Maraiche

In this post I wanted to share something with you that I’m really proud of being involved with. It includes two very talented Gaelic gentlemen, a band I listen to on repeat, the haunting vocals of Kathleen MacInnes and some of my most favourite places.

The awesome thing about living on this island is that there’s always something fun and creative going on, you never know what you’ll get up to from one week to the next…

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I’ll begin by letting you know about three things that I love:

-Skye
-The water
-Music by the Skye-grown band Niteworks

So, when Dòl Eoin, a talented filmmaker I’d met on the set of Bannan, offered me the chance to take part in the band’s new video there was no way I could refuse.

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Dòl Eoin scouting out the locations around Lealt Falls, where the protagonist climbs away from the waterfall

The words of ‘Maraiche’ are sung in Gaelic and they tell the tale of a woman who has lost her love to the sea.
Dòl Eoin’s vision for the video begins at a Niteworks gigwhere we see her catch a glimpse, or maybe just a memory, of her departed sailor as she becomes entranced by the music. Chasing this vision she races through the streets of Glasgow and we follow her and her memories, Alice In Wonderland-style, towards the sea…

We began filming in familiar Glasgow spots (Ashton Lane, the Tradeston Bridge) then moved on to some of Skye’s most-loved locations; Neist Point, The Fairy Pools, Lealt Falls….
I only had about a week before I was due to leave for Eden and we had multiple locations to shoot in over a number of days so it was a race against time.

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At the Fairy Pools. Dòl Eoin sets up the camera whilst Calum looks on.

My ‘lost sailor’ in the video is someone who loves the water even more than me.
If you live in Scotland and use social media you’ve probably already seen Calum Maclean.
The video of a nutter swimming through a high-altitude icy loch? That’ll be Calum. The naked bum disappearing behind a magnificent waterfall? Probably also Calum. If you haven’t already seen him, look him up, his short videos for BBC Scotland’s The Social are well worth a watch.

They may be a Caribbean blue but the Fairy Pools in March aren’t the warmest of waters (in fact, they’re equally freezing in the summer months too…)
Tourists looked on in confusion whilst, fully clothed, we ducked under, fell off ledges and attempted to film an underwater kiss.
When we finally finished I realised I couldn’t have done much longer. I shuddered big, involuntary juddering shivers and I slid and stumbled down the muddy track back to our cars with limbs barely working -a mild case of hypothermia that was cured by a few hours in a warm pub!
It was worth it though, the aquamarine water of the Fairy Pools made a stunning backdrop to the music.

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A picture rudely swiped from Calum’s Instagram (sorry @caldamac!) It was as chilly as it looks but I love the yellow against the turquoise of the Fairy Pools

Whilst I’m obviously biased, I think Dòl Eoin captured the spirit of ‘Maraiche’ perfectly. I’m was chuffed, still am chuffed, that he’d choose me to work with.

Of course, I didn’t get to see the finished video until I’d left Eden earlier this year but I was thrilled to finally watch it (though I often sat on those Ardnamurchan sand dunes humming Niteworks tunes to myself as I watched the tide go out)

If you’d like to watch it too, you can find it here: Niteworks – Maraiche (feat. Kathleen MacInnes)

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A still shot at Lealt Falls


To learn more about Niteworks and hear the rest of the album visit their webpage niteworksband.com

What is it that you actually do?

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Me in my Skye studio (Photograph by the insanely talented Anthony Lycett)

For all my posts about my days on Skye and the things I enjoy doing, I realise that I never talk about my day job as an artist.

This evening I was posting some photos of my most recent work to my Facebook page (Katie Tunn Fine Art) and I found myself writing more about the background to the pieces than I usually do, like a kind of mini blog.
Since these new paintings are Skye-inspired I thought I’d share what I wrote…

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Inspired by the ocean and the sky


(From Facebook)
‘Back in 2013 I took a month out to explore Scotland. As an ocean-lover and a geology-enthusiast I have always been entranced by the natural beauty of the country.
I had no planned route but as I roamed from place to place I realised I was in pursuit of something… The colour blue.

From the icy teal of the deepest Fairy Pools to the Caribbean turquoise of Coral Beach -I found glimpses of what I was looking for on Skye. It’s part of why I fell in love with this place and perhaps what led me to move here.

I’ve now been here for over a year. Although I’ve been making art the whole time, it’s been mostly my ‘bread and butter’ work, portrait commissions.
I love this type of work but for a long time I’ve been meaning to make some more intuitive art that reflects what I love about this island. I have no idea why but something always stopped me.

It took an impromptu painting session with fellow Skye artist and friend, Marion Boddy-Evans, to inspire me to loosen up and experiment.
Following her words of encouragement I’ve been rapidly turning every blank surface in my studio blue.

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Catching the light

 

These new pieces are all works in progress as I explore different painting techniques to represent the colours of the ocean and the patterns found in minerals and gemstones.
It’s great fun to go back to using high-gloss surfaces, circular canvases and metallic colours, it’s been a while.
It feels like I’m beginning to really find my blue…’

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All my favourite colours

The circular canvases in the somewhat blurry photos above are my favourite pieces so far but it’s been fun to play around with different surfaces and materials too, especially using stuff that I’ve picked up whilst cleaning beaches.
My studio has gradually become a shrine to cerulean; it’s a delight to walk in and be surrounded by splashes of my favourite colour.

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Experimenting with beachcombed finds

As I mentioned above, this is a departure from my everyday artwork which mainly consists of portrait commissions. I specialise in drawings and paintings of people or horses, often with a military or polo theme. Yes, it’s incredibly niche but it’s a good market and one I enjoy working in.

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One of my favourite finished commissions 

There are pros and cons with working to commission…
Pros: It’s guaranteed work and I really enjoy meeting my new subjects.
Cons: It can be painstaking with little room for error or movement. But worse, you never know whether your client will like it or not so there can sometimes be an agonising internal struggle to work out whether you’re really up to the job.

When working on a big commission I often spend most of my time doubting whether I can really paint at all and whether I’m committing some kind of fraud by pretending to do so. It may sound extreme but it’s not an uncommon train of thought. It’s what makes us try to be better artists.

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The latest drawing commission 

It’s the lack of that internal struggle that makes this intuitive, abstract way of working feel more fun and carefree.
As my friend Marion wrote on her blog recently, you have to experiment and accept that you’ll make mistakes. I really owe her one for inspiring me to find that freedom with paint that I was beginning to lose a bit.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and seeing what comes out next…

To see more of my work please visit my Facebook page: Katie Tunn Fine Art

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NYE at Neist Point Lighthouse & Some Resolutions

The foghorn at Neist Point Lighthouse

The foghorn at Neist Point Lighthouse on New Years Day

So it was straight back up to Skye to see in Hogmanay.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, Hogmanay is the name for the Scottish New Year celebrations. It’s something I’ve wanted to take part in ever since I first saw the fireworks at the Edinburgh castle party on the news when I was at school. The New Year is taken more seriously up here than in England and the festivities are accompanied by traditional customs (usually involving fire or booze) as well as a long bank holiday.

Good friends, good wines...

Good friends, good wines…

Strangely enough, the party I went to wasn’t held by my new Skye friends. Nor was I hosting it myself.
It’s a funny coincidence… My friend Jack, from London (who I’ve known for almost 10 years) has an August Bank Holiday party every year at his father’s house just 10 minutes from my village. This year, over the BBQ, I mentioned my move to Skye and he turned round and told me that’s where his Mum lives. Not only that, she also owns the famous Neist Point Lighthouse and he’s been meaning to hold a New Years Party there for some time.
Bingo.
I wouldn’t have to come down for the party, this year it was coming to me!

The most Westerly tip of Skye

The most Westerly tip of Skye

Jack gave me his Mum Jane’s details when I first arrived on Skye but I’ve been so busy since I got here that I never got round to calling her. I hadn’t visited the lighthouse yet either, as I’d wanted to save it for after/when I met her.
I should’ve definitely called earlier; she is super lovely and Neist Point is breathtaking. I can definitely see why Tripadvisor lists it as the #1 thing to see on Skye!

The path to and from the lighthouse (with Livvy and Jack)

The path to and from the lighthouse (with Livvy and Jack)

Neist Point is about an hours drive from my cottage. Whereas I’m on the most Northerly point of Skye, it’s on the most Westerly.
It’s around a 20 minute walk to get from the car park down towards the actual buildings. Our arrival was fairly dramatic as we struggled to stay upright against the wind whilst carrying bags of food and clothes down the cliff steps in the dark.
It was worth it.

The buildings aren’t currently lived in and have become a little dilapidated from exposure to the harshest of the Hebridean elements. All the same, they had all we needed to be warm and comfortable and who cares if the paintwork isn’t perfect… we’re spending New Years at a LIGHTHOUSE!

Neist Point Lighthouse (Photo by Hugo Donnithorne-Tait)

Neist Point Lighthouse (Photo by Hugo D-T and his amazing photography skills)

Over the course of four days we drank, ate, danced, laughed, argued over board games, went for walks, explored and generally had a thoroughly good time.

On NYE itself we cracked open the champagne and watched as the boys valiantly tried to set off an £100 firework in coastal winds that almost knocked us off our feet. After a brief display we all ran back into the warm and the party descended into tipsy silliness (as all good parties should).

What a rabble! (Photo by Hugo Donnithorne-Tait)

What a rabble!

