A stopover in Shetland

So up until now I’ve not really stopped travelling. I left Norway the third week of May and then went straight to Shetland, then onto the mainland, then up to Ullapool, over to the Isle of Lewis where I travelled down through the Isle of Harris, Berneray, North Uist, South Uist back over to Mallaig where I then caught the ferry to Eigg to where I am right now. Talk about going the long way around. I’m going to spend quite a bit of time though on this post showing some of my photographs and travels around Shetland, a place that will forever inspire me, also because I took so many photos whilst there and had such a great adventure.

I spent only a few days in Shetland having explored the Islands quite thoroughly in the past few years and me being me I decided to fly back to the Scottish Mainland via Shetland from Bergen, a good way of connecting the landscapes together. My accommodation for my few days in Shetland was the beautiful homely and well situated Ortolan House B&B, a large Georgian townhouse dating from the 1780’s, well located in the central conservation ‘lanes’ area of Lerwick, less than a minute’s walk from the bustling main street which is home to all amenities. Ortolan has a wonderful well-established walled garden with stunning views overlooking Lerwick’s busy harbour and the tranquil island of Bressay. The property offers two exclusive bedrooms with an emphasis on having a relaxed and comfortable stay and I certainly did have that! Here’s a few images of the accommodation and the places I explored whilst on the Northern Isles.

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My first full day began with a trip over to the neighbouring Island of Bressay. A quiet place but home to many wonderful clear coastal routes, I aimed for a few hours there to take in the sights and also view Lerwick from a different perspective. I spent my time wandering around the Island and taking sanctuary in the beaches that surround the west coast of the Island. I then spent the rest of the day wandering around the Mareel and Shetland museum, always a great place for finding new contemporary art that’s inspired from the unique Shetland landscape. It was then onto Burra for a coastal hike with a couple of local artist friends, impressive geology and wild seascapes leading us around the shore.

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I set off in the morning for an Island I’d never been to before. I’ve been to every single one of the Shetland Islands now apart from Foula and Fair Isle, that is a must for in the autumn of this year! And so Whalsay it was, without a clear plan I headed off for the ferry with just one aim, try and hike around most of the Island and see the unique natural wonders and coastal paths.

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On my last day of my short trip I hiked out to the Knab, one of my favourite coastal walks in Shetland and ideally located so close to Lerwick, such incredible views over to Bressay and down to the south of the mainland. It was then onto a boat trip around Bressay with Shetland Sea Bird Tours, the same lovely couple who ran the accommodation I was staying in. Turns out both Rebecca and Phil not only run their homely Ortolan B&B they also are very knowledgeable and expert guides on bird and sea life. Not only do they stock an enviable natural history library for their guests but with their combined knowledge and expertise they are perfectly placed to advise and even facilitate your time in the field. The trip to Shetland was perfect in gaining some inspiration from a landscape that so richly appeals to me, and leave with a new appreciation for the varied geology there.

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Again another wonderful trip, I’ve realised that my blog is turning a bit into a travel, photography and art blog which I don’t mind one bit. I’ve gone from one project in one country to the next consistently this year and I find it good for myself and reflection through my art to document and write what I’ve been up to in the place. It’s also really fulfilling for me to share it with you all so again thanks for reading this. My next blog is going to be about my further onward travel around the wonderful Scottish Islands where I’ve been recently, it’s good to be back in my home country, a place that inspires me to the highest level and always will do.


The year so far/Cill Rialaig Artist in Residence

It has been a very long time since I have blogged and I really cannot believe that it is nearly May! One of the last blogs I made about my work was after my residency in Sumburgh Head Lighthouse back in November! Apologies for the lack of blogging going on but since the beginning of this year, well just my life in general, I’ve literally went from one place to the next, one project after another barely giving myself a day to rest in between. The beginning of this year started off with me living in Venice for 6 weeks. I received a full fellowship to teach printmaking at the International School of Printmaking in Venice, (Scuola De Grafica) to be precise. It was here where I got to work on my practise, teach my specialisation of lithographic printmaking and explore the bizarrely beautiful man made Island of Venice. I’ve decided not to write a separate post about my time here as already the months have flown in but if you would like to see some of my work made in Venice I have some listed on my page: art site. It was a productive intense 6 weeks of making a new series of monoprints, collographs, playing around with painting and layering on top of the work whilst going to as many classes that were available to me at the School.

