Just back from a bit of an artists retreat time in Skye… its one of my favourite places & somewhere I return to again & again, so much to be explored & discovered. Am now trying to process everything I saw, noted, gathered and felt. Lots to take on board and to explore further. Very exciting & inspiring time. The weather has been amazing, the wildlife wonderful & there really were stories under every stone…
I left thick snow behind in Derbyshire and I feel I found spring in Skye… But the temperature dropped a lot at night and left amazing ice and frost patterns waiting to be found each morning.
Many of the mountains had much snow on them, both on Skye and on my route up through the Scottish highlands. It was an incredibly amazing landscape – the patterns of bare trees against the backdrop of moorland and snowy mountains. I found the layers of colours really rich and inspiring. I’ve returned with hundreds of photos, sketch books full of images and a few found treasures to contemplate (teeny driftwood, sea-washed pottery and a little shell…). The landscape was bursting with stories and hints at events and happenings.
I’m hoping now to continue to explore all this – I’m itching to get out the paints again, the felt, the collage materials and the printing inks…
Skye (and the Islands and Highlands) is a landscape that deeply inspires me; I’ve been returning there for several years and every time there are more and more layers to peel back, new things to find and familiar things take on new meanings. Its stunning in all seasons - and maybe especially feels remote, wild and rugged outside of the busier summertime.
There’s something incredibly important and meditative about spending time in nature looking, listening, feeling and watching… you notice so much if you tune yourself into it. If you rush through a landscape you miss almost everything that could be there for you. I think also being able to go for long walks in wild places brings the most special encounters – with nature but also with yourself. That’s also why I adore the very early morning and dusk, they are quite magical times when the light and smells in the air are incredibly special.
Encounters with nature come in all sorts of ways – but you have to be constantly placing yourself in situations where they might just happen. I spent a lot of time in Skye watching for otters, amongst other creatures, and whilst I was eventually rewarded with the most wonderful long views of three otters – it’s the waiting and searching that has such an important set of emotions attached to it. I love going for walks and finding signs of creatures which tell a story that you can only guess at parts of… Knowing you have maybe just missed an otter (or any creature) is an amazing feeling – because there’s a sense of wider things happening around you and the promise of what might be around another corner. It also makes me smile inwardly because wild creatures should be able to keep themselves safe and a step ahead of human activity really. It also makes it all the more special when you do see wild animals.
I was incredibly inspired by the trees and woodland on Skye; I was exploring the part of the island that has old groves of birch, hazel, oak and alder. They are twisted, bent, curled trees that I find really beautiful: their colours and textures are rich, they are covered in amazing lichens and the trees sit snuggled up to the rocks – gripping tight and winding their way up through the land in ways look almost impossible.
There are also many remnants of human activity amidst the trees – standing stones, old huts, clearance villages… as well as new homes and signposts… I love the stories found in the land and signs of past human activity can give rise to the ideas of tales and stories stretching back hundreds (even thousands) of years. It’s important to maintain a connection with the past, whilst also looking forward; links with our ancestors should help us find our own place in the world. I find the clearance villages particularly emotional places – they are set amongst this stunningly beautiful landscape and yet they tell stories that contain vast harshness and hardship.
I also find that a landscape like Skye has so many wonderful small treasures to be found – but which could be overlooked. There are these endless vast views of mountains, sea, lochs and other islands which stop you in your tracks; yet there are also the most beautiful teeny flowers, moss, lichens, tiny shells, little stones and details in the grains of sand… It’s the combination of all of this that draws me there…