Watercolors: Part 2

Moving on to individual watercolor paintings, most of which took longer than 30 minutes to complete, and some of which I might frame …

As I have mentioned previously, I had the good fortune to meet Shetland artist Peter Davis and see his watercolors up close and personal three days after moving in to the lighthouse. As we were introduced at an opening for an exhibit at Bonhoga Gallery, we only spent a few minutes talking. He gave me some sage advice about capturing Shetland in watercolor: Simplicity and editing are needed, and everything is about edges — decisions about where to let things bleed into one another and where to declare specific edges are very important.

I was grateful for that meeting, to be sure. At this point in my residency I most certainly was almost totally visually overwhelmed. I had already come into this experience with the aim of distilling things in terms of color, line, and subject matter, so this encounter was key in how I chose to proceed. Plus, his work is stunning in its absence of detail and its visual impact.

From Peter Davis:

“Watercolour physically reflects so well the characteristics of landscape and becomes almost a microcosm of the natural world.”

A sample of his work:


Print of a Peter Davis original, title unknown (because I didn’t write it down and it isn’t on his website). This print, BTW, was hanging in the Aberdeen Airport, almost like a friendly goodbye from Scotland as I was waiting to board the plane to London.

My goal became distillation of shapes and atmosphere, but of course within the framework I showed up with, i.e. my own style and my own work. For me that meant reducing color palettes, focusing on shapes, injecting a few details, and consciously simplifying. I had already made the commitment to abstracting things with mixed media and acrylic, but I have to admit I hadn’t really thought about it in watercolor. Then suddenly I did. And off I went.

So, here are some watercolors I painted on loose paper (not in either of my books) while looking out the window at the lighthouse, at photographs, or some combination of the two:

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Looking out the panoramic window to the rocks beyond Scatness, plus the patterns in the sea


Horse Island, the most familiar tiny island outside the panoramic window at the lighthouse

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Grutness, a rocky beach about a mile’s hike from the lighthouse

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Horse Island again, with its smattering of rocks and skerries

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A tiny isle beyond Eshaness, during a snow shower


Spiggie Beach


Fitful Head and water patterns in the foreground


Horse Island again, in a sunset


St. Ninian’s Isle and beautiful tombolo


Scalloway house and snowy hillside

I look forward to distilling further and carrying these ideas into new work now that I am getting back to work in my home studio.


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