Friday 7 March 2014

Scotland by Rail - Dundee. A dragon, penguins, Lego

I was going up to Dundee for the opening of Gallery Q's Drawing and Painting exhibition. It's the first time I've shown in Dundee and I'm very pleased to be exhibiting in such a lovely gallery space (see my paintings here). It also has given me a push to look around the city a little. I decided to make this a Scotland by Rail day.

I knew I wouldn't have much time for sketching once there -only a couple of hours before the exhibition opened, and I wanted to walk around and explore- so on the journey up I set aside phone, book, RSPB magazine, and watched out the window drew.

spot Arthur's Seat & Salisbury Crags

My journey was Burntisland to Kirkcaldy; short change in Kirkcaldy; Kirkcaldy to Dundee. Leaving Burntisland at 9am, the sun was low and its light silvery, combining with plentiful clouds to make a morning of high bright-dark contrast.

When at the station, always make sure you...


Passing through Kinghorn you see a tower with a slender cross on top, in the distance is North Berwick Law, if the weather is clear.

on-train sketches

A crow perched on a chimney pot.
Ivy-covered trees.
A distant castle, Union Jack flying.
Curlews in a field.

During my 10 minute change at Kirkcaldy I made quick drawings of a herring gull that padded on grass and rooftop. The wind was cold on my hands. Two Swans flew past, high and huge.

on-train (and platform) sketches

Then woodpigeons in a hedgerow, like baubles on a tree. A similar sight has attracted me in the past to make this painting, now at the World Land Trust Gallery in Suffolk.

festooned with woodpigeons, acrylic, 17.5x16.5cm, World Land Trust Gallery


Now Dundee, where at present you walk up steps from the station and emerge into a building site. It'll be good in a few years when current £1bn waterfront developments are complete -including a branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum- but for now it's rather uninspiring.

Ignoring that, directly across the road from the station is HMS Discovery. Once she sailed the Antarctic, surrounded by icebergs, captained by Scott. Now she sits in dry dock, ringed by security fencing, guarded by cameras, yet she still looks magnificent. A walkway leads from Discovery Point west along the concrete banks of the Tay. There were gulls and pigeons in the air plus house sparrows, robin and blackbird in shrubs alongside the walkway. And a few penguins.

penguins, mosaic, HMS Discovery

spot the ScotRail train

On to the shopping streets of the city - remember to look around and you'll see quite beautiful old buildings. The Steeple Church is one to stop at (more penguins, waddling along its boundary wall) but the architecture of the McManus Museum & Gallery is the best of all. Though Queen Victoria didn't look too pleased. Perhaps it was a bad apple.

Queen Victoria, not pleased with that apple.

On the High Street an even-larger-than-life-size Desperate Dan strides along in bronze, Minnie the Minx behind him, aiming her catapult. Further around the same street is a dragon. Turning left past the dragon onto Commercial Street you find The Burgh Coffee House. If you like Lego this is the one for you, make sure you walk up the stairs to the upper floor. Just beyond Lego and coffee is Games Workshop, and just beyond Games Workshop is the McManus. Dragon - Lego - Games Workshop. My childhood dream street!

I know their clothes are desirable, but a dragon??

Then it was time for Gallery Q, on the Nethergate, only a five-minute walk from the main shopping area. A great exhibition of paintings and drawings by eight artists, a big variety of subject and style. See the whole show here. Nice chats with other artists and collectors, and catching up with my good friend Martin (Hill) who is exhibiting alongside me (see his pig). Martin and I both grew up in Linlithgow, spending our Academy sixth year in the art department whilst others became proficient at common room cards.

du Feu corner

spot the pig (Martin's)

Whitesands, short-eared owl, acrylic, 56x76cm. £1,250.00 (lovely frame by Bon Papillon)

Dunnottar Castle, watercolour, 25x35.5cm. £650

Back to the station, passing DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) with its international exhibitions, excellent design & craft shop, plus cafe, bar, cinema. There's obviously a lot more to see in the city: the hillfort of Dundee Law; Balgay Hill and Park and Cemetery, including Mills Observatory; and a bit further out Camperdown Country Park including country house and wildlife park. I will visit again and walk more extensively.

Leaving Dundee, look for the feet of the old Tay Bridge, collapsed 1879. 75 lives, a train & 6 carriages lost.

How to get there:

Trains to Dundee leave Edinburgh and Aberdeen every half hour (journey time approx 1 hour 10 mins),
Glasgow every hour (journey time approx 1 hour 20 mins),
Perth every hour (journey time approx 25 mins)

Timetable - Glasgow/Edinburgh/Perth/Aberdeen - Dundee

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