Art on Skye

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The Skye Arts Trail

Other than sheep, the Isle of Skye seems to have an abundance of talented artists, photographers, sculptures, potters and weavers.

The Skye and Lochalsh Arts and Crafts Association produce a wonderful book detailing galleries and studios throughout the Island, their location and the types of work on display.

We have used this guide over the past couple of years to visit many of these and of the 42 artists and galleries features in the guide we have visited or seen the work of over 30 and detail our highlights below:

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Skyescape Gallery

Skyescape Gallery is situated on the Harlosh Peninsular and features work predominantly by Russell Sherwood – owner and founder of the gallery – but also by a few other carefully selected photographers. We fell in love with Russell’s work the first time that we saw it being displayed in Dunvegan and had to make the trip to his gallery to see the quality of his other work which we found to be wonderful too. .

Russell is very welcoming and more than willing to impart advice and information on the equipment he uses and his workflow. He also offers tuition for a fee and although we have not used his services can only imagine that this is great value for money and worthwhile to employ his services.

Russell is a member of F4 – four likeminded photographers whose work is dominated by the landscape of Skye.

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Tim Wilcock Photography

Tim and his wife run the Grasmhor Bed and Breakfast near Dunvegan and in addition Tim is also a talented landscape photographer. Tim’s work can be seen at the bed and breakfast where he has a small gallery and like Russell Sherwood, is more than happy to discuss how and where he captures his images.

Tuition is also available which I can only imagine is superb and good humoured.

Tim is also a member of the F4 collective.

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Dandelion Designs and Images Gallery

This gallery is situated in the beautiful, small village of Stein on the Waternish peninsular next door to the Stein Inn – Skye’s oldest Inn.

It features the work of several artists – Liz, Pat and Cathy Myhill predominate but there is also work on display (and to buy) by John Viles and Marion McPhee to name but two. We were particularly struck by the work of Liz Myhill who produces some beautiful and arresting art.

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Ellishadder Art Café

One of our absolute favourites not just for the amazing food and drinks and service but also but the wonderful art work created by Stuart and Maggie Quigley the owners and operaters of the Café.

Stuart produces some stunning paintinsg and pencil drawings of Skye and Maggie weaves amazing rugs which are works of art in themselves.

Again, as we have found with most artists on the Island they are more than happy to discuss how they create their work and it really hits home how much work actually goes into their creations.

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Skyeline Ceramics

Skyeline Ceramics is situated in a very small workshop in Broadford. The workshop is renowed for the exquisitely crafted sculptures of sheep. The attention to detail is amazing and each of the small creations is unique giving them their own personality.

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John Bathgate – Dun Studio

John Bathgate’s studio is just outside of the town of Dunvegan and is a treasure trove of beautifully painted scenes of Skye. John is great company and, like most artists on Skye is happy to share his inspirations.

John uses various media including acrylics, oil, mixed media and collage to capture the atmosphere and grandeur of Skye’s landscape. His work is available in original form and limited edition prints.

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Alan Campbell

Alan is an incredibly gifted photographer based in Broadford. He exclusively uses medium format film to capture both dramatic and atmospheric images.

When you look has his work you appreciate the increased dynamic range and wonderful colour that it seems only film can capture.

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Nigel Grounds Gallery

Using bold, dramatic colours Nigel’s paintings are stunning in the way they capture Skye’s landscape. His gallery is probably the first you will encounter after leaving the Mallaig to Armadale ferry – it is literally 100 metres on the right hand side as you head towards the main road.

Nigel regularly exhibits his work in galleries across Scotland.

These are just a handful of the artists and photographers we have visited and our favourites so far. There are many to discover and we look forward to doing this on our future visits to Skye.

Links:

http://skyescapegallery.zenfolio.com/
http://www.timwilcock.com/
http://www.dandelion-designs.co.uk/
http://www.ellishadderartcafe.co.uk/
http://www.skyelineceramics.com/
http://www.dunstudio.com/
http://alan-campbell.com/
http://www.nigelgrounds.co.uk/

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It’s life Jim but not as we know it………

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So, following on from the initial Blog post…….

I returned home after work on a Friday afternoon to find a large box with Wharfedale and 80th Anniversary emblazoned on the side. The Denton’s had arrived.

I was naturally, eager to set them up and within no time at all had them had them connected to the new Yamaha A-S700 amplifier (where’s the Rega you may ask – that may be the subject of a separate post!).

But to back track I must mention the packaging. This is superb. The speakers were packed in their own cotton bag which was in turn packaged in heavy duty plastic bags. They were nestled firmly in Styrofoam inside a very well made cardboard box. There was also a plastic wallet in the box which contained a pair of cotton gloves, manual and a booklet detailing the history of Wharfedale. It may not sound like much but the way that a company cares for their products says a lot about their quality.

And in terms of build quality I was not disappointed. Every element from the veneer, to the binding posts and the way the 80th anniversary stickers are applied to the rear of the speakers oozed quality. They feel solid and have a reassuring heft to them. Very impressive.

And, so it was with hopes raised that I switched on the amplifier and started to put the speakers through their paces with some tracks that I am very familiar with. I didn’t have the Harbeth’s on hand for a direct comparison but their sound signature is so unmistakable to me differences in sound quality and presentation are straightforward to evaluate.

