travel

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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Sunday

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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Monday

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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Tuesday

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.

May: Artist in Residence with Leveld Art Centre, Norway & New Work

So for the month of May I was Artist in Residence at Leveld in Norway, a small village in the Ål municipality, Hallingdal home to 300 inhabitants about 700 m above sea level. Another remote mountainous location: perfect once again for me. I feel like I’ve done just about every remote artist in residence programme that there ever has been!

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I spent the 4 weeks mainly based at the Leveld Art Centre, it’s very much a residency for creatives to go to and be immersed in the village and location without any distractions. There’s not even a shop in the village so it really is about going there to get headspace, think about your ideas and work to develop on a project that needs time and space.

I’ve realised through close inspection and really challenging how I think about my work and how I intend for it to develop that there is very much a clear style within my practise and how I respond to the landscape in which I immerse myself in. A major part of me making the art work is being surrounded in an environment that not only invigorates me in terms of remote and harsh elements, it also provides me with the right visual inspiration for me to go forward with new work. The harsh strong black lines I use convey the significant unique texture, shape and linear quality of the landscape whilst the energetic mixed medium marks are responding to the temporary elements that surround the land. It is about connecting people to this energy that exists in nature. I hope my photos of my work below show this kind of idea and give the work clarity.

And so I won’t go into detail about every piece of art work I made, instead here is some photographs that show the location of the place and some of the new works I produced within my time there! At the moment I’ve just left my post as artist in residence in Leveld and currently in Bergen where I will then depart for Shetland then back to the Scottish Mainland so that’s what to expect from my next posts!

Thanks again as always for reading and if you would like to purchase my work head on over to my online shop for small original works at online shop or you can browse my full portfolio at website.

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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!

A sanctuary in the woods

 

I was in need of an adventure, the Cairngorms National Park of Scotland is a place that I have shamefully not as explored as much as the other Highland areas so when I was asked to find unique accommodation which was prime situated in the Cairngorms, I knew just the place.

The Lazy Duck is located in Nethy Bridge, six acres of idyllic land surrounded by sublime forestry and stunning lookouts to the iconic Cairngorm Mountain range in the distance. A haven in the trees, a place almost hidden, only revealing its gems to people who truly want to feel at peace within the landscape and not ‘escape’ but ‘reconnect’ with the simple way of life and ideals that are important. These include; being with nature, lighting your own woodstove and fire and slowing down by embracing the art of ‘slow living’ whilst spending time in a hand crafted accommodation that not only suits the ethos of the area but stands alone in its craftsmanship and peaceful and homely build.

The remarkable site, settled, and sensitively developed by husband and wife team David and Valery Dean has grown organically from the small eight bed mountain hut style hostel to the three more semi off grid huts and bothy, bespoke and original and each standing alone in their attention to detail nestling within the trees or by the water. The ethos of this place is about getting back to nature and slowing down, reflecting on the Highland landscape and getting back to basics; no distractions other than the wonderful setting and location itself.

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I arrived on a clear crisp Wednesday afternoon, via a small road that leads you into a simple haven within the pines. I was met by one of the very knowledgeable volunteers who gave me a tour of the six acres, carefully pointing out all the details of the place and the interesting history of every build. I was honoured to spend my two nights staying in the Lambing Bothy, the latest addition to the Lazy Duck Family.

The bothy itself is right on the edge of the forest where the sheep graze and the hens free range. The bothy stands alone in its original build. Attention given to detail within and out with the hut was clear to see. Every part of this wonderful little shelter brought me back to understanding what is important, the craftsmanship in the make of the box bed and the striking oak table top that fits perfectly within the interior of the place. Everything I needed was there and it begged me to slow down whilst finding comfort in the woodstove, the lookout to the pines that cocooned this spot and the gentle sounds of the animals that wandered the ground around the hut.

I spent my two days at the Lazy Duck finding solace in the location and gaining some much needed head space in the bothy. I drank in the gentle sound of the animals treading the close cropped lambing field watching the light change dramatically every so often over the distant mountains. I listened to birds high above in the towering forest, but most important for me was just being there, soaking it all in, particularly the atmosphere and sacred energy of the place.

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The area is surrounded by some of the most fantastic scenery to be enjoyed in Scotland. When I wasn’t spending hours tucked away in the Lambing Bothy, I was out exploring the area including hours walking around the famous Loch Morlich, a rewarding hike out to Lochan Uaine (The Green Lochan) and taking in the sights of Cairngorm’s northern corries from Aviemore, a paradise for walkers, climbers and nature lovers. A small distance in the car or a hike if you are wanting to really see more takes you to some of the most scenic areas in the Highlands and the Lazy Duck is perfectly situated right in the midst of all of these fantastic outdoor pursuits.

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The accommodation draws in many different people all looking for something different and tending to find whatever it is they are looking for within the peaceful holistic atmosphere of the place. Ranging from ones looking to slow down and recharge on natures ways, hike and explore the adventurous area, be more mindful, or simply want to just relax and respect this wonderful little corner of the earth, a haven for us all. The Lazy Duck site beckons you to ‘unplug’ from the fast paced stressful anxieties of modern life and ‘plug’ into something more, a way of being and allowing yourself time to think, time to feel, time to slow down and simply time.

My lasting impression has been one of pure joy and happiness at getting to spend time at the Lazy Duck. I couldn’t have been more relaxed sheltered in my hut, bringing in the dark nights by the fire which I will say retains the heat exceptionally inside, I was even spoilt and indulged in an outdoor log fired heated tub under the magic of the clear sky and full moon, an experience I doubt I’ll forget! The team were incredibly knowledgeable and speaking to the owners themselves enlightened me even more on the well thought out ideology of the place and what they are passionate about; sharing their quiet sacred corner of the earth with people who want to get back to what is important and spend time finding ‘it’ in the quiet solitude of the land.

And so if you are like me and want to find some much needed inspiration whilst slowing down and reconnecting with nature, head to this unique place within the trees. The Lazy Duck site certainly draws you into its charm and I can’t help but find myself planning a visit back real soon!

For more information and to book a stay at this simple yet special place head on over to their site at:

www.lazyduck.co.uk