Leo du Feu Painter of landscape and nature
Updated: 2 hours 33 min ago

Scotland By Rail - Rothesay, & circular walk from Rothesay

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 14:58

 Previous related blog posts

Port Glasgow, on route to Wemyss Bay

- Wemyss Bay and ferry to Bute

This blog post - a 6km ish circular walk starting and ending at Rothesay ferry terminal.

The ferries to the Isle of Bute are so frequent and the journey time so short that you really can nip across for just a couple of hours. I had about 5 hours. I started with an hour exploring Rothesay town - cafes, some excellent charity shops, gallery, this tourist info centre in old Winter Gardens pavilion, a moated castle... Then I bought picnic lunch and headed west, climbing a steep road up out of the town. Countryside was lovely, gentle farmland moorland with tree patches here and there and views of mountains (Arran and mainland) in the distance. Lots and lots of bird life. Quiet country road and traffic free footpath took me north and gradually downhill all the way to the shore at Port Bannatyne. From there a couple of kilometres walk back along the coastal road to the ferry, stopping for supplies at Ardbeg village shop. A great, easy walk to give a bit of a feel for Bute.

Here's the walk:


Getting to Bute:
Trains from Glasgow Central to Wemyss Bay are hourly and the journey takes about 50 minutes.
Check ScotRail 'Buy Tickets' in advance of your journey -
Ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay takes only about 35 minutes and ferries depart hourly from both Rothesay and Wemyss Bay.
Check Calmac timetable and website -

Thank you for reading my Scotland By Rail blog.
Please spread the word and do let me know of any of your favourite railway days out. 

Scotland By Rail - Wemyss Bay station and the ferry to Rothesay, isle of Bute

Sat, 06/25/2022 - 14:22

Previous blog post - Port Glasgow, on route to Wemyss Bay

Next blog post - a 5km circular walk from Rothesay.

This blog post - Wemyss Bay and ferry to Bute

What a station.

I've been visiting recently in preparation for a set of commissions I am soon to undertake for the Friends of Wemyss Bay Station who have their bookshop and gallery in this part of the main station concourse:

And here is the inside of the bookshop and gallery space. Full of interest, history, books, cards, gifts to buy:

Mostly Wemyss Bay station is a place you travel to to:

- see the station, bookshop, cafe...

- travel onwards to the isle of Bute

Even while you're still in the station you hear and see the sea. Walking down the (stunning) covered ramp between station concourse and ferry ticket office I could hear and smell seabirds, wonderful. From the windows shags and gulls and other seabirds were visible:

pair of shags

same spot, zoomed out

Now on the ferry, about to depart:

The end of the ferry opens to allow cars in and out. I had to video it for our son:

On MV Argyll soon after departing Wemyss Bay.
Isle of Bute & Rothesay town ahead & MV Bute just visible forwards left.

The journey to Rothesay on Bute takes only about 35 minutes and ferries depart hourly from both Rothesay and Wemyss Bay, run by Calmac. There are two ferries, MV Argyll and MV Bute. They pass each other half way across.

MV Bute passes MV Argyll (which I was on), Bute heading for Wemyss Bay, Argyll for Rothesay

Toward Toward Lighthouse (yes, that's correct) on the Cowal peninsula

Bute already

looking north-north-west towards Loch Striven, Kyles of Bute...

now sadly derelict bath house

Note the Winter Gardens (sage green with terracotta roof).
Now Isle of Bute Discovery Centre (ie Tourist Info +)

Rothesay with mountains of Arran behind

And don't forget the Black guillemots:

Rothesay Ferry Terminal


Rothesay Ferry Terminal + ferry.

Next blog post - a 5km circular walk from Rothesay.

Previous blog post - Port Glasgow, on route to Wemyss Bay


Getting to Wemyss Bay:
Trains from Glasgow Central station are hourly and the journey takes about 50 minutes.
Check ScotRail 'Buy Tickets' in advance of your journey -

Ferry Wemyss Bay to Rothesay:
The journey takes only about 35 minutes and ferries depart hourly from both Rothesay and Wemyss Bay
Check Calmac timetable and website -

Thank you for reading my Scotland By Rail blog.
Please spread the word and do let me know of any of your favourite railway days out. 

Scotland By Rail - half an hour in Port Glasgow, + video

Thu, 06/23/2022 - 17:49

On my way to Wemyss Bay and the ferry to Rothesay (see future posts) I broke my journey in Port Glasgow. I wanted to see John McKenna's newly installed 33ft tall sculpture, Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow. I had half about half an hour before my next train and the walk to the shore and Shipbuilders is no more than five minutes, so fifteen minutes to enjoy looking out over the River Clyde, at the not-yet-finished ferry MV Glen Sannox, at the colossal Shipbuilders, at other public art I didn't know was there, and at a black guillemot. 

The Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow are truly outstanding. Here they are:

Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow, John McKenna

Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow, John McKenna

And here they are again in this short video / video blog / vlog I put on my:- facebook- instagram- twitterTake your pick!

The Clyde:
The River Clyde, looking north-west towards Helensburgh, the Rosneath peninsula and beyond.
Click here for previous Helensburgh Scotland By Rail blog post.)

MV Glen Sannox, under construction..

Black guillemot. Living on the east coast I rarely see them.
The moment you get to a bit of west coast shore - there they are.
DYK they have bright red feet and inside-mouths to match?

Another shipping sculpture:

And other public art:

An excellent set of murals at Port Glasgow station:

I'll go for more than half an hour next time.


