Harris day 7

‘Harris Twilight’. Mixed media on 5×5″ wood block

‘Luskintir Sea, Harris’. Mixed meda on 9.5×9.5″ wood panel

Today’s paintings of Harris for exhibition at the Whitespace Gallery from 14th to 20th July.

I’m quite happy with these today – it’s going in a more atmospheric direction and avoiding the picture postcard look that’s too easy to fall into when painting the west coast beaches.

I’ll paint a 30×30 inch version of this, and several more paintings at 10×10 inches, then I’ll be just about ready for exhibition in a month.

Harris paintings day 6

‘Coast Road near Geocrab Bay, Harris’. Mixed media on 9.5×7.5″ wood panel

‘Traigh Luskentir, Harris’. Mixed media on 9.5×7.5 wood panel

‘Moon reflected in Harris Lochan’. Mixed media on 7×4″ wood block

Today’s paintings of the Isle of Harris for the upcoming exhibition at Whitespace Gallery on the 14th – 20th July.

I’m trying to capture the way light bounces of the rocks of Harris – which is called Lewisian Gneiss after the Island of Lewis and Harris. It’s one of the oldest rocks in the world (3 billions years old) definitely the oldest in Britain,  very varied and jumbled in appearance as the original volcanic rock has  been mangled by pressure, so the geology nerds among you will know that the rocks were originally igneous (volcanic) and now metamorphic (changed by pressure, glacial action and weather).

Sometimes you’ll see glittering seams of rose quartz or various types of quartz and feldspar, which reflect the white Hebridean light in beautiful ways.

I’m also attempting more paintings of the sea and it’s difficult to avoid making it look picture postcard-like – it looks exaggerated, though the sea is even brighter than this painting of the beach at Luskentyre. I’ll probably go more abstract as the paintings get larger..



Harris paintings day 5

Today’s paintings of the luminous Na Buirgh beach on the west coast of Harris.

I’ve decided to go with the Gaelic place names for most of this series, mostly because it reflects the history of the island. Many of these are Gaelicised Norse due to Norse settlers and rulers in Hebridean history.

Na Buirgh is also written as ‘Borve’. ‘Na’ means ‘the’. Buirgh, roughly translated, means ‘burgers’ or inhabitants. It’s probably pronounced something like Na Beeyuryih.

I can’t speak Gaelic, though I know quite a few words (mostly through singing Gaelic songs and travelling through the west coast where the sign posts are in English and Gaelic). Opinion is divided on maintainance of Gaelic place names, since it costs double the money (same in Wales) but most feel it’s an essential way of keeping a language therefore a history, alive.

Of the (approximately) 26,000 plus inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides, about 50% speak Gaelic (in the 1920s it was around 75%).

There’s a lot of history surrounding survival of the Gaelic language. Since I’m not a historian I can’t do the whole subject justice here (and anyway this is an arts blog with occasional forays into other subjects) but to give a brief picture – the dropping numbers of Gaelic speakers in recent history has much to do with compulsory English taught in schools throughout the UK, but it goes back much farther than that, to the aftermath of the Jacobite wars.

It’s a history well worth exploring if you’re not familiar with it, basically Gaelic and Highland culture in general was suppressed after the final Jacobite rebellion at Culloden. Tartan was banned of course  – much later revived when Queen Victoria, much influenced by the romanticised Highland history as written by Sir Walter Scott, decided to build Balmoral and encourage the wearing of tartan and general symbols of Highland culture in general.

There is a very dark irony around that of course, since many of the more violent aspects of the destruction of Highland culture and society after 1745, in addition to the later Highland clearances, amounted to ethnic cleansing.

Written Gaelic looks unwieldy if you don’t know how to pronounce it, but hearing it spoken or sung is a different matter. Here’s acclaimed Gaelic singer Rachel Walker singing Braighe loch lall. (Braes of Locheil). If you’re interested in the translation I’ve included original Gaelic and translation below..


Lyrics: English Translation:
O thèid is gun tèid Oh I’ll go, I’ll surely go
O thèid mi thairis Oh I will go over
Gu innis nam bò To the cattle grazings
Far an ceòlmhòr ainnir Where the young women are tuneful
Sèist: Chorus (after each verse):
Ill ò bha hò Ill ò bha hò
S’na hao ri ri rì o hi S’na hao ri ri rì o hi
Hoireann o gù o hill ò bha hò Hoireann o gù o hill ò bha hò
Gu innis nam bò To the cattle grazings
Far an ceòlmhòr ainnir Where the young women are tuneful
Gu Bràighe Loch Iall To the Braes of Locheil
Far am bith fiadh s’an langan Where the bellowing stags are
Gu Bràighe Loch Iall To the Braes of Locheil
Far am bith fiadh s’an langan Where the bellowing stags are
Is earbag nan stùc And the little roe of the peaks
Tha lùghmhor eangar So nimble and lightfooted
Is earbag nan stùc And the little roe of the peaks
Tha lùghmhor eangar So nimble and lightfooted
A bhean an fhuilt rèidh Girl with the glossy hair
Guidheam fhèin dhut mo bheannachd I give you my blessing
A bhean an fhuilt rèidh Girl with the glossy hair
Guidheam fhèin dhut mo bheannachd I give you my blessing
Mo beannachd ad dhèidh My blessing go with you
Ged is fheudar bhith dealaicht Though we had to part
O thèid is gun tèid Oh I’ll go, I’ll surely go
O thèid mi dhachaidh Oh I will go home
Gu Bràighe Loch Iall To the Braes of Locheil
Far am bith fiadh s’an langan Where the bellowing stags are
(Sèist 2x) (Chorus 2x)

(from – http://www.celticlyricscorner.net )

Aquatint etching workshop

‘Approaching Harris’. Aquatint etching, 8×5.8″ on Hahnemuhle paper.

