South Iceland

And so began my last week in Iceland.

I’d booked a tour with a well known company to visit the southern areas of Iceland. It was extremely expensive but worth every cent. It was nice to meet new people and share some of my small knowledge about the country with them. The aurora was of particular interest to most. I like to explain to people that the aurora is like a cat: when visible, they’re amazing and you love them, but it’s always on their terms. Sometimes absent for long periods entirely, then they’ll scratch at the door to get in and a moment later, they’re demanding to be out again. Other times, they’re on your lap purring happily for hours. As with all things Icelandic, the aurora is capricious.

Our tour leader was a real character. It was like going on a road trip with Bill Murray, in both physical likeness and personality. He affectionately called us his ‘arseholes’ (in Icelandic). Oddly, no one seemed to mind.

We toured through the Golden Circle on Day One, visiting the tectonic plate meeting point between the Atlantic and Europe, Geyser and a few waterfalls, then headed to the south coast where we stopped at Seljalandsfoss, Gullfoss and Skógafoss, where the bus broke down. Luckily it was fixed and fine within an hour and a half and we simply enjoyed a nice meal at the restaurant in the interim. Back at the first hotel I endured the hot tub with a bunch of rowdy drunks and then caught another aurora display. They’ve been going nuts with the tear in the sun that happened about a week ago.

Day Two was the two Glacier Lagoons, the Black Diamond Beach and the Ice Cave. I’ve seen plenty of photos of all of these things and yet they still managed to outdo my expectations. Absolutely stunning all of it. It’s not obvious from my photos but some of those icebergs were five stories high and the ice really is that blue. Apparently, it’s caused by hundreds of years of compression. It’s pretty wonderful seeing the shapes they form and the lines of ancient volcanic ash running through them.

On Day Three we began the journey back to Reykjavic stopping first at a glacier on which we were to hike. It was fantastic. I was reminded of the old days when Sonya, Julian and I used to go rock climbing. I wanted to come back and do more. Being there and seeing the power of nature is awe inspiring. Once again, the photos just don’t give a sense of scale. After this, we visited the Black Beach and then stopped off at a little seaside town where we had a driver change. Those that opted for it stayed on to go aurora chasing. I stayed on to kill time before heading to the bus station for a transit to the airport. The aurora weren’t very strong that night, but I’m reasonably happy with my little churchyard photo. While waiting for the darkness, a few of us went into the bar directly behind the bus and I got chatting to locals. There was a male choir in town and they’d all just walked in after rehearsals for a quick dinner and drinks before the big performance. They sang all through their dinner. It sounded like a combination of soccer songs and poetic classics. Their voices were really lovely. That’s another thing about Iceland. They’re all musical and almost all of them can sing beautifully.

That night never ended for me. After all this, I was dropped off at the BSI terminal where I had a long wait before the first transit bus the the airport, followed by another long wait before my flight. Then a bus and train trip to Leeds from Manchester. 36 hours of travelling on next to no sleep wore me out.

And now I am no longer in Iceland.

I may post again of my travels, but the primary message was always just to describe my Icelandic adventure. If I don’t post again, thanks for reading and for your feedback. I’m glad I decided to produce this blog for you as it’s allowed me to reflect on the experience and it’ll be a useful tool when I head back into the Fremantle studio and start making serious work based on it all. Particular thanks must go to the team behind the NES Artist Residency and the people of Skagaströnd who initiated it. What a wonderful bunch of humans.

It’s been grand.

Takk fyrir and bless bless.


Farewell Skagaströnd


It’s been an emotional week. I’ve been mulling over whether to take up the opportunity to stay in Skagaströnd for six months working and painting or head home as always intended. Several 180 degree turns have been made in the process of deciding this. I’ve opted for sticking to my original plan. Not without several private teary eyed moments.

I’m currently in sitting in a hotel room on the south coast realising it’s blog night and I haven’t prepared anything. Partly because of the above and because I’ve had to prepare for another Opið Hús, pack up the studio  and house and, most importantly say farewell to a lot of people I’ve become quite fond of.  

I arrived expecting to be unhinged by the perpetual darkness. That didn’t happen. Instead, it was marvellous (and brief)! I depart surprisingly heavy hearted. Words just won’t cut it. I’ve been scrolling through a mountain of pictures and have decided to dedicate this blog to silly happy snaps of the people I’m leaving behind. Some of the best are missing from the photos sadly. Though not recorded, definitely not forgotten. And, yeah, I know there’s no shots of us actually doing any work. We did work…..Honest.

Bless bless x



I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change recently. It’s always in the back of my mind and I try to do my best to reduce my own contributions but lately it has moved to the forefront of my thinking. Recently a friend posted this on his facebook wall:

Never in living memory has an Icelander experienced a winter so remarkably like a summer. I’m no native, but even I am profoundly aware of that this is far from normal. It was 14c in the Eastfjords a few days back. The average temperature in Skagaströnd for February has been about 6c. I’ve laid on the grass at the back of the studio a few times watching beautiful sunsets in jeans and shirt. No hat, no gloves, no scarf. I shouldn’t be able to see the grass, let alone be comfortable lying on it.


Meanwhile, here’s a few odd things that I’ve discovered in the last few weeks that amuse me.

  1. I didn’t see a shadow for the entirety of January. Shadows simply ceased to exist.
  2. Mountains covered in snow can stand beside oceans. I first ‘discovered’ this as an anomaly when I visited South Korea two years ago, so it’s not entirely unfamiliar, but still notable when in your own reality, the two should be far apart.
  3. Waterfalls can fall into the ocean, not just continue as rivers. This had never occurred to me before! In Iceland, they do it all the time.
  4. When driving at night, I catch myself scanning the edges of the road, super focussed, only to realise nothing’s going to hop in front of my car. So I relax. Then I start scanning again. And again. And again. It’s just so ingrained.
  5. Related to the above. I’ve never seen any roadkill of any kind. Nor any birds feasting on said roadkill taking off as my car approaches.
  6. Iceland doesn’t have trees. Other artists from different parts of the world respond strongly to this. To me, after years living in the Pilbara and having driven across the Nullabor, it’s perfectly natural.
  7. When I speak my few words of Icelandic, I’ve discovered I have a northern accent.  The other day for the first time, I was spoken back to (twice!) in rapid Icelandic and had to apologetically explain that I don’t actually speak the language. Sitting in a hot tub in Olafsvik, a local then taught me how to say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Icelandic.”  I must be getting a bit better at it. Doesn’t stop the Skagaströnd locals laughing at my attempts though.
  8. The time between sunrise and sunset increases by around 15-20 minutes per day. Plus twilight. At the time of writing this, we are now well over 9 hours of daytime. It was 3 when I arrived on January 2nd. I’m used to about a 2 minute variation and a twilight that’s like a light switch.
  9. If I had ADHD, I wouldn’t visit Iceland. It’s just too stimulating. Overwhelmingly so. As a fellow artist said last night, “It’s like visiting the Tate. You just get so overwhelmed, you have to leave without seeing it all.”
  10. Lot’s of parts of Iceland have their own micro climates. Driving back and forth through Olafsvik a few nights ago was like driving the Millenium Falcon in Hyperspace mode. 3km either side of the town was just normal night driving. No snow, rain, hail or anything. This happens all the time all over the country.


The images in this week’s blog are all of Snaefellsnes. Ask me how to pronounce it when I get home. We got lucky here with snow on the second day. On arriving, we enjoyed seeing the brilliant green mosses that grow all over the lava fields, waking the next to find the green transformed to white. Brilliant sunshine was followed up with rainbows and snow showers. There’s much I could say about Snaefellsnes but to be honest, it gets hard to put into words.


This is my last full week in Skagaströnd. I must leave by Tuesday 28th at the latest. It’s crept up mighty fast.  I was invited stay on and work at the local restaurant, using the upstairs space as a private art studio. After 10 days agonising over it, I’ve decided not to take the opportunity. Although I know it’s the right decision, I can’t help feeling teary eyed about it. I’ve made some great friends here and leaving them behind is going to be bittersweet.

