Friday, 19 February 2010


Found a great area for large rolling waves yesterday - on the way down south to Sumburgh. It was late afternoon and icy cold as I perched on the black rocks close to where huge rollers were breaking over the rocks sending vast plumes of spray into the air. As the waves broke the sea was an incredible turquoise colour. I couldn't draw fast enough, especially with frozen fingers.  I had planned to return there today with paint, but as usual the Shetland weather got the better of my plans - there was no wind and lots of sun. So a day in the studio instead. The drawings are feeding new paintings. Images to follow.. 
Have been plundering the Shetland Museum Archives at Lerwick for 18th&19thC images and writings related to Haaf Fishing, and have begun to combine them with my paintings. These are experimental pieces - at the moment I can't make them very large as the printer here is only A4 and not particularly sophisticated. Assembled together they suggest a narrative.. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Out on Burra - it really was snowing

Tuesday 16 February, 2010 10:26:
Weather report from Fair Isle Weather Station
'Temperature sensor has gone haywire again, reporting -67.8C!'.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

As I sit here at just after midnight, heavy rain is sweeping across the harbour and lashing at the windows of The Booth. Great, but why wasn’t it like this when I was on Unst? My visit to the island was productive in so far as I learnt a lot about the construction of and the different types of traditional Shetland, Faroese and Norwegian boats, and their link to the Vikings (thank you Robert Hughson). Plus I got to see Uyeasound’s ‘Up Helly Aa’ and experience the after the galley-burning celebrations. And stayed in the Zero Carbon House B&B.  But the only extreme thing about my walk along looking for wild heaving seas and windswept coast-line was that it was on the most extremely calm and sunny day I have experienced on Shetland. There’s always tomorrow….

Postscript: Awoke to snow showers.

Out on the sea

Given the superstitions regarding women on boats I was extremely lucky to find a fisherman willing to allow me on-board his boat. My day out with Billy Hughes, a Scalloway creel fisherman, checking his creels enabled me to look back and up at the coastline from the sea and to feel to movement of the boat as I drew (when my freezing fingers allowed).  

We chugged between the rocks and skerries in his small boat, stopping periodically as Billy brought in his creels, sorted through the catch (throwing most back), before moving on to place them again and to locate the next batch. The catch was two and half buckets of edible brown crabs (partans) and a box of assorted other less ‘exclusive’ ones. All bound for Spain. Not much for a fairly labour-intensive day’s work, but at this time of the year….’mebbe n’ so bad’. 
At the risk of sounding like a middle-class Romantic (try to imagine bohemian artist instead.. okay, maybe they’re the same thing), it is strange to think that whilst most of the country are driving like crazy through some concrete jungle to and from work each day, this is what Billy does alone most days of the year, whatever the weather, surrounded by this bleak and wonderful landscape.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

'I took da shivil.. an I says; Tammy, now..if ever du did wirk i dy life.. try du best..ta empty her'

Discovered after an informative trip to The Boat Haven on Unst, that some sixareens did indeed have pumps, and also they had bigger bailing shovels as well as the oskerries to assist the removal of  'heavy smoorie of spray from the owse room'. 

So those of you who have been worrying about this issues, I hope that this allays some of your concerns for the poor sixareen fishermen desperately trying to empty their boats as the 'lumps of water' crashed in, threatening to swamp the boats in heavy storms.