This project, done in 2017, was a series of drawings of Rahoy Hills Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve in the western Scottish Highlands. Part of the income from sales of pictures was donated to the reserve's summer ranger funds; the total donation from the project was £900. The project was originally intended to be an art residency with a number of week-long visits to the reserve in early 2017, but from February to early June I was largely out of action (with a hernia, for which I had an operation in early June) so I continued with the project, working at home from photographs. I took many photos on the reserve in early January (when the weather was too bad for outdoor artwork) and I work mostly from photos anyway, so my physical condition was not really a limitation, especially as I know the reserve well through botanical survey work in previous years. This nature reserve, in the remote Morvern peninsula, is a large area (17.6 square kilometres) of moorland, mountains, woods and lochs. The two big hills (see map) are special places for mountain plants and are surrounded by good examples of west Highland heaths and bogs. For this project I concentrated mainly on the woods, which are a form of temperate rainforest and are amazing places for mosses, liverworts (which look a bit like mosses) and lichens, including some rare moss and liverwort species restricted in Europe to the far west where the climate is very rainy with summers that are not very hot and winters that are mild. Mossy woodland in winter is one of my favourite environments, not just because the Scottish rainforests are special on a world scale (Rahoy Hills having some of the best in Scotland) but also because of their beauty: the subtle colours mixed with the brighter yellows and greens of mosses and liverworts. I also did pictures of open hill ground here and pencil drawings of some of the people involved with the reserve.
 
Rahoy_Hills_location
 
Note: the 'Black Glen' referred to in the title of some of my drawings
is the Gleann Dubh woodland along the SE edge of the reserve
 

Here are images of my work for this project, in chronological order with the first (done in mid January 2017) at the top and the latest at the bottom. For each one I added some writing about the place, the subject or other things that came to mind through the process of visiting, photographing and drawing. (The writing was done at the time of doing the drawing and putting it online - not afterwards.) Pictures were available for sale directly from this website and also from Resipole Studios gallery on the north side of Loch Sunart (tel: 01967 431 506), and the Boiler House Gallery at Ardtornish, Morvern. Most of the unsold pictures from this series are still available for sale directly from me; four of them are currently at Resipole Studios gallery. I thank all of those who bought pictures from this series and thereby contributed to the reserve summer ranger funds. I also thank those involved in organizing the gallery exhibitions, especially Andrew Sinclair at Resipole.

To make images larger on screen, hold down the 'Ctrl' key and press '+' as many times as required ('Ctrl' '-' makes them smaller again).

 

 
Black Glen woodland (1)  (2017)

Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm

● SOLD

 
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I was drawn to this view because of its comfortable balance of light open-ness (with gentle slopes, sparsely scattered rocks and well-spaced oak trees) and more shaded, sheltered (safe-feeling) woodland. I initially thought of the nearest oak as the main subject of the drawing, but that role has ended up more equally shared between that tree, the other trees, the logs and mossy rocks in the foreground and the well-lit open grassy glade in the middle. And how right that is, because there’s no reason why we should not give our attention to such 'ordinary' things as a grassy glade (which in this case has a lot of purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea, whose dead leaves turn a pale buff colour in autumn and winter). The brightness of mosses can be more apparent in winter when other plants have died down and are duller in colour. I could call them "jewels of the woods", but no - that can be a bit of an obvious cliché ("jewel-like", "jewel in the crown", etc) and anyway I think of them not as "jewels" but as mosses, because that is what they are. (They're actually brighter than a lot of jewels anyway, so there!)
 
 
Black Glen woodland (2)  (2017)

Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm

 
● SOLD
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After working for several hours on this drawing (you can't just rattle them off in a few minutes), it wasn't until I put it on the website and saw it there on the computer screen that I thought: "I wonder if anyone might think that's water flowing down the bank in the middle of the picture". Then a text message came from a friend who had just seen it and liked the ‘waterfall’ picture! I could have decided "OK - let's just think of it as a waterfall", in the same way that after once making a cake, having forgotten to put a raising agent into the mix, I concluded very happily that the result (which I'll leave you to imagine) was not a failed cake but a pretty successful giant biscuit. The giant biscuit tasted good, and wasn't around long enough to generate any dispute, but I wasn't sure I could pull this off with the 'waterfall'. So I reworked it a bit. That's why you, of course, recognised it immediately as a rock! (You did, yes?) I love drawing mossy banks like the one in this picture, not just because of their botanical and ecological interest but also because of the physical matter of overlaying various greens, yellows and other colours to build up a feel of substance and brightness. The bank and tree trunks here have a typical rainforest luxuriance of mosses and liverworts including some western 'oceanic' species that need a mild, wet climate.
 

 

Black Glen woodland (3)  (2017)
Pen   30 x 21 cm
● SOLD
 
I find the complex and untidy patterns of tree trunks, branches and fallen wood lend themselves well to an equally untidy and scribbly way I have of using the black pen. Pen is a great medium, and I like to build up more depth in parts of a picture, with multiple layering of what is for the most part just a kind of scribble. Actually, there are non-scribble elements too; for example I had to employ some care to get things like the thin white details against a dark background in the lower left corner.
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Oak and mossy rocks E of Loch Arienas

(2017)

Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


● SOLD
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These oak branches and mossy rocks make a frame for the distant ground with bracken and birches. This is on a south-facing slope and the mosses are common species that grow well on rocks that are too sunny and dry for the rarer western ones that prefer more shaded and humid ravines and north-facing slopes. That’s OK though. Common species are perfectly respectable, and so are south-facing slopes. For every north-facing slope there must be a south-facing one (hills can’t be one-sided). For every day there must be a night. And so on. For every patch of rare moss there must be a patch (indeed, many patches) of common moss. It’s normal and right to have south-facing slopes and common mosses and night-times, though I must say, with all due respect, that I’m glad I happened to be working here with a daytime view of this place.
 

 
Two oaks in wet heath NE of Loch Arienas (2017)   Pen  30 x 21 cm

Original at Resipole Studios gallery, Loch Sunart.
Price: £465 (framed).
 
These two twisty-shaped oaks form an understandable double-subject here, but when doing this picture I was aware that half of it is relatively featureless foreground. I could have cropped the view to show less foreground but I decided to keep it all in and work with it – and it is not really so featureless as it has lots of little ups and downs, some rocks, darker and paler areas ...
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Woodland edge NE of Loch Arienas (2017)   Pen  30 x 21 cm

Price: £365 (framed).
 
At one stage I almost felt I’d blown it with this picture, mainly because the bottom half seemed too ill-defined and weak. So, I did a lot of extra darkening and other things, and perhaps it was the rather rapid and near-desperate way in which I went about this that actually helped through getting me to work more boldly than I had originally expected to.
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Dead tree E of Loch Arienas
(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Price: £545 (framed).
 
I was struck by the look of this dead tree – rather like something that had been thrown down from the sky or had suddenly shot up from underground. If there was going to be some element of movement in the drawing, I expected it would be in the dead tree, with everything else around it silently still. As happens so often, it ended up differently: drawing pictures is often unpredictable, as though there's another hand at work somewhere (which I know there isn't of course - I'm pretty confident about that, even in the absence of CCTV in our house). I like that unpredictability, even though it sometimes works in a reverse with a picture not working as well as expected! Anyway, this picture somehow ended up with more 'movement' in the ground vegetation and the sky than in the dead tree. The vegetation is mainly purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea (pale buff-golden colour) with heather Calluna vulgaris (darker) and some bog myrtle Myrica gale, willow Salix aurita and young birches Betula pubescens.
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Oaks and log NE of Loch Arienas
(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Original currently at Resipole Studios gallery, Loch Sunart. Price: £545 (framed).

Among the jumble of irregular shapes in our upland woods - twisty trees, snaking streams, rocks of all sorts of unpredictable shapes and sizes - it it is interesting to see that some rotting logs stand out with their surprisingly long, straight parallel cracks. They can be so regular-looking that when taking photos for drawings I have sometimes given them a miss in case their straight lines look out of place among the surrounding irregularities, until now when I decided to take the plunge. After all, they can't help being the shape they are - it's all part of nature. And it would be inconsistent of me to avoid drawing them when I'm so happy to draw pictures of very straight-edged modern buildings and roads in towns and cities. I'll try not to shy away from straight logs in future. This straightness is probably more common than I've been aware of among living trees too - unless they're all more curvy when living but straighten up after falling down?
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Oak trunk with lichens,
NE of Loch Arienas


(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Price: £545 (framed).
  

I could try to enthuse you about these lichens by saying how beautiful they are, but that might just put them on a par with lots of other 'beautiful' things and would fail to mention how messy they often look. So let's say that these lichens here - species of Lobaria, Degelia and Peltigera - demonstrate mess quite beautifully. There's beauty in their subtle colours and intricate growth forms, but also mess in the way they go curled and crackly-looking and washed-out in colour when they're dry. There's also a kind of taxonomic mess because each lichen consists of two things mixed together - a fungus and an alga (and bacteria too, actually) forming a symbiotic relationship in which each one benefits from the others. Assemblages of large lichens such as Lobaria and Degelia form a distinctive community (called 'Lobarion') which is rare in Britain away from the west Highlands and is, among other things, an indicator of clean air. So they are an interesting mess. And what's wrong with mess anyway? Do we really want everything neat and ordered? Might be a bit sterile. Likewise with our behaviour and thinking - perhaps we need to get into a bit of a muddle sometimes. Even if we don't like it at the time, we can look favourably on it in the longer term, if only through being more appreciative of some of the more ordered things we'd previously taken for granted. Some people who study lichens are actually quite neat and tidy in their appearance. They need to be in control when they use their little bottles of chemicals; they sometimes put a wee drop from a bottle onto a bit of lichen, wait a short while and see what colour it changes to because that colour helps them identify it. They don't do it all the time - many lichens can be identified without having to resort to the bottle. I haven't drawn lichens as much as mosses, so this drawing here was quite an excercise. I started off rather tentatively but then got into a bolder use of the pencils than I had expected - and no, I didn't resort to the bottle!
 
 
Rocky stream NE of Loch Arienas

(2017)

Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Price: £545 (framed).
 