Getting to Port Glasgow:
Port Glasgow is 20 miles west of Glasgow. The journey takes roughly half an hour from Glasgow Central station with three trains an hour on weekdays and Saturdays and two an hour on Sundays.
Check ScotRail 'Buy Tickets' in advance of your journey -

Thank you for reading my Scotland By Rail blog.
Please spread the word and do let me know of any of your favourite railway days out. 

Scotland By Rail - Redhall Walled Garden, Edinburgh

Thu, 05/19/2022 - 16:26

So sorry it's taken such a time to get this online. Several other Scotland By Rail days to follow soon!

My last post was a really enjoyable and almost all traffic free walk along canal and river to Redhall Walled Garden. This one shows the garden itself. Please note these photos were all taken back in February and March.
SAMH's (Scottish Association for Mental Health) Redhall Walled Garden is "a therapeutic horticultural project based in a beautiful walled garden." It certainly is beautiful. I've only been in winter and spring when bulbs and tubers are poking their way through the leaf litter then turn by turn opening flowerheads wide. The woodland garden corner especially was an absolute dream. By now, the start of summer, the whole garden will be looking so lush.
Visitors are welcome at Redhall Walled Garden from 9am - 4pm Monday to Friday. The garden is closed at weekends apart from special open days. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates -

But I must warn you that Redhall has:

Scotland By Rail - Edinburgh Haymarket to Redhall Walled Garden along the Union Canal & Water of Leith

Thu, 02/10/2022 - 17:50

Water of Leith and red wall of Redhall(Walled Garden).Hoping for a Kingfisher or Dipper.

A three mile walk from Edinburgh Haymarket to Redhall Walled Garden. Almost entirely traffic-free along the very well-walked and safe feeling Union Canal & Water of Leith. At a fast speed I with long legs can manage it in a bit over an hour. I prefer taking much longer and enjoying all there is to see -including cafe at Water of Leith Visitor Centre!

Get off the train at Haymarket, a great one for train watching with four-year-olds. These are the views looking west and east from the station concourse:

It's hard to remember now just how much smaller and darker Haymarket used to be. It's my favourite of all the big station renovations. These two pics show the old stone building and how it was incorporated into the new:

There's loads of bike parking space outside:

From Haymarket turn right past historic Ryrie's Bar (interesting reading about its past here) and a huge construction site gradually shutting away the sky. Walk a short way along Dalry Road past an excellent Shelter shop then turn left up pedestrianised Dalry Place past the house where I spend the first two years of my life:

At the top of Dalry Place turn right and curve round with Morrison Crescent until you reach the lights taking you safely across the nasty Western Approach Road:

A good bit of urban tree planting as you walk straight ahead along McEwan Square (though more tall buildings have recently stolen the sky) but sadly sadly a lot of these are ash trees and last year were looking pretty unwell:

Cross Fountainbridge / Dundee Street (turning right takes you to cinema and bowling) and walk uphill up Gilmore Park. Edinburgh Printmakers is on your right with a great cafe and print Viewing Rooms:

The Canal

At the top of Gilmore Park is the Union Canal and the historic Leamington Lift Bridge:

And an info board about the area's canal, coal, rubber and breweries:

From here it's easy - turn right and walk along the Union Canal westwards for two miles until you reach the Slateford aqueduct. 

On the way there's all this to enjoy:

first glimpse of the Pentland Hills

Harrison Park looks a great one with open space, tree planting, dog-free playparks  and community events

A lot of watersports take place along this stretch:

And so many back gardens to enjoy!

A Cormorant was looking for fish just here:

canal crossing railway
If you're out of time you can at this point leave the canal and walk a short way to Slateford station.
Trains from Slateford run only hourly.

But you'd miss some more great gardens (and Wood pigeons):

Wood pigeon

And Goldfinches bathing:

And some extremely good beeches (the best type of tree):

And the Slateford Aqueduct:

Once you've walked over the aqueduct and back (of course you must) head down these steps to the Water of Leith:

Note the trough on the right for wheeling bikes up and down. If only all steps were this thoughtful.

The River
You're on the Water of Leith now!
Turn left for the Water of Leith Visitor Centre and the rest of our walk to Redhall Walled Garden:

The Water of Leith Visitor Centre is a lovely, small, free to enter centre with cafe, toilets, info to read, hands-on displays for the little and big ones, local books to buy. 

Very useful map of the whole Water of Leith walkway from Balerno to Leith. Only £1.
and an audio trail -

Here's how to donate to the work of the Water of Leith Conservation Trust:

Leave the Visitor Centre and cross your second really not nice road, Lanark Road, at the lights. The Water of Leith walkway continues just to the left of the lights. 
Here on the ground twists a silver trail:

An intriguing woven enclosure, not yet finished, no gap for an entrance.
well-trodden path

There are various paths. To find a grotto stick to the low one.

To find where a Dipper once was look for little white patches on stones in the river:

Or maybe it was a Grey wagtail.

This is the bridge which takes you over the water to Redhall:

The yellow flowers of Lesser celandine are really beautiful but it's their leaves I love most of all.

I made time to sketch. No Kingfisher came, and no Dipper.

Sketch and picnic lunch over, back to the walk. You've crossed the bridge, now turn left and walk with river on your left and red wall of Redhall on your right. Under that gateway:

 Here's Redhall Walled Garden where I am currently running art sessions.
Redhall Walled Garden is "a therapeutic horticultural project for SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) based in a beautiful walled garden.
The project works to improve... mental health and wellbeing through gardening and a variety of outdoor tasks... a supportive environment for learning skills in IT, horticulture, being more active, spending time in nature and working alongside others."
Learn more here -

 Visitors are welcome at Redhall Walled Garden, 9am-4pm Monday to Friday.
The garden is not open at weekends.

