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It has been suggested that my work on human activity at the dig should be linked to the official Ness of Brodgar documentation – specifically when I draw a find being excavated the drawing should reference the context number of the artefact. So when I publish the image there should be a link to the Ness archive – and vice versa, a link from their archive to my artwork. I’m not sure how this will be done in my film but presumably there is a digital solution.

Beginning as I mean to go on, this is a drawing of Jo working on a hearth (context number 6311) in Structure 8.

And here is a piece of red sandstone (context number 8736), which Martha the Rock Lady gave me because it makes such a great pigment.

It is good to know that my ‘human context’ is valued – and I find that the human element cannot be underestimated. Cristina, the new supervisor in Trench T, says that although the archaeology is important, it is the people she works with that matter most. She really enjoys working with students and volunteers, because she loves teaching and also values the commitment of volunteers. Interestingly, her own delight in archaeology is learning something new everyday.

Finally a drawing of Professor Scott Pike flying the drone – what is missing from the picture is the Director’s dog trying to catch it. Next time…

The Ness of Brodgar web site is: www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk



A day of contrary expectations and trauma. I should know better that to have any expectations of Orkney weather. Hot soup for lunch and extra clothing resulted in a fine sunny day with a mild breeze rather than fierce wind. Thinking it wouldn’t last, I seized the opportunity to paint a landscape, which will become a background in my film.

As the weather remained fine I decided to do another after lunch – but got waylaid by the need to draw the group working in the Finds Hut as some were leaving today.

Preparing to return to my watercolour, I realised my brush was missing – trauma… It is a particularly beautiful, large sable brush, and for many years it is the only one I have used for watercolour. Having retraced my steps many times, I was beginning to get used to its momentous loss, when it was brought back to me in the Art Hut. To celebrate I immediately painted another watercolour, which I dedicate to Rick, a supervisor in Trench T.


There is no wall in Trench Y. Down near the loch edge they found a large promising stone – but underneath it had a plough mark, which dates its arrival in position somewhere in the early 20th century. So the layers are being recorded in drawing and work will be done on the floor deposits at the upper end, and then it will be filled in.

On a site that takes the long term view on most structures, it seems odd, or perhaps special, to witness the beginning and end of a trench in one season.

Today, between the typical Orkney showers, the loch was a more intense blue than I have ever seen before. Late in the day I painted a small watercolour. The water dark compared to the sky, making the dry patches of grass where people have trodden gleam a bleached ochre. The foreground punctuated with bright red spots of clothing and bits of kit. A strange fragmented picture that reflects a busy but fragmented day.


The Rapture of the Archive

For me this is the moment of human connection with the past – a dizzying flash of recognition that something in my life is the same as another human being long dead. My act of creating in drawing is an echo of the same act performed by another person in the past. I have previously felt this connection when looking at paintings by my artist heroes: Rembrandt, Cézanne, Hopper and others. Their work speaks of the act of painting and I can tell where they were standing – the position they were looking from. These experiences require further reflection.

Sinead in Structure 10 enjoys the methodical diagnosis that ultimately reveals the human activity in the space. At the Ness of Brodgar, it really is about being human and seeing that humanity revealed by the archaeology.

Not all the archaeologist supervisors are able to come back for every digging season. So this year Structure 12 remains covered and Jim’s plaster rabbit waits forlornly for his return.

Trench T has changed hands again this year and I’m looking forward to a conversation with this year’s supervisor next week. Meanwhile I have painted the now enlarged and complicated trench from the same viewpoint as 2016.


Despite my cavalier attitude yesterday, today I made a list of things to do in the remaining two weeks. It consists mainly of portraits, which are my preferred way of having conversations with the archaeologists. Some people are shy of being drawn so I always offer the option of not using their portrait in my film, as it is their voices that are most useful.

Ray, who found and excavated yesterday’s pot in Trench J, sat for me this morning. He is not sure why he comes to dig year after year – it just draws him in.

Another on my list is to revisit Trench T from the viewpoint where I painted ‘Blue Rope’ in watercolour in 2016.

The trench is now much bigger and more complex, and today I began work on an oil painting. This was only half done by tea time and will have to be completed tomorrow – weather permitting.

When I had stopped painting, there was only time for a quick sketch of equipment being returned to the shed.