Thursday 21st October

THURSDAY 21st: A bright day with a mixture of sunshine and occasional showers, these still wintry at times over Shetland. A less-cold day, but not feeling so, as W to NW’ly winds increase - F6-7 and locally gale F8. 
 Sea state – Overnight increasing rough, with a 3 to 4 metre NW’ly wind-swell. Later increasing very rough, with a 4 to 5 metre NW’ly wind-swell, and perhaps 6 metres around the north of Shetland. Maximum temperature 8 °C.

Spent Monday out on the rocks beyond Hamnavoe, battling against high wind and drifting rain and spray whilst trying to paint the magnificent turquoise-filled waves rolling in and breaking on the rocks beneath me before retreating to the studio to dry out and drink tea. I felt completely overwhelmed by the sight of these huge waves – impossible to capture their impact (and to paint in such conditions). The resulting paintings and photographs simply do not do justice to the experience. Returning to the same place late afternoon the following day, although less dramatic, found a spot down low to the water, and managed to do some drawing as I huddled against rocks trying to keep out of the numbing wind. I didn’t last long before my hands were so cold they hurt.

Another satellite picture from Anne Karin showing weather over Norway and Shetland
Anne Karin Magnusson

....and an explanation: the pink lines are lines of equal atmospheric air pressure. Deepest air pressure is about over Oslo. Arrows are showing wind speed. Some observations are also included (black circles, with numbers around). The colours are added: dark blue over ocean with clear sky above, but shaded where there are clouds; land is green, also shaded when there are clouds. Colours in clouds are coded so that yellow is low cloud. The air to the left of the low centre is typically cold with dots (showers).

Weather certainly predominates here; talking to the archivists in the museum, many of the old diaries they are transcribing, daily record the weather.

During the last few days (when not talking to fishermen and photographing their hands, or watching the sea), I have been working in the studio on a couple of paintings that are about the colour and the movement of the sea. They are ‘in-progress’ and I am not sure how they will resolve themselves.

...and drawings to go with them

It is so frustrating trying to paint the experience of what is there before me because it’s more than sight – it’s the whole thing - noise filling the air, taste and smell of salt, the movement, being buffeted, the light - the rain coming and going, freezing air, freezing fingers; I find myself swaying with the waves, even talking to the sea. (It’s okay I’m not going mad. And yes Anne Karin I will be careful on those rocks).

This morning there was snow lying in patches on the ground, and the ‘sea state’ is definitely getting rougher. The sound of the wind is relentless. Having booked my passage on the Good Shepherd IV to Fair Isle for next Tuesday, in order to experience the sea crossing – where two seas meet - I am wondering if I’ll actually get there – and more to the point, get back.

Observations from The Booth:

- solitary seal that frequents the neighbourhood, catching a large fish, then in annoyance at the mobbing gulls, launching its body out of the water

– grey-hooded crow, beak-full of mussel, landing on the slope beside the Booth; laying it on the grass before making a hole in the bank, then carefully placing the mussel inside, picking and tucking in a small switch of dry grass to cover the hiding place before flying off

- heron flying across the harbour, turning in a slow arc just outside the windows of the Booth


  1. Fantastic studies Janette. As painters I think we will always feel the work we produce will be second best to the events we have experienced, but believe me, your work really does do justice to that experience. I look foward to my trips to Cornwall so I can only imagine how lucky you must feel to be painting on Shetland. Spending Monday out on the rocks beyond Hamnavoe also draws to mind the books of George Mackay Brown. Like you say, I think paintings are are about more than the actual event, they're about being there in the wild landscape. I look forward to seeing more work, resolved or not they really evoke a time and place, great stuff.

  2. Thank you Steve for you comments - I do feel very lucky to be able to work here. Shetland is all about the weather and sea - and working outdoors is the only way to try to make sense of it all.


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