An Lanntair and the Bhaltos Community Trust award An Sùileachan Residency to artist Joanne B Kaar
2 weeks in the Western Isles
22nd August – 5th September 2015
“I arrived home very late on Saturday 5th Sept, after a fantastic two weeks in the Western Isles. My seemingly simple initial proposal of ‘walking books’, being out and about wandering the landscape, drawing what I saw, building on this with research on the history of the area came into sharp focus after the first full day on the island when we were given the warmest of welcomes by Donella and Colin MacDonald from the Bhaltos Community Trust, with a tour of the area on a very sunny day, followed by dinner at their house.
There was just so much to see and so much history and 2 weeks is a very short time. That evening (Sunday 23rd Aug), I had to make a few decisions – what would I focus on? There were many old tracks and peat roads leading into the hills, but if I spent my time walking, I might not get any drawing done. Taking the obvious circular road around the Bhaltos Peninsula (about 6 miles of twisting single track road), I decide to follow it and draw along the way. This also meant I would be visible within the community – this was the first artist residency they’d hosted.
With my plan narrowed, I set off drawing what I saw around the peninsula, starting with the fish farms, then looking at a few of the wild flowers.
Now, there’s only so much you can see through a midge net. The midges were horrendous, and they never let up for the whole two weeks. That evening, I lay out my 5 drawings to review my plan. It wasn’t going well. If I’d continued drawing at random what I saw, they wouldn’t really have a focus. The drawings which worked the best were those of the wild flowers. So, again, narrowing down my ideas, I decided to continue observational drawing in the landscape (this I definitely wanted to do, as at home I spend too much time on the computer). This time, focusing only on the flora of the peninsula – documenting a variety of plants, and with time ticking by, this meant driving to each location rather than too much walking to gather as much info as possible. When the midges went away, it rained, heavy thundery downpours – so just as well my car was never far away, and my drawings – all rollerball black ink and acrylic ink for colour, were small – easy to cover and protect from the elements. I as the week went on, the more plants I drew, the better the collection of work began to look – I like pattern – my drawing style is line drawing in pen, one chance to get it right, then coloured in.
A trip to St. Kilda was part of the residency. It was not to be. We were on standby on 4 different days. On one of them we managed to get a third of the way their. The waves were just too big – a 3m swell. Not much white water, the rolling waves don’t look at all dramatic in photos – but believe me, you had to hang on!
Would love to try again, next year, perhaps a little earlier in the season, although Seatreck only managed half of their trips to St Kilda this year, because of the weather.
Before arriving in Lewis, I already had the idea to combine outdoor clothing with my new work – so put a call out for any waterproofs that aren’t waterproof anymore, wellington boots that leak etc. I like that to view the wild flowers, I need to wear all this gear – waterproofs from head to toe. Back on dry land, more drawing, a meet the artist session in my temporary studio, one artists talk at An Lanntair, 3 children’s workshops at An Lanntair and one at Uig Primary School (with all 12 children in the school), I gate crashed the weekly cake and blether session at Uig Community Centre and finally on the last day, a meet up with Jon MacLeod from An Lanntair to catch up and review the residency and return a book
‘The Flora of Uig – reports from a 1938 expedition’.
Some things haven’t changed, an extract from 1938 Flora of Uig:
And home again, back on my computer, sorting through all the work and reflecting – it will take some time to develop this work further for possible exhibitions, but am happy with the initial information gathering and decision to focus on the flora of the Bhaltos Peninsula.
Joanne will return to Uig in June to make a display of work the drawings inspired by her residency.