I have sketched since I was old enough to pick up a pencil, but although I’ve always been drawn to the beauty of wild places, I didn’t really venture into the mountains until my mid-20s, when I began climbing. I quickly realised I had discovered my passion in life, and it took me to places I would never otherwise have visited.
Mountains have a ruthless beauty, which makes for an alluring visual narrative. Scotland’s mountain ranges also have distinctive personalities, due to variations in geology, climate, flora and fauna. I try to represent these characteristics in my artwork through texture, tone and colour, recalling the sharp, crystalline gneiss of the far north-west, the mellow tones and soft contours of Torridonian sandstone, or the corrugated, sparkling mica schist of the central Highlands.
Ultimately, I am seeking to visually translate the sensory experience of being immersed in a wild landscape. I want the viewer to feel the transient, kinetic nature of these raw elements: the roughness of rock; the whip of spindrift; the squeak of ice underfoot; the surge and pulse of the sea.
I don’t tend to stick to one particular method, but instead use whichever materials I feel will best convey these themes. Charcoal pencils are particularly good for recreating the hues and textures of rock, especially when applied to coarse paper. I might use chalk to convey a stormy sky, watercolours for the fluid lines of a river, or a fine pen to accentuate a climber’s fingers. Although I generally work from photographs, I also draw on my own experience of the mountains, and my tactile connection with them. My work is very detailed, and I need to fully understand the essence of these elements to accurately represent them, but once I begin sketching, I lose myself in the ebb and flow of the form, and the compositions seem to find their own rhythm, independent of any active thinking on my part.
The Aonach Eagach Ridge in Winter (2017)
Watercolour and charcoal pencil on paper
The Northern Corries (2019)
Mixed media on paper