“Why do I watch the water? This water?
I love it. I love how its surface invites the soft bellies of resting geese and the pink mouths of trout sucking down a fly. I love how it gathers the sky down into itself, a veil of borrowed light that hides its blackness till you get close enough to look into it straight. How sometimes, on a still evening, swarms of insects rise from it like columns of smoke. How the soft rain, as it falls into it, hisses. I love it when fog rolls over and the whale-backed hill is gone. The grazing cattle gone. The road and the scattered houses gone. There is only the shallow water lapping at my feet, and the calligraphy of reeds like ink on silk.
And the silence. Close around me, and intimate.”
Birsay, Orkney, Spring 2020
My recent work is a meditation on water and time, and a response to the dynamic natural environment of Orkney. Here, I am surrounded by many forms of water in constant motion; sea, loch, stream, cloud, mist, rain, fog.
In contrast to this quick mutability of water, my drawing process is slow and meditative, a patient accretion of simple marks that results in intricate forms resembling sea foam, cloud forms or wave patterns.
Drawing takes the brief moment of the hand’s movement and holds it still, recorded in the mark that remains. The slow, repetitive method I employ makes each drawing a receptacle of time, a net that gathers up these moments so they are visible in a single instant that shows the timespan of the drawing’s own making.
I often use reflective and iridescent media such as silver leaf and chrome ink in combination with acrylic and gouache to build up surfaces that change, as water does, with each shift of light and angle of view.
I was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews in 2017, a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2018 and a Cove Park Scottish Emerging Writer Residency in 2019. I received a Society of Authors Award in 2020 and a commission from the National Library of Scotland in 2021.
I originally trained at Edinburgh College of Art, Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts, and the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. In 2010 I gained an MA in Values in Environment from the Philosophy Department at the University of Central Lancashire.
I have taught at Edinburgh College of Art, the University of the West of Scotland, as well as guest lecturing at the Tasmanian School of Art, Central St Martins and Gray’s School of Art. I am a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and I now provide online tutoring for the University of Hertfordshire and teach occasionally at the University of the Highlands and Islands.
I have carried out residencies at the British School at Rome, The University of Oxford, Grizedale Forest, Tasmanian School of Art in Hobart, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Stills Gallery, IAAB International Residency Programme in Basel, Wysing Arts Centre, and Timespan Arts and Heritage in Helmsdale.
I have been commissioned to make major public art works for The Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Auchterarder Community School.
Awards for my art work include the Royal Scottish Academy William Littlejohn Award, Scottish Arts Council Artist’s Award, a Carnegie Research Award, an RSA Art for Architecture Award and a British Council Scholarship.
Writing for publication is a more recent development, although it has always been part of my creative process.
For me, writing and drawing are closely related but very distinct ways of thinking and processing the same world of ideas. It’s all coming from the same set of questions and puzzles. I even use the same tool for both – a pen.
Both drawing and writing are ways to come to a place of stillness in which I can pay more careful attention to the natural world, to the fleeting present moment and how rich and complex our experience of it is. They are tools for attuning the mind, for bringing it into the present moment with a kind of calm focus, and then sharing that experience with the viewer or reader.
My first book, “The Clearing” was published by Little, Brown in Spring 2020.