Last year we went to Orkney for a week. Up there still stand many beautiful, remarkable monuments built by our Neolithic and Bronze Age ancestors. Most are tombs, but by far the most dramatic is the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of stones 104 metres diametre, originally constructed with 60 megaliths. Today, only 27 of these stones remain.
Though it was June, the weather and the light on the stones changed by the minute under a dramatic, wild sky which was huge and looming. Moth and I took photo after photo as the light changed on the stones and in the sky.
Snow, hail, sunshine, rainbows – you name it, we saw it there. It was also bitterly cold which made sketching on site problematic as my fingers went dead. I made this one from the relative warmth of the car.
After we got home I remembered a view of the stone circle that I wanted to paint. Using photographs as reference material I got stuck in. It was all going so well, but during the final washes of the clouds I put way too much Payne’s grey in and overworked it. ‘Damnit!’ I wailed to my husband who was working at his desk behind my painting table, ‘that one’s for the bin!’
Desperate times, desperate measures
Sitting looking disappointedly at the overworked sky I remembered that sometimes JMW Turner took dramatic and experimental risks with his work. Thinking ‘hey I’ve got nothing to lose’ I took the still wet painting to the bathroom. With careful application of water from the shower hose I removed sections of the overworked area until it felt right. I left it to dry in the airing cupboard.
The result was as dramatic as the scene itself: