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Orkney Workshop

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participants sketching out their designs

Introduction to Project and Collection Material

At the beginning of each day, participants were given a brief introduction to RCAHMS. They were given the opportunity to explore a range of drawings (both historic and modern), photographs and books from RCAHMS collections that depict the development, history and influences on Orkney’s maritime heritage. These explorations were designed to allow each individual to consider their own personal views and experiences of Orkney’s maritime heritage and how they would interpret these into an artistic piece.

Generic Learning Outcomes
  • Knowledge & Understanding
  • Attitudes & Values
Learning Outcomes
  • Understanding and appreciating the importance of the role of RCAHMS
  • Knowledge of different aspects of Orkney’s maritime heritage
  • Making links between fact, history and personal experience

Large Scale Group Painting

Following their introduction to the collections material, participants were invited to create a group painting that reflected their interpretation of that. Each person took turns to make a mark or image on a large-scale canvas (with the opportunity to paint over or alter another person’s mark) and the final image was built up using this organic process. A different theme was covered each day and these included Boats (shipping, fishing and emigration), War (wartime coastal defence structures, Scapa Flow) and the Sea as a Battleground, Outside Influences (oil industry, visitors and the future) and finally, Danger at Sea (lighthouses, lifeboats and wrecks).

Generic Learning Outcomes
  • Skills
  • Enjoyment, inspiration, creativity
Learning Outcomes
  • Learning new and developing existing skills in painting
  • Developing communication skills through working as a group
  • Being creatively inspired through the collection material and experimenting with new ways of depicting images

Individual Painting & Monoprinting

Following completion of their group painting, participants produced their own individual paintings and mono-prints based on the day’s theme. These allowed participants to experiment with new art techniques and provided them with the freedom to explore their individual creativity. As well as using the collections material as reference, the participants could also bring their own knowledge of Orkney’s maritime heritage to their pieces, resulting in some highly individual and personal pieces.

Generic Learning Outcomes
  • Skills
  • Enjoyment, inspiration, creativity
  • Activity, behaviour, progression
Learning Outcomes
  • Developing skills in new artistic techniques
  • Being inspired by personal experience
  • Being inspired to try new techniques and further explore the islands’ heritage after the workshop had finished


On the evening of the final day of the workshop, friends and family of the participants were invited to view an exhibition of the weeks work. The four group paintings produced were mounted on an internally lit frame and formed the centrepiece of the exhibition. The individual pieces were digitised and projected onto the wall with a lighthouse-like pulse, providing the exhibition space itself with a maritime themed ambience. Many of the participants assisted with the hanging of the exhibition and preparing image captions.

Further Development

Many of the participants were inspired to try the new art techniques they learned in their own time and, although most had a good basic knowledge of the heritage of the Orkney Islands, they realised that there is always more to find out.