There were 8 of us, most of whom I know from around the time we left sixth form. Although I don’t see these guys often anymore they’re the best kind of friends where you can pick up from where you left off as if you’d only seen each other yesterday. Of course, we’re not quite as fresh-faced and perky as we used to be but it was reassuring to find that we can party just as hard!

Jack was a fantastic host too, he always is, and he was incredibly patient with me when I got all overenthusiastic and know-it-all about the local area (the excitement of having old friends visiting my new home was too much!)

Braving the elements with Jack, Ed and Livvy

Braving the elements with Jack, Ed and Livvy

One of my favourite bits was our New Years Eve swim up at the Fairy Pools; It’s one of my favourite places on Skye and whenever I’ve been there the water has always looked so beautifully blue and inviting. Well, it usually does…

It was chilly and drizzling when we got there and the burns that you have to cross on the path up to the pools had become deep and fast-flowing. It took some serious teamwork to get across them; if we’d been contestants in the Crystal Maze we would have won all the crystals for our brave efforts. When we reached the pools themselves they didn’t exactly have their usual mirror-like calm; instead they were white and fierce and it actually took us a while to find a safe spot where we wouldn’t get caught in a current and flushed over a 10ft waterfall.

They say that the Fairy Pools are icy in the middle of summer so you can imagine how cold they were in late December. I went in with three of the boys and we all went pink as lobsters as our skin panicked from the temperature shock. We all hopped out quickly as our limbs burned from the cold but a second dip wasn’t nearly as bad.

Of course, it was as toasty as anything when we got out and we slopped back to our cars and soggily made our way to the Old Inn to dry out.

A wee dip (and yes, it was definitely as cold as it looks!)

A wee dip …and yes, it was definitely every bit as cold as it looks! (Photo by Hugo D-T)

On our last day there were only four of us left. We had a lazy duvet day and whilst the others snuggled up watching movies in bed I made a start on my New Years Resolutions.

I’m not sure when it happened but making resolutions is a big thing for me now. I think it must have started a couple of years ago when I resolved not to accept any plastic carrier bags when shopping. I kept that one easily (and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone because it’s a small change with an amazing impact) so I think it’s kept me going.
I still have last year’s ones and I went through them to see how well I’ve done…

New Years Resolutions for 2014

New Years Resolutions for 2014

Less than 50%. Could do better but not bad really, there’s a lot on there.
Here’s this year’s list:

New Years Resolutions for 2015

New Years Resolutions for 2015

I’m aiming for hitting at least 50%.
The whisky one might be a little harder now that I can’t have just one dram with Scotland’s new driving laws.
Getting hillwalking fit shouldn’t be too hard with so many lovely treks to do around the island.
I suppose the one about keeping up with the blog isn’t going too badly if I’m here typing this now…

But there’s one I’m already doing very well with. I had 1000 of them delivered the other day so this one should be in the bag…

Just rolling around in sweets on the floor. What sugar high?!

Just rolling around in sweets on the floor. What sugar high?!

NB: A HUUUUGE thanks to Jane for letting us stay at her incredible lighthouse and to Jack for his fantastic hosting skills. Hope to see you both very soon xx

Talisker Bay

For every high there has to be a comedown. So, from the charm of Coral Beach came Talisker Bay…

The beach at Talisker Bay was a place I’d wanted to visit on my first trip to Skye but somehow I’d found myself drawn into the distillery down the road instead (no idea why, of course…)
On Wednesday I decided to try again; I was looking forward to seeing the striking black and white sand I’d read about in books.

As I left the car at Talisker House I came across some feathered friends.
When you think of Skye birds you think of Sea Eagles, Oyster Catchers, Gannets… Less expected is a gang of peacocks (or peahens, to be precise).
They gathered at my feet and looked up at me expectantly. I bent down and cooed at them for a bit but there’s only so much interaction one can have with a bird before looking a little crazy so I left them to it and went to find the beach…

Nice hat. Is it freshers week?

Nice hat. Is it freshers week?

 

As I approached the huge round stones that separate the sand from the grass my heart sank. Little splashes of colour on the natural monochrome of the beachscape… red buckets, blue ropes, yellow bottles.
Always sad to see but not uncommon.

The sand was indeed, striking. The water had washed it into patterns that were like looking at a charcoal drawing of a thunderstorm. Though I didn’t have much time to see it; the tide soon came in and selfishly snatched it back under the waves.

I continued to wander along the tideline and those occassional bright splashes of plastic became more frequent. Within a few minutes I’d reached a section of the beach where when I looked down I saw more man-made material visible than natural.

