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Covid in Scotland: Sketching 'a beacon of light' during lockdown

image copyrightProf Alan Dunlop
image captionSun rising on the Isle of May lighthouse in one of Prof Alan Dunlop's sketches

Architect Professor Alan Dunlop has spent weeks filling sketchbooks with dozens of detailed drawings of lighthouses.

Sketching has always formed part of his job, but with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting much of his work he has turned to other subjects.

image copyrightProf Alan Dunlop
image captionA sketch of Sanda lighthouse on the Kintyre peninsula with seals on the beach below

Last year, he created a visual diary of his family's life under 2020's lockdown.

He packed three A4-size sketchbooks with drawings of scenes inside and outside the family home in the Queen Elizabeth Forest, near Aberfoyle.

Now he has turned his focus to lighthouses.

image copyrightProf Alan Dunlop
image captionShetland's Muckle Flugga lighthouse

"I've been interested in lighthouses for years," said Prof Dunlop.

"And yes they are intended as beacons for our time.

"The sketch of the sun rising on the Isle of May particularly was my Christmas and New Year message to friends and clients with the message: 'A beacon of hope for 2021'."

image copyrightAlan Dunlop
image captionThis sketch of Bell Rock lighthouse, which was built off the Angus coast, is one of Prof Dunlop's favourites

Prof Dunlop has focused on Scottish lighthouses designed by famous Scottish civil engineer Robert Stevenson and his descendants, including sons Alan, David and Thomas - father of Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped.

The architect has been interested in lighthouses for years, describing them as "extraordinary civil engineering projects" which are built in "often the most dangerous but stunning locations".

image copyrightProf Alan Dunlop
image captionProf Dunlop working on one of his sketches

He said: "The supreme examples are Bell Rock by Robert Stevenson, Skerryvore by his son Alan Stevenson and Muckle Flugga by his other sons, David and Thomas Stevenson.

"All are incredible feats of building and truly engineering wonders of their age and still standing."

image copyrightAlan Dunlop
image captionDubh Artach, a lighthouse built on basalt rock off the Ross of Mull

Prof Dunlop has visited many of the Stevenson lighthouse over the last 30 years, photographing and sketching them.

For his sketchbooks, he has used several images of each lighthouse as references and added in the landscapes they sit in along with some of the wildlife that visits Scotland's coast, including dolphins, basking sharks and sea eagles.

image copyrightAlan Dunlop
image captionA basking shark is a feature of Prof Dunlop's drawing of Argyll's Barra Head lighthouse

Prof Dunlop said drawing kept him "active, sharp, thinking" and helped to hone skills needed for his job.

But he said sketching through the current lockdown felt very different from last time, amid the winter weather and fresh concerns about rising cases.

"For some people the start of the last lockdown almost felt like a month-long holiday. It was spring-time and the weather was good and people were able to get outside and enjoy it," he said.

"But today it's dreich and the rain is battering against the window."

image copyrightAlan Dunlop
image captionA colourful sketch of Rattray Head lighthouse in Aberdeenshire

Related Topics

  • Lighthouses
  • Art
  • Aberfeldy
  • Architecture