It’s a fact – over 70% of the gin consumed in the UK is produced in Scotland, where distillers have perfected the art and craft of the spirit. The Scottish islands in particular are renowned for fine, artisan gins – Orkney, Shetland, Harris, North Uist, Barra, Tiree, Colonsay, Jura, Islay, Mull and the Isle of Skye.
Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul, he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.
Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Thomas and Alistair Wilson are local lads with a life-long passion for the “Misty Isle” which sparked the idea to launch the first Gin distillery on the island and capture a spiritual essence of the place in a bottle.
Alistair has a professional background in the hospitality industry, hotels, bars and restaurants around Scotland while Thomas has served in the Parachute Regiment and is a retained fireman. Ready for an exciting new challenge, they decided to join forces to create their own speciality Skye gin, selecting the key botanicals, foraging juniper berries and experimenting with recipes. Another key ingredient is sourced near the distillery at Portree – the crystal clear, spring water from the Storr Lochs.
Misty Isle Gin was launched in early February 2017, with exceptional success: Gold Medal and Distilled Gin of the Year, Scottish Gin Awards, 2018, Silver, World Gin Awards and Gold, London Spirits Competition.
“Provenance is everything – that abiding sense of belonging and community. Over time, we have perfected our recipe; a marriage of waters from the Storr Lochs and the right balance of the finest botanicals. It has taken patience and judgement, but some things cannot be rushed”. Thomas and Alistair Wilson
This the first gin to be produced on the Isle of Skye and a completely home-grown product, created, distilled and bottled in Portree. The name Gin itself is derived from the Dutch jenever which means Juniper, providing the essential earthy, pine notes.
Juniper berries – hand-foraged from various wild locations around Skye, slowly distilled in traditional gas-fired copper pot stills for approximately 8 hours, then vapour infused with the other ten botanicals:
Coriander seeds – the second most used botanical after juniper. Once distilled it has a complex flavour once distilled, all at once citrusy, nutty and a little spicy.
Grains of Paradise – an exotic, aromatic spice from West Africa bring a complex mix of cardamom, coriander, ginger with a hint of citrus. These tiny seeds have medicinal qualities and are an Aphrodisiac.
Orris root – the root of the Iris flower, giving a floral, parma violet aroma with sweet and woody flavours. Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans used Orris in perfumery – Channel No. 5 is thought to contain a high proportion of Orris Root.
Liquorice root – a sweet, woody botanical that has been used as a sugar alternative for centuries.
Black cubebs – an Indonesian plant; the fruits are gathered before they ripen and left to dry. similar in appearance and taste to black pepper, Cubeb berries are often paired with juniper in gin giving a soft floral, lavender aroma combined with a cracked pepper taste.
Lemon peel – the peel is dried before infusion and distillation and contributes a fresh, tart, crisp, citrus notes.
Cassia bark – similar to cinnamon with a sweeter taste and warming, earthy spiciness.
There is also one other top secret ingredient from the Isle of Skye.!
Misty Isle Gin is described by its creators as “ Juniper heavy but not too floral with earthy undertones, a hint of spice, with subtle flavours of citrus and a refreshing aftertaste.” The suggested serve is with a Scottish or premium tonic water, garnished with a twist of fresh orange peel.
Before even tasting the Misty Isle gin, first admire the stunning design of the glass bottle, its thick curved, craggy, jagged shape – so comfortable to hold – appears to have been carved out of an ice-covered mountain.
This represents the Old Man of Storr and the majestic mountain range of the Cuillins is artistically illustrated on the label. The copper foil reflects the gin stills and each bottle of Misty Isle is unique with its own different twisted top.
The neat gin taste test
Aroma: A mellow floral and rich earthy scent
Palate: A spicy kick balanced by sweet citrus notes with a delicate salty tang.
Finish: Beautifully, intensely smooth with lingering, woodland pine aftertaste.
The G&T taste test
Pour 50 ml of Misty Isle and a good splash of Walter Gregor Scottish gin, (hand crafted on Manse Farm, Aberdeenshire), over a large block of ice and add a twist of orange peel. This pure, clear Gin from Skye is perfectly complemented by the lightly sparkling Scottish Tonic created from natural citrus flavours, quinine and Highland spring water. Be sure not to drown the gin with tonic, to allow the peppery spice and rich juniper flavour to shine, while the orange draws out the bittersweet citrus.
This ice cold G&T is so refreshing – which can be poetically described as akin to a bracing mountain trek or beach walk in the salty air.!
Misty Isle Gin is clearly of superlative quality based on the fact that it is imbued with the provenance of local Juniper berries and pure Scottish loch water. One slow, smooth sip conjures up the wild, natural landscape of Skye from glacier mountain to woodland and seashore.
“Holidayed many times on Skye and wanted something to remind me of the island. Served with Fevertree Mediterranean tonic & orange and loved it – so refreshing!” (on line review)
As a lover of a dry Gin Martini, the next test was this classic cocktail: 50 ml Misty Isle with 15 ml Vermouth, stirred gently over a large ice cube, strain into a glass and garnish with an olive or two.
Vermouth is a fortified wine with a blend of spices, herbs, roots and fruit, such as cinnamon, citrus peel, cardamom, chamomile, coriander, juniper and ginger, so the ideal partner for Misty Isle gin.
Again it’s the smooth texture which is predominant with the subtle, soft complexity of floral, herbal and spicy flavours – overall it is cool, crisp and delicately dry, with the olive enhancing the salinity. Alternatively, the zest of lemon would draw out the citrus tang.
In just three years, the Wilson brothers have planned, launched and developed the Isle of Skye Distillers into a very successful, independent family business. They have created a few different gins such as the new Misty Isle Old Tom Pink Gin with raspberries and blackcurrants grown in the distillery garden.
Tommy’s Gin was crafted in memory of their late father, Tommy Wilson, who served in the Suez invasion with the British Army. Also seasonal Christmas and Halloween gins and Misty Isle vodka.
In Portree, you can visit the Distillery Shop and book a session at the Gin School to experience hands-on tuition to distil your own bottle on a miniature copper still, and learn all about Misty Isle spirits.
The attractive, illustrated website gives an inspiring travel guide to Skye which will entice you to visit, with all information on Misty Isle products, Where to Buy and an online Shop.
Lachlan Goudie certainly knows how to communicate with vicacious exuberance as an artist, broadcaster and writer. This lavishly illustrated survey is a fascinating journey from Pagan crafts to Portraiture and Pop Art, to show how the colourful imagination of Scottish artists became a creative influence worldwide.
With 42 chapters across four distinctive Parts, there is a clear road map to follow, or dip into the historical and artistic era of interest.
Let’s start at the very beginning, as they say, 3,000 BC at Kilmartin Glen, Kintyre where you can see ancient stone Cup and Ring carvings and Standing stones across this Neolithic landscape. Similar stone circles and objects are found on Orkney. Here in 2009, on the Isle of Westray a tiny, sandstone figure of a woman was found buried in the sand: “with disarming simplicity, the artist engraved a nose, two pinpricks for eyes, transforming the pebble into an icon of Neolithic civilisation. … the earliest carving of a human figure ever found in Scotland.”
The Westray Wife” is almost Picasso-esque in its simple, naïve, deconstructed form. Archaeological sites have sourced other bone craftwork and pottery, leading to the Bronze Age and the creation of tools for elaborate brooches and jewellery.
Columba arrived on Iona, from Ireland, in 563, “an isle of big skies and turquoise tides,” a place of peace and spirituality; from early Celtic crosses and the decorative Abbey, artists have always been enticed to visit Iona for generations, to capture its natural beauty.
It is believed that the Book of Kells, the 9th century illuminated manuscripts of four Latin gospels was created by the monks at Columba’s Monastery, Iona – “a masterpiece of Christian art .. a work of transcendental beauty.”
Ancient Pictish craftsmanship is preserved around Aberlemno, Angus, with around 250 sandstone monoliths carved with symbols, crosses, figures, horses and a hunting scene. This is also the subject of the elaborately carved St. Andrews Sarcophagus, (8th – 9th century), featuring a hawk, two lions, a ram and a dog.
The Vikings arrived in the late 8th century, “to colonise the isles, Orkney .. and across the Hebrides.” A treasure trove of Viking sculptures was unearthed at Uig, Isle of Lewis in 1831, a set of 93 figures carved from Greenland walrus ivory and whales teeth – the Lewis Chessmen. It is thought they were made in Trondheim (1150-1175), and brought to Lewis by a merchant on route to Ireland, but buried in the sand for centuries.
As Goudie wittily describes these delicately engraved sculptures: “The figures resemble cartoon characters. .. the wild stare of the king, the bishops’ faces bursting with bug-eyed horror .”
Trade with the Low Countries brought “cargoes of exquisitely carved furnishings and Netherlandish paintings.” This led to the commission of Hugo Van der Goes, a celebrated artist in Bruges to paint a new Alterpiece for the Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity, Edinburgh.
The marriage of James V and Madeline, the daughter of Francis 1 of France led to Royal patronage of the Arts to promote a Renaissance of decorative sculpture and classical painting.
Fast forward to the Union of the Crowns with James VI/1 of Great Britain. His son, Charles 1 was an art collector and commissioned portraits by Van Dyck and Rubens. But George Jamesone from Aberdeen would soon be hailed Scotland’s Van Dyck. To celebrate the Scottish coronation of Charles I, Jamesone painted 109 portraits of the Royal family tree and the King himself with great success.
This encouraged 19 year old Michael Wright to travel from London to Edinburgh to be George’s apprentice, before studying in Rome,“ an unrivalled boot-camp where he acquired technical expertise.”
Charles II was now on the throne and (John) Michael Wright was selected to paint the portrait., a fashionably glamorous portrayal of “a curly-wigged young man with a raised eyebrow and a spiv moustache.”
There is a marvellous narrative about the 22 year old Allan Ramsay on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1736, an early ‘backpacker’, cultural adventure through France and Italy. In the early 1990s, when Goudie was an art student, he “emulated Ramsay’s pilgrimage and spent a year in Rome painting and drawing. An overwhelming experience”.
Ramsay became an eminent portrait artist with “delicate style of brushwork and soft colour palette”, as well as a leading philosopher, central to the intellectual aims of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Henry Raeburn was advised by Sir Joshua Reynolds to study in Italy, before returning home to Edinburgh to set up his studio, painting romanticised, theatrical portraits to great effect.
Moving into the 19th century, the popularity of Landscapes soon took centre stage through Nasmyth, Wilkie and Landseer – “The Monarch of the Glen”, an iconic vision of the majestic wilderness of the Highlands.
“A new generation of truculent art students” would soon shake off tradition. The Glasgow Boys, were a group of artists (Guthrie, Walton, Paterson, Macgregor et al), who were keen to paint en plein air, depicting farming life around Berwickshire, Scottish Borders in the manner of the French Impressionists.
John Lavery went to Paris to be at the heart of this blossoming avant-garde art scene, painting “sun dappled” rowing boats on the river at Grez. Fascinating too to read about the feisty Glasgow College of Art student Bessie Nicol, who went off to Paris in 1892 to study Life Drawing at Academie Colarossi by day, and observe the decadent Bohemian society by night.
A cacophony of creative styles was now embracing the work of Scottish artists. Floral images and geometric lines were interlinked for the architectural designs of Charles Rennie McIntosh, whose modern, minimalist interior décor, created “the greatest genius … a giant of the age rivalling Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudi.”
The exuberant portraits and nudes by J. D Fergusson, elegant studies of Edinburgh ladies by Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe’s exquisitely crafted Still Life paintings and Cezanne-styled landscapes from George Hunter, would soon lead to the collective term, The Scottish Colourists,
From an early struggle to entice dealers, the Colourists’ distinctive, timeless work continue to be a regular highlight at auction house sales today. Cadell and Peploe frequently visited Iona to paint tranquil seascapes.
