June, Midsummer.

Its 4pm, time to go, filling my back pack with the essentials, paint, string, my cameras, one, two, three, and begin my journey over the fields and farmland. It’s an upward struggle and despite my daily walks I find myself breathless when I reach the top. I allow myself a break. I eat some toffee. Then onward. Following a line of birch trees I’m led downhill towards the sea, two more misshapen wire fences and it’s a sharp decent down to the beach. I’ve timed this right. The tide is low, granting me entry to the cave interior. It’s not easy. I must crawl on all fours; keep my back low, don’t scrap it on the cave roof (I do).

I’m in the belly of the cave. The sound of the waves hitting the jagged coastline rumbles all around me. Its dark and damp, but warm enough to undress. I take out my box of paints and line each up along the waterline, then mixing the colour with the seawater I paint my body. Limb by limb, using my fingers as paint brushes leaving long streaks and hand prints over my flesh, my hair. I’m ready. I’m new. I’m a character, an object. More and less than human. I explore the cavity as a new born animal. Testing the walls, my weight, my skin against the cold rock. The painting ritual has transformed me and allowed me to sit below my normal level of consciousness. Thinking back, it feels


The incoming tide chases me back up the cave and the imminent danger of loosing my possessions to the sea brings me out of my dream. It’s now that I stop the camera rolling and I use my still camera to document the events.

But my mind is still clouded by the paint creature, (or the growing numbness in my hands) and working the camera self timer feels alien.

Pulling the masks and mirrors from my rucksack I bring the items into my recreation. But looking back the mask was only mask in its very essence – to mask out my face. (I hide my face not wanting to muddle the work with elements of vanity I know would creep in if my face was revealed.) The transformation had already happened in the painting and the additional tools felt superfluous, and forced. The incoming tide tickled my toes and the wet brings a chill. Leave.

Naked I crawled back through the rear entrance of the cave and returned blinking into the sunlight, failing to conceal a smile about how weird this must look to anyone who could have happened to come up my strange ritual. This time however, I have the beach to myself. I dress, then lie in the sun, admiring my paint covered limbs against the red sand. Warming my body like a lizard, I lay grinning in a blissful haze, now feels good. The sunlight licks the cliff tops and lazily winks at me through the gorse bushes, it’s settling down to sleep and I too should make my way back to my bed.

Two hours later and I’m enjoying a well-deserved shower, now feels good.


The end, slowly stalking me at first took a running leap and knocked me square off my Black Isle residency. I saw signs, the pang of sadness when I bought milk whose expiry date surpassed my final day and the realisation the high tide times had turned full circle, completing their monthly loop.

Drawing open the curtains on the final day I still feel the rush of glee from being able to admire the seashore from my window. It’s the glee of a landlocked child who 90s holiday car trips became entrenched in a sibling rivalry of who could see first, or more over who could shout “I can see the sea!” the quickest and loudest. The winners vigilance was rewarded with smug satisfaction.

I walk down to the shore, it’s a cloudy day and the sea looks like molten lead. Returning the cow skull to the fields where I found it I say a silent goodbye to the hillside I’ve called home for the last month.

To conclude my time with the Cromarty Arts Trust we put on an exhibition of my studio work: The Village Lady. The Trust has acquired the stable block from the 18th century Cromarty House mansion and converted them into a beautiful gallery space, it was a pleasure to be offered a chance to show there.

Central to the exhibition was a makeshift table I built from stacking found wood, and dressing it with old china plates and my clay ‘cutlery’ modelled on bones. Dinner for two.

The girl set off, the bzou set off, and the bzou reached Grandmother’s cottage first. He quickly killed the old woman and gobbled her up, flesh, blood, and bone – except for a bit of flesh that he put in a little dish on the pantry shelf, and except for a bit of blood that he drained into a little bottle. Then the bzou dressed in Grandmother’s cap and shawl and climbed into bed.

When the girl arrived, the bzou called out, “Pull the peg and come in, my child.”

“Grandmother,” said the girl, “Mother sent me here with a galette and a cream.”

“Put them in the pantry, child. Are you hungry?

“Yes, I am, Grandmother.”

“Then cook the meat that you’ll find on the shelf. Are you thirsty?”

“Yes, I am, Grandmother.”

“Then drink the bottle of wine you’ll find on the shelf beside it, child.”

As the young girl cooked and ate the meat, a little cat piped up and cried, “You are eating the flesh are your grandmother!”

“Throw your shoe at that noisy cat,” said the bzou, and so she did.

As she drank the wine, a small bird cried, “You are drinking the blood of your grandmother!”

“Throw your other shoe at that noisy bird,” said the bzou, and so she did.

When she finished her meal, the bzou said, “Are you tired from your journey, child? Then take off your clothes, come to bed, and I shall warm you up.”

A clay ‘teapot’ and ‘basket (image in previous blog)’ were displayed on tree trunk plinths and mix media paintings provided wall cover. The opening reception was very enjoyable, and I could be mistaken but I’m sure everyone who came on the opening night waited around for a chance to talk to me, which I’m very appreciative of. The Cromarty Arts Trust bought one of my paintings for their collection too so I can now proudly add them to the list of Public Collections that my works is held in.

It’s a dry day when I leave, that turns to showers when we reach Edinburgh. Thank you Cromarty Arts Trust, Creative Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy for such an enjoyable, enriching and rewarding experience.