Above, my first attempt at aquatint etching!

This was from the workshop I attended on Saturday at the Printmaker’s Workshop in Edinburgh, led by Jessica Crisp – who managed to guide us all through the complicated process in six hours without any mishap with acid baths and so on!

Etching is basically a process where you etch acid into a metal plate, then fill in the etched lines or areas with ink, then print it on to paper.

I kept my design fairly simple and high contrast but aquatint etching can create some incredibly atmospheric effects. Here are a couple by artist Norman Ackroyd, showing the beautiful subtlety of tones, textures and dramatic atmosphere you can create…

‘Holy Island, Arran’. Norman Ackroyd.

‘Shetland’. Norman Ackroyd






I took photos of the process throughout the day (below) mostly so I won’t forget, then I can go back and make more prints from the original plate, or etch it more. Also, I think the process is visually interesting – it’s quite messy and hands on (well, I was quite messy – with a bit of practice I wouldn’t end up with black fingernails!)…

Here’s how it’s done..

After de-greasing the copper plate, you start by painting your image onto your plate with a solution of coffee (traditionally sugar solution was used). This is called ‘sugar-lift’. Then you dry this on a heat plate..






Next you roll on a thin layer of ink ground (we used B.I.B – Baldwin’s ink ground) which is then heated in an oven (in this case 8 minutes)




After leaving the plate to cure for another thirty minutes out of the oven, you then place the plate in a tray of hot water. Where the coffee solution was applied, the ink-ground peels away, revealing your painted image which is now exposed metal, and can be acid-etched.




Now you begin the aqua-tint process – you fine-spray the exposed metal plate, and this leaves a fine residue of ink, which then allows acid to bite into the metal plate (into each tiny speck of aquatint ink) leaving a subtle shade effect across your image.





It gets complicated now though, because each time you expose the plate to acid, it bites more into the plate – creating deeper shades when you finally print the image.

So you need to paint or ‘stop out’ areas (block them from the acid) in different stages to create deeper shades each time…






This shows how long your image needs in the acid to create each shade  …









Wearing protecive goggles and gloves, you start with the first acid etch of the area you want to be the next lightest (the areas you want to keep most light are stopped out). The plate is dipped into acid for the required time (if it’s a long time you’ll peg it to the side of the acid bath) then it’s quickly taken out and plunged into a water tray to halt the acid etch..





After stopping out the next area, you repeat the acid bath process until you have the amount of shading you want. Remember that the areas not stopped out get exposed to more acid each time – those become your darkest shades once it’s printed.

Now you strip off the stop-out ..





Then you take off the ink-ground with vegetable oil ..




To reveal your completely etched image! ..




Using a rubber wedge or ‘squeegee’, you push soft ink into the plate, then scrape it off first with the squeegee, then very gently with rough cloth, and finally with tissue paper, leaving the ink only in the etched parts..





Now your plate is ready to be printed, you place a layer of tissue on the printing press, then your etched plate, then the printing paper (pre-soaked and blotted) on top. On top of this you pull over a special printing blanket, then you roll the handle of the press across the print, finally you carefully pull off the paper from your plate, and voila!





Lastly, I quickly took some photos of prints made by people in the class (it was tricky to photograph them symmetrically as they were higher up on tables etc) it’s interesting how very different they all are, and I think they’re all beautiful!













Harris paintings day 4

Ceapabhal Peninsula, Isle of Harris. Mixed media on 6.5×5″ wood block

Loch near Beacravik, Isle of Harris. Mixed media on 6.5×5″ wood block

Loch Fhleoideabhaigh at Mannish, Harris. Mixed media on 8×5″ wood block

Hills near Beacravik, Isle of Harris. Mixed media on 6.5×5 wood block

Today’s paintings of the Island of Harris, for the upcoming exhibition on the 14th – 20th July at Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh.

If you like any of these paintings you can reserve and buy them before the exhibition. If any sell before exhibition they’ll have a red ‘sale’ dot next to them, then they’ll be posted to you the day after the exhibition ends (July 21st). You are welcome to email me at rose.strang@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Below are all paintings so far (I’ll be painting larger ones at 9 x9 inches soon, and perhaps a few at 15×15 inches).


‘Damascus Rose’ update

This low pressure weather and rain in the past few days has led to headaches for quite a few people including myself. A friend of mine got a migraine so nasty she was bed-ridden. Plans for a long walk over Arthur’s Seat today were thwarted, so I tackled my Damascus Rose series (updates above, original paintings below).

I’m not quite sure what I’ve done here! It’s quite a lurid green. I wasn’t too happy with these two before, and they needed a bit more work so I’ll re-think next week perhaps. Basically I didn’t just want pretty flowers, so maybe I’ve succeeded in toning down the pretty aspect of Damascus Rose 3 at least

‘Damascus Rose 3’. Mixed media on 36×36 inch wood panel

‘Damascus Rose 1’. Acrylic on 36×36″ wood panel







I’ve been following news of the sale of Basquiat’s Untitled at $110 million, which is an insane amount of money. Insanity aside though, I love theBasquiat painting below titled Portrait of Andy Warhol as a Banana – deceptively simple, it just works perfectly as an image –