Then, a fairly brisk sprint through the leading Scottish artists of the 20th century, picking out William McCance, with his bold Cubist form, and the partnership of the two Roberts – McBride and Colquhoun “celebrated as the most pioneering British Artist of his day. Francis Bacon said that he had learnt virtually everything from Colquhoun.”
The era of Abstract Expressionism would soon be the focus with bold, brash canvases by William Gear and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. Read all about the rock ‘n roll life and times of Alan Davie, whose love of jazz and sports cars informed his improvised, energetic compositions. Peggy Guggenheim bought one at a Venice gallery thinking it was by Jackson Pollock – who, in fact, would later attend a private view of Alan Davies’s work in New York, bringing the two artists together.
Move aside Andy Warhol – Eduardo Paolozzi is widely viewed as the Father of Pop Art with his collages of cartoons, food and Coca Cola adverts. “Imagery of popular culture repackaged as art.” This is ‘Meet the People’ (1948) from the series Bunk.
There’s a quick, comprehensive scamper through the careers of Joan Eardley (quirky street kids and dramatic stormy skies) and John Bellany, renowned for his allegorical studies of fishing boats and wild, red haired women of the sea.
The chapter, ‘The Shock of the New ‘ features a handpicked selection of distinguished. diverse artists – the author’s late father, Alexander Goudie and contemporary work by Bruce McLean and John Byrne.
Alison Watt came to prominence while still at the GSA, when she won the John Player Portrait Award in 1987 and soon commissioned to paint a charming portrait of the Queen Mother, complete with Watt’s emblematic tea cup.
Since then, her exemplary, cool, crisply paintings have moved from the figurative to large, meditative studies of draping, flowing fabric. Over recent years, many graduates of Glasgow School of Art have received prestigious awards including Turner Prize winners and nominees – Christine Borland, Martin Creed, Karla Black, Richard Wright.
Lachlan Goudie writes with a flowing, poetic prose to take the reader on a most inspirational, time travelling, artistic journey through the nation’s cultural heritage. With a passion and talent for art as a birthright, he has followed and been inspired by Hebridean seascapes, beloved by the Scottish Colourists, over a century ago.
“The art of Scotland has its own particular accent … in an international trade of inspiration and global creativity. ” Lachlan Goudie
‘The Story of Scottish Art’ by Lachlan Goudie is published by Thames & Hudson – RRP £29.95.
Scottish Ballet present “The Secret Theatre,” a fantastical, sparkling, Festive Fizz of a Christmas movie.
Every year, Scottish Ballet kickstarts Christmas entertainment, staging sixty- eight performances of a Festive ballet around six cities from early December to February. Sadly, it has now been nine months since all theatres closed and to reflect the company’s artistic commitment for creativity and performance, the Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson decided that the Show must go on.
The world premiere of Scottish Ballet’s first, full-length, feature film “The Secret Theatre” can be viewed in the comfort and safety of your own home from Monday 21st December.
The enchanting story is about a little boy, Leo, who embarks on a fantastical adventure as he kicks his football along a city street until it hits an old door, which opens with a screech; like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, he steps inside the auditorium of a grand, Victorian theatre, its rows of plush red seats left empty and in darkness.
The curtain opens and he ventures backstage, where suddenly, amidst a clutter of costumes and props, a cast of clowns, acrobats and colourful characters from The Nutcracker and The Snow Queen, spring into life.
They are the forgotten, dusty ghosts of Christmas past. hidden in the wings of this secret Theatre.
Jumping out of a wicker basket is Lexi, (aka, the Summer Princess in The Snow Queen) who guides Leo into a magical mash-up of fairy tales, featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy, Nutcracker Prince, Snow wolves, Jack Frosts and dazzling white Snowflakes.
Leo is spellbound, his wide eyes full of joy and wonder, as we follow his rollercoaster ride through snapshot scenes, moving swiftly between the Circus, Roma camp, Ice Kingdom and a glamorous, glittering Christmas Eve party.
The graceful, playful choreography by Christopher Hampson and Peter Darrell, flows together seamlessly, linking the scores of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky – the glorious, romantic music recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.
Instead of simply filming a staged production, The Secret Theatre is a genuine work of cinematography. set in outdoor locations, the Tramway, & the King’s Theatres in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Creative camera work and special effects too – disappearing dancers, flying white drapes and a magic carpet with Disneyesque wizardry.
The spectacle is captured through the intimacy of camera lens, observing every swirling step and pirouetting pas de deux, with all the fabulous, glittering costumes, in such fine detail.
The superlative performances are all the more dramatic due to the stunning close ups, such as The Snow Queen, with her ice-blue lips and the prancing peacock of a Ringmaster in his feathered top hat.
This is pure theatre on screen, blending two classical Fairytale ballets with fantastical Narnia and Toy Story– style vision and childlike imagination, all the way to the last magical, tearjerker moment.
While nothing beats seeing Scottish Ballet live on stage, their heart-warming movie is the essential, sparkling Festive treat for 2020 which will appeal to all ages. Book your free tickets now.!
The World premiere of The Secret Theatre is screened on Monday 21 December at 6pm.
Tickets are free and must be booked in advance on the website: 21st December to 24th December, 2020.
Performance duration: one hour.
Donations are welcome to support Scottish Ballet and local theatres. There is an accompanying programme, as well as a series of talks and workshops.
Created by the CEO/Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, Christopher Hampson and Lez Brotherston
Co-screen directors: Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple.
Choreographers: Christopher Hampson and Peter Darrell
Designer: Lez Brotherston
Writer: Sam Brown
Producer: Beth Allan, Forest of Black
Director of Photography: David Liddell
Callan at 60 – An exhibition of evocative and elegant Figurative paintings by Damian Callan @ the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh
As he celebrates his 60th birthday in December 2020, Damian Callan can reflect on a most successful career, specialising in figurative painting and portraits, teaching art classes for adults and children, and as the author of two books, Paint Like Degas and Paint Like Renoir.
This exhibition is partly a retrospective collection from the past twenty-five years (kindly lent by the owners), which are complemented by new sketches and paintings. The subjects for these figurative scenes are his wife Ruth, their four children, cousins and friends while on holiday in Argyll and Outer Hebrides.
Damian Callan has followed in the tradition of two Scottish masters in the genre of painting children. Joan Eardley is renowned for her iconic portraits of the twelve Samson bairns who lived near her Glasgow studio. Born in 1835, William McTaggart grew up on a remote farm in Aros, Kintyre, a memory which would later permeate the subject of his paintings: “the fisherfolk of his past and a recurring vision of children playing in the surf …rosy cheeked kids, bathed in perpetual summer sun.“ Lachlan Goudie, The Story of Scottish Art.
Here too are Callan’s painterly reflections to illustrate the family’s seaside adventures in the summer sun, between 2003 to 2014, from Skipness, Kintyre to the Isles of Berneray. These colourful “snapshot” images capture the joyful sense of freedom as the kids run on the beach, play in the sea, and gather cockles in rock pools.
There is such a tangible feeling of movement in their exuberant, arm waving gestures, as the kids jump and splash in the waves. Several charming paintings show the fun of messing about in boats and rowing a dinghy.
The process starts with photographs and from these prints, sketches are made to create a loose impression of the realistic images, and then finally, working on the composition in oil on canvas, panel or paper. Callan has perfected the inventive use of a printmaker’s roller, to add texture to the surface of the paint to depict the shimmering water and frothy white surf.
These timeless images of happy carefree days bring a real sense of nostalgia for our own childhood, whatever age we are. Children and Lighthouse in particular, has a vintage quality, reminiscent of favourite stories such as Swallows and Amazons and the Famous Five adventures by Enid Blyton.
Fast forward to 2020 and a diverse range of new work – seascapes, figurative sketches and fashionable frocks with oil paintings, small studies and prints for sale.
From the earlier style of composition with impressionistic, smudges of brush strokes, there is now a bolder, brighter approach with vivid colour and clarity.
As shown in Running In and Running Out, these are gleeful moments of youthful energy with a fine depiction of movement, in Callan’s distinctive, characteristic painterly style.
Escape is a lovely picture of a wee boy, standing in the boat as if pretending to be a Venetian gondolier, as the children look out for fish and crabs along the seashore. Again, the vision of carefree, childhood fun, evoking the nostalgic world of Enid Blyton.
Damian Callan has long been influenced by the figurative paintings of Edgar Degas, whose work he examined and explored in academic detail, to write his book, “Paint Like Degas.”
“Degas was spectacularly inventive in his approach to composition,” he says, “Movement characterizes many of his subjects –the dancers, the racehorses – .. .. the pattern and rhythm of repeated figures, the dancers in a line on the Barre.”
With similar, elegant, Degas-esque mood and manner, there is a series of beautifully composed paintings of Damian’s wife Ruth, pinning up her hair, dressing and posing in silky, floaty cocktail gowns.
These are delightful, intimate portraits of the artist’s slender model, as she zips up a blue dress and shows off her posh, crimson-plum frock – humorously described as Lockdown Bedroom Dress. Sadly all dressed up and nowhere to go for a night out at the Ballroom or go to the Ballet.
“Callan at 60” is a most impressive retrospective of his career, from the tranquil, domestic portrait, Ruth, Daffodils and Kettle, (1995), through a time-travelling trip around atmospheric seascapes to the recent Vogue-style fashion shoot.
William McTaggart painted young children to portray “an optimistic symbol of renewal and rebirth.” Likewise, Damian Callan has preserved his memories to portray family life and the innocence of childhood with imaginative vision, humour and heartfelt love.
Callan at 60 @ Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
11th – 17th December, 2020 – open daily, 11am to 6pm.
A well illustrated catalogue with an inspiring introduction by Ruth Callan is available at the gallery.
For more information, view a Gallery of images and details of Online events, see the website:
Monday 14th December: 10am, Live Virtual Tour of Exhibition
Tuesday 15th December: 10am. Artist’s Talk & Short Film with contributions from collectors
Wednesday 16th December: 10am, Painting Demonstration
‘Echoes of Existence’ by Helen Acklam: quirky, colourful Scottish landscapes, with an emotional sense of home and heritage.
Helen Acklam is a mixed media artist, working across watercolours, acrylic paintings and sculptures. Originally from Yorkshire and now living in Dumfries, she is inspired by the Scottish landscape, sea, history, archaeology, geology and myth.
This on-line exhibition presented by the Dancing Light Gallery, is an evocative series of paintings of rural crofts and cottages located around the Highlands and Islands.
From classic Victorian scenes, “Monarch of the Glen,” Highland lochs, mountains and furry coos, the artistic genre to depict Scotland’s wild, natural landscape has continued over the centuries.
Hebridean seascapes and farm Crofts, in particular, have always had a perennial, worldwide appeal, perhaps due to nostalgia, family ancestry, a favourite destination, and simply the timeless, scenic beauty,
Francis Cadell frequently visited the island of Iona to capture this peaceful, spiritual place with their isolated cottages on the seashore.
Helen Acklam brings a unique, modern, “Scottish Colourist,” painterly style to her illustrations of traditional crofts, cottages, bothies and shielings located around the Outer Hebrides.
Borghastan – Borrowston – with a population of about 50, is a crofting township on the Isle of Lewis, at the northern end of Loch Carloway
This is a charming old But ‘n Ben in Towards Borgastan – which may be in a slight tumbledown condition, with its wind battered corrugated iron roof, shabby paint on the front door and bent posts in the garden. The soft, pink-tinted clouds in the sky – maybe a snapshot of Sunset – is most atmospheric.
From the Clearances of the 18th and 19th century, when evicted crofters emigrated to North America, and the ongoing hardship of remote island life, some of these cottages are empty and forgotten. There’s a glimpse of human history here, a memory of a long lost family and small-holding farming life
From the lone shieling of the misty island
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas,
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides. (from the Canadian Boat Song)
Joan Eardley is renowned for her expressionistic land and seascapes around her cottage in Catterline, Kincardinshire.
From these higgledy piggledy cottages in Winter Day, to cornfields and seashore, Eardley expressed her emotional affection for the colour and light of the coastal village. Painting outdoors in wild, stormy weather, she incorporated grasses, grain and seeds into the oil paint to bring the feel of the land on to the canvas.
Helen Acklam has also visited this iconic village with its curving row of cottages along the sheer cliff edge. Cottages, Catterline is beautifully composed with the layered, blocked structure – the midnight blue inky sky, white washed houses with red roofs and the flourishing green meadow of tall grasses and red poppies.
Acklam often mixes acrylic paint with inks, gouache, graphite and metal leaf for a richer texture, tone and visual effect. A sprinkle of sand from Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, would certainly add an authentic fragment of the actual terrain and topography.
At first glance, Leurbost Loch, (Isle of Lewis), depicts a rather sad, wee house. But look closer. This is a mini masterpiece of minimalism to evoke the remote setting, the shimmer of a mountain beyond the loch and what seems like a swirl of winter snow in the sky.
A collage using scraps of paper from local old books are imbedded in some works, to represent the strong Religious faith and beliefs of the Islanders. More than just a sketch of a cottage, these illustrate the heritage, culture and tradition of their Gaelic way of life.
Blue Cottage, Labost (Isle of Lewis) is another magical “portrait” of two country crofts, the garden sloping down a hill with the remnants of what could be an ancient drystone wall and an old fence.
With a light sketchy method, there is a real character here, as if the tiny windows are like eyes and the red door, a long nose – enchanting, quirky and comical illustrations which would be ideal for children’s picture books and traditional fairy tales.
These are all real crofts and cottages which you could visit on a tour of these islands, just enhanced with vivid and vivacious colour, humour and imagination. Moreover, there is an underlying, tangible, emotional sense of place, reflecting the communities today, as well as preserving the heritage of derelict, deserted homes. The Echoes of Existence indeed, blowing in the cool, sea breeze.
Echoes of Existance by Helen Acklam
Dancing Light Gallery – a new on-line exhibition
View the paintings here: https://www.dancinglightgallery.co.uk/product-category/current-exhibition/
Visualise a painting on your wall — A Croft for Christmas!
Download the app ‘Art Visualiser’ onto your phone or iPad via the app store. https://artvisualiser.com/
Go to the painting of your choice and click the grey button ‘Visualise on your Wall’ below the painting details. Follow the instructions on your phone or ipad. Please note this app works best in daylight or with all the lights on. It is easy to use and lets you see what a painting would look like, in your own home, before you buy.
All paintings can be delivered Nationwide, Free of Charge.
For more information and enquires, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
N.B An exhibition of Helen Acklam’s paintings is being planned to take place at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh in March 2021
“Christmas at the Botanics” – an enchanting walk in the park amidst the glittering glow of fairy lights and festive fire.
After enticing 70,000 visitors to the inaugural event in 2017, and 76,000 in 2019, “Christmas in the Botanics” is back again, transforming the garden at night into a winter wonderland. With the pantomime season cancelled for 2020, this outdoor entertainment offers a magical treat for all the family.
Just a short walk from the West Gate, a choral rendition of Joy to the World will put you in festive mood as you stroll beside a meadow of giant snowballs like sparkling Christmas Tree baubles.
All around, the bare winter trees and evergreens glimmer and shimmer in colourful shadows. Wander over the Chinese Hillside with a garland of lanterns hanging from the branches beside the lake with a spouting fountain.
One of the highlights is the ‘Laser Garden’, where you are enveloped in a thick beam of green, glittering fairy lights, while a white mist swirls between the trees, creating a very spooky woodland atmosphere.
Kids will love to try to catch hold of these tiny, Tinkerbelle fairies, as they dance around you and sparkle along the path. This is a magical, theatrical moment and I really felt like a child again.
Another surreal sight, is the beautifully lit, tumbling waterfall at the Rock Garden, where the trees and plants are ‘painted’ in soft shades of green and purple. With the floating waterlilies in the pond, it’s like a landscape by Monet come to life.
Turning along each path of the trail, the Botanics is brightly illuminated with installations such as a crystal, be-jewelled Christmas Tree, ‘Starfield’ featuring twenty twinkling stars, and ‘Constellations’, with sculptures of Orion, Little Bear et al.
Warm up in the ‘Fire Garden’, ablaze with flickering bulbs and flaming torches, while you sing along to Silent Night. Through each different landscape, the air is filled with the familiar classics, Michael Buble is Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Chris Rea, Driving home for Christmas and for Kylie, It’s the Most Wonderful Time.
Listening to the sharp, clear quality of the soundtrack, you would think that the performers, choirs and orchestras are hidden behind the trees!
Enter the ‘Cathedral of Light’, an arch of flower bud lights through a long tunnel with a clever optical illusion. A dazzling, zigzag display of colourful Diamond lights is projected on the architectural structure of the towering Glass Houses, choreographed perfectly to the jazzy-rock music score by Metallica.
An artistic pile of Sledges is reminiscent of the sculpture, “Sled” (1969) by the German Fluxus artist, Joseph Beuys, who in fact visited this garden a few times, for an exhibition at Inverleith House.
This grand 18th century mansion is the backdrop to a magnificent animation with images of iconic places around the city from the Castle to the Forth Bridge.
The windows of the house are like the boxes of an Advent Calendar with the dates flicking over from 1st to 24th December, as Mariah Carey belts out, “All I want for Christmas is You.”
This enchanting walk through this series of installations is like a mixed box of well-designed, glittering Christmas Cards …. but unfortunately, there is no narrative or overall theme. At its heart, this event is for families with young children, so a simple story could link these different theatrical scenes together.
The Fairies in the Laser Garden could be trying to help a lost Reindeer in his search for Santa Claus. Children could then follow a fun and fantastical, Peter Pan-style journey, flying through the Constellation of stars, land of ice, snow and fire, from the Chinese Hilltop to Lapland. (Just an idea!)
And yes, a jolly Father Christmas does makes a magical appearance with his flowing white beard and a majestic red coat, waving outside his log cabin in the forest.
‘Christmas at the Botanics’ runs at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on selected dates from 2nd December, 2020 to 3rd January 2021.
Information on dates, opening times, travel, parking, entrance gates and tickets: https://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/christmas-at-the-botanics-2020/
Tickets prices range from: Adult £19, Member £16, Child £13 (4-16), Family £60. Carers and children under 4, free. (subject to a single transaction charge).
A Pop-up Bar serves a range of food and drink *: e.g. Mulled Wine, Prosecco, Beer, Cider, Hot Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, soft drinks; Hot Dogs, Burgers, Veggie Burgers, BBQ snacks, Fries, & Children’s portions. (* but where are the traditional roasted chestnuts and mince pies?!)
‘Christmas at the Botanics’ is produced by events promoter Raymond Gubbay Limited a division of Sony Music, in partnership with the RGBE and Culture Creative, in collaboration with Mandylights, Lightworks, ArtAV, & Liverpool Lantern Company.
Ben Lomond Scottish Gin – the distilled essence of wild berries, woodland pine and fresh mountain air
“By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond.”
Loch Lomond at the heart of the Trossachs National Park, linking the Lowlands and highlands, is the perfect destination for a relaxing escape and sporting adventure. With its thirty, tiny islands and surrounded by lush forests, the largest expanse of fresh water in Britain is dominated by the high peak of Ben Lomond.
The former Loch Lomond Distillery dates back to 1814 located near Tarbet, with a new Distillery founded in 1964 at the southern end of the loch. Today, the Loch Lomond Group produces Single Malt whisky, Single Grain Whisky and Deluxe Blends, receiving seven gold medals at the International Spirits Challenge 2020.
The distillery launched its Ben Lomond Scottish Gin in 2019, inspired by the scenic beauty of the eponymous mountain, fruit, flora and trees of the National Park. The unspoilt natural world of land and loch has inspired both the recipe and attractive, artistic design.
“On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomond,
Where in soft purple hue, the highland hills we view,
And the moon coming out in the gloaming.”
The chunky, tall bottle illustrates the mighty Ben, the lilac-purple glass reflecting both the glistening dark water of the loch and flowering heather on the hills, while the wooden stopper is a symbol of the surrounding woodland. Most imaginative indeed.
The bottles of this small batch, premium gin are filled, labelled and sealed by hand. With a 43% ABV, Ben Lomond is a contemporary London Dry Gin. This refers not to the city, but a specific style and process dating back to the 18th century; all the flavours must be natural, plant based botanicals, no synthetic ingredients, with nothing added after distillation except water to produce a clear, unsweetened spirit, not less than 37.5% ABV.
The finely crafted recipe is a blend of berries, flowers, herbs, spices and essential botanicals. The Rowan tree is found higher in the mountains than any of Scotland’s other native trees, blossoming with white flowers in summer, and in Autumn a burst of bright red berries.
The Rowanberries are foraged around the Loch Lomond area, including from wild trees beside the distillery.
Engrained in Celtic mythology, the Rowan tree, associated with magic and enchantment, was widely planted outside houses and churches as a protection against witches – cutting down a rowan was considered taboo in Scotland. It was known as the Traveller’s Tree as boats made from Rowan wood provided a safeguard from storms. The red berries, rich in Vitamin C, was also used to treat scurvy, and traditionally made into jams, jellies, vinegar, wines and spirits.
Oh, Rowan Tree
“How fair wert thou in simmer time, wi’ all thy clusters white.
Now rich and gay thy autumn dress, wi’ berries red and bright..”
Another key ingredient are juicy blackcurrants which are also hand-picked just north of the distillery. The rowan berries and blackcurrants are added straight into the Still during the distillation process, both integral to the natural fruit flavours.
The selection of eleven botanicals also includes Juniper to provide essential earthy notes, Coriander seed, a hint of lemony spice, Orange peel for citrus freshness, Rose petals and Orris root give a floral fragrance, Angelica Root, a dry hop-like character, Cassia and Liquorice add a touch of sweetness, and Szechuan pepper for warming spice.
So first a sip of the neat Ben Lomond Scottish Gin to appreciate the aroma and pure flavour. It’s crystal clear with a pungent, woodland scent on the nose which is followed through with floral and fresh pine notes on the tastebuds.
Next, the G&T Test. I added a few cubes of ice to 25 ml measure of gin, a good splash of Fever Tree Tonic Water (Refreshingly Light) and a slice of lime. The blend of bittersweet berries comes to the fore, with a citrus zing and a subtle lingering flavour of fruit and earthy spice. The texture is intensely smooth, clean and so fresh tasting.
The Perfect Serve, (by the master distillers of Ben Lomond Gin)
Fill a high ball glass with cubed ice; 25 ml or 50 ml Ben Lomond Gin, top up with Fever Tree Tonic; add a garnish of blackberries and slice of lime. Squeeze in a wedge of lime juice, softly stir three times to mix together and serve.
Blackcurrants have long been associated with quality alcoholic drinks, most famously the liqueur, Crème de Cassis de Dijon. (Cassis is French for Blackcurrant). The Kir aperirif was created and named by the deputy mayor of Dijon, Canon Félix Kir – Crème de Cassis with white wine and Kir Royale is the Cassis liqueur with Champagne.
The distillery has therefore wisely invented a Scottish Kir-style cocktail.
The High Road
Fill a highball glass with cubed ice, add 40ml Ben Lomond Gin, 20ml lemon juice 15ml Cassis, top up with Fever Tree Tonic, and garnish with a wedge of fresh lemon.
“O ye`ll tak` the high road,
And I’ll tak` the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
By the bonnie, bonnie banks o` Loch Lomond.”
As well as the berries as a key ingredient, the addition of orange brings a refreshing tang to the Gin so what could be more appropriate than mixing up a classic Negroni. It is also most apt as the Ben Lomond Scottish Gin was launched a century after Count Negroni invented this Italian aperitivo in Florence.
25 ml Ben Lomond Scottish Gin, 25 ml Sweet Rosso Vermouth, 25 ml Campari
Pour all ingredients into a Rocks glass with a large ice cube or sphere (this melts more slowly). Stir gently for a minute or two – this is not a cocktail to be shaken. Express the zest of a wedge of orange and garnish with a twist of orange peel for a beautiful crimson-red winter warmer.
