Saturday 4 November saw the opening of the inaugural Scottish Landscape Awards (SLAs) at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre.
And I was delighted to be able to attend the highly anticipated private view of this prestigious new exhibition the evening before, having had my etching of Dunnottar Castle shortlisted for the SLAs back in July.
It was one of only 133 artworks to be shortlisted from almost 3000 entries and, although it didn’t win a prize, I was extremely proud to see it hanging in a fantastic spot in one of the country’s best and most visited public galleries.
It was a wonderful evening of catching up with some old friends in my former Edinburgh stomping ground, as well as meeting a few of my own favourite artists for the first time. It also allowed me to see what’s happening right now at the sharp end of Scottish landscape painting and printmaking.
The variety of work on show at the Scottish Landscape Awards – not to mention the talent and skill employed to create it – ensure that this is a hugely enjoyable exhibition for artists and art lovers alike, showcasing the country’s huge diversity in subject matter and the many different and intriguing techniques used to create the pieces.
And, of course, its always great to see your work shown alongside your peers and some of this country’s most successful and admired artists.
My image of Dunnottar Castle came about as part of a commission I was awarded by Aberdeen Art Galleries & Museums in January 2023. Click here to learn more about and the various printmaking methods I used in its creation. I am also very proud to have an artist’s proof of this print, along with the 3 others I produced for that commission, in Aberdeen Art Galleries & Museums’ permanent art collection.
This has been a particularly busy and hugely rewarding year for me so far: with two successful solo shows under my belt at Frames Gallery in Perth and Inverness Creative Academy; the aforementioned commission from Aberdeen Art Galleries & Museums; and another for luxury Edinburgh-based leather goods brand Strathberry Ltd (of which there will be more to report soon).
And having my work included in the inaugural Scottish Landscape Awards exhibition, as well as featured in the gorgeous catalogue that accompanies the show, means that this has also been my most successful year to date.
But it doesn’t end there for 2023, or for this particular print! I am happy to say that Dunnottar Castle is also featured in the Meffan Art Gallery annual winter show, which opened in Forfar on Friday 10 November.
As for the rest of the year, I will be working hard to produce new paintings and prints for my next solo show, which is at Graystone Gallery in Edinburgh in February. Details to follow, but I am excited to be the first artist to have a solo show at their brand-new gallery premises in Stockbridge.
Dunnottar Castle, in a limited edition of only 40 signed and numbered prints, is currently available to purchase (in a frame) at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh and the Meffan Institute, Forfar. Unframed prints can also be bought directly from my shop by clicking here.
I was initially told about the Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums (AAGM) Micro-commissions by a studio colleague the day before the deadline. I was in the middle of moving into my new studio and packing for a New Year trip to Crovie the following day. However, as a relative newcomer to Aberdeen and having spent many hours admiring the gallery’s fantastic collection, my interest had been piqued! I downloaded the application form and had a first draft written within an hour.
Applicants were asked to say something about their lived experience in the city, addressing themes that might include social justice, climate change, identity, well-being and migration, while responding to something that was already part of the AAGM collection.
I thought it could be a challenge to come up with an exciting print-based project that would test some of my recently acquired printmaking skills, especially in screen and photopolymer printing. And, in the unlikely event my proposal was successful, I might just about manage to complete the rather ambitious project I had put together in my mind, despite having already committed to 2 solo shows and another important commission – all of which were to be fulfilled before the AAGM June deadline!
No holiday for me … not yet anyway!
So the first day of our supposedly relaxing holiday was spent editing my application (with considerable help from my patient and very understanding partner Pam) and it was submitted within an hour of the deadline.
Having never applied for anything like this before, I resignedly put the whole experience down to good practice and relaxed for the rest of our trip.
Around 4 weeks later, having forgotten all about my application and while frantically finishing several paintings and working on the final preparations for my early March solo show, I received an email to say my proposal had in fact been successful!
My initial elation and surprise at this great news were suddenly followed by a gut-wrenching dread that I might just have overstretched myself! But I do love a challenge and that’s exactly what the following 5 months proved to be!
In selecting a work from the AAGM collection as an initial reference for my own project, John Piper’s powerfully atmospheric painting of Dunnottar Castle immediately sprang to mind. Like many of his works, it perfectly captures with great drama and deceptive simplicity the beauty that can often be found even in a crumbling old building. This got me thinking about how the disintegration of one thing can lead to something new and possibly even more beautiful in its place (a painting in this instance, but also the castle itself).
From here I travelled north in my mind to Aberdeen city centre and thought of the recently opened Union Terrace Gardens and how they have helped to rejuvenate that part of the city.
I then took a short trip across Union Street to the recently demolished Aberdeen Market and pondered how that has provided an opportunity (and also hope) that something better might arise out of the dust and rubble.
I decided to produce a triptych of handmade prints exploring the theme of disintegration in relation to those three well-loved local sites. To bring these ideas to fruition I wanted to use three different printmaking techniques, which would reflect the past, present and future in their own way.
Three Different subjects printed three different ways
Disintegration, the first piece in the triptych, is a traditional copper-plate etching inspired by John Piper’s painting of Dunnottar Castle.
The middle piece, Transformation, depicts Union Terrace Gardens and contrasts old and new features now present in the gardens and also in the methods used to create the print.
It combines very traditional etching techniques like chine collé above to add colour to the print …
… alongside methods employed in contemporary digital photography.
