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Colours Tell a Story Too

A long time ago while researching the histories the drovers roads I read about the plaid worn by the men, the kilts were the long type with the over the shoulder draping, now separate and known as fly plaid. The men didn't carry bedding, their plaids were their protection against the cold nights, they wrapped up and slept, often outside, in were what they were wearing.

As part of the story I need to be able to tell people about this. Without using words I need viewers to know how important those items of clothing were, how they not only protected the men but gave them a sense of belonging and heritage as they travelled so far from home. The idea of the different tartans passing by here intrigues me and I started trying to work out ways of using the tartans in the landscape. My initial sketches disappointed, it felt post punk, dated and contrived. I couldn't work out a way of getting the patterns, colours, warp and weft into a visual story without it being well.. icky!

Then I hit on the idea of using just the colours of the different clan tartans. I researched clans, areas of Scotland and then used Locharron of Scotland (tartan manufacturers) website to find the colours and patterns. I broke those down into those tartans that had double or single thin lines, blocks of different colouring, percentage of colours used in each tartan, thinking all the time that I would use those as the way forward, that they would be the colours and marks I'd make in the paintings.

Mathewson red tartan painting
Matheson tartan

Then I got too bogged down. There were too many tartans, too much choice. I could paint anything, I could paint perfectly normal landscapes with a perfectly normal colour palette or go right off piste, I could do whatever I liked. That didn't feel right.

So I went back to the Locharron of Scotland website and bought their craft pack of ancient tartans. The overwhelming choice was gone, I was going to work with what they sent me and I didn't have any say in that.

So now I'm trying to work out how to increase the percentage of red in the paintings I make using the ancient tartan of the Matheson's of Lochalsh, who also have greens, purples and blues in those threads.

Dundas blue tartan painting
Dundas tartan

The blues, greens and darks of the Dundas tartan of the lands of West Lothian are there in the painting, the double red lines now need to be added. How.. showing what? I've not worked that bit out either yet... but now I know colour tells the story.

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