Skye: Island of Dreams

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Anthony Rybek (UK)

Having lived on the Isle of Skye since 2007, I consider myself to be very fortunate to have every day opportunities to fulfil my hunger for the wilderness, natural world and two of my greatest passions, fossil hunting and geology. So, it was of no surprise to me that, during these times immersed in this dramatic and mostly unspoiled landscape, yet another passion would evolve – oil painting.

Fig. 1. Anthony Rybek, working on a painting.

Like all my pursuits, I am self-taught and, as I began to learn and practice painting techniques, it soon became clear that I had a degree of aptitude for this art form. I found it similar to my earliest fossil hunting trips where, once I tasted success and the thrill of discovering new and amazing fossils, the desire to learn more and improve my skills grew deeper and deeper. My painting is no different.

It wouldn’t take long before the subject matter for my landscape paintings would cross paths with fossil hunts and geology. Skye has an abundance of iconic geological landmarks and I feel privileged to have a basic understanding of the geological processes that help shape these formations. And it is these dramatic scenes that are the main influence of many of my paintings.

The Trotternish Ridge

In the northern half of Skye, this is the dominant feature of the Trotternish Ridge, which runs like the spine of an ancient creature between the islands capital Portree and the infamous Quiraing in the north. Huge sills of tertiary basalt have slowly slipped and stepped their way upon the underlying Jurassic sedimentary rocks. A combination of past glaciation and the constant erosion has led to many dramatic and now iconic features.

Fig. 2. The Storr, Trotternish Ridge.

The Storr pinnacles and the slips, stepping plateaus and pinnacles of Quiraing, with grand titles like ‘The Table’, Prison and the ‘Needle’, are a ‘must see’ for all visitors to Skye.

Fig. 3. Quiraing.
Fig. 4. The Needle, Quiraing.

The north-eastern shoreline, which runs horizontally with the Trotternish Ridge, has many fossil bearing rocks, although not all are easily accessible. Rigg, Brothers Point and the Staffin Slipway have revealed dinosaur footprints and disarticulated dinosaur bones, and many can be seen in the Staffin Museum. Perhaps the most famous fossil site is at Berreraig and was the chosen subject for one of my very early efforts with oil paints, and I had the privilege and honour of it gracing the front cover of Issue 44 of Deposits magazine (Fig. 1). This is one of the best places to see the sills of vertical basalt columns resting on the horizontal middle Jurassic sediments. Kilt Rock is another great viewpoint for this feature, but it is at Berreraig that the fossil-bearing rocks are accessible.

Fig. 5. The cover to Issue 44 – Berreraig.

The Cuillin range

The most famous and arguably most impressive landscape on Skye must be the Cuillin mountain range. Travellers from near, far and wide visit Skye to either climb, walk, paint, study or just sit and marvel at the majesty of these impressive peaks. There aren’t many places on Skye where the Cuillin peaks are not visible, unless they are smothered in bad weather.

Fig. 6. The ‘In Pin’ or ‘Inaccessible Pinnacle’ (the actual summit of Sgùrr Dearg) on the Cullin ridge.

Contrary to the belief that the Cuillin range is an extinct volcano, it’s actually the glacially worn and frost-shattered remains of magma chamber that once fed several volcanos long since eroded away. Basalts, gabbro and granites are the order of the day and provide some of the best, if not challenging, climbing and views anywhere in the world. But, be warned. This is not a playground for the ill-prepared day tripper. Only experienced and/or guided climbers and walkers dare venture up these Munros. Not a year goes by, when there are no mountain rescues or worse. However, most of my paintings are commissioned and some of the famous Munro peaks are often requested subjects by my clients. Some can be seen here.

Fig. 7. Sgurr nan Gillean, Pinnacle ridge, Cuillin.

My advice to you all would be to place the Isle of Skye high on your bucket list. From the geology and fossils, hillwalking or climbing, as an artist or a photographer, the drama, peace and serene beauty of this Scottish island will not disappoint. Sure, we get rain and often in abundance, but it is this diverse weather that has helped to shape this land I call home. With the appropriate attire and common sense, you won’t be disappointed with the misty Isle of Skye.

Fig. 8. Sgurr Alisdair – the highest point on the Cuillin ridge and the Island of Skye.

Feel free to send a request to join my Facebook group Anthony Art or send me an email at: , should you see any paintings on my group that you may have an interest in.

Fig. 9. Fairy Pools, Cuillin.

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