The inside of the garden will be the subject of my next Scotland By Rail blog post.

Getting back to the centre of Edinburgh:
- walk back to Haymarket the way you came.
- walk to Slateford or Kingsknowe station, each about a 15 minute walk from the walled garden. Trains from these stations are usually hourly - check your journey in advance on ScotRail website or app -
- get one of various buses from previously mentioned not nice road, Lanark Road


Thank you for reading my Scotland By Rail blog. Please share with anyone who might be interested and let me know if there are any railway days out you recommend me to try. 

Scotland By Rail - Charles Rennie Macintosh's Hill House, Helensburgh

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 19:19

The Hill House, boxed
acrylic, 15x21cm
This is The Hill House in Helensburgh, designed outside and in by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald in the first few years of the 20th Century. Nearly 120 years later the building is decaying badly thanks to Mackintosh's experimental modern designs and materials not being very compatible with a wet Scottish west coast climate. 
Past National Trust for Scotland President Neil Oliver described The Hill House as "dissolving like an aspirin in a glass of water"

The decision was made to cover the entire house in a protective cocoon to slow the decay by allowing the building to dry out. The cocoon isn't necessarily a long-term solution (though it might be) but it buys time to investigate all options. One idea discussed is to keep the house boxed forever. That's where my vote goes, it's an incredible structure offering a unique opportunity to view the outside and rooftops of the house. High walkways have been built within the shelter of the cocoon meaning visitors can now explore not only the inside of The Hill House but also all around its exterior including walking right over the roof.
Getting to Helensburgh by rail is easy. A lovely journey from Glasgow Queen Street along the banks of the Clyde. Look out for sunken ships, liners at anchor across the water in Greenock, glimpses of Dumbarton Rock with its Historic Environment Scotland castle (the subject of a previous Scotland By Rail post here). Trains are half hourly from Queen Street and the journey takes just over 40 minutes. Helensburgh Upper is the end of the line. The walk from Helensburgh Central is an uphill mile and takes about 25 minutes, or longer if you stop to explore, which you should. 
You can make the walk much shorter by getting a different train from Queen Street and getting off at Helensburgh Upper station instead. From there the walk is only 10 minutes, still uphill. Helensburgh Upper is on a different line, the West Highland Line (previous blog post here), with far fewer trains, just five a day from Glasgow Queen Street.

Helensburgh Central station
Helensburgh Central station

Helensburgh Central station, looking east

From Helensburgh Central Station step out onto East Princes Street then turn right to head west straight along West Princes Street for one block to reach Colquhoun Square. 
Helensburgh has lots of independent shops including a zero-waste refill shop and a greengrocer, both of which you'll pass before you reach the square. 

Rossdhu Refills
Nature's Harvest greengrocer

Take time before or after visiting The Hill House to explore the shopping streets, mostly this one you're already on and down along the shore on West Clyde Street, and the streets joining the two such as Sinclair Street. I'll make Helensburgh shore the subject of a future blog post.
You have now reached Colquhoun Square.

I really really like it here. Low granite plinths are placed all along the road edges and gradually are being adorned with sculptures, artefacts and engraved words relating to the town and surrounding area.

shipwrecked sugar boat

shipwrecked sugar boat

Hermitage School pupils made these sculptures in tribute to John Muir.
Down at the shore a sculpture marks the beginning (or end) of The John Muir Way)

1920s 'Gareloch' racing yachts

1920s 'Gareloch' racing yachts

Special Old Scotch Ginger Beer!

Special Old Scotch Ginger Beer!

The Lions Club

Reid's Waters

Reid's Waters

Read more about The Outdoor Museum here. If any other towns have public art as interesting and informative and inspired as this I'd love to hear.
Once you're finished take the road heading uphill from the middle of the square - Colquhoun Street. Walk up to its very top enjoying quiet streets, beautiful houses, large and well vegetated gardens, grass pavements (really) and lots and lots of street trees including many recently planted - see Helensburgh Tree Conservation Trust.

At the top of Colquhoun Street you are interrupted by a cutting containing the West Highland Line and Helensburgh Upper station. 

top of Colquhoun Street. Turn right along West Rossdhu Drive here

Turn right along West Rossdhu Drive then left to pass over the station with its single track rails, very unusual covered walkway and decorative carved fence tops. 

West Rossdhu Drive

Helensburgh Upper station, West Highland Line

Helensburgh Upper station

Helensburgh Upper station - covered walkway

Straight away turn left again onto Munro Drive West then right onto Upper Colquhoun Street. The House House is up there ahead of you.

Munro Drive West. Turn right onto Upper Colquhoun Street

Upper Colquhoun Street. Can you spot the box yet?

Now you can

The Hill House:

Here it is, in its box

one sink, three taps 

how often nowadays do people repair ceramic bowls?!
(how often nowadays do people keep miniature people in ceramic bowls?)

sprays you all the way up - don't forget the ankles

Boxed and unboxed



Sun setting over the water, seen through chain mail cocoon walls. Zoomed in mail below:


How to Get There:

- Trains to Helensburgh Central are half hourly from Glasgow Queen Street and the journey takes about 40 minutes.
- Trains to Helensburgh Upper are five a day from Glasgow Queen Street and the journey takes about 45 minutes. 
- The walk from Helensburgh Central to The Hill House is an uphill mile and a bit taking about 25-30 minutes with no stops.
- The walk from Helensburgh Upper to The Hill House is also uphill but only 5-10 minutes.
Trains are less frequent on Sundays.
Check your journey in advance on ScotRail website or app -


Thank you for reading my Scotland By Rail blog. Please share with anyone who might be interested.
Let me know if there are any railway days out you'd recommend me to try. 