 

The striking black and white sands below the pollution on the tide line

The striking black and white sands below the pollution on the tide line

 

I wont get too technical here and go off on a rant about marine pollution issues, although I easily could (and would like to, but I fear I’ll lose you).
This stuff is one of the few topics that I know a lot about, mainly through involvement with various conservation groups. Unfortunately, through this knowledge I’ve also seen a lot more case studies of the damage caused by plastic debris than your average visitor to a dirty beach… tangled birds, choked turtles, that kind of crap. It’s genuinely heartbreaking.

Rubbish can arrive on our beaches in a number of ways. Some is flushed down into the sewer systems or washed from city streets into storm drains. A small amount is made by people dropping litter on or near beaches. A large percentage comes from the industries using the ocean itself, especially fishing.
All marine pollution is bad, of course, but fishing gear is one of the most dangerous to marine wildlife. Discarded nets continue to catch animals indiscriminately as they float around the oceans on whichever current they get caught in; it’s known as ‘ghost fishing’ and it affects everything from tiny seahorses to great whales. A nasty business.

It’s this trash coming from the ocean itself that affects Talisker. Nets, buckets, ropes. Containers with the print washed away from years of being in the water. There are containers that could have easily originated on the other side of the Atlantic over a decade ago.

Thousands of small pieces of plastic debris, including scraps of fishing rope

Thousands of small pieces of plastic debris, including scraps of fishing rope

 

Anyway, I seem to be going on a bit even though I said I wouldn’t… Though if anyone has any questions or wants to know more about this stuff please let me know, the more we share this knowledge the better we are equipped to tackle the issue.

SO…

I had arrived at Talisker House and merrily bounced down to the track to the beach and then half an hour later and I’m fuming.
I kick plastic bottles away angrily as I come across a second seabird carcass (again, too far gone to work out whether it died from natural causes or the nets in which it lay).
Who’s in charge of this place? The council? A private owner? If so, why isn’t there enough funding to help a private owner look after it? It’s a popular visitor attraction for goodness sake. Grr.

One of the most wonderful things about moving to Skye is that it’s given me time to reflect.
One of the worst things about Skye is that it’s given me time to reflect.
Yesterday I found myself saddened by the radio news reports; Turkey’s inactivity over ISIS movements, people calling for aid cuts when Ebola is crippling communities, an so on. I spent the evening wondering how humanity could be so callous.
Now I couldn’t understand how we could be so careless. I’ve seen really dirty beaches before but this one, juxtaposed against dramatic cliffs and a stunning waterfall, really got to me.

Talisker Beach with the stunning waterfall

Talisker Beach and waterfall

 

But there’s no point in getting upset about something and doing nothing; anger can positive if you can harness it somehow.
I’d toyed with the idea of hosting a beach clean up here for the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean Series but there’s an existing Skye group that have been running these things for a while so I had decided to leave them to it (I didn’t want to step on any toes either!). Besides, I’d only been here a week after all and I didn’t even know which beaches needed cleaning…

Talisker changed my mind. As I stormed back towards the car with stinging eyes I decided that I had to do something.
So next Sunday I’ll be hosting my first Skye beach clean event with SAS (11am-2pm, meeting on the beach).

Over 150 other people have felt the same way about this problem and will be leading other cleans up and down the UK next weekend. I hope that some of you reading this will consider volunteering your time at an event close to you (it’s surprisingly good fun and you get real feel-good points).
Check out the Surfers Against Sewage website for a list of organised events: http://www.sas.org.uk

A face-off with one of the locals as I started gathering info for organising the beach clean

A face-off with one of the Talisker locals on the way back from the beach

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent going back and forth between the properties around the beach trying to find information about who owned the beach, access rights etc etc -all very dull but necessary stuff for organising a beach clean event.
As the shadows began to stretch I left the area in search of a place where I could exhale and forget the rage I felt at the state of Talisker Bay. The Fairy Pools.

I’ll talk about the pools at length in another post. It’s an incredibly special place, even for someone like me who thinks all that airy-fairy supernatural stuff is nonsense. There’s just something about them.
The landscape looked spectacular in the setting sun as I drove away from Talisker towards Glenbrittle. It was like my anger was butter melting under the hot amber light.

With the determination to get Talisker beach cleaned somehow, even just a little bit, it’s now time to chase that high again…

The drive to the Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle

Late afternoon gold light on the drive into Glenbrittle

 

 

What Katie did

It’s been a busy day today. I’m too sleepy now to go into detail but, in brief photo-diary format, here’s what I did…

I met some inquisitive peacocks…
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I got sad at rubbish on Talisker Beach…
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I had a stand-off with a sheep…
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I made friends with an oyster farmer at his Oyster Shed…
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I contemplated a swim and some Germans asked if I was a fairy (it was at the Fairy Pools)
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And then I went home and ate some haggis.

The End (until I’m feeling awake enough to write properly)