This is one of those places where, among the untidy jumble of streamside rocks and banks, there are many kinds of mosses and liverworts including some uncommon western species that need very humid conditions. At this particular location I found some patches of the rare liverwort Radula voluta, which is a species found mainly in places where water seeps or splashes very regularly along streams flowing down slopes that face more or less south. Its preference for southerly aspects suggests that it likes some light (but not too much) and warmth. It seems to especially like a stream that's not too small and weak or too big and roaring with rock-scouring force. Once, when walking along a road on Mull and hearing a particular kind of tinkly sound coming from nearby south-facing woodland, I thought to myself "that sounds like Radula voluta". I checked it out and indeed there it was! I always think of Radula voluta as a 'happy' liverwort. I can't see any logical reason why, but then don't we all have particular associations (positive or negative for example) that we assign to something for no conscious logical reason? I prefer the letter M to the letter N. This was not a decision made consciously on the basis of some worked out logic, but thinking about it I wonder if I'm seeing M as having a more generous and welcoming look and feel to it compared with a relative meanness in N, but then let's be fair - N is probably OK really, and we can't expect M to be without imperfection.
 
 
Woodland near Loch Arienas

(2017)  Pen  30 x 21 cm


Price: £365 (framed).
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A rather sketchy sort of pen drawing here, of oaks bent by the wind. This view looks south-east, so the prevailing south-westerly wind comes in from the right. I'm just pointing that out because 'right' here would actually be 'left' on the map. I was aware of that when I took the photo and actually tried to get a picture looking the other way so the orientation and tree leanings would be 'proper', but it just didn't look as good and anyway does it really matter? And does it matter if the drawing is sketchy? Sometimes sketches are considered less worthy than more 'finished' pieces that will have taken longer to do, but they have a place in our world. They can communicate freshness or spontaneity, and indeed it is good for us to be aware of the value in things that come about relatively rapidly and without a lot of planning or previous expectation: things such as impromptu conversations with strangers in shops and trains, sudden thoughts and ideas . . . and occasional mistakes that come about in all this quickness! Allowing oneself to do or say at least some things spontaneously and unplanned (as in a quick sketch) that then turns out to be 'wrong' in some way is perhaps better than always playing safe and making sure to never do this out of fear of potential mistakes. So - I think I should do sketches only from now on, and no more of those other, more laboured sorts of pictures. Nothing else - just sketches. Sketches, sketches, sketches. Er, actually, I think that would probably be a mistake.
 
 
Arching oak stems (2017)  Pen 30x21 cm

Price: £365 (framed).
 
I did this with the 0.8 pen - the thickest of my pens (0.1, 0.2, 0.5 and 0.8). I usually use 0.8 for the boldest, blackest parts of a picture, but here I used it throughout and with no previous pencilling in of main outlines, so there's no turning back as you can't rub the ink out. You can go over stuff with more ink - and hope it'll improve things because if not it can be harder trying to make it all work and can lead to a big rethink about where the drawing is going ('where' metaphorically, not literally which wall, which shelf, etc . . . although, thinking about that, the metaphorical 'where' can sometimes determine the literal 'where').
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People

As well as drawing pictures of the reserve I thought it would be a good thing to use drawings to introduce some of the people who are or have been doing work on or about the reserve. So, here are drawings of some of these people (maybe more to come, too), along with a bit of writing for each one. Please note that the prices in this section are for the drawings, not the people. (I don't think the people themselves are for sale, but I suppose I can't guarantee to be 100% certain about this, so if you want to make enquiries I suggest you contact them directly.)

There are more landscape pictures after these pictures of people.


 
 
Steve Hardy    Pencil  30 x 21 cm  (2017)
£100 including mount + postage/packing

Steve has done the summer warden job at Rahoy Hills reserve for many years now, and is doing it this year too. His contribution to our knowledge of the reserve and its ongoing management is immense. Steve is an excellent naturalist with a particularly good knowledge of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies (which are like small, slender dragonflies), and has a good knowlegde of the reserve's plants too, including the rarer species. He is very attentive to detail and the technical elements of different survey and monitoring methods (and the patience required for these!).

Although Steve is a rather quiet person he is a very able communicator, both in conversation and in writing. Through what he says and writes we see his passion for nature expressed in his own individual way. He can put his thoughts into words in ways that communicate very well, with both precision and emotion. I really like the way he is able to describe all sorts of things in nature (such as the weather at a particular moment, or what it's like to be standing somewhere looking at autumn leaves) in ways that make it so real for the reader. There's a lot of this in his Morvern Nature Diary published in 2013. Steve has lived in Morvern for many years. He's originally from Norfolk (yes, I know, it's funny isn't it - they actually look just the same as the rest of us!).

This drawing is based on a photo I took in 2014 when a group of us were looking at mosses and liverworts in the Gleann Dubh (Black Glen) ravine part of the reserve.
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11111 Alasdair Firth    Pencil  30 x 21 cm   (2017)
£100 including mount + postage/packing

Alasdair is the current chair of the Rahoy Hills Reserve Management Committee. He moved to Morvern a few years ago and already has a detailed knowledge of the area. He and his wife Sam are very involved with Morvern Community Woodlands, the local community woodland group. He has done a lot of woodland habitat surveys for the Forestry Commission and other organisations, and is currently working for the Woodland Trust. He's very knowledgeable about lots of aspects of woodland vegetation and ecology.

Alasdair is quietly spoken but very industrious, determined, disciplined and energetic. See, I'm telling you good things about all these people - things they probably wouldn't say themselves because they're not the boastful, trumpet-blowing sort. How do I know he's energetic? Well, I saw a kayak outide his house, and anyone with one of those things must be fit and full of energy. (Kayak just for decoration? I doubt it. Do people keep kayaks just for looks?)