Exhibition - Postcards from the Line. Linlithgow, 'til 23 Nov 2021

Tue, 11/02/2021 - 17:16

cloud, acrylic, 14.5x21cm

Every year my hometown gallery and the first gallery I ever exhibited with runs Postcards from the Line, an exhibition of several hundred artworks, all unframed, all A5 size or under, all £100 or under, from artists across Scotland & UK & overseas.
The exhibition is at:
The Line Gallery238 High Street, Linlithgow, EH49 7EF
Until 23rd November
Mon - Wed CLOSEDThurs 10 - 5Fri 10 - 5Sat 9 - 5Sun 1 - 4

Lots of the postcards are also being shared on the Line Gallery's Facebook page -
If you're interested in buying any pieces shown here you can get in touch with Gail and Elizabet at the Line to check they are still available:
email - - 01506 670 268

house martin over field edge, pencil & watercolour, 10.5x14.5cm

Linlithgow Loch - coot, goosander, pochard, tufted, pencil & watercolour, 14x21cm

Linlithgow Palace test sheet, mixed media, 10x14.5cm

perching, pencil & watercolour, 12.5x18cm

rock pile in the mists, acrylic, 14x18.5cm

bing, acrylic, 13x18cm

skein, watercolour, 13x17.5cm

voyage, acrylic, 18.5x13cm

winter hillside, acrylic, 15x21cm

2022 calendar now ready, £10 + p&p

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 13:51

A bit different this year, my 2022 calendar features my Discovered Worlds:

calendar is same format as usual:- folded & stapled with hole for hanging- A4 (21x30cm) when closed, A3 (42x30cm) when open- printed sustainably in the UK on 100% recycled paper/card

- £10 per A4 calendar- £9 per calendar if ordering 6 or more
+ p&p Royal Mail 2nd Class:1 calendar - £22 calendar - £2.503 calendar - £34-10 calendars - £3.50(Non-UK orders very welcome, p&p will cost more)

To order:- let us know what you want - include postal address so we can confirm total cost & email you payment details- bank transfer, cheque, cash are all fine- PayPal fine but an extra £1 to cover fees.


Winter / Christmas cards
2 new designs this year:

also limited supplies of 2 previous designs:

All details here -


winter owl wood engraving - lovely little Christmas gift?

This wood engraving is handprinted in an edition of 100:- £17 per signed print, unmounted, includes UK p&p. - £21 for non-UK addresses, includes p&p.


(My non-seasonal greetings cards and two non-winter wood engravings continue to be orderable from my Etsy shop -

new cards ready for winter - a deer & a penguin

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 13:26

I have two new cards ready for winter ( / Christmas!) :
1. woodland deer

(The original of this A5 painting will be available in the Open Eye Gallery's December Small Scale exhibition.)

2. king penguin

- both cards are 7x5inch (c.175mm x 125mm)- blank inside- white envelopes- printed sustainably in the UK on 100% recycled card
- 1 card = £1.50- 10 cards = £12- 20 cards = £20 + p&p


I also have limited numbers remaining of these two previous designs, first come first served. Same size and prices as the two new cards:

3. winter woods

4. seven snow hares


2022 CALENDAR- ready to order early this year!- £10 +p&p.- same format as always.- details here-


winter owl wood engraving - lovely little Christmas gift?

This wood engraving is handprinted in an edition of 100:- £17 per signed print, unmounted, includes UK p&p. - £21 for non-UK addresses, includes p&p.


- Let us know what you want -
- Include postal address so we can confirm total cost and email you payment details.
- Bank transfer, cheque, cash are all fine.
- PayPal fine but an extra £1 to cover fees.


(My non-seasonal greetings cards and two non-winter wood engravings continue to be orderable from my Etsy shop -

2021 Calendar ready to order! £10 per calendar

Wed, 11/18/2020 - 23:22
2021 Calendar - Wildlife(**Order by Mon 23rd Nov to be certain of me having enough copies**)
My 2021 calendar is at the printer so ready to post around end of November. This year it looks at wildlife and wildlife in the landscape. I hope you'll like it.
- £10 per A4 calendar- £9 per calendar if ordering 5 or more

- £10 per A4 calendar- £9 per calendar if ordering 5 or more
+ p&p Royal Mail 2nd Class:1 calendar - £22 calendar - £2.503 calendar - £34-10 calendars - £3.50(Non-UK orders very welcome but p&p will be higher)

Calendar is exactly same format as my 2020:- folded & stapled (not spiral bound this year)- A4 (21x30cm) closed, A3 (42x30cm) open- 100% recycled paper/card

**Order by Mon 23rd Nov to be certain of me having enough copies** I can increase the print run if necessary as long as I have your order by/on Monday. I will be ordering surplus so if you don't get your order to us by Monday don't worry too much, I will hopefully still have plenty spares.

- Let me know -
- Include your postal address so we can confirm total cost and email you payment details.Bank transfer, cheque, cash are all fine. PayPal too but we'll add 50p to cover fees.

