The Colours of Kerrera
After the not-remotely-arduous three-minute crossing from Oban we stepped onto a little slice of heaven. The sun was glorious, the sky a sheer sheet of the bluest blue which nestled perfectly on the rolling lumps and bumps of the land. There was pure silence. Not the silence that you can hear your own heart beat in but the pure silence that you get from being away from any form of civilisation, the kind of silence that the noise of nature fills loudly. It’s this type of still, sunlit, bright blue, crisp, clean, breath-taking, sheep filled, peaceful, calm, unspoilt, earthy-smelling place that most reminds me of childhood, stomping around Welsh countryside.
Your instant reaction once you’ve stepped onshore will be to breathe in and to do it deeply, sucking up that fresh West Coast air right to the bottom of your lungs and out again. You have to walk a little fast initially to create enough distance between you and your accompanying boat companions to feel isolated, this initial flurry of engergy pays off though because you feel all alone on your own wee island. I did loads of exclaiming “This. Is. Beautiful’ over and over and over again.
After a month (not an exaggeration) of non-stop rain in Oban on Friday 21st September that illusive Indian Summer finally made a no-holds-barred appearance. The upside to the constant worry and non-escape that self-employment creates is that on those rare days on the West Coast when the sun does shine you can (if one choses too) down tools and bugger off to an island for the day. This was one of those days. After wrestling the guilt of not working for the first 1 and half minutes of the ferry crossing, I disembarked guilt free and in a positively awesome mood.
Kerrera is great for a number of reasons: it’s quiet, it’s beautiful, it feels far away whilst being super close (great if you’ve got a teeny tiny amount of time in Oban), it’s got cracking view of Oban and (best to ‘till last) it has an exceptional and much talked about - with good reason - café that it perfectly situated to time exceptionally well with a needed break on your stomp. Namely, you get to the café after about an hour’s walk, less time again if you don’t account for numerous pit stops to look at stuff.
Totally indulged in that opportunity to take pictures of our food (how do we escape this need to document stuff?? I’m in a double whammy conundrum as everywhere I go my brain thinks ‘oo that would be great for inspiration later’ or “ooo I should snap this so it can accompany my writing (or more aptly, wittering)” or “oo, I should snap this just in case”. These first world problems continue to plague my day-to-day so alas the hilarious waitresses took pity and even offered help with my documentation.
I initially started creating a colour diary about two months ago, a habit I had meant to start all eternity ago but my normal procrastination buffers supported me in not fore filling. So after vaguely reading something about “Eating That Frog” (just google it) I started by picking colours from my stomps and filling my good old trusty Barbour pockets with bits of things: flowers, rocks, glass, stones, lichen, moss, twigs, pebbles, sand, basically anything that represents the colour palette of where I’ve been. Once my pockets reach full capacity I move onto other vessels, like The Scots walking bag, our lunch box, the car door, the glove box and so on until there’s bits of things everywhere, slowly disintegrating and generally making a mess.
“WHY is there Ff’ing seaweed in the glove box LAURA!” has been loudly exclaimed across our drive on more than one occasion. In order to justify hoarding nature in a such a manner I have had to translate it into actual colour swatches before The Scot enforces total ban on found objects. So finally, one frog down and for fear of The Scots reprisal I have started actually recording colours. And I must say, as first published colour swatches go, Kerrera’s colours are fab.
If you’ve not had the absolute pleasure of seeing the West Coast on Scotland first hand (you poor thing) I can tell you it is BREATHTAKING. In all seasons and in all weather. An absolute Mecca for artist and makers and is filled with the most exceptional pockets of artistic expression. I put this down to the insanely attractive light up here and the slow pace that forms a perfect Petri dish for creativity to flourish. Turner spent weeks touring around the islands of the West Coast and in Turner’s tow many an exceptional artist has followed creating some of the most inspiring art in Britain.
I first wanted to keep colour diaries, as I mostly work in a studio (with ambitions of doing more plein air work soon) so I wanted to be able to record colour in landscapes to inform work that was made removed from it. A camera is great for recording an image but not so great at reproduces how our eyes see colour, so to combat this I mix colour swatches out and about and from my collection of things.
Despite the glorious sun it’s not hard to feel the change in seasons as we roll gentle into Autumn. I love the seasonal colour changes in the UK, not just for the auburn reds or rust oranges that fill the countryside as the forest’s summer canopy gets dismantle by Autumn but rather what I most like about Autumn is the purples and mauves that subtly make their way into the landscape. These purples beautifully complement the warmer tones, in a magical but totally underrated way. These little accents of contrast create a splendid harmony across our landscapes, they’re a painter’s delight.
So, if you’re out an about I highly recommend being that weird kid and start collecting colour, it’ll really help later when you’re back home wrestling with creating colour harmonies and translating pigment into art.
Record it quickly though, as The Scot does have a good point: rotting seaweed in a glove box smells pretty unpleasant! Admittedly maybe not as unpleasant as the taste of a frog but that’s not entirely the point…