Monday, 3 February 2014
East Coast, West Coast
A busy month in wild gales and under grey skies.
And with the new year I have been trying to extend myself a little. A part of that has meant crossing the country once a week to study mezzotint in Glasgow.
The train traces the coast as it moves southward, over sunken fields and swollen rivers, past drowned trees and ruined castles. But my favourite part of the journey happens after we have left the sea and travelled past the swans and hawks and herons that haunt the banks of the River Tay. Then we enter Perth on an elevated track, seeming to fly above the city streets and past the second storey windows of the buildings there.
In Glasgow I wander the streets and look into the museums and shops. I like to eat lunch in the park if it's not too wet out.
Last week I sheltered from a downpour in the splendid 19th-century botanic gardens.
A girl read a book on a bench. Small children tottered toward tropical green. The domes lent form to the air creating the impression of a place that was somehow airier and higher than the rainy city skies.
I thought I would spend some time making tonal drawings of the curves and shadows of the plants which would translate into a good practice mezzotint plate, but I was only just choosing where to sit when I was told the gardens would be closing (early because it is winter).
Though, with such beautiful buildings, even exiting the greenhouses was a pleasure.
In the drizzle outside, I looked with delight at the vegetable tangle that pressed up against the windows of the other glass houses. Since I didn't make it inside to see for myself, I have been able to maintain the impression that those houses are impassable, overrun with specimens grown by botanists who themselves have been dead for more than one hundred years.
And then it was not long before it was time to walk back across the city in the rainy dusk to spend the evening in the print studio, preparing a copperplate and looking at some mezzotints made by other people who have used the studio. I particularly enjoyed looking at New Zealand artist Alexandra Milsom's wonderful prints.
These Glasgow days end with a quick trip though the dark and mostly empty streets to the train station in time for the last train, which takes me back eastward and northward through the night. Even though the travel and bustling about of these days only make busy weeks busier, after the museums, the gardens, the print studio, plenty of reading in the train, and then talking over tea before sleep, these days are followed by dreams that are rich and colourful.