The calendar paintings:
mountain hare, acrylic, 10x10cm (available)

winter deer, acrylic, 15x21cm
seal, acrylic, 10x10cm (available)

peregrine falcon, acrylic, 15x21cm (available)

small copper, house martin, watercolour, 15x21cm

lesser black-backed gull, acrylic, 15x21cm

priory pursuit, wagtail chases sparrowhawk, acrylic, 15x21cm (available)

wheatear on South Uist, watercolour, 11x16cm (available)
woodpigeon, blue tit, swallow, acrylic, 28x16cm (available)

hedgehog, watercolour, c.17x24cm

brown hare, acrylic, 10x10cm (available)

Earthquake House, acrylic, 10x11cm


Christmas/winter cards
are still orderable here:

And my non-seasonal greetings cards and two non-winter wood engravings from my Etsy shop -

Art Ideas - Charcoal

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 22:07

Charcoal. It's been around for a while. A quick Google search says 28,000 years. Think cave drawings. I really enjoyed looking at these images here - 
Why not give it a try? It's great for quick mark-making, great for speedy sketches outdoors, great for drawing people and animals, great for creating bold light-dark contrasting images but also great for creating softly changing tones.

Some tips:
- do a whole quick drawing in sharp outline, then smudge bits.
- cover your whole paper with rubbed-in charcoal then draw light lines into it using a rubber or a 'putty rubber'.
- putty rubbers are a soft squishable squidgeable rubbers used often with chalks and charcoals.
- keep your rubber working by rubbing it on a clean sheet of paper to remove build-ups of charcoal.
- keep your putty rubber clean by pulling it apart over and over between your fingers. You'll see the charcoal on it gradually disappears.
- smudge using fingers, palm, bunched hand. A rag, a tissue. A paintbrush? A sponge?
- to darken your smudges: rub/smudge charcoal into the paper, draw more charcoal on top, rub that in, draw more on top, rub that in... 
- combine charcoal with chalks and 'conte crayons'.
- try adding water! Use a brush to add water, see what happens, can be a really useful technique.
- try combining with oil pastel.
- try combining with paint.

To reduce smudging:
- Practice lifting your hand and arm off the paper as you draw to reduce the smudging. This feels pretty tricky to start with.
- If hand-lift is too tricky, place paper on top of the part of drawing you aren't currently working on to protect it from smudging.
- Work from left to right if you're right handed. Right to left if you're left handed.

- Once drawing is complete you can 'fix' it with a bought art fixative spray. Spray in a ventilated area. Hairspray can be used but be prepared for it to alter and darken your paper. 
- Some fixatives are marked as 'workable' which means you can fix a certain stage of a drawing then continue to draw more on top of that. 
- Consider an environmentally-safe fixative such as (contains milk so not vegan).

Here are some drawings made using:- charcoal (a very soft medium)- chalk (a harder medium - darker tones are possible)- and conte (the hardest of the three and the best for adding finer details)
The first three drawings aren't by me.

Art in Healthcare Collection, Marjorie I Campbell, Child On A Stool, 66x56cm

A lovely drawing.- Sharp lines creating the outlines - charcoal held like pencil.- Charcoal held on its side to create wide areas of tone.- Little or no intentional smudging.

Art in Healthcare Collection, Tabitha Salmon, Construction Workers Moscow, 106x80cm
Another lovely one.- Lots of smudging here to create all the soft tonal areas. Probably smudged by hand. - Dark detail lines then drawn or re-drawn on top of the 'smudges'. - The central face in particular shows lots of earlier drawing lines which have been smudged or rubbed away and add to the overall interest and three-dimensional-ness of the portrait.

Using charcoal, smudging with fingers or hand

Unicorn 'drawn' by boldly shading the shadow behind it rather than by working on the unicorn itself.

Black chalk. No smudging. A teensy touch of red chalk for the fiery head of the coot chick.

And a bit of blue chalk for background to coot portrait. See how different a coot looks when on blue background compared to on white background.

Mixed with white chalk. Drawn on brown paper. Imagine the same drawing on white paper or on blue.

Coloured chalks with charcoal or black chalk for the detail. Drawn on brown paper.

Working from a photo of stone and old bleaching wood. Trying to create lots of different textures:- pressing hard, pressing a little- rubbing a lot, rubbing a little- crisp lines, crisp lines then blurred with fingers- chalk/charcoal held on side and scuffed gently across paper (the texture at top right)- rubber used to clean smudges off the paper where I wanted the brightest highlights.

Much as above.

Quite a lot of effort put into creating different types of marks and textures. Trying to give impression of looking across a wide stretch of lawn.

Lots of very obvious smudging, rubbing out and adding dark crisp marks back on top.

A very large charcoal and chalk drawing. 4ft high? Charcoals and chalks work so well on this scale. Lightest lines (including in the centre circle) created by rubbing back to the unmarked paper.

 Another big one. Creating depth by a background largely smudged and light, a foreground largely detailed and dark.

And a third large one. Charcoal, black chalk, black conte, white chalk. See below for zoomed-in trees at top.

Winter/Christmas cards ready to order - owl, fox, snow

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 17:46

My new Christmas/winter cards are ready to post now. Contact me to order.

- printed on 100% recycled card - blank inside - white envelopes -

winter owl - A6 card (105mm x 148mm)- 1 card = £1
- 10 cards = £8+ p&p
This new wood engraving is also available to buy handprinted in an edition of 100. A nice little winter present :)- £15 per signed print, unmounted, includes UK p&p. - £20 for non-UK addresses, includes p&p.


winter woods - card is 5x7inch (c.120mm x 170mm)- 1 card = £1.50
- 10 cards = £12- 20 cards = £20 
+ p&p
(The original of this A5 painting will be available from the Open Eye Gallery in their December Small Scale exhibition)


I also have reprinted lots of this card from two years ago as people keep asking for it:

seven snow hares - card is 5x7inch (c.120mm x 170mm)- 1 card = £1.50
- 10 cards = £12- 20 cards = £20 
+ p&p


- Let me know -
- Include your postal address so we can confirm total cost and email you payment details.Bank transfer, cheque, cash are all fine. PayPal too but we'll add 50p to cover fees.

