Winter in Orkney with Jane!

Posted by Sacha Wright on

Every year I always look forward to winter in Orkney. It is my special 'quiet' time when all the visitors have gone and the beaches are only there for me and the dog to wander. This year of course it is a little bit different. We haven't  seen the visitors we normally see and Orkney has been at times almost as quiet in the summer as it is in the winter. In the summer I often find it hard to paint the plain bright blue sky which takes up so much of the Orkney view but in the winter the skies are wild with rushing clouds and wintry colours. The sea becomes hazy and frothy beating along the rocks of the shoreline and cliffs. I thought it would be nice to choose a selection of winter pictures from my website and share the wild Orkney winter with you especially since I know a lot of you have missed Orkney this year!

Watercolour by Jane Glue of Rainstorm over North Birsay

'Rainstorm at North Birsay' was painted on one of those wild Orkney days when the sea spume raised above the cliffs in the north and the waves rolled in over the rocks beside the causeway across to the Brough. The colours were made up of purples mixed with blues, even in this wild weather the sunlight lit up the land around the coast. No one there just me and the dog. On the day I painted 'Winter sunlight at The Ring of Brodgar' you could hardly hear a pin drop, the stillness was intense, no wind! and the reflections in the loch were so pure in the sunlight, the stones stood upright reaching to the sky as if they had been with us always and of course they have!

Snow and Stones, Brodgar

Orkney doesn't often get much snow but over the years I have painted Orkney snow scenes several times. Snow is a great subject to paint and comes in all shades of white whether it is a sunset such as 'Sunset in the snow' or a daytime snow scene such as 'April snow clouds, Orkney'. I have also painted 'The Standing stones in the snow'  and 'Snow and stones, Brodgar' along with 'Sheep in the snow, Stenness, Orkney' all with varying amounts of snow in each painting.

Sheep in snow with Hoy Hills in background


If I am working in watercolours I always leave the paper blank for the snow, adding in touches and washes of colour if need be to create the light and shade. Working with acrylics is different such as in 'Forgotten cottage in the snow' where I worked in the opposite way from watercolour painting and instead of saving the white of the paper I add on the acrylic white last over the other colours.

 John Rae - Explorer

I have also painted several pictures around the topic of Dr John Rae the arctic explorer who was born at Clestrain in Orphir and discovered The North West passage in Northern Canada and the fate of the lost Sir John Franklin voyage in the arctic. My picture 'A tribute to Dr John Rae the arctic explorer' is of the house Clestrain but with a twist. The house is set amongst snow as if in the arctic surrounded by John Rae's belongings and memories. I used a lot of mixed media in the painting along with acrylics for the snow. 'The Hoy Hills with Clestrain in the snow' is a watercolour with John Raes birth place in the foreground and The Hoy Hills in the background covered with a layer of bright white snow. Other snow scenes in my winter collection include 'Snow in Kirkwall with St Magnus cathedral, Orkney', 'Dundas crescent, Kirkwall in the snow' and 'Snowy day, Stromness, Orkney' all are townscapes but with totally different colour values.

Northern Lights over the Ring of Brodgar Watercolour by Jane Glue

One of the most spectacular sites in winter are the northern lights. They do appear quite often but you do have to be in the right place at the right time! 'Northern lights' was painted from a photograph given to me by a friend which was very nice of him! The lights come in all different shades of purples, pinks, blues and greens. 'Northern skies at The Ring of Brodgar' is another Northern lights painting but with more dark purples than pinks and greens. 'Orkney abstract' was very much a game changer as far as my painting goes. It was painted from my imagination and depicts a very wild winters day. Around this time I started to paint in a more abstract way and I found myself heading in a different direction than before. Watch this space! and I hope that you all have a pleasant winter during these difficult times.

For the full collection go to:

I think this poem by the Orkney poet Robert Rendall encompasses some of my feelings around winter.

Birsay in Winter

No, it is not the wealth of summer flowers,

Eyebright and sea-pink, or the drifts of


Heaped by the waves-though these delight

me well-

That inter fuse with joy the timeless hours.

Even in winter, when the driving showers

Sting hands and face, and the long Atlantic


Murmurs with menacing floods, I feel the


Of this wild coast, and its mysterious powers.


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