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The first song that I listened to was Broken Wings by Dougie Maclean from his Marching Mystery album. I must have listened to this song a hundred times or more over the years and never tire of it.

It is a simple track dominated by a bodrhan, acoustic guitar and Dougie Maclean’s voice. Even the most straightforward of tracks are easy to get wrong on some systems and this one is no exception.

Each of the instruments has their own part to play in moving the track forward. If the rhythmic, almost hypnotic drumming of the bodrhan becomes overblown or lost in the mix it loses it’s ability to act as the drive behind the song. The acoustic guitar needs to be clear and resonant, the chords should stand out from the mix with Dougie’s voice sounding plaintive with the burr of his beautiful Scottish accent coming through.

Needless to say the Harbeth’s get all of these elements to me perfectly balanced. The Denton’s offer a slightly different version of the truth so to speak. The first thing I noticed was that the bass response was deeper but this should be expected as the this is a ported design with a slightly bigger cabinet and bass driver.

The Bodrahn seemed bigger with more of a bass thud. It was also slightly “muddier” if that is a decent term to use and lost a little of it’s rhythm.

The acoustic guitar sounded warmer too with slightly less ring and resonance to the strings than I am used to. The Harbeths seem to hold onto the notes a little longer and the guitar comes across a little smaller but more akin to how a real acoustic guitar would sound. The Dentons offered a presentation where the guitar sounds slightly larger than life.

And so to the vocals. They came across with the Dentons as slightly more recessed. They didn’t get lost in the mix as I have heard them on some speakers but Dougie’s diction was slightly less clear. Not unpleasant. Just not as real as through the P3ESRs.

Denton rear

There’s a couple of things with the above – firstly I am comparing a speaker in the Denton’s that is a third of the price of the Harbeth’s. I am also comparing a “home” speaker with one that is essentially a “domesticated” studio monitor speaker which has to sound clear, precise and totally natural or it would be missing the designer’s brief by a wide margin.

Taken in isolation away from the “studio” presentation of the Harbeth and for the money the Dentons sound superb and are a wonderful loudspeaker.

I have tried them out on a wide range of material and at no time did they offend. They presentation of music is warm and graceful allowing the message of the music to come through.

Are they as good as the Harbeths? No – the Harbeth’s are significantly better and I cannot wait to be in a position to get my hands back on a pair of the P3ESRS. For other people though they could be just what they are looking for as you can listen to music for hours with no fatigue or irritation. If you listen to rock music then I would steer clear of them but then again I would say the same with the Harbeth’s.

To me the Harbeth’s present the truth albeit a smaller scale version. The Dentons are slightly bigger and warmer version of that truth that I can live with and not be constantly looking over my shoulder to a time when the Harbeth’s were in place which, to be honest, I never thought I would find at this price level. Throw in the fact that they are beautifully veneered and made and you have a speaker that you would struggle to significantly better for less than £1,000.

wharfedale 80th

Is there life after Harbeth?

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Harbeth P3ESR – in a league of their own.

If you read my previous review of the Harbeth P3ESR’s you can easily establish that I am huge admirer of these loudspeakers. In fact having owned dozens of pairs of speakers over the last 20 years including brands such as Proac, Linn, Living Voice, Tannoy, Gamut and Reference 3A to name but a few I have found that the little P3ESRS are the head and shoulders above the rest.

It was with some regret recently, then, that I had to sell my treasured Harbeth’s and opt for a cheaper speaker. The reasoning and detail behind this decision are no particualroy interesting so I won’t go into that here.

Bottom line is that with the Harbeth’s sold I had a budget of around £500 for a new pair of speakers. A considerable amount of money to some – friends wouldn’t dream of spending that on a whole system. But coming from such lofty heights I was concerned at what I would find at a price point almost exactly one third that of the P3ESR’s.

I also had a fairly simple and short criteria for the new speakers – somewhere between what I wanted and what my wife would accept.

Ideally the new entrants would be a stand mount and a similar size to the Harbeth’s and have an attractive real wood veneer.

I looked at many brands from Tannoy, Kef, Dali and Mission but couldn’t get excited by the looks nor the sound of any of them. Not a great start!

Doing some more research I came across a couple of reviews of the Wharfedale Denton. A limited edition update of a classic Wharfedale speaker.

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The Wharfedale Denton

They seem to have everything – decent wood veneer, not much bigger than the Harbeth’s and they also had an excellent heritage not only from the manufacturer but also the speaker itself. At £500 they were also within my budget.

As a bonus, having done some more research into the brand it seemed that they take a cradle to grave approach to manufacturing their speakers – designing and manufacturing their own cabinets, drive units and wiring themselves to retain control over every step of the process. They also, apparently, manufacture their own packaging to ensure that their products arrive in the condition they would expect.

Some more web trawling though unearthed a company in Bristol selling the speaker at a special offer price of £350 for a brand new pair. Despite the fact that hadn’t seen the speaker or heard it this seemed to be a bargain too good to miss. I don’t put too much faith in magazine reviews and star ratings but the one’s I read seemed to be consistent with describing the musical presentation of the Dentons and this suggested to me I would enjoy the speaker and so I ordered a pair and awaited their arrival with anticipation.
Part two to follow………..

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