Alasdair is in a photo I took in 2014, but facing away from the camera and only partly in view, so I drew this picture from a photo taken by Sophie Younger when a group of people were looking at lichens at Glen Nant National Nature Reserve in Argyll in 2016.
 

 
Donald Kennedy  Pencil  18 x 9 cm  (2017)
● SOLD

Donald Kennedy was the Scottish Wildlife Trust summer warden at Rahoy Hills for several years and has played a central role in the history and management of the reserve. He has done many surveys of plants and wildlife there, and in more recent years he and a couple of other people put in the deer-fencing for some exclosures in Arienas Wood (a really big fencing job, much of it on steep and rocky ground). Donald is quite a local hero really, and Morvern wouldn't be what it is without him. He's an excellent naturalist and also a expert stone dyker, a great thinker, writer and all-round communicator. He and Gordon French (who I might also draw a picture of) developed the Lever and Mulch method of rhododendron eradication. No, this doesn't mean one of those two guys is 'Lever' and the other one is 'Mulch'. 'Lever and Mulch' is to do with levering stems apart and eventually depositing all the pulled-up material as a mulch on the ground where the bush previously grew. It works. They have begun a Lever and Mulch website which is currently at an early 'work in progress' stage but will I am sure be very good in due course and already its home page photo is great.)

This drawing is based on a photo I took of Donald some years ago during a group discussion about the then proposed (and now existing) footpath leading into the reserve from near the Acharn car park.
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Gordon French  Pencil  30 x 21 cm  (2017)
£100 including mount + postage/packing

Gordon worked as a summer ranger on the reserve a few years ago. He is a good all round naturalist who is very strongly and personally committed to looking after the environment. He's always worth listening to for his ideas about nature and looking after it. He's not one of those 'elitist' or 'buzz-word' or 'boringly corporate-mannered' conservationist types. No, he's very much 'his own man' and has so much to say about all sorts of things. If I were to describe him (truthfully) as a tall, imposing guy with rugged looks and a robust personality you might think he sounds a bit scary, but no, he's really friendly, easy-going, immensely kind and full of humour and fun. He's a very practical guy. He and Donald Kennedy developed the Lever and Mulch method of rhododendron clearance (see above). Gordon is a brilliant gardener; I once heard someone say he's the most self-sufficient person in Morvern.

I did this drawing from a photo I took in 2004 when Gordon and Donald built a stone cairn in the reserve (at Arienas Point, to be precise) in memory of Brian Brookes (1936-2000) for his botanical survey and advisory work in this part of Morvern including the Rahoy Hills reserve.
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Cathy Mayne (L) and Lorraine Servant (R)   Pencil  18 x 12 cm   (2017)

£75 including mount + postage/packing

Lorraine is the current local staff member of Scottish Natural Heritage. I think her job title is 'Operations Officer'. Hang on, I'll check . . .  just finding an email . . . yes it is. I wanted to check in case the names of SNH staff job titles have been changed (again!). Lorraine comes to all the Reserve Management Committee meetings as the SNH representative. She knows all the ins and outs of the government's systems of dealing with designated sites such as this reserve. That'll take a lot of patience, and indeed she is a very calm and fair-minded person. Cathy works for SNH too, and was the local SNH representative for this reserve before Lorraine. She's a lively, conversational person with wit and humour and an authoritative understanding of the ways of nature conservation. This drawing is from a photo I took on Beinn Iadain in summer 2012 when Cathy and Lorraine very kindly helped my wife Alison and me to set up a botanical monitoring baseline in species-rich grasslands on Beinn Iadain and Beinn na h-Uamha which are the two basalt hills in the reserve. (Basalt is a kind of volcanic rock.) Cathy brought along a brilliant quadrat frame design of her own invention. A quadrat frame is a square thing that you put on the ground in order to define an excact square for the purpose of recording botanical information. I had previously been using a metal one, but Cathy's invention was made of flexible washing line stuff so it is much lighter and can be folded up small and put in a fieldwork bag. It makes such a difference. I have four of them now: two are 1 m x 1 m and the other two are 2 m x 2 m. The straight white line at the lower right corner is part of a long (30 m) tape (just in case you thought it looked a bit wrong for being part of the quadrat - don't want you thinking we're sloppy with our recording methods!)
 




Isabel Isherwood   Pencil  20 x 17 cm   (2017)

£75 including mount + postage/packing

Isabel did some summer wardening here a few years ago, working with Steve and Gordon. She's very knowledgeable on mammals and has been studying the badgers on the reserve. Isabel also helped us with botanical monitoring on the basalt hills Beinn Iadain and Beinn na h-Uamha in summer 2012. This drawing is from a photo I took on Beinn Iadain when we were doing that monitoring work. From left to right: Cathy; Isabel; Lorraine. The square in between them all is the 1 m x 1 m quadrat being recorded at that time. My wife Alison was just out of view recording another quadrat a few metres away.
 
 
 
Faith Raven   Pencil  14 x 14 cm  (2017)

£75 including mount + postage/packing

Faith's family own the Ardtornish Estate which includes more than half of the Rahoy Hills reserve. She lives mostly near Cambridge but spends some of her time in Morvern and is usually here for the Reserve Management Committee meetings. Faith is the widow of John Raven (1914-1980) who was a classical scholar at Cambridge University and also a very accomplished and well-known botanist who found many rare plants on the hills in Rahoy Hills reserve and, with Max Walters, wrote the book Mountain Flowers in the Collins New Naturalist series. She has been involved in the management of Rahoy Hills ever since it was first declared a nature reserve in the 1970s, and for some years she chaired the Management Committee meetings.

This drawing is from the only photo I have of Faith - taken at the edge of the reserve during a group discussion on a rainy day about 10 years ago.
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Anna Raven   Pencil  19 x 15 cm   (2017)
£75 including mount + postage/packing

Anna is one of Faith's three daughters and she has been living in this area for several years. She is an artist (and was actually at the same art school as me) and I reckon she should really be doing this art residency because she's more of a serious proper artist than I am. Maybe she will do it some time in the future. Anna is an active member of the reserve Management Committee, and the art residency was her idea about a couple of years ago. She arranged for the painter Colin Duncan to do the first residency here, in 2016, and it was a big success. Anna has done art residencies herself, on various Scottish islands.

Anna isn't in any of the photos I've taken, so, as with Alasdair, I 'cheated' and did the drawing from someone else's photo - in this case a photo on her art website, presumably taken on a windy but sunny day.
 


Angus Robertson  Pencil  20 x 13 cm  (2017)
● SOLD

Angus was the factor for Ardtornish Estate for many years, and as such he has played an important role in the reserve's management. Much of the planning and administration of the reserve's management has been down to collaboration among a small group of people, especially Angus (representing Ardtornish Estate), Mark Foxwell (Scottish Wildife Trust - haven't drawn him yet), the SWT summer warden (Steve) and whoever is the current Scottish Natural Heritage local staff member (currently Lorraine).

This drawing was done from the same photo as the one from which I drew Steve - taken when a group of us went to look at mosses and liverworts by the river in the Black Glen wooded ravine. Angus's left arm is actually pointing to a small patch of the rare liverwort Acrobolbus wilsonii growing among other liverworts and mosses on a steep rock face just above the river margin. So now you can imagine the mossy rock faces at the right of the picture, the river behind (looking upstream, by the way) and the trees all around. Or you could imagine that Angus is on the sidewalk on 42nd Street in New York City, pointing to something in a shop window. Or that you and he have been standing somewhere (anywhere - let's say just outside Lochaline Stores) chatting for so long that whoever he's with has had enough and is quietly trying to pull him away . . .
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Mark Foxwell   Pencil  23 x 14 cm    (2017)

£75 including mount + postage/packing

Mark works for the Scottish Wildlife Trust and is responsible for the management of their reserves in the Highlands and Islands. He is the official SWT staff member for matters concerning Rahoy Hills reserve, so he comes to the Reserve Management Committee meetings and keeps in touch with the summer warden.

This drawing was done from a photo I found online, because although Mark is in some of my own photos, he's either seen from behind or, because of cold weather, has the hood of his coat done up in such a way that you can't easily tell it's him. Here, I'll show you . . .
 
See - could be just anybody. But no, it's Mark. Next time you see someone looking like this, it probably won't be Mark. There is only one of him, and, much as we'd like him to be everywhere, I'm afraid he can be in only one place at a time. But if it's not Mark, this doesn't mean it's 'just anybody'. Nobody is a 'just anybody'. Everybody is a somebody - a unique somebody.

"Hey - you in the coat and hood.  Are you Mark Foxwell?"

"No.  I'm . . . er . . . just somebody."



Pencil  23 x 13 cm    (2017)


£75 including mount + postage/packing (= £25 donated to summer ranger funds at Rahoy Hills Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve)
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Angus Robertson (L)
and Donald Kennedy (R)


Pencil  30 x 21 cm

(2017)

£100 including mount + postage/packing



Some years ago, in discussion about the then proposed footpath near Acharn at the south-eastern edge of the reserve.
 

 
Gordon French

Pencil  15 x 13 cm

(2017)

£100 including mount + postage/packing



Here is Gordon again, seen here working on the building of the cairn at Arienas Point.
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Me!

Pencil  30 x 21 cm  (2017)

Drawn at the request of one of those who I have already drawn! This picture was done from a photo taken in January by my daughter Elen in woodland near the reserve.
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Back to some more landscapes . . .
 

 
Mossy birch in the Black Glen 

(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Price: £545 (framed).
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I called it 'Mossy birch' but it's about half mosses and half liverworts growing on this tree.  Mosses dominate lower down, but the upper green stuff consists mostly of cushions of the western liverworts Scapania gracilis and Plagiochila spinulosa, and (darker, bluer green) Wilson's filmy fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii (which is a tiny fern that looks like a dark green liverwort and is also a western species). The abundance of mosses and liverworts on trees around here - making some tree trunks look mostly green - is a feature of temperate rainforests in Britain and elsewhere. Temperate rainforests are found mainly along the continental fringes of W Europe (especially western parts of Britain and Ireland), western N America (N California up to Alaska) and W Chile, and also in some other areas including New Zealand (W side of S Island), Tasmania, the Himalayan foothills, the mountains of Indonesia and SE Australia, and mountainous oceanic islands such as the Azores and Tenerife.