- My non-seasonal greetings cards and two non-winter wood engravings can be ordered from my Etsy shop -


2021 CALENDAR:Will be same format as 2020 and this year focuses on wildlife and wildlife in the landscape.

Texture in acrylic paintings - & protecting our environment

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 14:52

Here are a few acrylic paintings from over the years. Looking at how good acrylics are for combining thickness & texture with thinner & more detailed. If you work with acrylics remember to wash **as little as possible** down your sink. Acrylic paint down the sink is plastics and chemicals in our rivers and oceans and soils and wildlife.
1 - Use leftovers to paint base/background colours for future paintings.
2 - Then wipe all remaining paint off brushes and palette. I use old raggy clothes and cloths and paper napkins saved up from cafes etc!
3 - Then clean brushes with soap and cool water.
4 - Don't bother cleaning your palette other than giving it a wipe as in point 2. Just let the paint dry then work on top of it next time. Gradually your palette gets thicker and thicker and after a few years you can peel off a lovely thick skin.
There are ways to ensure no acrylic at all goes down your sink, a bit complicated but very worth reading up on. Have a look at these four links:

- detailed, very interesting process to remove all acrylic sediment -
It seems increasing numbers of artists are choosing to completely avoid acrylic paints in favour of watercolour, for very valid environmental reasons. If you continue with acrylics, as I am for now, please have a think about the tips above. Share your own tips too! With your art communities and with me, I'd love to hear.

Painting The Sea

Tue, 10/06/2020 - 12:32

 Six sea paintings, three watercolour, three acrylic:

acrylic on board, 21x29cm

acrylic on board, 33x62cm

acrylic on wooden board, 60x80cm

watercolour on paper, 15x21cm
- pencil drawing first

watercolour on paper, 15x21cm
- no drawing first

watercolour on paper, 14x21cm
- no drawing first

A lot of trees

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 17:08

Trees. I like them. 
Here are some from the past ten or twelve years. Get in touch if you want to know more about any, ie sizes, materials, techniques, locations:

Central Fife Open Studios 2020 - 5-6 Sept - works for sale

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 15:18

Central Fife Open Studios is online this year. Twenty artists are taking part and have each created 60 second films of our studios.

My film - www.instagram.comMum's film -
Lots will be going on on CFOS instagram and facebook accounts over the weekend, and is already, including a Prize Giveaway, enter for one of two well-filled art goodie bags:on CFOS instagram- pinned to top of CFOS facebook page

Owning My Art:As you can't physically visit this year here is a selection of pieces & prices ranging across different aspects of my work... landscape, wildlife, Discovered Worlds, paintings on found ceramics... If looking for anything in particular do get in touch, no commitment. I also work to commission.
Prices exclude p&p (usually £8, recorded & insured. More overseas.)
Get in touch to purchase or to chat:-
Greetings cards, books and wood engravings - 
2021 calendar coming soon.
c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

razorbill (& gannet)
c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

island owl
20x25cm, watercolour & gouache, unframed

other worlds - D
10.5x15cm, acrylic, unframed

ancient beeches (diptych)
c.15x42cm, watercolour, unframed

18.5x13.5cm, watercolour, unframed

Black Loch
10.5x10.5cm, acrylic, unframed

other worlds - A
8x8cm, acrylic, framed

other worlds - B
8x8cm, acrylic, framed

Do not approach, seabird research data collection. (razorbill & starling)
16x35cm, watercolour, mounted

25x35cm, watercolour, unframed

last light
c.8cm diameter, acrylic, framed in a 17x17x3cm box frame


Storr, Skye
c.29x41cm, watercolour & ink & pencil, unframed

c.5x5x1cm, acrylic on found ceramic

c.1.3x4.5x1.4cm, acrylic on found ceramic

sea arch
8x6cm, acrylic, framed


tyto alba (spot the barn owl)
10x11cm, acrylic, framed

(in case you didn't spot the barn owl)


c.11x12cm, watercolour, unframed


other worlds - C
14x15cm, acrylic on canvas board, unframed but can hang as is.



21x15cm, watercolour, unframed

Prices exclude p&p which is usually £8 (recorded & insured) within UK, more for overseas.
Get in touch to purchase or to ask questions-

Art Ideas! - relax into drawing - draw what you hear... continuous line

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 17:44
continuous drawn pencil in double-page of A4 sketchbook.Arthouse, garden, telegraph wires, swifts nesting.

Art can be hard. It can be hard to motivate yourself to get started and it can be hard to decide what to draw. (/paint/sculpt/collage... even deciding that can be hard!)

Here are a couple of often used techniques which might help if you ever feel this way. 

At art college we did lots of this sort of thing but as the years passed gradually I let it slip. I was strongly reminded of the value of such exercises when I treated myself to a printmaking summerschool tutored by my great friend artist Kittie Jones in 2018. The week took place at Off The Rails Arthouse at Ladybank railway station in Fife.

Try these techniques for yourself, perhaps before getting started on a day of art, if you're feeling bored one evening, or simply as a stand-alone bit of drawing. I find both techniques really relaxing - meditative even - though depending on my mood it can take quite some time to start feeling that way.

Try the techniques indoors, try them in a garden, try them in a park. 

Try giving yourself a time limit - one minute (yes, that's short! but try it), then two, then five, then ten. Try half an hour. Try it open-ended.


Technique 1 - Continuous Line

- pick your tool - pencil or pen probably

- make your entire drawing WITHOUT lifting the tool from the paper AT ALL.

- try it with a landscape, a still life, a portrait.

See mine at top of this post.


