An Aberdeenshire retreat

The journey north

Imagine a dark December afternoon, cold enough to keep your hat on in the car.

Driving north, snow shines on the fields and hills beside the road. You’re glad to have your thermals and a bottle of whisky packed in the back, tucked alongside your sketchbooks and drawing kit.

The sun has long since disappeared when you turn into the long approach to the castle and stars are beginning to emerge from behind icy clouds. The impressive silhouette of Drum Castle comes into view as you move slowly through the arboretum giants. Small windows in one corner of the castle glow warmly – you’ve arrived.

Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire

A creative break

At this time of year I find the creative energy ebbs away a little and I need some reflective time away from the studio. This year I chose to properly get away


Making ‘Rivers of oak’

Where do the ideas come from? How do the images form themselves? 

It’s not until after I’ve finished a body of work that I can get enough distance to see where it might have come from, what it relates to and where it sits amongst all my work. While I’m making it, it’s mostly a response to a creative urge rather than following a plan.

charcoal drawing
Standing wave, charcoal on paper, 65x50cm

Rivers of oak series

Looking back now I see that my ‘Rivers of oak’ series came from the coalescence of two visual elements – the bare, weather-eroded sapwood of long dead ancient oaks and the turbulent patterns of the sea where I row. Both are things I’ve looked at intently.