Since returning from there I had a few days to catch up with things in Scotland, I missed it so much when I was away. Don’t get me wrong Venice is an extremely beautiful place but it is not natural. I’ve never been immersed in a place that is not surrounded by mountains or nature, I’ve always chosen to go directly north, to places of sparse population and remoteness so it was a challenge for me and sometimes the hectic hordes of tourists and level of mass crowds would really stress me out! However, the history, art and culture of the place was truly amazing and the fact that it has barely been touched for as long as it has been built is astounding. A city degrading in such a beautiful way.

After Venice I then went back to my favourite place; The Isle of Eigg to spend a week’s residency with the Bothy Project. You can read about my time here where I’ve wrote a big article for the Bothy’s Website: Thoughts from an Island.

After the Isle of Eigg I then caught the ferry back to the mainland and flew to Ireland the following day. I told you I don’t give myself much time in between! I spent the beginning of my time in Ireland catching up with all of my wonderful family and travelling around part of the Wild Atlantic Way and The Ring of Kerry gathering inspiration as I went. It was then a 2 week period from the 29th of March to the 12th of April as Artist in Residence at Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat, known as one of the most remote artist residencies in the world; seemed pretty fitting for me then!

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Cill Rialaig Village which was built in 1790 sits high on a cliff at the very edge of Ireland, County Kerry looking right out onto the Atlantic and feeling the full force of the storms and wind that come off the ocean. This area was phase one of a self-help three part economic and social plan for the much neglected Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area of Ballinskelligs, County Kerry. This involved the rescue and redevelopment of the pre-famine village of Cill Rialaig as a retreat for artists, poets, writers, film makers and composers of national and international repute.

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The aim of the village is to have a retreat and creative space for creatives to come to and make work without distractions in a very inspiring location. The residency was one I had known about for quite a while so I was eager to work there. Also Ireland is absolutely incredible, the history, the culture, the folklore, the magnificent landscapes which are so reminiscent of the Scottish ones; plenty to explore and mounds of inspiration for me. I’ve spent a lot of summers in Ireland growing up spending time with my family mainly in the County Clare area where the majority of them live and travelling further afield yet County Kerry was an area of Ireland I couldn’t remember much of and hadn’t got round to exploring as much.

Anyway, it turns out Kerry is incredible! I hired a car for my two week residency as I knew in myself that I would be eager to get out and about and travel around the coastline especially as the iconic Ring of Kerry and Wild Atlantic Way route was so nearby! As much as I loved spending time in the quiet solitude of Cill Rialaig Artist Village, I also wanted to venture further and hike, go and see the unique ruins in the area whilst drawing on site as some of the locations around the coast that I had selected specifically were geologically speaking absolutely fascinating.

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My two week period flew by, time stretched out in front of me at the beginning, a feeling of bounds of time, no distractions, me and the immersive cottage/ studio all ready to get set and make work whilst watching the sea right at my doorstep, yet after a few days I realised it was going in so quick (as these things always do) and I wanted to see more and more of the area.

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I had no set project for my time at Cill Rialaig. As a bit of a Residency fanatic I have decided to slow down a bit and realise I can’t do residencies constantly back to back, I enjoy them and have done many since graduating from Art School 2 years ago yet I’ve collated so much information, documentation and work from each one without giving myself time to process them in between so for this one I knew that my intentions were to hike around the wonderful coastline, make work when I felt like it, give myself headspace and make the most of my two weeks of quiet solitude right at the very edge of the Atlantic.

Anyway, here are some images of the work I made on residency. After accumulating a lot of varied drawings and paintings in the past year from residencies in Iceland, Shetland, Norway, Svalbard, Venice, and now Ireland I have certainly amassed a lot that I would like to sit back and look at all together and see how my work has changed and developed from spending time in each place.

Thanks for reading as always!