Technique 2 - Draw What You Hear

Yes, what you hear

Give it a try. Quite a few tries actually. To start with I found this so hard. I remember feeling almost embarrassed when Kittie asked us to do it. We were sitting outdoors, dotted around a lovely wooded garden. I had no idea what to draw, how to draw it. How do you draw sound??

It was a sunny day, bees were buzzing. 

How do you draw the sound of a bumblebee buzzing??

I tried a zigzaggy line. That felt wrong. 

Bumblebees are soft, fuzzy, cuddly even (especially Carder bees). Next time one buzzed by I drew a spiralling line, as on a ring-bound calendar. That felt right. 

I started to get into it. Swifts were screeching, House martins and swallows were twittering. Footsteps on gravel. Trains stopping. A lorry passing. Woodpigeons coo-cooing. House sparrows chattering.

By the end I couldn't believe how satisfying I found it, and how much time had passed.

Here are the two drawings I heard that day:

What's it like to try this in a quiet room? On a noisy street? When the tv or radio is on? While your toddler plays with her Duplo? When it's pouring with rain. When a storm is blowing under your slates...

Let me know what you think and let me know if you have any other techniques you find helpful for getting you started.

Art Ideas! - turning sketches into paintings

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 15:58

Some commentary on how I turn my sketchbook pages into finished painting and ideas for doing the same with yours.
Mallaig Harbour 
For starters this pencil sketch in A5 sketchbook, made whilst I sat watching the comings and goings of a small, lovely, Scottish harbour town. See the Skye ferry at anchor?
Note darker use of pencil in areas closer to the front of the drawing, only lighter pencil used in the furthest off areas. Do this to give greater depth to your sketch.

I had intended a possible large painting (really large for me) of this scene (hasn't happened yet) but wanted first to try out my composition and colour ideas. Using what I had in my sketchbook I drew out the same scene with a bit more detail and on a larger scale (24x48cm). 
I used thick watercolour paper (nearly the thickness of mountboard) as I knew I wanted to paint the watercolour on quite richly and thickly for a bold final scene. I used really thick watercolour paper (weight - 640gsm) as it means you can apply loads of paint and water with very little buckling of the paper. It does seem expensive but I buy very large sheets then cut them down to size.

To achieve the same depth as in my sketchbook page I mostly put my areas of darkest paint towards the front of the scene. Almost-black paint did sneak in on the hull of that second CalMac ferry though.

Blackness Castle
A place I've known well, since fairly early childhood. A good location for family cycles or (long) walks from home, then later in my teens a place for gradually getting into birdwatching with my friend Chris.

More recently, over a period of some days I cycled down there and made these A3 ish watercolour paintings and lots of pages of bird sketches in pencil.
For the two watercolours I tried painting directly onto the paper, no pencil drawing first, not even for the castle. Sometimes tricky but I really recommend trying it for a sometimes more exciting, 'free-er', looser end result.

The final painting in this series,a bit larger and combining different elements from various parts of the sketches and paintings above.

Earthquake House, Comrie
If you don't mind messy fingers (sketchbook... clothes... face [when you scratch your nose]...), chalk pastels are a brilliant tool for an artist. With so few strokes and so little pressure you can achieve such bold marks, colours and contrasts. Try using chalks alongside charcoal too, see what you think of that.

I then made these compositional sketches to decide what I wished the final painting to look like, how much presence I wanted to give to Earthquake House compared to its surrounding landscape.

I chose my preferred composition then worked up this more detailed drawing

and the final painting became this. Different again!

Spot the fox (easy). Spot the figure (a bit harder). Spot the owl (hardest - I can't quite remember!)

Clerkhill Wood
I prefer to work from real life. Most exciting is to paint outdoors, directly from life, but often I make sketches and watercolours outdoors then turn them into acrylic or oil paintings back in my studio.
Now and again I need or wish to work solely from photographs. When this happens I first sit and look at the photos for a long time, trying to imagine myself there. Then I make quick sketches from those photos, again, whilst trying to imagine actually being there, When it comes to making the painting I try to refer mostly to the sketches I've made from the photos, not to the photos themselves. It doesn't always work like this but it's what I aim for.
This small acrylic painting of an Aberdeenshire wood was made in this way. I knew the wood well but hadn't been up recently and hadn't ever sketched in it. I used these two and lots of other photos I had, made a pencil and watercolour sketch from them then used that to paint the final acrylic.

think about adding a detail in the very foreground of your artworks, it can add so much to the scene.

Balvenie Castle 
On a camping trip with Jennifer in our early years. I made this sketch on the spot outside Balvenie Castle then later turned it into two different paintings. One large (for me) at 60x60cm, acrylic on deep edged wooden board. One small, maybe 14x14cm. One I wanted to be bold and dramatic, the other more mysterious and misty.
pencil in sketchbook.

Taking a bit of care and time lightly sketch some of the main outlines of the scene. Once that's done try to loosen up - move your pencil quite rapidly, not worrying about lines crossing one another or ending up where you didn't intend them. Sometimes press lightly, sometimes heavily, sometimes in between. Sometimes hold your pencil on its side to create much broader marks, try this heavily, try this lightly. Such variety of line type  and of tone can make for a really interesting lively drawing.

How different the same location (or ornament on your windowsill) can look in different weathers/seasons/times of day... Try painting the same thing lots of times. Like Monet with his haystacks.

Seven Snow Hares
roe deer in blue felt tip pen, hares in grey felt tip pen, 8x12cm mini sketchbook.

hares sketched in grey felt tip pen in 8x12cm mini sketchbook.

These hares were sketched one winter evening up on the fields above where I live. When we're lucky enough to have snow it gives brilliant opportunity to watch night time wildlife. The whole land and sky was illuminated and I could clearly see these hares as they dug through snow to get at any plantlife below.
Using the sketches I came up with this A5 acrylic painting. I decided to make the final painting lighter than the actual scene had been, more approaching-end-of-day than winter night. You can do that in art.
seven snow hares, acrylic, 15x21cm

Winter Deer
roe deer sketch, blue felt tip pen in 8x12cm mini sketchbook.

 Sketched one still night in winter, snow lying deep, thick warm gloves on.
Me standing at wood edge, sketchbook leaning on old stone wall.
Me mostly hidden by wall and trees. Deer out in open field.

Some time later back in my studio I used these sketches plus photos I took in the same area during daylight to sharpen my memories of the event and come up with this painting:
winter deer, acrylic, 15x21cm

Spot the deer.

Art Ideas! - thinking about space. *Outer* Space

Thu, 07/30/2020 - 17:39
(apologies for very dodgy font sizing and spacing and formatting throughout this post. It keeps glitching and I cannot work out how to solve it)
Following my last two blog posts looking at other worlds here are some ideas for bringing Outer Space Into Your Art.

Re-finding this oil painting
Leo -

and having fun further browsing through the Art in Healthcare Collection
Claire Cooper Walsh
Realms of Possibility
mixed media & collage

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

apologies, I have lost the link for this artwork from the Art in Healthcare Collection

made me think planets. 

Well, you know, circles... sci-fi / fantasy head... = planets.

nb. choose spaceships if you prefer but planets are definitely easier to cut out.


1 - make some circles

- draw around lids, rolls of tape, anything circular

- colour the circles however you choose:


- PVA glue mixed with paint. 

- Brush or drip it on then leave to dry. 

- The PVA makes it dry to a lovely glossy semi-translucent finish. 

- Try different paper colours underneath.

- colour with oil pastel or wax crayon
- make lots of folds in the paper to add texture


- colour with oil pastel or wax crayon
- make lots of folds in the paper to add texture
- gently brush watery paint on top.


- colour with oil pastel or wax crayon
- as above only scratch rather than scrumple at the end. 


- a ' happy accident' using black drawing ink rather than black paint

2 - make a Space Background for your planets to orbit in

This background is painted. Lots of different layers of blues gradually changing from dark to light.  

choose your planet. This one is:

- oil pastel lines of blue and green

- watery paint of yellow and orange and pinkish filling in the rest 

3 - place your planet

Planet Rising

Planet Fills All


(Space background turned upside-down) 


(Space background turned right-way-up again) 


4 - Again with a circular Space background

Circles of paint. 

pva-paint planets placed


added a colourful oil pastel planet

one dark, one bright and bold


5 - one more Space picture

- painted-circles Space background
- planets are coloured with wax crayon,

---------------------------Previous two other worldly Art Ideas! blog posts:( - Art Ideas! - a bit of escapism - other worlds  Art Ideas! - a bit more escapism - other worlds - other artists  )

Art Ideas! - a bit more escapism - other worlds - other artists

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 15:42
Here are a few more of my Other Worlds for you to enjoy.

Or to make you think twice before next you see me.

Spot the space goblin?

Find a place in the real world which looks otherworldly. These human-made grassy mounds were spotted on a train journey then elaborated on for this painting:
modern hills
acrylic, miniature

Space serpents? Seaweed? Mountain range? Waves?
oil, 3x5ft
Choose a real object, put it in an unexpected place:
boat in the clouds
acrylic, miniature
A building on an impossible clifftop:
dawn in blue
acrylic, miniature
Choose a title to enhance the fantastic:
Journey of a Space Goblin
oil, 5x6ft

But it's not just me who likes fantastical. Honest. Here are some from ***Other Artists*** in the Art in Healthcare Collection.

These first two are by Peter Standen, an Edinburgh artist. He takes well known locations, often Edinburgh, and shows them as he imagines them in the far far future.

Try a landscape in sombre colours to give the feeling of something huge having happened.

Peter StandenView From Calton Hilletching72x54cm

Depict your pets doing odd things:
Peter StandenCatalytic Catnipetching57 x 68 cm

More cats. People like cats.

Michael ForbesWhat's For Teapainting66 x 76 cm

Great trees!
Michael ForbesFamiliar Facesoil painting62.5 x 72.5 cm

Alan Davie. Look closely for buildings, gardens, roads, trees, mountains and many curious things.

Try this with black ink or black paint. Or a felt tip marker.

Alan DavieBetween the Villagesprintmaking73 x 62 cm

A scene from Greek mythology. Enhanced by its title. Without reading the title you might not guess at it being an other-worldly painting at all.

Philip BrahamIcarus Falling to Earthoil painting53 x 69 cm

Fantastical rollercoaster?

I would not go on that.

Jennifer would.

What do you see?

Try a big bold drawing using lovely soft charcoal, or conte crayons for a harder line:
Judith RowanNine Pine TreesMixed Media and Collage100 x 110cm

Three Flying Crowns...

Choose some objects from around your house, make them fly!:

Alice ShannonThe Flying Crownsmixed media and collage67 x 60 cm

A magical fantastical giraffey dreamscape by Maki Hamada. I was at art college with Maki.

Maki Hamadazooacrylic and gouache mixed media and collage67 x 60 cm

A very happy scene. Starry volcanoes, flying house.

Christopher Gilvan-CartwrightNothing is Impossible..IIoil painting50 x 63 cm
I love this. A real building (demolished 1964) in a fantastical moonlit setting. With sunflowers.

Robert LeishmanRoyal Arch (Dundee) Fantasyoil painting101.5x140cm

And your other worlds?