Stranded on the stack! It sounds like the alliterative title of a disaster film! However, when renowned landscape artist, Nigel Grounds, was just eight years old, he and his family had this unnerving experience at Talisker Bay, Isle of Skye. They walked out to the famous sea stack and Nigel, his brother and their parents climbed to the top. The tide came in quickly, stranding the family!
"We were stuck there for hours in quite rough weather, with the sea raging around us!" Nigel recalls. "My brother and I were sucking sweets and my dad just fished - it was an amazing and, in retrospect, surreal experience!"
Nigel's adventures (and misadventures!) on the Hebridean islands help to inspire his paintings, allowing his experiences and perspectives to be recreated on the canvas. Mixing Scotland's timeless inspiration with his own memories, Nigel has painted scenes from where he used to live at Plockton, holidays to Harris and Lewis and the surroundings of his current home and gallery in Sleat, Isle of Skye.
Nigel spent his early years in St Helens, Lancashire before his family moved to Eynort, Isle of Skye. Like his father, who enjoyed fishing and camping, Nigel was most at home out of doors. "I was very interested in wildlife as a youngster," he says. "I explored all the way from Coruisk to Talisker. My first jobs were shearing sheep and hand-hauling lobster creels!" It was around this time that Nigel's love of art developed. Along with science, Nigel had a natural aptitude for art at school.
However, after attending Portree High School, Nigel went on to do a course in land economy and surveying. "I stuck at it for the first year, but I wasn't enjoying it," he admits. "I sat down and thought about what I would really like to do." This epiphany ultimately led to Nigel graduating from Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen with a B.A. (Hons.) in Fine Art.
However, Nigel still believes he is on a learning curve with his art, saying: "I am not afraid to experiment. When I paint, I want to get better and better in terms of capturing that all-important sense of place."
The ever-changing landscapes provide Nigel with constant inspiration. "There are a lot of tonal contrasts in my paintings," he says. "I love to capture the natural drama of the landscapes. I try to create a thing of beauty that has an emotional impact."
A few of Nigel's favourite locations to capture are Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris, the views to Knoydart from the Isle of Skye and the islands of Eigg and Rum. "I wouldn't say I was Mr Beach, but I enjoy painting beaches. The contrasts are wonderful and the composition changes constantly, with tide variation, different seasons and, of course, the weather!"
In 2007, Nigel was able to relocate to Armadale, in a place where he had enough room for a gallery, a studio and living accommodation. Visitors to the gallery will find art that transports them all around Scotland, where they will see the landscape with Nigel's unique perspective and receive a warm welcome from the artist himself!
(Article and photographs by Roz Skinner)