The dry, bitter flavour of the Campari is softened by the Sweet vermouth, perfectly complementing the berry- rich Gin and the sharp citrus taste of the orange sings through.
A classic Gin Martini (50 ml Gin and 15 ml Dry Vermouth, with twist of lemon or an olive) is also a fine partnership with this Scottish Gin. Experiment with your own favourite gin cocktails.
Following the success of the London Dry Gin, in July 2020, Loch Lomond Distillery launched two flavoured gins, infused with wild fruit essences, Ben Lomond Raspberry & Elderflower and Blackberry & Gooseberry.
At the Scottish Gin Awards 2020, Ben Lomond Scottish Gin was given the status of Highly Commended for London Dry Gin. And just announced (December 2020), Ben Lomond Gin has been awarded three medals from the Spirit Business Gin Masters – Gold for Raspberry & Elderflower infused gin and Silver for both the London Dry style gin and Blackberry & Gooseberry infused gin.
To protect the Scottish rural countryside which inspired Ben Lomond Gin is in a partnership with the John Muir Trust. Born in Dunbar in 1838, John Muir became a renowned explorer, botanist, geologist and mountaineer, pioneering the Conservation movement worldwide. In the USA, he was the father of National Parks to protect forests, woodlands and wilderness and as early as 1892, his motto was, ‘Explore, enjoy and protect the planet’.
Nature lovers, walkers, hikers, bikers, writers, poets and artists have flocked to Loch Lomond for centuries to experience the tranquil peace of this timeless, natural wilderness.
Beautifully packaged, with its silky smooth, aromatic flavour, Ben Lomond Scottish Gin has been artistically “painted” – a distillation of the colours, flora and fresh mountain air, like a watercolour landscape in a bottle.
To find out more about Ben Lomond Gins and buy on line, see the website:
‘this divine quiet’ – Helen Booth: a painterly meditation on the bleak, serene beauty of Iceland, @ &Gallery, Edinburgh
This is the first solo exhibition by the British artist, Helen Booth to be held in Scotland, and features over 25 artworks inspired by a recent residency in Iceland. She has exhibited widely across the UK, Europe and USA, and in 2019, she received two prestigious accolades in New York – a Pollock Krasner award for painting and an Adolf and Esther Gottlieb Prize for Abstract Painting.
Iceland is known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ due to its ancient topography of giant glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and fiery volcanoes, a wild, desolate terrain, sculptured through climate and time.
“Standing in a divine landscape has reinforced my personal belief that Nature is the most powerful force and that trying to capture the essence of Nature in its purist form is what is important to me as an artist.” Helen Booth
Feel the chill air in Abstract Landscape, 4, as soft snow flutters in icy dribbles from a billowing thick cloud stretching to the lost, hazy horizon.
Again with atmospheric realism, Abstract Landscape 7, is a swirling, whirling whiteout around the looming mass of a glacial mountain.
This raw, rugged environment is a pale palette of milky-white, cream, pink and blue-greys; the cool, crisp winter light glistens with an ethereal quality etched into frozen lakes and snow-smothered rocky peaks.
Many of these landscapes are pared down to the one essential element – water; the flow and fluidity of melting glaciers in a stream of drips as in Falling Water, with monochrome minimalism.
Also with abstract purity, a flourish of translucent spots and dots depicts the vision of glimmering icicles and a blizzard of drifting snowflakes in Frozen Water.
This seemingly simple, subtle technique is so imaginative, such as in I Think About You All The Time with its sparkling glow like Tinkerbelle fairy lights and stars in the night sky. (This stunning image would be perfect for a Christmas card or fabric design).
The use of symbolic markings is also most effective in the delicate, pointillist pattern of Silent Fall of Snow. Magical, mesmerising, meditative.
The title, ‘this divine quiet’, comes from a memoir by Christiane Ritter, “A Woman in the Polar Night,” about surviving life in the Arctic wilderness. Likewise, with poetic, painterly eloquence Helen Booth captures the bleak, majestic natural beauty of Iceland with a tangible, serene sense of place.
“Abstract Art is always rooted in experience of the real world .. .. and provides an emotional satisfaction similar to that of landscape. ” Pepe Karmel (Abstract Art, a Global History, Thames & Hudson).
this divine quiet – Helen Booth
&Gallery, 3 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6QG
Current opening times:
Tuesday to Friday 11am – 5pm; Saturday 11am – 4pm & by appointment.
www.andgallery.co.uk. Tel. 0131 467 0618
The exhibition is beautifully complemented by floral displays of Birch Tree branches and ice-dried, white Amaranthus blossom, created by ‘Flowers by Minty’, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh
“Ethereal Silence:” Paintings of Edinburgh through the seasons by Jamie Primrose @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh
“Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life… I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.” Ian Rankin
Jamie Primrose is sure to agree with this sentiment, as he is unlikely to stop exploring Edinburgh on foot or in oil paint.
Springtime in Edinburgh, 2020 was rather a different city than usual. Like all of us, isolated at home, the artist Jamie Primrose was unable to visit his studio to work. But he could get out and about to observe, photograph and sketch his favourite places and picturesque scenes at a time of complete solitude and tranquillity.
This collection of over fifty original oil paintings, aptly entitled “Ethereal Silence,” is based on his wanderings around the city this year, celebrating Edinburgh through the seasons.
Follow in Jamie’s footsteps on those daily walks during lockdown around his local neighbourhood, Marchmont, and across the wide open space of the Meadows, flourishing in pink blossom. The magical effect of shadows cast by the sun through the trees is captured so well in such works as “Hazy Afternoon Light in The Meadows” and “Spring light on Jawbone Walk.”
At different times of the day and evening he would trek around the craggy landscape of Arthur Seat, and to the top of Calton Hill for a panoramic view across the city of spires. Explorations on foot too around the Old Town, such as the charming curve of Victoria Street, and a stroll through Princes Street Gardens in the summer sun. Primrose’s favourite places now transformed into works of art.