Australia with February 2014

So this February from the 6th to the 17th of Febraury I had the greatest pleasure of getting the chance to travel out to Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast. Me and two other winners won the I’m a backpacker get me in there competition which was represented by to fly out to the Gold Coast and promote the amazing activities that were on offer. I know, what an amazing opportunity and it is definitely the best competition I have ever won! The comp was catered for Backpackers who love to travel and want to give it there all. We had to submit a video which was based around ‘What’s so great about Backpacking?’ I made mines and thankfully I was one of the three lucky winners!

The whole experience was unreal, I have never been to Australia before but after this coming home I know I am definitely going back and for a lot longer. We were staying at the brilliant ‘Surfers Paradise Backpackers Resort’ was literally a two minute walk from the beautiful beaches of Surfers Paradise, right in the heart of it all! Since it is the height of summer in Australia every single day was clear skies, one of my favourite things to do was get up at 6am every morning (where the sun was already high in the sky) walk to the beach and have a swim in the warm ocean. Now that is something you definitely cannot do in Scotland.

Here’s a look at what we got up to while we were out there.

Saturday 8th February

Jet Boating/ Climbing the Sky point building (which is the Gold Coast’s tallest building.)

Sunday 9th February

We left early in the morning and travelled out to Kingscliff to meet Tim and the rest of the amazing crew at ‘Watersports Guru’.

First up on the itinerary was snorkelling. Now it was called ‘snorkelling with turtles’ which is amazing in its own right but I did not expect to be getting to swim with a lot more. Whilst going out to an Island called ‘Cook Island’ we were all together as a group and whilst snorkelling I saw turtles, eagle rays and even leopard sharks. Not to mention whilst on the boat out to Cook Island we spotted a pack of around fifty dolphins, absolutely amazing to see dolphins in their natural environment. Back after this brilliant experience we got to try out ‘Paddleboarding’ this was another activity which was new to me but it was such a good laugh down at Cudgen Creek. Afterwards I even jamp off the bridge into the Creek.

All in all an amazing day, made even better by heading into Tweed Heads.

Monday 10th February

We travelled up to the Hinterland Rain Forest. The mountains and the scenery from this one hour drive from the Gold Coast were stunning. It is such a great experience getting away from the city for a while and seeing the true wild surroundings of the Gold Coast and the wildlife that Australia has to offer. We were staying at the ‘Binna Burra lodges’ located right at the top of the Hinterland Rainforest.

The first activity of the day involved meeting the representative Phil and getting to abseil down a 40 metre cliff. Again, Abseiling is something I have never done and I was determined to do everything out in Australia and I loved every second of it, abseiling down the cliff and looking out at the views of the whole rain forest was spectacular. Next up was Zip lining which was so much fun. We had lunch and then afterwards went for an epic hike around the area to see all the caves and surrounding mountains.At night we had a campfire and got to stay in the Binna Burra safari tents – one of the highlights from the trip!

Tuesday 11th February

We sadly had to leave Binna Burra but I will definitely be back! We made our way back down the road until we saw the skyline of the Gold Coast in the distance.

Today’s activity was visiting the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see a koala in my life! Firstly, we went on a Segway Tour around the park – the most fun way I think I have ever travelled around any place! Next up was getting to hold a Koala – epic and of course getting to walk around the whole Sanctuary whilst seeing Kangaroos, many many more Koalas and Crocodiles.

Wednesday 12th February 

First stop in the morning was getting to visit the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre. I have always been very interested in the Aboriginal Culture and their way of life so we got a chance to view their lifestyle and listen to stories of their traditions and history throughout Australia. I also got to speak to the co-ordinator about the Aboriginal Art used for an interview which will be in the next post. We got to go on a guided walk through the Aboriginal Lands and what it means to them, the views from the top of the Hill were outstanding looking out to Burleigh Heads and the surrounding Coastline. It was a very deep and meaningful experience in which we got to learn first hand a tremendous amount about the heritage and culture of the Aboriginal people. Also getting to try their food was another plus!

Next up was out to the Burleigh Head Brewery Company. Fantastic experience of course since we got to sample all their unique special and award winning beer. Later in the day we headed out to Burleigh Heads Creek where we drank Beer and took in the amazing views whilst laying in the Sun. By this point you can imagine it was already difficult for me thinking of having to leave this place!

Thursday 13th Febraury

A full day of theme parks and water parks at ‘White Water World’ and ‘Dreamworld’ need I say more?

