the darkest month

going back to front, yesterday I managed to undo all those bags of topsoil, and the new prairie bed looks like this –

visions of tall asters, echinaceas and coneflowers of all sorts in the late summer, and perhaps I can get some grasses established too. we need that vision at this darkest time of year, when it’s cold and (currently) very wet, and even the seedlings indoors are dying through lack of light and my lack of experience – either I have under-watered them, or more likely over-watered them, and in the bay window it’s cooler than the rest of the house unless there’s sunshine. I have 4 echinaceas left of fifteen, very frustrating when the whole packet germinated, and one coneflower out of half the packet – the other ones I tried did not germinate and have been in and out of the fridge twice now. I must put the rest of the packet in the fridge before trying again in March.

the weather has mostly been dreich (pronounced dreek) – an Old Scottish word derived from Middle English and Old Norse – meaning drear. so a glimpse of sun as in this photo, taken at the top of the Hill of Tarvit (or Wemyss Hill, as the summit is apparently called), was quite special.

it’s a steep climb to the top, five hundred feet from the car park, I thought I was fitter, but had to stop for a breather halfway up.

a hill I can easily walk to from home.

grazed by cattle or sheep at times. there are snowdrops beginning to show in the edge of the woods below, belonging to the mansion house.



when the dreich is mist and you can see blue sky above, it is much more enjoyable. this is the little stone-built humpbacked bridge over the Eden I use to access the river path.

the sun coming through, and the river quite low again.

more reworking has been going on in the studio, this small painting needed more warmth …

the more layers the better, I think –

this was a start from scratch, a cradled ply panel (I bought ten of them) thirty by thirty inches

with collage of paint and pencil on paper ripped up and stuck on over the first layer of red oxide paint, on an overgrown path was my thought, I’d been listening to the Janaček

plenty of paths in my head

but the next day it became this

I had the radio on, Radio Three’s afternoon concert –

they were playing Pelleas und Melisande, a symphonic poem by Arnold Schoenberg

of course Melisande is a water creature who takes on human form – and this has a lily pond look to it –

so her name is scratched through the paint, and the title is something like Melisande’s over grown path …

tackling it with the new squeegee, and then the spray bottle.

in between, walks at Kemback, avoiding the fallen trees

and the old quarry cliffs

and caves

two sorts of lichen on this fallen branch, maybe more

patterns we respond to

maybe the pattern of our world, down to our DNA

and here’s me, trying to make my own patterns. so the yellow lid has gone – it wasn’t very firmly fixed –


more yellow

and more pink …

then one that surprised me into stopping after a couple of layers about two months ago –

attacking with the squeegee and the spray bottle, after strategically placing paint ..

it might be finished now

painted to the sound of Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker playing l’Oiseau-Lyre et la Ville-Fiancée from Messiaen’s Eclairs sur l’au-delà, one of my favourite pieces of music – all the shimmering textures and bird sounds.

I also finished two little ones – 20 x 20 cm

on ply boards – no titles yet

well, and then we had Christmas (this is my son in law, Scott Donaldson, with a board full of little pasta shapes he’s just made, on Christmas Eve.)

one of my Christmas presents was an apple pencil, to use on my ipad. I have been frustrated for some time with sketching and painting apps, because painting with my finger just doesn’t feel right, it’s clumsy on that size screen. this is painted with an app called Art Set, which provides lovely thick paint mark-making with a palette knife, as above.

this is drawn with Procreate, fine for drawing, but the painting side of it very disappointing, thin and wishywashy. even this 6b pencil tool is frustrating as it stops making a mark after a couple of ziggzaggy loops, and you have to take it off the screen and start again.

a feeling for grasses – these in Cairngreen Wood


on the beach at Tentsmuir

I have started playing with the Hipstamatic camera app again

I love these gritty textures

I just put it on shuffle, as I have too many effects now to discover what they will do on a certain day

this was on 27th December. a strange misty day with a silvery light, and the inspiration for the ipad painting above the pencilled one.

the pools and burn are high with water after all the wet.

on Boxing day it was wet all day everywhere except for this hill above Perth

we didn’t even meet much mud, as so many of the paths are well-maintained cinder tracks

spectacular views of the Tay

ruins, cliffs,

plunging slopes

trees that had to be captured

that are totem poles

or turning into monsters that creep across boggy pastures

giant sequoia

towering in the arboretum by the car park

and I think this is Noble Fir, Abies procera, of the pine family, with a smooth trunk and no branches until very high up.



  1. I love being drawn into your world, and you do it every time. The scenery and the colours, we can all feel we are on your walks with you and then in your studio and joining in with the painting. And in your garden!
    I bet that pasta was delicious too….

  2. Lovely photos as always jane and some beautiful textured works. That painting apps looks promising.
    Merry Christmas to you!

  3. Drawn (and painted and photographed and written) into your world” indeed – such a pleasure – Thank you, Jane…..Tom An Hilarious Hogmanay to you and that amazing dog

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