Isle Of Iona Residency

I have started my month as artist in residence on the Isle Of Iona and something has happened to time! I have lost all sense of it! I feel very at home here; relaxed, inspired, energised and I am working hard. I arrived as the only passenger on the ferry, with enormous amounts of materials – oil paint, acrylic, watercolours, boards, canvases, paper, sketchbooks – far too much I thought…we’ll see. My intention is to work outside as much as possible. It became apparent on day one that the weather will dictate where I can work and when – more specifically the wind. A Hebridean wind is not something to be taken lightly!

Lots of time spent looking, drawing and painting on the beach. I am becoming fascinated by the rocks… how they differ from one beach to the next, the colours in different light, specific formations. It is absolutely mesmerising watching the waves crash over them.

I love the fact that I am getting to know the pattern of the tides and moon. It was a big, bright moon in my first week here so very low and high tides. Wonderful settling into the rhythm of this place. I am starting to learn how the sea comes in around the various formations, the channels and shapes left at low tide and the different angles of the waves coming into the beaches.

Already I have a few favourite painting spots… and I am beginning to learn where to head for the best waves and painting locations depending on wind direction. I am getting close in to the subject and wishing I had some larger canvases (reminding myself I have to get all these slightly wet oil paintings home in a month’s time!) Here are some of the paintings so far:

There is quite a bit of sand getting mixed into the paint, which is inevitable working on the beach. There is also a need to work reasonably fast before the fingers become too numb! I’m finding it very useful to bring the work back to the studio and spend time considering it… a change of pace. Something quite new often strikes me when I get the painting inside.

I can think of nothing better than painting on a sunny day on a Hebridean beach. I might use the studio here more as time goes on… so far the weather has been really good – cold, sunny, dry, so I am working outside. I feel as though my hat has become an extension of my body! I am wind blasted and very happy.

I must also mention the geese… there are loads of them! I have developed a habit of sitting by a lovely Celtic cross where I draw on my way to the village. It has a spectacular view across the Sound Of Iona. A great place to watch the changing sky, but I love it most towards the end of the day when the geese all lift off in a noisy gaggle and then flick from black to white as they change direction and return to their field of choice. Here are a few sketchbook pages:

I went up ‘Dun I’ – the highest point on the island – on my first day to get the overview. It seemed like the right way to begin my time here and to reflect on what I want to gain from this residency. My hope is to return enlivened and invigorated with some finished paintings and sketch books full of inspiration to inform future work. I am already realising that the experience of being here will be far deeper than that, transformative and enriching in all sorts of ways.