far below;

Incredible cliffs at the Bullers of Buchan include a most amazing collapsed sea cave - a sea-filled bowl with vertical rock sides and waves pouring in and out through a small archway.

coastal defence, Aberdeen, 50x50cm, acrylic on canvas

Recently I've been revisiting the Slains to Bullers area while staying with Michelle and Steve, our wonderful and ever-accommodating friends in nearby Pitmedden. I've walked and sketched and taken time to properly watch the birds. So much more is learnt by sitting still and looking than by a passing glance here and there.

There are fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, shags, puffins, most of the gulls, assorted ducks and more. On my last trip in March I had amazing sightings of a short-eared owl as it quartered back and fore across the scrubland. At one point it flew directly towards me from a distant fence post, hovered momentarily not terribly far above me before giving a shriek and flying back the way it had come. Probably trying to assess whether I was a threat and whether I needed to be warned off. I'm not sure whether I passed its test or not. Another day a pair of peregrine falcons perched below on the cliffs as they preened themselves diligently. Gorgeous birds!

I've just finished working on two paintings from these trips and I'm really pleased with the results. I find increasing satisfaction in trying to combine painterly techniques -palette knife and splashing & flowing paint- with areas of more detail in foreground grasses and birds.

I wanted to bring out the colours of north-east cliffs - striking shades of red granite that are sometimes a pastel pink, sometimes a vivid scarlet, sometimes rich and deep like congealing blood. Lots of lichens and mosses adorn the rocks, gorse-yellow and white-washed green standing against the varied reds.

You can see the results below, or in the flesh ('on the easel'??) if you're in Glasgow, at the Roger Billcliffe Gallery from 15th June - 31st July 2012.

Slains Castle, 50x50cm, acrylic on card/board

Bullers of Buchan, 50x50cm, acrylic on card/board

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