stones and more snowdrops

I put my 100 doubles in the front garden on Monday

the ones in the grass are last year’s which seem to be coming up happily enough – I watered them a few times, it’s a very dry spot. so this time I took the turf off and dug some soil improver and a little manure into the clay to give them a helping hand. I’ll sow some wild flowers into these bald patches. one of my cowslip plugs came up with the turf – alive but hardly changed, really they needed soil improver too. so that one is in better soil at any rate.

I had a lovely snowdrop walk at Balcarres near Colinsburgh last weekend

not only the snowdrops, but the views and the neo-gothic architecture – this lodge designed by Lorimer in 1896-8.

as soon as you get higher up the Firth of Forth spreads out in front or behind you, silvery on a day of sun and cloud. you can see the Lothians, Bass Rock, the Lammermuir Hills and the Edinburgh hills from vantage points further along, also Largo Law to the west.

the lower park is full of lime trees that have been browsed, so their twiggy skirts are held high up above their knees

it’s the walk with the gothic folly up on the crag/craig.

and this wee tower in the park. what was it for? a grand writing shed?  on the other side there’s a door at ground level but it looks like there was a wide arch before, so the gentleman writer could take his horse in and tie it up. my imagination running wild. I think it is actually a doocot, but a very different design to the usual.

snowdrops everywhere, hillsides of them.

the first ones must have been planted – I don’t think they just arrive by themselves.

two medium-sized yew trees gone in the den

but on the whole there doesn’t seem to be too much damage.

I’ve been taking a bit of a look at farm buildings on these estates. a lot of money obviously spent

on solid winter accommodation for livestock

and safe storage for crops

this is a big range at Whitehill farm, once part of the Tarvit estate. one of the Tarvit home farm fields is where my house is built.

the centre of this square of buildings has been turned into an all-weather arena for training horses, and the outer buildings function as stabling now.

the slate roofs are in good condition, but not the pretty wooden louvres

it’s quite exposed, high up with great views across the hills. not quite as high as the Hill of Tarvit, or Tarvit mains, which looks across to the Angus Glens and even some of the Cairngorm hills.

yesterday they were all picked out with fresh snow.

down here the home farm has extensive buildings around a big square with a no longer functioning clock in this very fancy tower over the archway. Fife fruit farms operate out of it, and have a trailer park for the fruit pickers. I buy strawberries and raspberries from a stall they have outside their office during the harvest. the big house was “blown up” – or demolished – in the 60’s to make way for a housing scheme, but part of the gardens – large ponds and an ice house – are still there as recreation areas. with plenty of snowdrops of course …

I brought my big eighth gate painting indoors to take stock. it’s too big to photograph in the studio, or see what I think of it at all. easy to manage the moving of it, being two canvases. it took a little manoeuvring to get it in the space, the glass fronted cupboard had to be slid along the carpet a few inches.

it represents a bit of a change, a holding back in some ways. but I think it’s the most successful of the several really big paintings I’ve done in the last ten months. perhaps that’s because it has the fifth side, the line between the two canvases.


unlike this painting, which is a more normal size, 30 x 30″, Melisande’s overgrown path, which I’ve worked into until it’s a vibrating tangle of marks and colours. I heard today that this one has been pre-selected for the Aberdeen Open, which means you take the painting along and then they decide whether to hang it or not. so not a done deal, by any means.

this one is related to both, in that it has a lot of layers, but it has larger separate areas of colour, linked by the webbing of turquoise blue lines.

this drawing, done after we visited Star Moss in November 2020, is key to quite a lot of things in the paintings at the moment. the gathering lines, and the blue marks , the tension between them, seem to be doing some quite special things.

the way water and land interact

trees and air

ice and leaves

today, trees and light

water and paint

the winter landscape

in my studio the little struggles

and eureka moments –









  1. Another oh so interesting blog, lovely photos of your walks and all the beautiful sights of nature (and sites), and your magnificent paintings, so enormous, what courage! And fingers crossed for Aberdeen.

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