Cairngorms Connect Monitoring Office Ellie Dimambro-Denson creates beautiful art inspired by her work with nature. In this blog she explores how the Cairngorms inspires her creative side.

Art in the Cairngorms 

The Cairngorms Beyond Abernethy Forest
The Cairngorms Beyond Abernethy Forest, February 2019

The Cairngorms have a sense of both peace and grandeur in the lofty peaks and ancient forests. I have been living in the Cairngorms for a large proportion of the last 15 months, first as a volunteer monitoring intern at RSPB Abernethy and now as monitoring officer for Cairngorms Connect, walking often through the forests and hills of the Cairngorms for surveys and adventures. Art and the natural world have always fascinated me and I often look for ways to tie the two together. Spending time within this never static, ever changing landscape has become such a wonderful source of inspiration, watching its transformation shift through seasons, moods and lights.

There are some things it seems almost impossible to capture in the moment. Photos capturing but a fractural of the larger picture. To comprehend the landscape of the Cairngorms, as with all things requires all your senses and attention. The low winter light on the mountains, dusted with fresh snow highlighting every crevice and vibrant ledge. The northern lights flickering across a deep velvety winter sky aglow with stars. Ephemeral encounters with wildlife catching you by surprise – a wheatear narrowly missing your head as you sit in a sheltered bank sketching the peaks beyond, so close you can hear it’s wings beat, a sign spring has truly begun to return. Or a close encounter on a distant rainy hilltop with a golden eagle while returning from survey work, standing metres away, both caught by surprise. Moments that take away your breath or seem too much to take in. It is often impossible to capture through photos or describe through words, but I’ve found it can be compelling to try and record and interpret it, and so I try to create. It forces you to pay attention, to notice details it would be all to easy to overlook. To give a new sense of perspective in all it’s beauty and complexity. From the way the light falls across the peaks rising above the plateau to the details from the scales of moth wings viewed through a hand lens.

Paintings and field notes of moths caught during survey work for Cairngorms Connect, April 2019.
Paintings and field notes of moths caught during survey work for Cairngorms Connect, April 2019.

Through sketching and painting the surrounding landscape or encounters with wildlife, I always seem to find there is more to see. It forces your attention and perspective to see beyond your initial glance. And by focusing your attention, you feel as if a part of the landscape and connected to and by it. It’s a gentle reminder that you are here and a part of this bigger whole. That we are all a part of the natural world, however distant we may feel.

Below are a series of sketches and paintings from my time in the Cairngorms:

encounter with a golden eagle
A close encounter with a golden eagle on a remote hill top while returning from an overnight moth survey one rainy morning, May 2019.

Watching the Aurora with a friend below the milky way and a shooting star, December 2018.
Watching the Aurora with a friend below the milky way and a shooting star, December 2018.

Sketching the Cairngorms from a sheltered spot of Meall a’ Bhuachaille, April 2019.
Sketching the Cairngorms from a sheltered spot of Meall a’ Bhuachaille, April 2019.

Field notes and illustrations from learning to identify plants in Caledonian pine forests, August 2018.
Field notes and illustrations from learning to identify plants in Caledonian pine forests, August 2018.

Watching the sun rise over a high mountain loch while surveying for ptarmigan, May 2018.

Watching the sun rise over a high mountain loch while surveying for ptarmigan, May 2018.

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