"Scenic Painting" at the Ness

Yay, the Ness of Brodgar was opened for July and August 2021. This summer the archaeology excavation was handled differently due to COVID.  Nick and Anne made a terrific alternate plan for visitors.  With only Scottish and British archaeologists and volunteers, there were fewer folks in the trenches.  Only two trenches were uncovered from their two years of hiding under the black plastic and tyres. Half of the main Trench J and Trench P, newly opened and extended this year, provided enough interest to all the visitors. 

Closer than Ever

The viewing scaffold was not up, but this meant that visitors were the closest ever to the edges of Structures 12 and 10, which are my favourite to paint anyway! So many of the visitors were primed to see the site having viewed many of the BBC specials about the Ness.  When not painting on site, I also helped to fundraise through the selling a square of the excavation.  Visitors were able to get in depth answers from the archaeologists down in the trenches to their wide range of questions.

Perching “Scenically,” on the Edge

As I perched around the site with my oil paints and canvas, I often conversed with the visitors. I discovered that they were very enthused about how I used colour relevant to the site and the piles of stones.  One remarked “Oh, you are making a scenic picture.”  At first, I was not amused to hear that, but then when I looked at the site, I thought it was a fine way to refer to what I was attempting to do.

My Dog and I

black dog on lead looking at me
Wee Gracie is looking expectantly hoping I will free her to chase voles.

Living near the dig allows me to come and go to paint on fine weather days.  It can be hard to hold a paintbrush when I have my dog, Gracie. She is a true cairn terrier and just loves the voles she smells in the spoil heap beside Trench P. One day I thought it was a good idea to settle there and place her lead under one of the heavy tyres. I choose a distance away from some group visitors, but instead she pulled and barked the entire time I was trying to balance my painting tripod. And of course, the canvas tipped over onto the grass. I decided to leave the unexpected texture for the sake of authenticity!


I do not use an easel. I look for a way to lean or perch my canvas.  Wind can be a hardship with large canvas, but this season, I forged on until the dig ended and produced a number of 36-inch-long canvases.  I began the season painting small miniature canvas. I have mounted a number these in groupings under glass. I finished this season painting larger works 36 inches long, with a new vision and I look forward to 2022 and painting more of my “scenic” paintings. Perhaps you will be one of the visitors at the Ness next year.

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