Ness-based artist Anthony J Barber’s pen and ink and watercolour sketches of Lewis and Harris in ‘Drawn to the Edge: A Lewis and Harris Sketchbook’ capture the moods and weather of the island throughout the seasons, from wild winter storms to pristine summer days.

The book is a visual journey the length and breadth of ‘the Long Island’, from the Butt of Lewis to Rodel, taking in iconic locations as well as more domestic subjects that signal the nature of ‘life on the edge’.  

The artist’s diary notes give glimpses into what it is like to live and work in this remote island community.  Two ‘Diary Entries: “A power cut on Christmas Day due to power lines being damaged by strong wind. Some friends call around (who usually go away for Christmas) and we try to make the best of it by playing board games by candlelight. Not the Christmas Day that any of us had planned but enjoyable enough.  However, our friends vow never to spend Christmas on the island again.

“An article in the press reports that the Thailand Tourist Board has used a photograph of a beach in the Outer Hebrides with white sand, turquoise sea and distant hills to promote its own resorts.  A spokeswoman for VisitScotland is quoted as graciously saying that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.”

Anthony’s 24 years in Port of Ness have inspired him as an artist.  Sketches of sweeping beaches and vertiginous cliffs are complemented by subjects which evoke island life – stacked peats drying for fuel, croft houses with their back to the sea view (to withstand gales), doughty harbour walls, lighthouses, boats and marine paraphernalia.

Barber’s unfussy sketches of Lewis and Harris often become the inspiration for his paintings.

Anthony J Barber was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1962.  He studied Architecture and Design to post-graduate level in West Yorkshire.  During this time he sketched and painted both in Yorkshire and on Scotland’s West Coast and Islands.

He has had work selected for and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW) and Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) exhibitions at the National Gallery for Scotland, Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) and Discerning Eye exhibitions at the Mall Galleries, London.

He also supplies prints and greeting cards to shops and galleries throughout the U.K. His original paintings are in private collections in the U.K, Europe, U.S.A and Australia.

His love of islands took over in 1994 with a move to the Isle of Lewis, where he and his wife settled at Port of Ness.

“We’d regularly been to Skye and visited most of the islands down the west coast, but the first time we came to Lewis, as clichéd as it sounds, something just struck a chord,” he says.

“I think because it was so remote and far from the mainland compared to others that it feels like a proper island as such; and for us it wasn’t just a ‘tourist’ island, but people lived and worked here.”

Anthony continued: “It was the landscape and the light to begin with that inspired me to paint up here – and that’s never changed. Even driving through different areas of Lewis, the landscape differs so much, I’m never stuck for inspiration.”

Publication date: Monday 20 August 2018
Drawn to the Edge: A Lewis and Harris Sketchbook 
by Anthony J Barber - paperback £7.99; hardback £12.99