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Landscape Painting: Scotland's NW Coast with Shazia Mahmood

© Shazia Mahmood

Landscape painter Shazia Mahmood has a special affinity with Scotland's west coast. "Capturing the extraordinary light on the landscape is my mission as a painter" she says. "I am always stunned and silenced by what I witness in the highlands. I hope this is what is captured in the paintings."

Here are a few of our favourites.

Balnakeil, Sutherland

Balnakeil, Sutherland  © Shazia Mahmood
Balnakeil, Sutherland
© Shazia Mahmood

Balnakeil sits near the far northwest tip of Scotland. It's probably the largest beach I have ever seen and I had the place all to myself. The image is looking north out to sea. Walking in the dunes you are totally alone, and scene after scene just keeps rolling out around you. Because of its most northerly location and the shape of the bay, this enables more movement of landscape from this location. This painting is oil on canvas and in the way the light hits the sky I was trying to capture the moment experienced on Balnakeil.

The Cuillin from Elgol

The Cuillin from Elgol  © Shazia Mahmood
The Cuillin from Elgol
© Shazia Mahmood

Elgol for me is the sort of place that makes you cry when you see it for the first time. The winding drive from Torrin is lovely. Whether it's down on the coast or inland on Ben Meabost, walking from Elgol is my favourite of all time, and I've spent time here most years. This view is from Elgol looking towards the Cuillin. The thing for me about Elgol is that as you look at the Cuillin from that point you are always watching the scene move quickly across the mountains, because of its westerly position. For me, the Cuillin ridge is the best place to paint because of its ever changing light.

Suilven

Suilven  © Shazia Mahmood
Suilven
© Shazia Mahmood

The longest walk but with the most incredible views. We walked in from Elphin - a harder track but with more rewarding views, I feel. The more remote you get in the Highlands the better things look. Suilven's dramatic shape left me speechless. It was worth every second. The extraordinary shapes were very beautiful and utterly spectacular. A much more overwhelming experience in the mountains and a bigger sense of scale.

Broadford Bay, Isle of Skye

photo
Broadford Bay, Isle of Skye
© Shazia Mahmood

This painting is from Lower Breakish on Broadford Bay in Skye, looking out to the little island of Pabay and the Mainland. The huge expanse of beach and incredible views make Lower Breakish a must visit. I have to wait sometimes for the weather to move about but you don't have to wait long, it always breaks and then the views play for hours. Capturing moving light on the land for me is a real mission, it's about capturing the moment.

The Storr, Trotternish

The Old Man of Storr   © Shazia Mahmood
The Old Man of Storr
© Shazia Mahmood

The Old Man of Storr on Skye is a very spectacular place. I was surprised at how big the rocks are when you are up close. Then as you climb the views come into play. You can see the mainland looking across to the Five Sisters way in the distance; the layers of mountains and sea lochs are incredible. This painting is looking back over to southern Skye from the rocks at the top of the ridge. It's a fairly easy walk, so I could carry enough painting equipment to get loads done.

Inverie, Knoydart

photo
Knoydart, oil on canvas
© Shazia Mahmood

Knoydart was the first place I visited as an enthusiastic art student. I was 19 at the time, just about to finish my degree in Fine Art Painting. I realized when were in Glencoe at five in the morning having driven all night, like you do at 19, that Scotland was somewhere quite extraordinary. As an art student I was obsessive about landscape, and when I saw Knoydart that was it, I was hooked. Knoydart holds the key. The walks can be easy or hard, but they're always spectacular. Sitting right on the edge of the west coast, it is incredible. This is sunset from the Jetty at Inverie.

Storm approaching Torrin

Storm approaching Torrin, Isle of Skye  © Shazia Mahmood
Storm approaching Torrin, Isle of Skye
© Shazia Mahmood

From Torrin there are loads of amazing walks. This painting is from sitting on the water at the tip of Loch Slapin looking towards Rubha Suisnish. As you look from this point you can see miles out to sea, so in the distance the weather moves in slowly and because of the nature of where you are positioned you have time to witness storms or the moving weather conditions. For me that is beyond thrilling, getting the colours down as quickly as possible before it all changes again.

Sango Bay, Durness

Sango Bay, Durness  © Shazia Mahmood
Sango Bay, Durness
© Shazia Mahmood

At Sango Bay you can literally see the geological history right there in front of you, a volcano dropping big boulders on to the sea. The trails around here are again some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. As you walk around the boulders of enormous rocks you feel very strange. I have always been interested in geology but for a geologist and bird watcher this was the ultimate. The weather conditions were very gentle in comparison to the west coast, easy to sketch and incredibly inspiring.

The small isles from Glasnakille

The Small Isles from Glasnakille  © Shazia Mahmood
The Small Isles from Glasnakille
© Shazia Mahmood

As you walk from Elgol over to Glasnakille just following the coast, the Small Isles sit on the sea. They are so important for me to paint; as views go it doesn't get better than this, and the light on the islands is wonderful. You are looking miles out to sea and can watch all the light for miles. From this point the small isles Rum, Eigg, Canna, Sanday and Muck can be seen right across the west coast. I love the fact that the islands change all the time, the sea changes colour every few seconds the energy and light is beyond exciting. I have to draw quickly and get the colours down very quickly so that I can go back to the studio and try to recreate the same sense of energy and place of the view just witnessed.

Sketches done on location  © Shazia Mahmood
Sketches done on location
© Shazia Mahmood

Shazia Mahmood head shot  © Shazia Mahmood

Since graduating from my MA in Fine Art Painting in 1997 I have been painting for 19 years. The substance 'paint' has become so versatile and changed so much over the years that I am still finding new techniques to express and recreate my landscapes. For me Scotland has been the choice of place because of the beyond-inspiring places here: specifically Skye, the North West Highlands and the islands from Elgol. Capturing the extraordinary light on the landscape is my mission as a painter. Ultimately I want to show how modern day mediums have changed. Some of these paintings have taken a few years to do, building up layers and creating new ways of mixing mediums. The paintings are about capturing those small moments when you are looking at the landscape. As inspiration goes, Scotland never fails. I am always stunned and silenced by what I witness in the highlands. I hope this is what is captured in the paintings. I hope also that the techniques can express these small moments of light on this unimaginable land.

Sazia's work is currently showing in Aberdeen's Gallery Heinzel

For more see shaziamahmood.com



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7 Oct, 2016
Some of these images are wonderful, capturing the atmosphere and light of the NW superbly. The Suilven one is fabulous, and I like the atmosphere of the storm approaching Torrin.

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