the colours of winter

it’s surprising how much colour there is left in the landscape. it’s early winter of course, so the bracken and the beech leaves and the larch needles are still bright rust colours.

they stray into some of my paintings, in layers of veiling colour and translucent run of watered-down paint.

beech leaves like these will hang onto trees, and hedges, for months, but they will lose that bright orange tone.

skies may be grey, but winter wheat and autumn-sown barley will continue to grow in mild weather, bringing a thick thatch of green to fields.

oranges and pinks at dawn and dusk.

as dawn is now something like 8:30 am here in Fife one sees it more than in the summer.

the colours of winter skies are grey, pink and yellow, the land green, burnt sienna and grey here in Fife where we have stone walls.

the second storm of December, Barra (named after a  Northern Irish TV weather man) was short and sharp over here on the Eastern side of Scotland. I was painting in my studio in the afternoon, and the wind made vacuuming noises in the gaps between the new wooden wall of my studio where we replaced the garage up-and-over door. I have taken to using a squeegee for the layers of paint – it brings up the textures underneath and produces a semi-transparent veil of colour. it dis-allows for detail and fussiness too.

I don’t always use it, this one was finished with an even thinner layer brushed on of a turquoise-green, allowed to run with water added from my spray bottle

and some brighter green painted on with a small brush at the end of a cane.

the day after Barra I was most upset to find this precious jewel of a bird, a male bullfinch, lying dead in the drive – I had been so happy to see him in the gardens at the back of my house for the few days before. so he is commemorated in the painting above, Barra bullfinch. I buried him in the roots of the dark pink rose I was planting at the time, Mme Isaac Periere.

Barra came in at a completely different angle from Arwen, from the South-East, and ripped the dunes apart on Tentsmuir beach.

I found this sea-mouse, about eight inches long, washed up. it’s a kind of marine worm. Its body is covered in bristles – giving it a furry appearance. At the fringes are beautiful iridescent bristles which shimmer blue, green and gold. the sea mouse is an active predator, hunting small crabs and other worms on the seabed, but out of its element like this it is not beautiful at all.

it was a grey morning, the sun trying to come through, with silvery reflections on water and wet sand.

this is a neglected garden on my route to the river Eden here in Cupar. I love it – great for wildlife!

the river is wearing its winter face, its water is thick and fast and would drown you if you got into it. it has otters and big brown trout, kingfishers, herons and dippers.

we had a few very frosty days last week; then the colours are pastel versions of themselves, filtered through the frost crystals.

another painting got taken much further last week

after walking around the Foodie hills and watching these RAF Typhoons come flying out of Leuchars one had to end up on the painting

typhoon for low-flying combat aircraft, and typhoon for storm. someone said that this is a turbulent painting. “Where are you now, Rumgally” (scratched into the paint), the fighter jet and all these winter yellows. or something like.

working on it with very little intentionality. but in my hand is a tube of green paint, and it’s tube to canvas with no intermediary.

I have been around that walk again since then, on a pure sunlit morning, frost and ice underfoot

after rain early in the night the sky cleared. black ice everywhere. I did skate a little on some roads.

puddles broken by tyres

a good morning for drawing

once I had warmed up with the long-drawn-out hills and the sun on my back

Pitcullo farm buildings with their neo-gothic crowsteps and their stone and mortar warmed by late morning sun. here the road was particularly treacherous for a walker.

on Sunday we had a bit of an expedition to Dunkeld. it’s only forty miles from here, easy for the electric car, although the winter cold has reduced its range by a third.

everything there is on a much bigger scale – the hills, the trees ….

even the moss seems brighter and taller

it was quite hard work, not only did we climb up about 150 metres on the Pass of the Caves, it was slippery and narrow.

but very pretty in its wild way with the little burn tumbling down and all the moss and trees and boulders

views of the valley full of mist with the warmer air after  snow and ice

which was still around higher up

an overgrown path and the red larch needles on the ground

back to the studio, so many echoes of these colours.

the third paint-over, swishing pale greens around with a few globs of cerulean, orangey coral and yellow ochre while listening to the Beatles album, let it be ….

and scratching text from a poem into it. then an acid yellow appeared from some colours mixed in the stay-wet tray

balanced with a bit of pink, and here it is – Three Wishes(Hidden), 70 x 80 x 4 cm.

winter gardening has been happening – I am making a new flower bed

sheet mulching for prairie flowers – I have the seeds for them. and a Spartan apple tree went in today.









  1. Another great blog. I always love all the beautiful scenery and seeing how it slips into your paintings and how your colours just emerge from everything in nature.

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