I have chopped myself off at the roots and am starting like a new cutting put into a rich and strange compost. ok, it’s not that strange, and the only word in everyday Scots that jars slightly is when people ask where do you stay? instead of where do you live? but I will get used to it and it sounds nicely old-fashioned to my english ear. Scots in fact is a version of Middle English, which has held onto French, Flemish and Scandinavian words in much the same way as english itself, only they are often different ones.

meanwhile I am staying/living with my daughter and her husband while I look for somewhere to buy. their house is round the corner from Lumbo den, a ravine with a tumbling burn running through it, on the steeper side magnificent beech trees dominate, and on the other there’s hawthorn trees and damp scrub that reminds me of the wilderness in the film Annihilation.

(Lumbo ‘Bare place, piece of land with sparse vegetation’, probably alluding to sparse tree-cover at the time of naming. Den, wooded gorge or ravine.

‘fra the litill strynde of wattir that rynnis betuix the twa Lumbowis, gangand (walking, going on foot) west be the southfald dikis (dyke, wall) unto the marchis of Fedinche (Feddinch CMN), strekand (extend, stretch (in a specified direction or for a specified distance) est fra the marchis of Fedinche unto the marchis of the landis of the Kerenys (Cairns SSL), as ye done gais to the nether end of the said litill strynde.’)

I’ve been painting outdoors, in short bursts (there are a few midges) using a watercolour-gouache hybrid paint. it can be thin and watery or thick and opaque.

working on the ground. which is quite tough actually, I have to be careful of my neck.

the first thing is that it’s very difficult to get away from the beautiful and strange with trees, and hard not to just try to make representative paintings.

mark making can be inspired by their linear and limb-like qualities

and texture and colour can be useful information as well.

working on paper I find it hard to have a light enough touch.

but the gouache does allow some layering if you can wait for it to dry a bit. I couldn’t always, what with midges and running out of clean water. but tramped up and down to the burn a few times.

leaves are already starting to turn, but there is this amazing glow of green light under the beech trees.

bringing home all these wet paintings is awkward …

I have hot press (the smooth sort of handmade watercolour paper) Bockingford 300 gsm (the weight) and Sanders 620 gsm. you want a thick heavy paper to stay flattish and not buckle. most of these are quarter cut sheets from full size 22″ x 18 or 15″ so 11 x 9″ or 11 x 7 1/2″, plus an A3 soft cover stapled sketchbook,

a heavy watercolour not-quite-as-smooth spiral bound pad, and a concertina sketchbook.

this is the big stapled sketchbook. so I’m wobbling between quite abstract as here –

allowing the gouache to be quite watery, which it does happily –

and in the concertina book quick and loose seems to happen more naturally –

and then representational/abstract through simplification and a certain symbolic feeling about the trees and the light, influenced by Idris Murphy. this could be scaled up to a bigger painting when I get a studio again, and I’d like to find a way to have several ideas like this.

not getting sidetracked by detail is always important, best photographed and put into blog posts!

we’ve been taking the dogs to the beach in the early morning, at West Sands, in front of the big St Andrews golf course, a couple of times a week. last week on a rainy day with low cloud over the sea.

this is excellent for thinking about how to represent landscape differently.

just moving the colours around on the paper

and letting things happen

low cloud and wet sand.

after a lot of running, Bims spends most of the day on my bed, where the big window absorbs any sun heat there is and makes this room the warmest in the house.

she’s a bit of a pain with Emmett on the beach though

he’s too old and arthritic for games, and she can be a real bully.

the beach turns the corner into the Eden estuary and there’s a nature reserve there.

today the tideline was full of the rich and strange, probably thrown up by last weekend’s storm.

this piece of lignite (I think) with its decorative tiny shell and borer holes would make a great abstract drawing or painting. in the last few days I have been drawing and painting with my left (my non-dominant) hand. it’s a good way of loosening up.

here after drawing trees from observation with my non-dominant hand I was much more able to let go and practice mark-making with the gouache, while in the outdoor studio under the trees.

today I did something different – I have bought a different make of acrylic paint to try out, Wallace Seymour. acrylic is not something I want to mess about with on the ground, handling it is rather less forgiving, and it is plastic when all is said and done. so I occupied the wooden table at the bottom of the garden. really it was a bit windy so I wasn’t out there long.

quite pleased with this luminous offering.

tomorrow I’m going to put an offer in on a detached bungalow in Cupar, in the far top corner of an estate of nice solid bungalows, with wooden doors and windows rather than PVA, where you can see the hills that separate Cupar from Ceres, and the garage has an apex tiled roof and I think it won’t be difficult to convert it into a good studio. wish me luck!