The first part of a short series on experiencing and capturing the beauty of the Scottish highlands
We began our travels around Scotland in a fourth floor flat in Oban with stunning views over the harbour. I started recording my experiences in pen and paint right away, and it’s always the chunky fishing boats that get me first – I have to stop and draw when I see them. One reason might be that I just find the shapes and colours appealing, but it likely has more to do with the symbolism and story behind them. They speak of people making a living by going out into a hostile, dangerous and unknowable sea, bringing fish ashore for the restaurants and punters while screeching mobs of gulls follow along, hoping for an easy meal. It is a hard, physical, and extremely dangerous life on a fishing boat, but there’s surely good reason why some people choose it over easier, more secure and better paid options. It is perhaps the same secret sauce that makes the sea, in my experience, such good raw material for art, and moored working boats are one way in for those of us who spend most of our time on shore. Those splatters of rust, knots of netting and mysterious navigation equipment poking towards the sky all contain stories of the unlikely relationship between humans, technology and the sea, and of survival against the odds.
Other boat types just don’t do it for me in the same way. From the window of the flat we were staying at, you could see the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries to Mull coming and going from port. I don’t dislike these guys, but I would never be inclined to spend that much time looking and thinking about them. At one point, an oligarch’s yacht pulled in to the harbour, and I found it a dismal eyesore. All clean, clinical lines, gleaming white and glass, comfortable and safe spaces behind tinted windows. I can’t think of anything more tedious! Some people have accused me of being a romantic when looking at my pictures… I suppose I might be guilty as charged.