Anticipation focuses on the Aberdeen Market area and poses the question: what does the future hold for this site?
Photoshop was used to combine a drone-captured digital image with an interpretation of the Herakut mural from the old Aberdeen Market.
The Micro Commission Experience
Working on the AAGM Micro-commission has been a fantastic experience as well as a great opportunity to learn. Not only because it has allowed me to develop and test my skills in traditional and photopolymer etching, as well as screen printing, but the funding that was provided by the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums has also enabled me to produce an entirely new stand-alone series of prints that are quite different from anything I have done before. It is also wonderful to know that my triptych has been accessioned into the AAGM permanent collection.
I would advise anyone who is interested in applying to the next round of Micro-commissions to absolutely go for it. This has been a hugely rewarding experience and has shown me what I can achieve under intense pressure.
And finally …
Finally, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums for providing the £2500 funding that enabled my Micro Commission, and many thanks also to Shona Elliot and all the staff at AAGM for their excellent support throughout. I’d also like to thank the staff at Peacock Print Studio and, in particular, James Vaas and Struan Hamilton who have both been very generous with their time, patience and expertise throughout this process.
I will put together another post soon where I will go into more detail about the making of each print in the triptych … watch this space!
The Assembly Hall at ICA has to be the most beautiful gallery space I’ve ever seen, never mind shown my work in, and I’m delighted with how my 20 paintings and 18 prints look in such a fabulously well-lit and stunning exhibition space.
The staircase provided the perfect place for my 3 Glitter Moons, leading visitors to the upstairs level to where my etchings and watercolours are hanging.
The whole gallery benefits from wonderful natural light provided by the many windows and the great arched window on the stairwell. In addition to that there’s a spotlight above every single picture and this really shows off my work beautifully.
And before even half of my pictures were on the walls I was presented with a glowing review of the show by Gael Hillyard, who did a wonderful job of describing the effect my oil paintings and Glitter Moons had on her. Read the full review here.
Saturday 10th June marks the opening of my first ever solo show in Inverness.
With this body of work I hope to showcase both my varied interests and inspirations as a landscape artist, as well as the many techniques I use and often combine in their creation.
In conjunction with Wasps Artist Studios, I will present around 30 pieces in total. These will include dramatic new oil paintings of Neist Point and Isle Ornsay in Skye, alongside several mixed-media cityscapes of Edinburgh and surroundings.
Also on show will be a selection of atmospheric etchings featuring, among other things, several Scottish lighthouses, castles and mountains.
There will also be 3 different coloured versions of my recent series of Glitter Moon limited-edition handmade prints, framed with non-reflective glass and available to buy for only the second time.
So, all in all, there will be plenty to see across the two floors my show will occupy.
I will be at Inverness Creative Academy between 12-4pm for the opening on Saturday 10 June, so please come along if you are in the area. It would be great to see you there!
Just a quick post to wish you all a very Happy New Year!
I am especially grateful to those of you who have very kindly supported me by purshcasing my work this past year and in previous years too! Every single painting and print that you buy really does help me to continue to keep making new work, and for that I am extremely grateful! And, while I love what I do, it’s not always easy to keep going, especially in this economic climate.
But very special thanks must be given to my truly wonderful, kind and ever-supportive partner Pam. Without her help in so many ways, without her great patience, kindness and generosity and her all-round gorgousness life would simply be so much harder indeed! I love you Pammy and want to say the biggest !!THANK YOU!! from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done and still do for me! You really are the best!!
There’s plenty more to write about just now and I’ll post a fuller update on my recent studio move and some upcoming solo shows very soon. But in the meantime, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and here’s to a highly creative, productive, successful and – not least – fun-filled 2023!
Dunnottar Castle is quite possibly THE perfect landscape painter’s subject. Sitting atop a magestic outcrop of rusty red sandstone, surrounded by constantly changing seas and skies, it’s sheer immensity and magnificence are breathtaking – the scene simply demands to be painted!
My favourite place to paint!
The above painting is the view from the little bridge that spans the deep gully and leads to the cliffs on the western side of the castle. Those cliffs have also been a favourite haunt of mine over the past few months and are a great spot to paint en plein air (below).
After spending several months working on this particular painting – and trying do the scene the justice it deserves – it will be great to see it hanging at the Aberdeen Art Fair (AAF) from this Friday.
Muckle Flugga (Old Norse Mikla Flugey, meaning “large steep-sided island”) is the northernmost point of the British Isles and, in my own humble opinion, has to be one of the most dramatic lighthouse locations on Earth.
I hope to have captured something of the rugged nature of the rock itself, but also of the precariousness of that lonely lighthouse perched upon it. The perpetual crashing of great ocean waves has done little to change this scene since the lighthouse was built in 1854. But nothing lasts for ever – apart from oil paintings hopefully!
All are welcome to come along tonight for an early viewing between 6.30-9pm at Lesser Church Hall, James St, Pittenweem.
Above are 2 of the large framed prints I have in the show, St Monans and Dunnottar Castle. Both etchings were produced in July especially for this event.
I’ll also be showing my Blue Moon etching (below). There are only a few left from this very limited edition of 20 numbered prints, so if you want to own one you best hurry to bag yours!
I have a few other mounted prints available from the venue including the following, all of which are fairly local to the area:
If you can get to Pittenweem during the festival you will find art filling the streets and almost every home above the beautiful harbour and beyond. It’s a fantastic event and well worth the trip for a great day out!