New Year / Old Superstitions

I wrote most of the following on New Year’s day 2020, when life seemed a lot more easy and carefree. For some reason though I never got round to posting it on my website. So here’s what I wrote with minor amendments and an updated New Year’s to do list for 2021 …

Happy New Year from me! (1st Jan 2021 with Whitewisp hill in the Ochils behind.)

Scales of Superstition

Over 30 years ago, when I was serving my time as a butcher’s apprentice and life was much simpler, we had a New Year tradition that I’ve since adopted and adapted for myself over the years.

In the last hour of the last working day each year, we’d scrub down our wooden blocks and every other surface in the place. Then we’d clean the mincer, the ham slicer, the dozens of emptied metal meat dishes, the fridges and the cabinets. Finally, our own very personal and prized knives would be cleaned, sharpened and shined until they and absolutely everything else in sight glistened and sparkled.

Everything, that is, except the scales we used to weigh and price the meat we boned, chopped, sliced and sold. Now butcher’s superstition says it’s bad luck to wipe away all traces of the passing year’s prosperity before proceeding into the next. So those scales would remain not only unwashed but positively reeking of last year’s trade. They’d be left bloody and rank throughout the holiday … and the ranker the better! And, if there wasn’t the required degree of meaty residue left after the last sale of the year, then a little mince or steak would be added to the scales for extra good luck. Just in case! It seemed to work and we did get busier each of my 3 years working there.

Castle Campbell (or ‘Castle Gloom’ looking positively radiant!) near Dollar

A Load of Old Claptrap?

But you and me both know that’s all superstitious claptrap and I personally like to think I’m not at all swayed by such nonsense. Sometimes I’ll even walk under a ladder just to prove the point to myself … and nothing bad’s ever happened as a result (well, not to my knowledge anyway!).

But every year I do have my very own New Year ritual (rather than resolution). It’s a tick list of ‘things to do’ before midnight on January 1st. Like last year’s meat left on the scales to usher in a prosperous new year, I tell myself these are the things I need to do to start the year as I mean to go on. I do it all with more than a little hope that whoever/whatever might be up there pulling the strings of good fortune may be paying attention; and that maybe I will be rewarded with success in each of my listed endeavours for 12 coming months as a result of observing this ritual.

So here’s my list for 2021 (and all ticked off before the 2nd, I’m happy to say!)

  • Wake up without a hangover.
  • Paint or draw something you’re happy with (I added a moon to a lighthouse picture). 
  • Write something – I repurposed this, which definitely counts!
  • Walk up a hill (I had a bitterly cold but beautiful afternoon in the Ochils yesterday. See pics).
  • Take a decent photo or 2 (as above).
  • Read a good book – Sky Atlas by Edward Brooke-Hitching (it’s a thing of beauty!).
  • Feed the birds – always!
  • Say hello to a stranger – done several times on the way up that hill.
  • Be polite, patient and generous to EVERYONE. This is always included, but still requires further practice and tweeks!

So having acheived all of the above and a couple of other things, I went to bed feeling confident that I should remain busy and happy all year long.

As good inside as it is on the cover!

A Treasured Find

As far as continued prosperity goes, I got off to a pretty good start in the early hours of 2020 as I walked home from the pub. I found a £20 note on the pavement. It was folded and clasped in a blue clothes peg. There was nobody around except me so I pocketed it, as I’m sure you would have too. I’ve no idea what the peg represented, but I thanked the fates for dropping it in my path and went on my way. And it’s been in my pocket ever since. And, yes, despite Covid I had a very good year in many ways!

My lucky lucre!

This year I found 10p in the gutter on my way home after the bells. And, despite the comparative reduction in monetary value compared to last year’s treasured find, I’ll also be taking that as a sign that being slightly superstitious can sometimes be a good thing! 10p is better than nothing after all and I’ll be keeping it in my pocket all year long too. Call me superstitious but …

Anyway, if you got this far then I wish you the happiest New Year and a prosperous 2021. And if you didn’t then good luck to you all the same (not that you’ll know)! May all your dreams come true, may your lum aye reek and your scales aye be clarty!

    RSA Summer Exhibition 2018 News

    Dean Village, Edinburgh (Dusk) – 80x63cm framed – Mixed media over etching

    I’m very pleased to have another Dean Village hand-painted etching accepted for the RSA Summer Show this year. Last year the colours were dominated by pinks and inspired by the setting sun. This time the sun has dipped below the horizon, so it’s blues and greens that predominate. It was especially good to get it in as it had to be reframed to meet the 80cm max size rule. The image itself is 65x50cm.

