Sarah Keast

Lost in the light of Iona

The weather has been gentle so far – no big storm but I am finding it very hard to draw here. I look at the landscape, look down to make some marks on my paper and then look up again and the light has completely changed and everything looks different. Not only that but my fingers get freezing really fast. I think the island is laughing at my efforts to capture it.  It is constantly shifting, producing one beautiful scene after another.  I am keeping a good sketchbook / diary and enjoying taking the time to work in that.


There is a huge hype about Iona being a special place, a thin place where people are closer to “God” or “heaven” or a “spiritual place”. It certainly has a feeling of being on the edge of the ocean and the quality of the light here is quite extraordinary. The land here feels benign, almost kind to me.  People have been making pilgrimage here for at 1400 years which is amazing to think about. I didn’t come here especially because it was Iona, more because of the residency opportunity seemed to meet my need and because it faces out to the Atlantic Ocean and is properly maritime. I have to acknowledge that my time here does feel very special.


Life in my little hut is becoming settled.   I listen to the sea and the geese at night. The bed is very cosy but once the heater is off the room temperature falls away. Mornings involve a quick dive out of bed to put the heater on followed by a retreat back under the covers until some warmth has built up in the room.   Company (in the form of the volunteers running the hostel and my host, John, is close at hand) so I am not lonely but have plenty space to get on with my work. I miss Roddy and the girls and my wider family but I phoned home today.

Losing things

The first thing I lost track of was the days. I very quickly found I had absolutely no idea of the day of the week. Then I lost my phone so had no way to tell the time of day except by the light (I am getting better at that).  I got a little bit lost on one of my wanders in part of the island called Sliabh Meadhonach, “The Great Loneliness”, although, once you find the sea again you can work out which way is up (it would be quicker to find the sea if one was just a little bit taller….there are lots of dips I kind of disappear into and a taller person would be able to see over the top). Now I seem to have lost my routine and find myself following my urge to work whatever the time of day. I am working for long unbroken stints then realise I missed lunch by several hours and am starving, or suddenly getting the urge to work late into the night and instead of feeling sleepy I am energised and focussed. This doesn’t seem to happen at home. I wonder if I am just not noticing these bursts of creative energy at home or if they are because I am here. I also wonder what I might be going to lose next ….

??????????????????????????????? seaweed 1 small

I have managed some initial prints. The first were using sea weeds with relief inks. They are just a bit of fun. A bit squishy (and smelly) to make. I had to protect the press with lots of newspaper. I may develop these images using screen printing once I am home. They might get incorporated into another work as well.   My somerset papers from St Cuthbert Mill stood up to this treatment very well, even taking some fronds of Laminaria digitalis without tearing (it was the most squishy).

drypoint 1 - 6 proofs


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