I've been painting much less for a few weeks now, and I'm sad to say that it's because I lost my dog and sketching buddy, Scooby the German Shepherd. My faithful mate for years and a massive part of the family, we all miss him hugely and I've found it hard to get out there and paint or sketch, with the notable exception of a snowy day about 10 days ago.
But life goes on and I've now got a couple of paintings on the go. I finished one of them today - Elgin High Street, 1863. Normally I start my paintings from one of my sketches and I neglect the detail in the painting in order to strengthen the atmosphere and character of the subject. In this painting I really wanted to produce, if you will, a watercolour version of an old photograph. The world wasn't in black and white then, just because the photos were! To rebuild Elgin of exactly 150 years ago, I used lots of old photos of the place, people and their transport. But, as always, I sketched the scene first. You have to grin and bear it if you intend to sketch on a busy high street but I was intent on positioning myself exactly as the original photographer of one of the photos I was using. I suspect he was leaning out of the top of what is now a pound shop, and used to be Woolworths. I stood outside the door and sketched at ground level.
Then, in the studio, I tried to bring them all together. A brief resume of the changes that this street has seen:
1. There are almost no chimneys in view these days. There were lots - and in this view they're almost all churning out smoke to emphasise the change.
2. Several of these buildings have been demolished and replaced with concrete buildings, which is a shame. The most notable one is the white-fronted building just to the right of the non-working fountain.
3. The buildings receding down the left hand side now house a large shopping centre.
4. The whole area is pedestrianised now whereas there were definite areas for walking and for driving - carriages! I've done my best from monochrome photos to guess a colour scheme. The only bit I agree to falsifying is the kerb between the central grey area and the road on the left. That's been added for artistic reasons, and seems to have been roughly level 150 years ago.
5. The central area has seen a few changes. There was apparently a sort of 'pallisade' around the base of the fountain, shown here. The war memorial, dedicated to those who died in the Great War, was almost 60 years in the future. Also, the curious wooden building in the foreground behind the two gentlemen has long gone. What was it? I don't know, although I know this area once housed an underground toilet - perhaps someone who knows could enlighten us. Lastly, the trees growing in the wrought-iron pens outside St Giles' Church, centre, were very young then. Now there are fewer, but they're bigger!
From my point view, though, the most surprising thing is how much is still the same! This has helped to 'root' me in this town, and I hope it might do the same for my audience. I've really enjoyed the process but it'll be a while before I take on that much work again. For now, my next painting will be a return to my artistic roots - I only wish Scooby couldv'e been there!
A professional artist living and working in the beautiful north of Scotland. My work is realistic and quite traditional, though strongly interpretational in nature. My inspiration is the beauty of Nature, and the wonderful colours and moods she shows everywhere.