Jamie Primrose is a master at depicting the shimmering soft glow of dawn light as captured in a series of paintings such as “Sunrise from Arthur’s Seat,
and at the end of the day, experience the coral pink and mauve tinted clouds in “Sunset Skyline over Edinburgh.”
Not quite sure of the meteorological term for a mackerel sky, but the distinctive cloud patterns in many cityscapes brilliantly reflect a sense of movement and atmosphere.
Most impressive is “Sunrise over Edinburgh Castle,” a moment in time to catch the golden glimmer of a new blue sky day. It illustrates perfectly the poetic description of the Castle:
“.. this gigantic rock lifts itself above all that surrounds it, and breaks upon the sky with the same commanding blackness of mingled crags, cliffs, buttresses, and battlements.” J. K. Lockhart.
On this painterly journey through the year, you can almost feel the shift in temperature too, by the clarity of light and brightness of Summer sun to the icy grey chill in “Winter Morning looking down Middle Meadow Walk.”
These are just a few key highlights from this captivating and finely composed collection. The exhibition is at the Dundas Street Gallery but if you are unable to visit, you can view the online gallery and take a video tour of the show.
Limited Edition Prints:
In addition to these new original paintings, there are framed limited edition prints of The Meadows, Old Town scenes and city skylines. Also available, East Lothian and West Coast seascapes, atmospheric vistas of Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Venice, & South of France.
Jamie Primrose: ‘Ethereal Silence’
Thursday 5th – Saturday 14th November 2020
Open Monday to Friday, 11am to 6pm by appointment
To book your appointment contact: Mari Primrose
Saturday – walk in visits from 12 noon – 5pm
The Dundas Street Gallery
6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
View the works on the website: https://jamieprimrose.com/latest/index.html
Video tour of the gallery: https://vimeo.com/476041741
Florilegium: a Gathering of Flowers – a flourishing showcase of colourful, multi-cultural artwork at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
A Florilegium is a book of flowers. It is commonly a group of botanical paintings depicting a particular collection. Florilegium: A Gathering of Flowers is a vitally important exhibition of botanical illustrations depicting rare and endangered plants found in the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
Founded 350 years ago, with a collection of 13,500 international species, its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.
“Florilegium: A Gathering of Flowers” aso neatly links to the heritage of the historic garden. One of the earliest books recording scientific drawings of plants was Robert Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata in 1684. Sibbald was the first professor of medicine at the University of Edinburgh and a founder of RBGE.
Last year, an invitation was sent out to Botanical illustrators around the world to submit drawings of plants from the RBGE Living Collection for this art showcase at Inverleith House. Forty artists were selected from Australia, Austria, Barbados, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK and USA.
The walls of the downstairs gallery have been painted a soft sage green which gives a calm, cool backdrop to the paintings. Each are labelled by the classic Latin name with the name of the artist.
Paresh Churi uses an ecological approach for his drawing, of “Dichrostachys cinerea” featuring the branch, buds and insects in its natural setting. In contrast, Claire Banks, presents a scientific dissection of “Cavendishia Engleriana var. ecuadorensis” – such fine detail of tiny feathery stamens and silky petals. In display cases there are Claire’s sketch books and paint pots – the precise colour palette is simply stunning.
Narongsak Sukkaewmanee’s floral study of “Musa coccinea” is a flourish of coral blossom, leaves, seeds and nuts. The Coffee plant is delicately sketched by Sarah Howard, while Jacqui Pestell has created a detailed image of a Blackberry. Beautifully captured in soft shades of pink, yellow and green, is “Globba winitii” by Sunanda Widel.
These are just a few highlights of these colourfully crafted masterpieces, which combine exquiste botanical accuracy with artistic perfection.
To complement this showcase, four contemporary artists were commissioned to create their own personal, cultural and geographical response to the natural world through paintings, drawings, photography and video film.
Upstairs at Inverleith House, the first room is taken over by Wendy McMurdo has curated Night Garden, inspired by blossoming Spring flowers, a series of photographs accompanied by her diary entries.
“ The early months of the Covid-19 lockdown coincided with the warmest May ever recorded in Britain. The sunsets were spectacular. Night after night, the May skies were filled with lilac and purple. My wisteria flowered for the first time. “
During this time, her mother had become ill and soon passed away. Meanwhile, in Wendy’s garden, an unidentified plant began to grow, unfurling glossy leaves, then buds bursting into life with beautiful flowers – “large waxy trumpets filled the night air with their scent that summer.”
The plant was named as the very rare, “Cardiocrinum Giganteum”, giving an unexpected, welcome sign of renewal at the time of sadness and loss. Out of the dark, a lily grows.
Annalee Davis from Barbados has created an illustrated family history entitled As If The Entanglements Of Our Lives Did Not Matter. This refers to the fact that her grandparents were of mixed race at the heart of Colonial life on a sugar cane plantation, as depicted in this charming portrait.
Annalee’s Caribbean heritage is illustrated most powerfully using pages of a 1979 Ledger from the Estate. Superimposed on a handwritten list of sales figures and the wages paid to workers are paintings of sugar beet and ivy leaves as well as actual pressed flowers.
Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei is a tribute to his beloved, late Grandmother in a series of photographs, 100 Days with Lily (1995). Lee cultivated and nurtured a single lily, documenting every moment of its natural life from seed and bulb to blooming flower, until it finally shrivelled and died.
Lyndsay Mann has created a video documentary, A Desire For Organic Order on the work of the Herbarium and Centre for Middle Eastern Plants at the Royal Botanic Garden. Featuring plants from Afghanistan dating to the 1820s, the meditative film shows an archive of journal entries, diaries, letters and contemporary links between Scotland and the Middle East.
“From common weeds to exotic cultivars, flowers are deeply embedded within our lives and have long been an inspiration to artists (who) explore our wider relationship to nature. We hope the show will encourage visitors to treasure their encounters with the art and the amazing diversity of flora in our Garden and Glasshouses. Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes, RBGE
Florilegium: a Gathering of Flowers
Friday 16 October – Sunday 13 December 2020
Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
Book a time slot to enter RBGE in order to visit the exhibition.