Letter from Eryri in the rain
Back at the tail end of September, Husb and I took a break for a few days to visit North Wales, swapping warm and gentle Swansea Bay for the massive unpredictability of Eryri.
Such a gorgeous part of Wales. The weather, however, wasn’t gorgeous, it poured with rain most of the time we were there.
The upside is that the atmosphere was amazing, soft and smudgy, almost but not quite monochromatic and ideal for my black sketchbook and Sennelier soft pastels.
Waking up to torrential rain and gale force winds, Husb and I decided to ditch the planned walk along mountain paths and opt for a steam train ride from Caernarfon up the mountains to the legendary village of Beddgelert.
It was pouring and windy outside, but we were cosy on the little train, sipping hot tea as it puffed its way up through magnificent scenery.
It’s a nice way to do some sketching too.
I’ve been wanting to use this black sketchbook for ages, I tried one or two things in gouache and they didn’t work out, but these soft pastels are great.
I peeled most of the paper off and used them on their side to get that blunt, blocky feel to the sketches that was similar to the Eryri landscape.
This drawing was done at the height of the storm, the massive peaks disappeared in a chaos of whites and greys, yet the sun illuminated the vivid green vegetation nearest the train.
This sketch is abstract because that’s how the landscape, momentarily, seemed to be.
I guess this must be a bit like what the artist Turner saw. But not from a lovely little steam train though.
After a steep and spectacular climb up the mountains, Husb and I had a break in Beddgelert and the storm eased off while we were there.
We strolled through the historic village and were stunned by the ferocity of the two rivers that meet there, Afon Colwyn and Afon Glaslyn.
The recent storms had created a maelstrom of torrents where the two rivers surge together, one brown and muddy and the other clear and dark.
After a pot of tea in the village cafe, we boarded the tiny steam train again and set off back across the mountains.
Travelling back to Caernarfon, the storm was lifting and although the winds were still high, the rain stopped and a strange light flooded Eryri, backlighting the mountains.
I worked very quickly into my black sketchbook with the soft pastels, held on their side flat against the paper, which gives a very definite texture against the smooth surface.
Here’s the last of my Eryri sketches, as we left the mountains on our journey back to the coast and Caernarfon.
This vista had an extraordinary bright torrent of waterfall tumbling down the dark rocks, set against a weirdly gleaming sky.
It was a great day out, sketching the chaotic weather from the comfort of the little train.
I had been struggling to find a medium and subject that suited my black paper sketchbook and these pastels and the rugged mountains of Eryri are just perfect for it.
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