Born: July 3, 1939;

Died: May 2, 2021.

PAT Semple, who has died at the age of 81, was an instinctive and imaginative artist whose paintings have been described by her friend and fellow artist, Helen Denerley, as “unfiltered reflections of a life lived full of love, pain and friendship”.

Widely recognised by peers as a painter of skill and originality, in a letter to Denerley written last summer, Semple reminisced about her childhood roaming wild around Saddell Bay in Kintyre. “I have never forgotten the place visually it can be seen in my head still me looking out to the horizon,” she said. “In fact that is what my whole life has been about. Can I get to The Horizon? So even when I melt into the distance I’m still there floating about.”

Many of the landscape paintings she would go on to create would be framed around looking to a distant point at which there is more than one horizon.

Andrew Clarke, one of four adult stepsons Pat acquired upon her marriage to the painter Derek Clarke in 1992, described Semple at her funeral as being possessed of a “fresh, clear ethereal beauty”.

“Ethereal is a very apt word for Pat, from the otherworldly intensity of her face, to the selkies, mermen, spirits and sea creatures that lurked so intriguingly just below the surface of so many of her works”, he observed.

Patricia Semple was born in Bromley, Kent, on July 3, 1939, two months before the outbreak of the Second World War, to Frances and Neil Semple. Her father, a native of Kintyre, was a radio officer in the merchant navy.

Both her parents were largely absent in her childhood; her father spent long periods away at sea, while her sickly mother was in a nursing home for long stretches at a time. Her mother died of tuberculosis when she was 11 years old.

Pat’s early years were spent mostly with her paternal grandmother, Marion Semple, widow of a farmer, in a small cottage with a corrugated roof on the shore to the south of Saddell Bay, Kintyre. Left largely to her own devices, from the age of three she would roam freely. She rarely attended primary school, apart from periods when an aunt or a cousin would step in and attempt to impose educational stability.

She displayed drawing talent from a young age and grew up in her own world, taking in the wildlife and beach-combing on the shore at Saddell Bay. This stretch of shoreline, across the Kilbrannan Sound from Arran, would go on to become world-famous when Paul McCartney and Wings filmed a video there for their multi-million selling single, Mull of Kintyre, in 1977.

Her talent for drawing and painting was spotted by an art teacher at secondary school and she was encouraged to apply for art school. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1958 to 1964, occasionally under the watchful eye of Derek Clarke, whom she would go on to marry three decades later.

Although she loved art school and made many friends there, including the painter, Barbara Rae, she was always drawn to the sea and Scotland’s wilder terrain.

In 1970, Pat married the sculptor Frank Pottinger, and they moved to the Torphins area of Aberdeenshire, where she took up teaching, a vocation that suited her restless but nurturing nature.

She always painted but it was really only from the early 1980s onwards that she began to exhibit seriously, becoming along the way, an elected member of both the Scottish Society of Artists (SSA) and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolours (RSW).

The couple divorced in 1989 and Pat moved first to the Loch Ness area, where she taught and continued to paint.

In 1990, at Edinburgh’s Open Eye Gallery, she exhibited work inspired by the locale surrounding her home overlooking Loch Ness. The Herald’s art critic described these paintings, which featured “brave billowing clouds racing over peaks and crags while vivid northern sunsets refract from sea and loch”, as “emotional blockbusters”.

In the early 1990s, Pat moved to Tain and reconnected with Derek Clarke, her former tutor, following the death of his first wife. Despite an age gap of nearly 30 years, the couple married and were initially happy.

Through him, Pat not only acquired a large and close extended family, on whom she delighted and doted, she also converted to Catholicism and her faith was important to her to the end. A strong Christian element began to feature in her work. An ethereal spirituality of dream-like three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional form gradually crept into her painting.

Pat and Derek lived initially in Kinlochbervie in Sutherland before settling near the village of Edderton, outside Tain. According to her stepson, Andrew, at first, the couple spent “every waking moment painting, analysing each other’s work and discussing their place in God’s earth, all amid the extraordinary lunar landscapes of that corner of Sutherland.” It was a period of intense exploration for both artists.

For Pat, it led to what Andrew describes as a “profound reappraisal of colour and form”, which led to three highly productive and creative decades.

The couple separated in the early 2000s, with Derek moving back to Edinburgh, while Pat remained in Tain. They remained close until his death in 2014.

Despite suffering from diabetes in her later years, Pat enjoyed an active work and social life in Tain. She had a close group of female friends; chief among them being Lucy Woodley, also an artist, who works at Brown’s Gallery in Tain. The pair met 26 years ago through the gallery, which along with The Lost Gallery in Strathdon, has represented Pat since the early 1990s.

Gordon Brown, owner of Brown’s Gallery, hosted an 80th birthday party for Pat in July 2019 at which more than 80 people from her two worlds, art and church, crammed in to celebrate with her.

According to Lucy, Pat viewed her as the daughter she never had. “Pat was good at getting the best out of people and she loved being around like-minded people,” she says. “We used to have hilarious talks but she could be a bit fiery!

“She lived for painting, though. To her, it was the be-all and end-all. She always wanted to paint big even though she was a wee slim thing; like a bird, who was never seen without several scarves around her neck. The gallery was putting together an exhibition of her watercolour landscapes when Covid struck last year.”

During lockdown, Pat’s diabetes got out of control and she was eventually hospitalised. She died in Raigmore Hospital. At her funeral, her friends were asked to take away and wear one of her many trademark scarves which Lucy and another friend, Lorna, had freshly laundered and laid out in St Vincent’s Church, Tain.

At the end of his eulogy for Pat, her stepson Andrew told the assembled mourners: “Pat will always be in our hearts, perhaps like one of these half-seen spirits in her paintings soaring above us in one of her great, swirling elemental skyscapes.”

She is survived by step-sons Tristram, Andrew and Christopher and their partners and five step-grandchildren, as well as many loyal and loving friends.