 
 
Beinn Iadain

(2017)  Pen  30 x 21 cm


£200 including mount + postage/packing
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This view, from peaty moorland with ancient metamorphic rock outcrops, looks across to the south-western slopes of Beinn Iadain, a mountain made of younger (Palaeogene) basalt rock. Beinn Iadain is the highest hill in the reserve (571 m above sea level at the summit) and is the home of many uncommon mountain plant species which grow here mostly on the cliffs, in short grassland and among areas of rather bare stony ground. While the ancient metamorphic rocks in the foreground are pale and have a random-looking structure, the basalt is darker and comes in horizontal layers that were originally laid down as lava flows under the sea; hence the horizontal 'steps' or 'terraces' seen in the upper right of the picture. Botanically speaking, Beinn Iadain is one of the most important sites in a series of western Palaeogene basalt upland areas scattered from northern Ireland northwards through Mull, Morvern, Ardnamurchan, Eigg, Muck, Canna and Skye to the Faroe Islands. Mountain plants on this hill include alpine lady's-mantle, moss campion, northern rock-cress, hairy stonecrop, spiked woodrush, Norwegian sandwort and three-flowered rush.
 
 
Beinn Iadain - looking W from near the summit  (2017)   Pen  30 x 21 cm

£150 including mount + postage/packing
 
This view looks west from near the summit of Beinn Iadain (571 m) to Loch Sunart and the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The extensive low cloud is very frequent in this part of the world. The vegetation of this high ground is mostly short grassland, and the rock is basalt.
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Knobbly-trunked oak
above Loch Arienas


(2017)  Pen  30 x 21 cm


● SOLD
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Some oak trunks take on this distinctive form, which looks especially striking when it makes the whole trunk widen upwards at some point. This tree is in an open situation (hence it has been able to grow a wide, spreading crown) among wet heath, purple moor-grass and bracken. It could be one of the older oaks around here. Why say that? I suppose I was doing what I felt was expected. Lots of people have this 'thing' about age. Show them a tree and they ask "how old would it be?" as if (a) you're expected to know and (b) knowledge of its age is necessary to complete one's appreciation. Sometimes I feel like answering (to the above a/b): (a) "don't know"; (b) "don't care"! Telling the age of a tree is not as straightforward as one might think; bigger isn't always older. And as for caring, of course I do care really, but for me there are more important aspects to appreciating it than knowing its age. It's just a great tree. It's not even as though it has to be a tree. It's just a great thing, whatever it is. People might think I draw trees because I'm a nice nature-lover, but I actually started drawing them for their sense of big scale. I feel moved by the sheer scale of big things - for example I have always loved skyscrapers. Skyscrapers are disliked by some people who like nature and wild places, but they can be really beautiful. Of course I do like the trees and other wild things at Rahoy Hills reserve - which is just as well, cos' there ain't no skyscrapers there!
 
 
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

(2017)  Pen  30 x 21 cm
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Eh? Well, I just found myself here online, so I got me a photo (cropped from Google Street View) and figured I'd draw it and put that drawing here, for a change. I have been wondering about incorporating something urban into a picture of Rahoy Hills reserve. A skyscraper on Beinn Iadain? That wouldn't really be necessary because there is common ground between urban and rural environments in a number of ways (in my experiance at least): buildings and roads have a presence as non-human objects just as mountains, trees and rocks do; layers of buildings at different distances are rather like ranges of hills one behind the other in the way they can give a sense of scale to the landscape and a sense of mystery as they hide things from view; skyscrapers, trees and hills can all seem like giant sculptures; urban and rural environments can each be explored in similar ways and at all scales. For me, the connection between cities and places like Morvern is to do with their shared qualities and the shared thinking processes involved in exploring them. (Similarly, for me the connection between art and science is not something such as botanical illustration but is in their shared thinking processes.) But despite all that, I can still imagine a Memphis skyscraper relocated to Rahoy Hills reserve! It's not that bad - assuming we've just got the buiding, with no roads or busy disturbance, it probably wouldn't be as damaging ecologically as many existing things in the west Highlands. Imagine a big voice booming down from the heavens:"You, my friend, must make a choice: either (1) a skyscraper from Memphis goes on top of Beinn Iadain and all Rhododendron ponticum disappears from Scotland, or (2) Beinn Iadain stays without a skyscraper but you folks will have to continue as you are, battling the rhododendron problem yourselves". Easy! (In case you don't know, Rhododendron ponticum is an invasive non-native shrub that forms dense, dark thickets almost devoid of life, and it is a huge problem in the west Highlands, especially when it gets into our native woods.)
 
 
Rahoy Hills, from near Ardtornish

(2017)

Pen  30 x 21 cm

 
OK - this is what that skyscraper would look like on the top of Beinn Iadain. It looks quite fitting. Not that many people would notice anyway, Beinn Iadain being so out of view from most places . . .
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. . . but back in Memphis that building's absence wouldn't be missed for long.

 
 
Black Glen woodland (4)

(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Original currently at Resipole Studios gallery, Loch Sunart. Price: £545 (framed).
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Another picture of mossy oak woodland in winter. Just like Black Glen woodland nos. 1 and 2. All much the same really. Rainforest, rainforest, rainforest . . . Mosses, mosses, mosses . . . Drawing, drawing, drawing . . . Oh well, I suppose someone's got to do it. OK - it's true that there are lots of woodland scenes like this in the west Highlands, and that's why we should look after them all and not take them for granted. If we let this become a much rarer habitat, we'd be asking ourselves (or others would be asking us) why we hadn't acted earlier. Maybe the British public will become more appreciative of mosses, liverworts and lichens in the future? It's possible - for example in Japan mosses have a higher public profile than they do here.
 

 
Riverside rocks in the Black Glen ravine

(2017)   Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Price: £545 (framed).
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These moist riverside rocks in the sheltered, humid wooded ravine are the habitat of some of the rarer western mosses and liverworts on the reserve. Some people are, quite understandably, surprised to find that a bryologist (someone who studies mosses and liverworts) such as me will come into these western woods where big, luxuriant cushions of mosses abound (as shown in Black Glen woodland pictures 1, 3 and 4 above) but spend a lot of their time looking at riverside rocks such as these, focusing on relatively small or even minute species. There's good reason for us to spend time here though, because there are so many species on these sorts of rocks. Some right by the water. Others higher up. Some on protruding rocky bluffs. Others in dark or dripping recesses. As we make our way slowly along these rocky riversides there's always another corner ahead, just out of view and perhaps with something really special. It's a bit like walking along a street, looking in at shop windows, and indeed an element of curiosity or even nosiness can play a part in both situations.
 
 
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Standing to attention
(2017)  Pen  30 x 21 cm

The title just came to me while doing this drawing of the reserve's information notice boards at the Acharn car park. It has something to do with the regular orderliness of those two signs. Or could it refer to the fence posts? Or the trees? Or people who will come here and stand and read the notice boards? Or you, reading this right now (more likely to be 'sitting to attention')? I like the solid-looking shapes of those two boards. They could be a pair of sculptures. Never mind what's written on them - check out the shape, the angles and the solidity of form and materials. I often think that some objects that were not made as sculptures (for example, many mountains, natural rock formations and modern buildings) are actually more successfully sculptural than some things that were intended to be sculptures. If you do read these notice boards, you'll find out something about the reserve's habitats, plants, birds, insects and human history. By the way, the third sign at the right edge is the old reserve sign, which says: 'Rahoy Hills Wildlife Reserve; Ardtornish Estate; Scottish Wildlife Trust'. The old and the new, side by side - nicely bringing to mind the close juxtaposition of ancient Neoproterozoic metamorphic rocks (between 500 and 1000 million years old) and much younger Pelaeogene basalt (<65 million years old) here in the reserve.
 

 
Arienas Wood

(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Price: £545 (framed).
 
The rusty-coloured areas on the logs are patches of Nowellia curvifolia - one of a small number of liverwort species that grow mainly on rotting wood. It can also grow much less commonly on rocks and on the trunks of living trees. When I first started finding it on rocks and trees I was quite excited to see it in a different habitat, but over time I noticed that those occurrences were mainly in areas with relatively high concentrations of atmospheric pollution (e.g. sulphur dioxide and/or nitrate). It seems likely that on rocks and trees Nowellia is naturally outcompeted by other liverworts and mosses there, but in polluted areas the growth of those competing species is reduced, allowing Nowellia to establish and grow. I am therefore pleased to report that here at Rahoy Hills reserve I have seen Nowellia only on logs.
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Black Glen woodland (5)
(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm

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This oak looks as though it has been coppiced in the past, hence its multiple stems, none of which are very thick. Just below it is a small area of flattish ground that might once have been used as a charcoal-burning platform. It is amazing how the oak stems stay standing up, considering how much they lean over. Plenty of moss and liverwort growth everywhere, of course, including western species on rocks and trees, and darker, bluish-tinged patches of Wilson's filmy fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii on steep rocky banks at the right.
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Ash trees by Loch Arienas

(2017)  Pen  30 x 21 cm


Original currently at Resipole Studios gallery, Loch Sunart. Price: £545 (framed).
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I drew this view because I liked the way the trees and fallen wood form a frame for what is largely just space in the middle of the picture. On the trunks of these ash trees grow many species of lichen including the uncommon Lobaria amplissima - a species that likes plenty of light. Some of the dark patches on the trunks are purplish-brown liverworts of the genus Frullania, here including F. fragilifolia - a species smelling of turpentine. On the bases of the trunks are mosses including Pterogonium gracile - a species whose leaves stick out widely when moist but then in the dry state become so closely appressed that the stems and branches look really thin and wiry and like a completely different type of moss. When I first found Pterogonium back in the 1980s, it was in the dry, wiry-looking state and I put a bit in a plastic bag, thinking "this is so distinctive that it will surely be really easy to identify". When I got back indoors to the microscope and identification books, and tipped my bag of various moss specimens onto the table, I thought I'd go for the 'easy' wiry-looking one first, but I couldn't find it. Wrong bag? No - I had only one bag on that day. But where was that wiry moss? I was beginning to doubt my memory (and sanity!) before realising that it had got wetter from being in the bag and its leaves were now sticking out and (to me) unrecognisable, but as it slowly dried out it became wiry again (so I got a bit wiser by standing there watching the Pterogonium go wirier).