    This painting has also been selected for inclusion in what promises to be a lovely and exciting new art book showcasing Edinburgh art and artists; it’s due to be published next year, but I won’t say too much about that for now. More details to follow …

    I made the copper etched plate for this scene about 2 years ago and have now done 6 different versions. I really enjoy painting these and like to think I’m following in a tradition set up by the likes of Cezanne and Van Gogh, who would often return to paint familiar motifs and much loved scenes. Cezanne painted the view of Mont Sainte Victoria in Provence, France more than 10 times and Van Gogh did several versions of his sunflowers, blossoming trees and various other motifs over the course of his life. While it might look like repetition on the surface, it’s actually a great way to experiment with colour and technique and that helps any artist to keep improving.

    I have to admit though that I do love painting this particular scene, so will probably continue to create more paintings from it at least until I’ve used up all the ideas I have to make each an individual artwork in it’s own right. I’m thinking of doing a couple based on snowy weather next.

    Working up my etchings into stand alone paintings is something I initially did in order not to waste what might have been an early proof copy, or perhaps one of the prints that didn’t make it into a final edition. Now I enjoy making line etchings specifically for hand colouring in a variety of media, as it allows me to experiment so much. Sometimes I’ll then go on to produce larger paintings in oils or acrylics that are based on work I consider to have been successful in this hybrid etching/painting format.

    The RSA Summer Exhibition is open to the public from 3 June 2018 – 25 July 2018 and should be a highlight of any trip to Edinburgh during this summer!

    Here’s last year’s entry for a comparison of the two versions …

    Dean Village, Edinburgh (Sunset)

     

      Dean Village (No. 4) & the Macmillan Art Show 2016

      Dean Village Dusk
      Dean Village (Copper Roofs) 67x50cm – mixed media

      Here’s my latest in the Dean Village hand-finished etching series. This one, the forth in the series, took by far the longest to complete, but I think there is more fine detail and a greater variety of colours in this than any of the other 3 completed so far. I used copper acrylic paint to give some of the rooftops more lustre and if you look very closely you might see some gold dust stars in the night sky.

      I’m taking a break from this project now to work on a large-scale oil painting of the Bank of Scotland building, which sits atop The Mound in Edinburgh. This particular building has always been one of my favourites in the city and it helps to make that Old Town skyline one of the best in the world (to my mind anyway).

      Here’s how it’s looking after the first wash of colours. A very long way to go as you can see.

      Bank of Scotland, The Mound (WIP)
      Bank of Scotland, The Mound (WIP)

      Macmillan Art Show 2016

      I’m delighted to have had an etching accepted for the 2016 Macmillan Art Show. This takes place at Bonhams between 25-28th August and further details can be found in Scottish Art Scene article below (click the link to view the pdf). My etching of Arthurs Seat & Calton Hill is featured in the article, along with a short blurb about how it was made. Some of the other artists who’s works are also going to be on show are also featured.

      http://scottish-art-scene.com/2016.Edinburgh.Macmillan.Art.Show.pdf

      © All material is copyright of Clive Ramage 2016

          The Lights That Never Go Out – A Map of Scotland’s Lighthouses

          Here’s a map of all the Scottish lighthouses that I found at Ardnamurchan Point. There’s a lot of them! Almost 100 and pretty much all built by the Stevenson family within 100 years from the first (the Bell Rock) which was finished in 1810. I hope to get to as many as possible over the next few months as part of my project, The Lights That Never Go Out, An Artistic Odyssey From Muckle Flugga To The Mull of Galloway.

          So after a day spent washing clothes and repacking the campervan after the Easter trip to the west coast, I’m off again to spend the next few days and nights sketching and photographing the lighthouses between Montrose and Fraserburgh. Tonight I’m hoping for a clear and starry sky (ie. no fog horn!) spent at the foot of Rattray Head.

          Scottish Lighthouses
          Scottish Lighthouses

            More mini paintings on the way!

            I’ve been working on a smaller scale these past few weeks, partly as a way into painting again after a long period of etching in monotone and also for an exhibition of small works at Morningside Gallery in Edinburgh. I’ve really loved working in watercolours again, which is how I started way back when.

            Here’s the latest little picture I’ve just finished of Jeffrey Street from North Bridge, Edinburgh, which will be winging it’s way through to Edinburgh later this afternoon. This one has ended up in Marchmont Gallery along with a few other pieces. I went in on spec this afternoon and the manager, Karen, wouldn’t let me leave with it! Delighted to be represnted by another lovely gallery in Edinburgh!

            Jeffrey Street from North Bridge, Edinburgh
            Jeffrey Street from North Bridge, Edinburgh