Summer 2016: Skye Larking and Stone Standing in Scotland

Throughout Scotland I’ve experienced a sense of wonder and awe for the relentless forces of nature that created such haunting beauty and continue to shape the dramatic landscape to this day.

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Low tide at Castle Eilean Donan

Nowhere in Scotland is that more evident than on the Isle of Skye. Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_6049
The locals tell me the word Skye comes from the old Norse word “Sky-a” meaning “cloud island”. The clouds that enshroud the landscapes certainly do claim their dominion. Their shifting shadows and enveloping mists add to the sense of mystery as the scenery evolves with the changing light of day.
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The cool coastal air inspired us to hike many of the beautiful trails that lead to spectacular and breath-taking vistas. The most dramatic is the amazing rock formation called the “Old Man of Storr”.
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In my mind I keep thinking: how will I be able to paint any of this… and could I ever capture such dramatic beauty?
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“The View Toward Siena”

I’ve always been attracted to moody landscapes with cloud-filled skies, misty horizons and soft shadows.

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“A Path to the Sea” at Lahaina Galleries

Dappled light that shifts through the forests and trees.
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“Reflections of Lake Como I”

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“Reflections of Lake Como II”

Reflections of subdued light on calm and tranquil Italian lakes

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“Pines by the Sea”

My years in Tuscany have offered numerous occasions to paint the land and seascapes in their contrasting tones.

But the most challenging aspect of the Scottish summer landscape is the persistent presence of all that green.
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As I have stated in the past, green is the most problematic color for me to paint with. I am never quite satisfied with the shades of green as they appear on the canvas, they never look quite right. This will be my a challenge when I begin painting what I have seen in Scotland, as there is no avoiding the green here. However, I do look forward to it: As a painter I love new challenges, new subjects and new sources of inspiration.
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Our skylarking on Skye not only rewarded us with scenic landscapes, but also delicious meals of locally produced and sourced ingredients at some of the island’s fabulous restaurants.

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Locally produced cheeses from the Isle of Skye, the Skye Bar at the Flodigarry Hotel

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 And of course a sampling of Skye’s most legendary elixir: the Talisker Single Malt Whisky.Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_4354
This was a Talisker 18-year-old single malt; delicious, soul warming and evocative of all the sensual elements of Skye.

Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_6146Our days on Skye went much to quickly and other islands of the Hebrides beckoned us….

Moving on to the more remote islands of the Outer Hebrides we were struck by the enigmatic traces of ancient human habitation in the form of standing stones. Their placement and meaning eludes us to this day.

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 This is the wonder of the Callanish Standing Stones set before a dramatic backdrop of clouds of a passing summer rain storm. 
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As a painter, I am rarely preoccupied with the longevity of my work over time. I paint on fabric, and the chances that my creative expressions would last 6000 years are quite slim. It amazes me when I look at these stones that something someone shaped and manipulated with their hands so long ago can communicate to me so effectively and profoundly over the great distance of time.pictish-stone-dunfallandy
Of course I am left wondering, “what were they trying to say”? It is especially puzzling with the later standing stones – as with this Pictish Dunfallandy stone near Pitlochry. These carved symbols tease the imagination.Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_0920.v1
There are many of these stone rings, or arrangements, that have been recently discovered and excavated. I can only imagine how many more lie sleeping under Scotland’s centuries of peat.Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_4526
I would have loved to tour this countryside one Standing Stone group at a time, letting them guide me through this magical and wonder-filled land.
Perhaps on my next visit to Scotland, I will….Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_6220

Summer 2016: Scotland… of Water Fairies and Sea Kelpies

Water is everywhere in Scotland…

Falling from the sky, flowing into the rivers, cascading from the waterfalls, then to the lochs, and returning eventually to the sea.

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The Falls of Arrochar

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Tarbet, Loch Lomond

My many travels as a surfer have taken me to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I never expected the beaches of Scotland to be some of the most impressive.
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Dunure, Ayreshire

Of course Scotland, with its many islands, inlets and bays, has infinite coastlines, all unique and different from each other, but one thing they have in common from my observation:
In summer the beaches are almost empty.
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South Beach of Ayr

What a delight to find vast stretches of sand and shores deserted, serene and quiet in the middle of summer!
The quiet calm offered me numerous occasions to partake in one of my favorite past times, beach combing.
So often in my travels I have been on coastlines of stunning surf, fabulous waves and fantastic vistas when my eye inevitably returns its gaze to the ground as I compulsively scan the beach for my own personal treasures.
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 The beaches of Scotland offered up many many fascinating objects, most of which I must return to the sea…IMG_5881…but some, really unique in their forms. After years of tumbling on the shores, broken crockery and glass are beautiful to behold and pique my curiosity.

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My beachcombing obsession proved infectious with our little crew… and at our last supper together we covered the kitchen table with our own personal discoveries…
Truly one man’s trash is another’s treasure!!!

Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_5877 Glimpses into the past: I wonder how these objects looked intact, who made them, who used them, and what for? and what caused their ultimate demise? A slip, a fall, a chip or a nick and then no longer useful, they are cast into the wastebin of history.

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This was one of my personal favorites: A piece of bone found at Shandwick beach during low tide. I picked it up and immediately felt that it could be a handle of some kind.