Friday 14th February

Even though every single day was life changing and absolutely incredible, Friday was definitely my favourite day. Here’s why: During the week Me and the other two competition winners, Jodie and Sean were competing each day for a different prize. There was an instagram, photo, interview, writing and video comp for each day of the week. Out of the 5 mini competitons I won the photo and instagram ones. This meant I had the oppurtunity to pick 2 activitys to do out of the 5, amazing  I know!

And so with that, the first epic activity of the day was Jet Ski Safari, this involved a whole 3 hours out on the open water on a Jet Ski getting to go as fast as you wanted, this prize seemed to good to be true so it had to be my number one choice! I was not let down and had the most amazing time with the rest of the group out on the water!

The second activity I got to do was the ‘Harley Davidson cruise’.

This was my favourite most memorable activity I got to take part in from the whole week. Basically I was on the back of a Harley Davidson going very fast around the Mountains and high lands surrounding the Gold Coast, I felt amazing, the adrenaline was at an all time high, it was a beautiful day and the scenery from down below and being on the open road on a motorbike is something I will never ever forget. I would completely recommend any of the activities and companies I got the privilege of being able to use whilst out in Australia but if your looking for something a bit more alternative and want to see the Gold Coast in a different light on board a fast moving motorbike I say go for this one!!

All in all, I have came away from Australia and these amazing experiences desperate to go back and thinking about it non stop. I have managed to tick a large chunk off my bucket list and in such a short space of time. The week was jam packed from amazing activity to another. I would like to just say to Gapyeardotcom and of course Gold Coast Tourism thank you so much for this opportunity, I will never forget the most incredible life changing experiences I had whilst out in OZ, it’s just secured my thoughts that all I want to do is travel. To read more up on our adventures with the Gap Year and Gold Coast Team have a look at their website article!

Australia I will be back.

Here’s a few photo’s from my time here!
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Personal Accounts of the Outer Hebrides

If you want to know more about the Islands off the North West Coast of Scotland here is excerpts from my Artist book, various writings from my time spent in these beautiful places.

‘Personal accounts of my journeys around the North West coast and The Outer Hebrides.’

