Stob Dubh Buachaille etive beag glencoe artist

Buachaille Etive Beag – sketching from on high

My ears pricked up at the hallowed phrase on the weather forecast… “a ridge of high pressure…”

 

Glencoe artist hills mountains sketching painting

Sketching from on high

Throwing together everything I needed for a quick overnighter up a mountain, I picked out the Buachaille Etive Beag as a destination for a leg stretch and a spot of sketching. Less well known than the majestic Buachaille Etive Mor (Great Herdsman of Glen Etive), I was looking for a walk that wouldn’t absolutely exhaust me; seeing as my legs aren’t particularly hill-fit at present.

 

 

 

 

 

It was a gorgeous day; sunny with a wee breeze to keep the midgies at bay, fantastic visibility and well maintained paths up to the two Munro tops. My backpack weighed in at around 15kg…not exactly lightweight; but paper weighs a lot! As usual I took more art supplies than I needed, but rather that way around than the other.

Bidean nam Bian from Stob Dubh - pencil sketch Julie Arbuckle

Bidean nam Bian from Stob Dubh – pencil sketch

It was really warm – I slapped on the Factor 50 and sweated and panted my way up. Heart pounding and the weight of my rucksack slowing me down considerably, I got a few funny looks from people descending the hill with tiny packs – veritable mountain goats skipping down the track. I felt more akin to a mountain hippo…

ben nevis glencoe lochaber hillwalking highlands scotland

Ben Nevis from the “Wee Bookle”

I found a small patch to pitch my tent not too far from a water source – sadly not on the very top of the hill as it was a bit too breezy, but with a fair view all the same…

wildcamping etive terra nova Glen Coe

Early Morning Cloud rising Glen Coe

wildcamping glen coe etive tent

Resting in the tent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was treated to a pretty decent sunset – the view from the top of Stob Coire Raineach down Glencoe is fantastic – although I was almost paralysed by the beauty and ever-changing light. I felt like there was no way my sketches could do this justice. I did try, though I was scunnered to find I’d left my watercolours down at the tent. Gloves, hat and scarf on in addition to ALL my clothes, as the wind was coming from the north and had a fair bite to it.

Aonach Eagach sketch - graphite on paper Julie Arbuckle

Aonach Eagach sketch – graphite on paper Julie Arbuckle

Loch Leven Sunset

Loch Leven Sunset

Stob Dubh and Glen Etive evening scottish hillwalking

Stob Dubh and Glen Etive

Sunset from Buachaille Etive Beag

Sunset from Buachaille Etive Beag

Picking my way back down to the tent, my knee started giving me jip. I may have to start walking with sticks! I seriously considered packing up and descending back to the carpark by torchlight, but sense prevailed and I battened down the hatches to try to get some sleep. The wind sang and I swear I could hear murmuring voices adrift on it through the night.

When my alarm went off at 5am ( I had set it to catch the sunrise), my knee was still louping and the clag had descended, obscuring any view. So I burrowed deeper into my sleeping bag and caught another couple of hour’s sleep.

Camping on the Bealach wildcamping terra nova

Camping on the Bealach

artist art clock paint quirky gift idea

Off on a Creative Tangent : clocks!

paint clocks palette paint chroma julie arbuckle artist

This week I’ve mainly been making clocks. No, not painting landscapes or tutoring, or hillwalking or cycling…just making clocks!

I swear I haven’t totally taken leave of my senses. You see, for years I’ve been saving up my old plywood paint palettes when they got too messy to use. The unconscious paint patterns I inadvertently make on them are gorgeous and I always wanted to do something with them, and not chuck them in a skip.

Last week I rescued an old kitchen clock from my Grandparent’s house, which was destined for the charity shop. I thought I’d use the mechanism and hands and have a go at making my own clock. And so back at the studio it struck me : the paint palettes! Dusting them off from a cobwebby corner and sanding them down, I began the difficult task of cutting a circle using just a hacksaw and some creative language. And I made my first clock.

paint clocks palette paint chroma julie arbuckle artist

I thought it looked so good that I decided to risk a bit of investment and order some clock mechanisms to make more. Over two days, and by borrowing a jigsaw, I slowly made 11 more. I shared the photo of the first one on my Facebook Page...and sold out completely in under 24 hours! I’ve also had enquiries from three retail outlets interested in stocking them.

Not wanting to turn down the chance of exploring this new venture, I’ve made some more. And I intend to keep going! You can see what’s available by visiting this page : http://www.juliearbuckleart.com/product-category/clocks/

paint clocks palette paint chroma julie arbuckle artist

artist art clock paint quirky gift idea

Unique artist’s clock made from reclaimed paint palette.

Ben Cruachan at sunset

Kilberry to Dalavich – Cycle trip day 3

Kilberry to Dalavich

48 miles

“****ing HOT day! Loch Awe road is a BEAST with too many hills that just go on and on forever. Saw a lizard & slow worm on the road. Got water and directions to this site from lad in shop. Haven’t eaten enough but not hungry – am drinking enough though. Washed in loch. Made fire to keep midgies away”

This was a testing day. Character-building, as they say. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun beat down on my back relentlessly as I pedalled north. The road over to to Lochgilphead from Kilberry was longer than I had remembered when I first cycled it at 15 years old with a friend.

A nice flat stretch along the Crinan canal brought back memories of a couple of family holidays staying in a lock keeper’s cottage – and then the wide expanse of the flat lands just north of the canal were just as much fun to cycle as they had been all those years ago. I didn’t get to Dunadd sadly (the Iron Age fort defending the old kingdom of Dalriada) as I took a wrong turn and didn’t notice for about 4 miles; by which time I couldn’t face making up the miles again. I was still determined to keep heading North.

Along the western edge of Loch Awe there is a quiet road which has been marked as part of the National Cycle Network’s route 78 – “The Caledonia Way” which links Campbeltown to Inverness over 237 miles. I think the toughest 18 of those miles must be alongside Loch Awe! The undulating road combined with heat saw me getting off and pushing far more often than I’d like. Due to lots of felling by the Forestry Commission, there was scant shade for respite – and the shade I did manage to seek naturally harboured ravenous midgies, so stopping for longer than about 2 mins was out of the question.

Puncture on the hottest day

Puncture on the hottest day

Just before arriving at Dalavich, Bessie got a puncture from a piece of tiny sharp metal in the road. Being so hot and tired, it took me almost an hour to fix it (it’s such a faff when you have to take all the luggage off the bike first!). Anyway – I reached the only shop for miles at Dalavich at 5pm – they shut at 5pm! Thankfully the boy in the shop stayed open for me as I begged some water and asked where I could camp locally. “There’s nowhere to camp round here, but there is an unofficial camp spot down by the loch about a mile back the way…” I was given detailed directions to look for a certain bin by the road. Being so hot and exhausted, I had run out of options, so this was it.

Thankfully, after breaking off road and crashing through bracken which was taller than I was, I got to the water’s edge and a small flat piece of woodland which had obviously been used for campfires in the past, although not for some time, judging by the undergrowth. I trampled down an area for my tent and got to work setting up camp. Had a quick and refreshing wash in the loch (both myself and my clothes) and dried my clothes in the sun.

wildcamping Camping Loch Awe

Secret Camping Spot, Loch Awe

Cooked some rather disgusting instant noodles on the beach and made a very small fire to keep the midgies at bay (though again, I was too tired to go gathering much firewood).

To tell the truth – even though the setting was idyllic and I was in much need of a rest, the place unsettled me. Something very sombre and gloomy haunted the air, inspite of the glorious summer’s evening. It was a feeling that stopped me wandering far to explore and stopped me from wading in too deep in the loch.

 

Midge net at the ready – cooking tea by Loch Awe

Around 3am I awoke groggy… there was a strange sensation on the crown of my head – I’d never felt anything quite like it. I put my hand to my head and felt nothing but the mesh of the tent inner. Turning to look behind me, I saw a dark shadow – about the size of a saucer – a weighty clump of *something* attached to the mesh where my head had been. I grabbed my phone and lit it up – and immediately wished I hadn’t. The clump in question was a ball of around 20 slugs; all entangled and entwined in a slimy, slithering, sticky mess. They must have been attracted to my body heat – as as my head was touching the inner, that was where they had gathered. Allowing my eyes to wander further in the tent I saw around 20 more slugs all sliming their way up the nylon. I, in turn, formed the smallest ball I could in my sleeping bag, shut my eyes and managed to fall asleep to escape the encroaching slugs. I was bloody pleased I was zipped up tight in the inner tent!

Ben Cruachan in distance - Loch Awe evening

Ben Cruachan in distance – Loch Awe evening

Lochranza to Kilberry – Cycle trip day 2

Jura from Port Ban

Jura from Port Ban

Day 2 – Lochranza to Kilberry

37 miles

“Tired. Sunny, sunny, sunny day. 3 lots of Factor 50 still wasn’t enough to stop me burning. Dunno where I’ll end up tomorrow…just want to get north to the hills”

I was woken early by some raucous oystercatchers. The morning was misty and soft, very Hollywood “Scottish Highlands” weather. Caught the first ferry to Claonaig at 0815am and made a quick detour to Skipness, as a few people had recommended I visit. Being just after 9am though the place was pretty dead – although I did buy a cola from the wee shop.

Lochranza in the morning mist

Lochranza in the morning mist

A twisty and challenging few hills were between Claonaig and Tarbert. Full lights on the bike due to misty conditions. I refulled at Tarbert and stocked up on food at the co-op. Then the flat-ish road round the coast to Kilberry, stopping off for another lunch of Co-op meal deal at an utterly deserted beach (Loch Stornoway) I stripped off my wet clothes and dried them on the rocks. Very pretty area, but not inspiring to me artistically.

Hipster phonebox in Kilberry

I had planned to wild camp just above the beach to the north of Port Ban campsite, but a total lack of phone signal swayed me to pay for a pitch to get on their wifi system, so I could contact home and let people know I was OK. This is a constant worry for me when touring alone – being able to get in touch with people to let them know I’m not dead. More and more phoneboxes are being turned into kitsch installations, such as lending libraries – or more useful defibrillator stations – due to lack of use. But until mobile phone providers improve their Scottish coverage, they can be a life line. I wasn’t impressed at all by this box in Kilberry – all very hipster, but I needed to make an effing phonecall!

Anyway – the site had had a bit of an upgrade since I was last there 20 years ago. The sunset over Jura was gorgeous and I met some lovely cycle tourists from Bristol – Lucy and Reuben – who were glamping in one of the wooden pods. A seagull stole a sausage right off their BBQ whilst half-cooked… I was getting ready to defend myself against brazen food theft by gull but luckily this food fracas was avoided by me pretty much inhaling my pasta and meatballs before they could get a look in.

Enjoying the golden hour

Enjoying the golden hour

rough sketch of Jura from Port Ban

rough sketch of Jura from Port Ban

Brodick to Lochranza – Cycle trip day 1

Corran ferry cycle touring scotland ardgour

Waiting for the Corran ferry

I’ve learned many things this past 10 days of cycle-touring around the west coast of Scotland, but one of the most pertinent lessons has been that when cycle touring and camping, I’m left with very little energy to sketch.  A little like how when camping in the mountains I rarely feel able to draw or paint until the basics are taken care of – food/shelter/water supply, when cycle touring there are even more tasks to sap my mental and physical energies.

Not only the physical challenge of cycling 30 – 60 miles a day, there is navigation, maintaining constant vigil on the bike (potholes/inconsiderate drivers/technical bits), finding a place to camp, getting water, getting enough food (I was burning around 3,500 kcals a day), getting enough sleep, washing my clothes and food stuff, drying my clothes, washing myself, mending punctures, keeping the bike functioning… the hours were eaten up by the basics of surviving. Which is something I enjoy, but isn’t sustainable alongide any creative output I find.

Nonetheless I did manage a few scrappy sketches which I’ll share over the coming posts.

corrie arran sandstone red geology

Day 1 : Brodick to Lochranza (Isle of Arran)

17 miles

” Drizzling. Midgies not too bad. Supplemented my instant pasta with sorrel for greens. Heard first cuckoo coming out of Sannox. Tired. Sleepy but happy”

A nice easy 15 miles which I’ve done before, to break me in gently. Corrie on the East coast of Arran was mesmerising and fascinating as usual. I’ve painted here before but was eager to get back to the wonderfully water-scuplted red sandstone; it’s like stone waves moving at a glacially slow pace. I need to spend at least a whole day here studying the rock forms, not just 40 mins whilst I wolfed down a Co-op meal deal.

The hill climb out of Sannox is challenging, but with patience and stopping every 5 minutes to catch my breath, I made it to the top without having to get off and push. The rain came on for the first time as I flew down the hill into Lochranza. Sweet, dense smells reminded me of “the out of doors” and calmed me ; namely a heady potpourri of bracken, bog myrtle and sheep poo.

red deer stags lochranza arran golf course

Not bovvered. Red deer stags at Lochranza.

A quick stop at the Arran Distillery to service my new-found interest in whisky (I only bought a miniature 10 yer old single malt – it was lovely if a little light and fresh for my taste) was where I met a local arist called Gordon Davidson, who was raising funds for orphans in Nepal. Gordon has also been commissioned at governmental level to paint the Himalayas and Peruvian mountains – what adventures he’s had!

I stayed at Lochranza campsite – really well equipped with good wifi, showers and laundry. Plus the rather blasé red deer hanging out on the golf course were an added bonus.

 

 

 

Cycle Adventure – Glasgow Art Club Summer Show – Metal painting

Bessie Bike at Lochranza

 

Starting Sunday 18th June 2017, I will be leaving on an expedition – attempting to cycle to Skye. Part endurace test, part art research trip, part masochism; you can follow my adventure on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

Scottish landscape mountains Scotland Highlands sunset Julie Arbuckle

“Transition” – oil and paper on canvas

Liathach Torridon Scottish Highlands Climbing Wester Ross Landscape

Liathach Clearing – original oil on canvas landscape painting by Julie Arbuckle

Last night I attended the opening of the Glasgow Art Club’s Summer Show (opened by guest Prof. Richard Williams OBE, who spoke enthusiastically about re-integrating art and science). I have a couple of paintings in the show – “Transition” and “Liathach Clearing” – it runs until the 5th of August at 185 Bath Street, Glasgow. If you’ve never visited the club before just chap the door and someone will let you in! There’s also the exhibition up the stairs celebrating 150 years of the Glasgow Art Club. Well worth a shuftie.

Last week I finished a large aluminium painting – the view inspired by a beautiful sunset I witnessed one year ago to the week, atop Beinn Eighe in Torridon. Here’s a wee video :

I’ve not got around to listing it on the website yet, but if anyone is interested in this piece, email me : julie.arbuckle@gmail.com.