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Shandwick, Easter Ross, Highlands

The site of numerous battles throughout history, Shandwick is now tranquil and serene. My imagination wandered…I could not help but wonder was this a dead soldier’s cast away cutlass handle or the residue of some holiday maker’s picnic lunch???

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In any case, the bone is a keeper, as are the other small wonders: a plush toy (now washed and cleaned) for Murphy, IMG_5577_2
 
And yes, a brick! Our Mill house in Tuscany is called Piccolo Molino… Little Mill. And thanks to our Italian friends Gaetano and Fabio it was portaged to Italy, where it will live somewhere in our garden.
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All these questions, musings and images add to my creative inspiration. The deep sense of history in this land cannot be ignored. It reveals itself in the marvels of nature and in the marks of man.

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Dunure Castle, the Labyrinth

Myth and legend combine to add to the magical sense of this place of wonder and awe. Stories of Sea Kelpies, Water Fairies, Blue Men, Mermaids and Mermen… it is so easy to let the mind wander and be driven to flights of fancy…
Murphy's first sea ferry.. to the Outer Hebrides

Murphy’s first sea ferry.. to the Outer Hebrides

Our travels have now led us to the Outer Hebrides – on the isles of Lewis and Harris, the location for John’s latest film project.

At Latitude 57, it is the furthest north I have ever been. The islands are sparse in vegetation and dominated by the stretches of peat which cover the land.

Luskentyre Beach

Luskentyre Beach

But the beaches here were what lured me… as did the Seonaidh
or Shoney… the water spirits of ancient Hebredian lore.
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It was Luskentyre beach that enchanted us most… and with it, the legend of the Fairy Hound, whose large paw prints can be seen on the beach and then mysteriously disappear.Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_0109
Certainly one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. IMG_6192_2 IMG_6189_2 Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_6194Miles of  pristine, white and pink sand perfection, and spans of emerald green turquoise water.Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_0178_2
And like most Scottish beaches, dog friendly.
Murphy was in his element, our own little Fairy Hound!
My Shoney.. Johnny the Blue Man and Little Fairy Hound Murphy

My Shoney.. on location with Johnny the Blue Man and Little Fairy Hound Murphy

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The light here changes from moment to moment, as the Isles are so exposed to the open waters of the Atlantic.  Clouds and weather come and go, making for countless wonderful compositions for me to paint.Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_1057

I could have stayed on Harris for an entire summer… but my photographs will remind me of the wonder and majesty of these shorelines. Zimmermann-Luskentyre-2 I will revisit them with joy as I paint.

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Scarista Beach, Harris

 
 Such a perfect place for me,Zimmermann-Luskentyre

the Crab, as I must always return to the the Sea.

"Tropical Cloud Sky" 30"x30" at Lahaina Galleries

“Tropical Cloud Sky” 30″x30″ at Lahaina Galleries

“Western Isle Beach”
at Graham Fine Art

Summer 2016 in the UK: Solstice in Scotland

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The Labyrinth, Castle Dunure

Summer of 2016, and somehow, all our roads have led us to Scotland.

Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_5636Joined by our dear friends Gaetano and Fabio, we shared in a week of travels through mythical Alba and experienced inevitable adventures together.

In all my travels I have never been this far North on the planet. It is indeed wonderful to be at this latitude on the longest day.Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_4003

The light here is soft and ever changing, delighting my painter’s eye. The palette leans towards greys and greens, and the shades and tones are infinite.
Clouds and water create shifting light that spans the spectrum of grays. Certainly I could list more than 50 shades…
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In the Scottish Highlands magic and mystery reveals itself around every corner of the bend.
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Loch Ness is truly deserving of its mythical place in Scottish lore. Cutting a large diagonal through northern Scotland on the Great Glen Fault, it is the second largest and deepest Scottish loch.
I had no idea how truly dark and deep a body of water could be, but the presence of peat in the water stains it a deep stout beer color and makes for a perfect place for Nessie to hide.
Castle Urquhart presides over Loch Ness echoing a past of conflict and strife which now, except for the summer hoards of tourists, seems so peaceful.
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can you spot her ? c;

No visit to Loch Ness is complete without a Nessie sighting photo.
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Boleskine’s cemetery being witness to some interesting personalities who have been drawn to this “quiet” and less travelled side of Loch Ness for a variety of reasons.
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Reflections of a Ruin, Boleskine

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Our day spent at Loch Ness presented us with a fabulous place to celebrate the beginning of summer with a
wee Scottish picnic…
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Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_3982In the pleasant company of Nature’s most wild and wonderful creatures and geological formations….
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The Loch offered us some amazing beach combing treasures…
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Caroline-Zimmermann-Scotland_0032Murphy is in good form, loving the great outdoors and looking dapper in his Barbour jacket…
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Boleskine

Truly, the shores of Loch Ness resonate with myth and mystery….
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found in Boleskine… golf anyone?

…leaving me very much inspired yet pondering so many unanswered questions…

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Our longest day ended later that eve further North on the coast in Tain. After a day like this day, I was left feeling a deep connectivity to the Earth and the seasons. I could imagine how people of ancient times believed in the magic of Nature and lived with a daily sense of wonder, reverence and awe. Slowly and if by magic a solstice sun descended onto the horizon, offering a gorgeous extended sunset that was literally breath-taking. Gratitude for the Sun, this day and the very fine company… c: