1 Comment

There are now only three days left of my residency here at the Ness of Brodgar.  We had fine weather today but the forecast is so bad for tomorrow that the site will be closed.  In order not to lose a whole day’s work, I spent today gathering material for the showcase so that I could bring as much as possible back to work on in my room.

My on-site studio table, with materials for the installation.

Towards the end of the day, I got out to draw the trenches as the fine weather began fade.

A view across Trench P from the corner of Structure 14, with clouds gathering

Today’s portrait

Dan Lee, Supervisor of Structure 1



In the afternoon, I gave a talk about my residency at the Pier Arts Centre. The room was full, with a mixed audience of local people, archaeologists and others from the site.  After giving some background to my work and why I wanted to come to the Ness of Brodgar, I showed the work collected to date and then spoke about how I hope to develop it when I get back in my studio. The feedback was good and my interest in the everyday process of the archaeology was seen as a positive contribution.

While waiting for the beginning of the talk, I looked round the galleries at the Pier Arts Centre.  They have a wonderful permanent collection, bequeathed by Margaret Gardiner, which includes inspiring work by Peter Lanyon, Sean Scully and Ben Nicolson. Seeing these has given me some insight into how I should tackle an installation in the empty showcase on site.

Monday, Day 17 on site

Winds of up to 50 mph made it difficult to stand up, let alone work on site. But, indoors, I found an empty table, recently vacated by ‘The Lab’, which I have adopted as my studio. It’s very useful for hosting my portrait sitters, has a good view of the site and loch and provides some space to work outside my sketchbooks.

Views across the dig site and Loch Harray in the wind. My portable scanner is unable to portray the subtleties of the sky…

Todays portraits of Professor Mark Edmonds and Jo Bourne of Structure 8

Experimenting with red soil and bone on a plank

Tuesday, Day 18

Calmer weather so getting out on site was easier – to do some drawing and forage for materials for my installation.  Indoors, I learned more about rock pigments with Martha, the Rock Lady, and drew another portrait.

A view of Trench X, looking across to Loch Stenness with Hoy on the horizon.

Amazing colours available from rock pigments. Some of them have two colours in one piece.  The rocks have visible layers where the silts and clays were laid down during their formation.

Today’s portrait of Claire Copper, supervisor in Structure 10.

I have started a collection of found objects for my installation, including rocks, earth, and more modern items used on site.  Tomorrow I hope to begin an assemblage.




This morning I visited Orkney Museum in Kirkwall for a meeting about a potential exhibition there next year. They have a small space next to the Archaeology rooms, which is ideal.  It is great to be able to visualise a place where work may be displayed.  I already have an exhibition arranged at home in Bath for November, as part of my development and discussion after the residency. An exhibition next year back in Orkney will be a chance to reconnect with the archaeologists and get their feedback on whether my residency has been of any value to the excavations.

Back on site it was a fine day for drawing, both in and out of the trenches.

I spent some time in Structure 8, which is overlooked by the visitors’ viewing platform. Then went outside its walls to draw a piece of incised stone.

The pattern consists of some drill holes and carved lines.  The design is about six centimetres high.

Two more drawings of people around the site.

My hasty drawing of a row of visitors against the sky reminds me of a cluster of standing stones.  After tea break we all lined up for a group photo taken from above by the drone.

Today’s portraits

Two supervisors:  Dave from Structure 14 and Anne from Trench X

Finally, the Director Nick found time for me to draw him. He said he can’t remember sitting still for so long – it was less than 10 minutes…



Bad weather meant people were more willing to give me 15 minutes of their time to come indoors and have their portraits drawn. But some intrepid archaeologists kept going.

Today’s portraits

Catriona supervisor in Structure 8 and Ben supervisor in Trench 10

Mark and Allette of Geomatics, who digitally map and measure the site from the Total Station; and Laura who flies the drone.

In other news

On site there is an empty display case and I have been given permission to put something in it;  so a small installation could happen on site –  if there is time in my last week of the residency.


This morning the site was closed so I spent some time preparing my talk for Saturday at the Pier Arts Centre.  It’s called Work in Progress and is quite hard to put together, as the work to date is really a collection of drawings, paintings, sound and video – all ‘in no particular order’.  However, it is making me think hard about how my research could fit in with the archaeological research.

When I arrived on site after lunch, the sky needed to be painted.

The low cloud was partly sitting on the horizon and the rest of it looked as though it was bleeding downwards.

Two more portraits today:

As usual I recorded conversations while drawing.  Antonia talked most interestingly about her special field – the relationship between artists and archaeology and how they work together.  It made me realise the complexities of being Artist in Residence and some of the pitfalls to avoid. Scott is an archaeological geologist and works on the hi tech aspect of the dig, bringing a lab to the excavation and providing chemical analysis on site. He also flies the drone, taking photos of the site from the sky as part of his interest in environmental change.

While waiting to draw Scott, I watched rocks being washed in the kitchen.

One of the rocks shows signs of having ‘a life’, which means it has been used by Neolithic people as a work stone. The traces of human activity in the past are fascinating.