 
Mossy rocks by waterfall

(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


Price: £545 (framed).
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Another picture of mossy riverside rocks. These places are a complex mix of micro-habitats with irregular patterns of variation in light, dampness, shelter, slope gradient, slope aspect and so on. Another influence is the direct action of the river, limiting the cover of flowering plants and large mosses to leave room for a varied mix of small mosses and liverworts to grow. Coming into a place like this is like entering 'mossy ravine world' - an environment that is unlike the surrounding countryside but has much in common with other mossy ravines elsewhere in Britain, Ireland and other parts of the world with a very wet and equable climate. It's almost as though 'mossy ravine world' is one discontinuous place within which there is familiar consistency in its features and in the way someone such as me goes about exploring it. For example, on one occasion when looking at liverworts on rocks in a ravine I found the rare Acrobolbus wilsonii, which is always a really good find, but I'd been in such a familiar mode of ravine exploration that, having momentarily forgotten where I was, the full significance of the find was slightly delayed until I remembered that I was in the Faroe Islands, a few hundred miles north of the previous known northern limit of Acrobolbus. This point about things being geographically distant but in other ways 'here' through their familiarity and relevance is also my way of gently breaking it to you that this picture shows riverside rocks in the Great Smoky Mountain range of the southern Appalachians. Yes - we're back in Tennessee! First Memphis, and now the diagonally opposite north-eastern corner of the state, in wooded mountains where the climate is rather like that of western Scotland. I came here in virtual mode (though the photo I worked from was 'my photo' in that I cropped it out of a much bigger 360 degree 'photo sphere'). Why these 'travels' when I 'should' be at Rahoy Hills? Well, er - (1) It's only a few pictures; out of a total of 39 so far, 37 (95%) are about Rahoy Hills. (2) It can be good to let the mind wander. Suppose you're on your way to the shops - let's say a hardware shop - are you thinking "hammers; screwdrivers; plywood sheeting" or whatever for 100% of the time? You're probably having other thoughts too, and you never know - these could be quite significant in some way. (The shop owners understand this, which is why in many hardware stores they put conspicuous signs up, directing you to the departments with hammers, screwdrivers, plywood or whatever - 'cos they know you were just thinking of something else and might have forgotten what you came here for.) (3) Be fair now - in my current physical condition I'm unable to get out and about very much, so can't I sometimes be allowed a virtual trip out, for a change? Thanks, I knew you'd understand! And in return I'm introducing y'all to Tennessee! And Rahoy Hills, of course. I hadn't forgotten (I've put a sign up).

 
Acrobolbus wilsonii

(2017)  Coloured pencil  30 x 21 cm


£270 including mount + postage/packing

I've mentioned this liverwort species a couple of times so far, so here is a close-up view of it growing on a steep, damp, sheltered rock face just above the river in the Black Glen ravine. The world distribution of this species is Scotland, Ireland, Faroe Islands, Azores and Madeira. It is a small plant; this picture shows an area about the size of a passport photo and also includes a few shoots of three other species - the liverworts Frullania tamarisci (F) and Radula aquilegia (R), and the moss Sciuro-hypnum plumosum (S):

              .    .    .    .    .
              .                   .

              .         RF      .
              .                   .
              .                   .
              . F  F    S    S .
              .    .    S  R    .
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Botanical fieldwork 1-4: a series of pictures showing people working on the setting up of a botanical monitoring baseline in species-rich grasslands on Beinn Iadain and Beinn na h-Uamha in summer 2012. My wife Alison is in the foreground of each picture; the other people are Cathy Mayne, Lorraine Servant and Isabelle Isherwood. The monitoring method involved recording sets of 1 m x 1 m quadrats (the squares) positioned along a tape line, done in such a way as to allow these exact same locations to be refound and re-recorded again in future, to see how the vegetation has changed.

 
 
 
Botanical fieldwork 1  (2017)  Pencil  20 x 10 cm
Price: £195 (framed).
 
Botanical fieldwork 2  (2017)  Pencil  20 x 10 cm
Price: £195 (framed).
 
 

 
 
 
Botanical fieldwork 3  (2017)  Pencil  20 x 10 cm
Price: £195 (framed).
  Botanical fieldwork 4  (2017)  Pencil  20 x 10 cm
Price: £195 (framed).
 

 
Botanical fieldwork 5

2017)  Pencil  20 x 10 cm

Price: £325 (framed).


My daughter Elen (left) and wife Alison (right) recording details of vegetation during the setting up of the botanical monitoring baseline in species-rich grassland on Beinn na h-Uamha in summer 2012.
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The north face of Beinn Iadain

Price: £365 (framed).

This is the 'back' of Beinn Iadain where the lines of N-NE-facing basalt cliffs, damp and often in shade, support superb lush assemblages of herbs and ferns and a rich flora of mosses and liverworts. I think this hill looks like a giant sculpture, well exhibited in its setting among undulating heath and bog terrain.
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The north-east facade of
downtown Nashville, Tennessee


(2017)  Pen  30 x 21 cm

£270 including mount + postage/packing

As with Beinn Iadain (see above) these skyscrapers in Nashville are like giant sculptures. The one in the centre is the AT&T Building - the tallest in the city and a magnificent thing with those two pinnacles. The long line of lower buildings in front of it, facing the river, date from the late 19th century. From my explorations (on Google Street View), Nashville seems way different from Memphis, though I have noticed that they both share a dissimilarity to Rahoy Hills reserve. For example that information board at the left of this picture is in quite a different style to ours, and there's a nice bench nearby - we could do with that at Acharn car park or Arienas Point. I wouldn't say "no" to the AT&T building either.
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