Aurora & Þorrablót


No doubt as you’re all back at work and sick of my happy posts about snow, aurora and other such nonsense, you probably won’t bother clicking on this link. If you do, I give you permission to hate on me for five minutes. Then go sign up for the salary sacrifice deal and do a great payback in a few year’s time. You won’t regret it! With everyone back at work, I finally feel like I’m on leave, not just summer break. Being a full time artist again just feels ‘right’.

This week’s highlight was most definitely Þorrablót  (pronounced Thorablot). It’s an annual excuse for a massive party that stops the whole of Iceland for a night. It is characterised by a smorgasbord of foods most of you would never want to eat, but are loved by the majority of Icelanders. It includes the following: fermented shark chased by a shot of Brennivin, boiled sheep heads sawn in half saggitally, sheep testicles and cheeks in jelly squares, fish jerky, fermented whale fat, more fermented shark, peas, apple purée, mashed potato and geyser bread. And yes, I ate the lot. Along with almost an entire bottle of gin. The whole town turned out in their best dresses and suits looking sharp. The local Rep group did a series of thoroughly rehearsed performances taking the piss out of their own for the various silly things done over the last twelve months. Even without getting the language quips, I found it hilarious. Following that was a band that played all the classics for three hours straight. I danced every song with fellow artists and locals alike and had a great time.

Beyond that, I’ve just been having fun in the studio working on more colour studies and getting in more practise taking photos with the new camera. It’s more than paid for itself. We’ve had several good nights of auroras to photograph of varying intensity, shape and speed. Sometimes I photograph them, sometimes I prefer just watch and enjoy the moment.

Aly rented a car the other day on a whim and took a few of us on some short trips. We did the drinks run to Blönduós in prep for Þorrablót, took another trip up to Kálfshamarsvik lighthouse and then scooted across to Gretislaug hot pot, returning via Sauðárkrókur, set of the tv series of Trapped. We missed Gretislaug the first time we tried to get there because the deep snow made the road impassable. Some other artists had been since and said it was disappointingly tepid, so we had low expectations. How wrong! What a marvellous place! Piping hot steam seeped in via the ground in true volcanic fashion while the sound of ocean surf crashed on two sides of us with snow capped mountains on our flank. Stunning, hot, isolated and totally ours and ours alone. We will definitely be going back again!


Skagaströnd musings



Recently we had a day so full of glorious sunshine and gently rolling surf that I experienced a strange sense of cognitive dissonance. The sea beckoned invitingly, and my desire to dip into it was very strong. Yet, like Caravaggio’s Bacchus, it’s invitation comes at a cost. To have done so would have resulted in the instant pain of frostbite. And yet, I continually felt the desire to dive into the waves and enjoy the bliss of a sunny afternoon at the beach. In contrast with Perth’s immutably blue skies, I can’t help but be spellbound at how Iceland’s weather, light and views are capricious and compelling in equal measure in rapid transitory bursts.

Living so tuned to the environment in such a remote place far from everywhere is proportionately inverse to the storm clouds gathering across the globe in response to Trump’s first week in office. As I fully expected, he’s delivering on all his promises, not offering ‘truth’ but ‘intent’. I feel cocooned here and I’m grateful for it, though it directly impinges on my serenity in communications with Iranian and American friends already effected by his madness.


Aurora Borealis


We’ve all been patiently watching the aurora forecasts waiting for a chance to see the northern lights. Finally, last night we had a “5” rating, clear skies and light winds. They appeared around 9pm and we all dashed outside to watch. Distinct bands of light floated over the port lasting about 1/2 an hour.  Around 1am I headed for the creek at the edge of town where there’d be less light pollution and some interesting forms in the foreground to photograph.

It’s difficult to describe the joy and sense of wonder watching these things as they gently glide across the sky. It’s one of those moments where you’re truly present to the ‘now’ and time evaporates.