For me, the road to the Islands always starts with and leads me through the beautiful Glens, mountainous areas and the true wonders of natural beauty of the North West of Scotland before arriving at Oban where my journey to the Islands begin. The further you travel, usually from the road which leads to Crianlarich, the sights which appear right before you, are more and more wondrous as you are led further into the mountainous glens.
Glen Coe will forever be a place that stands out in memory for me. I ventured through the beautiful Glen on the road to the Islands on the 14th of August 2013, as soon as you see the mountains up ahead you can feel the historic atmosphere, then you are slowly enveloped within the peaks and overwhelming presence of the Glen. It was a misty afternoon, casting low hanging clouds up ahead, so you could only just see the distinct mountain ranges in the distance. There was presence today, a melancholic atmosphere, a feeling that I could not quite put a name to, but it was beautiful none the less. I carried my journey onto the West. I had longer ways to go.
Heading off on my trip from Oban to seek out the atmospheric remote places of beauty, to go Island hopping around the Outer Hebrides on the 15th of August. First stop was the tiny island of Barra, a place of remoteness, the smallest of the Outer Hebrides and true beauty. I travelled around and made my way to Vatersay, the beach was of austere beauty, the clear lookout to tiny Islands and the atmospheric landscapes which surround this small beautiful Island. It took no more than an hour to drive around, I went back and further explored these places, the wild north coastline where the sea crashes over the rocks, the idyllic beaches of the west shore line and the prominent jagged rocks and hills of the southern coast.
Next stop was onto South Uist, stepping off the Ferry, I travelled up this windy place of desolate historic ruins, and it was misty on arrival. I made my way up the twisty road alongside the prominent hills to higher land. The weather did no favours for this place, there was no sign of the wind calming against the stormy shore, so on I went, battling for higher flatter ground. I ventured around the Southern Coastline, stopping now and then to take in the fresh unforgivable air that throws you around the place. The sights were tremendous, as soon as the mist cleared, I was able to see the full dramatic peaks of the mountains of the centre and the East coast. Heading further up, I was able to stop when the elements settled down, at many of the impressive beaches of the West coast on Uist. I travelled through Benbecula and further onto North Uist, the rocky shore line’s luring me further onto to seek out this atmosphere of the place. There was darkness, the landscapes can be dramatically altered within minutes due to the harsh elements and openness of the land.
Leaving from Lochmaddy, the next stop on my Journey was the Isle of Skye. The ferry brought me into Uig late at night so I had no idea of the Island and its sheer scale and beauty. I was awakened at the early dawn, the sun peering through the tent, the weather was tremendous, I wanted to explore. I started off by travelling around the North Coast, seeking out the Islands in the distance and to the Sound of Raasay. This part of the Island was impressive for its historic rocks, mountains and monuments, the Island lured you from one place to the next, the scenery here was beautiful on another scale. I was lead down to Kilt Rock and then onto the Old Man of Storr, taking a few hours out of my day, I climbed right to the top of Storr, looking out onto the mainland, and the surrounding areas of Skye including the magnificent Cuillin Hills which rose in the distance. The cold breeze stinged my face where I was so high above sea level, the atmosphere within the place is made up of the austere beauty of Skye, the mountain ranges and landscapes which are in a league of their own. Climbing so high above the ground within a place that is so famed in Scottish history was an enlightening experience.
I made my way further down the Island to the Fairy pools and the astounding peaks and shorelines that surround this unique area. It is said to be a sacred place, a place of rejuvenation and tranquillity. I was overwhelmed by the fairy pools and the backdrop of the Cuillin Hills. This was a true place of solitary natural beauty.
I worked my way further around the spacious Island, staying close to the places that are of remote beauty and magnificent solitude. Even at the Southern tip of the Island where you feel almost connected to the mainland again, Skye pulls you back, the horizons and the surrounding dominating landscapes bring you back to a feeling of disconnection, a solitude in which you are bound to the land. The exploration of the East of the Island and back to Uig where I stumbled upon, with no pre knowledge, the Fairy Glen. I was bewildered, a place so unique, so hidden and mystical, yet just a few minutes’ walk from the main road. Upon arrival the sun was setting on the moors and I lay down within the hills, the calm of the place washed over me, fairy glen and the way in which the hills are shaped so uniquely, makes way for another realm experience, I was not on Skye anymore, I was far away, enveloped by the land and the atmospheres of folklore which has been so deeply embedded within this place. I forced myself to leave.

From Uig again, I hopped on a night Ferry on a beautiful evening and was on my way to Harris, arriving at Tarbert with no accommodation booked, and hostels full, I decided to venture down to the small Island which is connected (only recently) to Harris, the Island of Scalpay. The prominent textures of the dark rugged mountains, whistling sounds of the wind and the midnight moon casting light over the quiet lonely Island, I found a place to lay for the night and dreamt of the surrounding atmospheres which are so prominent yet so different on every place upon arrival. I explored South Harris looking out to the island of Taransay, and worked my way around the astounding beaches which Harris has to offer, the vast expanses of sand dunes, the turquoise pure waters, juxtaposed to the other side where the landscapes are dramatic, stark and lead you further and further down the windy paths in where you are enveloped within them.
I made my way up to Lewis, the journey was meant for Calanais but still the landscapes again did not prepare me, each place, every few minutes, can be dramatically altered, I had to stop suddenly and frequently to step out, surround myself with this new and never before seen world of pure land expanses where the horizon was adjacent to the surrounding dramatic shorelines. The journey to Calanais was nearly complete.
Calanais on a cold misty day in the late of August 2013, speaking to a family previous to the visit on the Isle of Scalpay, they told me the stones have an electric powerful force and putting your body against them has an indescribable charge which resonates an atmosphere around you. Mine was of great awe, hearing all these stories before, I wanted to have my own significant experience, standing in amongst the ancient megalithic circle, the stones towering above on that dreary day. It was hard to have my own emotions to the place where there has been many representations and accounts of the stones before me, however, being the only person there on that darkened day, I was awakened by the scale and sheer setting of the stones within the backdrop of marshlands around them. I focused my attention within the circle and let my emotions tell me of the significance of this place. It astounded me the atmosphere, the stones seemed to resonate a deep connection to the history and spirituality of this place.
The Islands are calling, I must go.