arTay 2022 – Part of Perth Festival Of The Arts

Where There Is Light, oil on wood panel – 78cm x 78cm (framed)

After 2 year’s absence from the art show calendar, I really can’t wait for arTay 2022, which opens at 10am in Perth this coming Thursday 19th May and runs until 7.30pm on Sunday 22nd.

Every May, and as if by magic, a large marquee appears next to Perth’s Concert Hall and is filled to the brim with a great assortment of fantastic artworks.

Dubh Artach, oil on wood panel – 75x75cm (framed)

But all the real magic is what’s on show inside the marquee!

With more than 70 artists taking part and a few hundred pictures to hang and label, it’s a challenge to get it all done and looking great in just a few hours. It’s not all hard work though and there’s always a great atmosphere, with Hugh and his team making it all the more fun by providing lots of coffee and cakes to keep us all going until the show is hung. Remarkably – considering the often competative nature of a typical ‘hang’, and with so many artistic egos to be found in one relatively small compass – I have yet to witness a punch up!

Rattray Head, oil on canvas – 57cm x 57cm (framed)

As well as helping to hang the show on Wednesday, I’m also very much looking forward to catching up with lots of artist friends and maybe matching some new faces to familiar pictures and names too.

So these are the four paintings I’ll have in the show. Three fairly large atmospheric lighthouse oils and my latest dreamscape (or ‘longing’) painting of Edinburgh, as seen at night from across the Firth of Forth.

[Contact Hugh at Frames Gallery, Perth for more details, or if you would like to reserve one of these paintings. Tel: 01738 631085]

Edinburgh Nocturne, oil on canvas – 95x95cm (framed)=

If you happen to be in or near Perth then do come along and see a huge variety of great work by some of the country’s best artists. Along with many of the other artists, I’ll be at the ‘arTay Party’ preview on Friday 20th from 6pm.
Hope to see some of you there too!

Frames Gallery

10 Victoria Street, Perth, Scotland, PH2 8LW
01738 631085
info@framesgallery.co.uk

Rutland Square, Edinburgh – A Commission

Commissions are not something I’ve done a lot of in the past. It’s not that I haven’t been asked, but more that I’ve felt the burden of meeting a client’s expectations a little overwhelming. I think I really just convinced myself over the years that I prefer to do my own thing, which really translates as wishing to remain steadfastly in my comfort zone of doing what I like for myself because … well, there’s no good reason at all!

So when I was asked if I’d be interested in producing a painting of a rather nice block of flats in Edinburgh’s Rutland Square I deliberated for a moment, before deciding it was time to bite the bullet and take up the challenge.

Stage 1.

Initial pencil drawing on Saunders Waterford 425 gsm rough watercolour paper.

It’s always great to hear how new clients come to find my work and it transpired that this time it came down to a good old Google search for “Edinburgh art”. Quite a few of my paintings came up and that was enough to persuade the client to get in touch.

Stage 2.

I then drew over the main pencil lines in permanent ink.

Of course, I do like to draw and paint subjects that interest me and, happily, I liked the building in question and was delighted to have been asked. It’s a lovely compliment, after all, to be commissioned to provide a present for a very special person who will hopefully be able to cherish it for years to come! And it goes without saying that the payment is always most welcome too!

So here are the rest of the stages towards completion …

Stage 3.

Initial watercolour washes. The paper was still wet when I took this photo, hence the slightly wobbly look. 425 gsm paper is very thick and doesn’t really need to be stretched. It will ruckle up a little bit with the application of water, but then dry perfectly flat again.

Stage 4.

More washes added to the building and the window panes blocked in. It’s starting to take shape.

Stage 5

Feeling quite happy with the results so far, but knowing there’s still a lot of work to be done on the details front. I’m not sure why there’s a large puddle of bright orange in my palette as it’s not a colour I used in this picture.

Stage 6.

The finished piece. I have to admit that I really enjoyed working on this over the past few days and, having overcome my reluctance to take on commissions, I very much look forward to doing more of them.

If you like what you see here and wish to commission something personal for yourself (or someone very special) then please feel free to get in touch and we can hopefully make it happen!

 

New Work at Ballater Gallery

These three paintings went off to the wonderful Ballater Gallery this weekend. Between them I think they give a fair representation of the kind of work I’ve been doing lately.

Bennachie, oil on canvas (24×12” unframed) – buzzard or seagull?

Bennachie is possibly Aberdeenshire’s most prominent and, among the locals, favourite hill. It’s a fairly easy walk through a seemingly enchanted woodland, before steepening significantly towards the top. With it’s very distinctive torr (known as Mither Tap) it’s a hill that can be easily spotted from just about every other hilltop in the Grampians.

I’ve never seen such an abundance and variety of mushrooms and toadstools as I found under its lower slopes last autumn, and I can’t wait to get back up there on a hot summer’s day. It’s a magical place and I hope to have captured a little of that in this newly finished oil painting of the view as seen from across fields ripe and ready for harvest near Inverurie.

Bell Rock (Nocturne) oil on wood panel (24×24” unframed) – Arbroath’s flickering lights far right – SOLD 🔴

The Bell Rock lighthouse is one of my favourite subjects for so many reasons. I grew up in Arbroath, from where Robert Stevenson and his team planned then carved the dovetailed stones  to build this 36m high wonder of the industrial world. They then shipped them 11 miles across often very dangerous seas to the reef and, when complete, it became the very first rock-based lighthouse in the world. It took the full 3 years between 1807-10 to build and that was no mean feat, considering the base is fully submerged every high tide and also for much of the remainder of each day.

While this very spot has set the stage for many a tragedy (including scores of shipwrecks and even a helicopter crash in 1955; the rotars hit the anaeometer on top of the tower) I have tried to capture it at a more serene, benevolent moment. The brilliant beam flashes out across 18 nautical miles every 5 seconds to warn passing ships of the very real dangers that lie just a few inches beneath those calm, dark waters.

Dean Village (Twilight), mixed media over etching (26×20” unframed) – over 500 individual window panes, I’ve counted!

Dean Village in Edinburgh is another favourite place of mine, as I’m sure it must be for many. It’s a view that will be very familiar to anyone walking or driving across the Dean Bridge as they enter the city centre from the north. Looking over the bridge at the myriad jumble of buildings your eyes are met with seemingly countless windows. I like to imagine the lives of all those others who might be gazing dreamily back out from each and every one of them.

I’ve painted this scene several times, each version capturing the same place, but at a different time of day and giving the same composition a completely different feel or atmosphere.

My partner Pam providing a little scale …

 

 

 

The Printmakers 2022 at Frames Gallery, Perth

 

A Hot Summer’s Day, Elie 🔴

I currently have several of my etchings in a fantastic new printmaking show at Frames Gallery in Perth.

I was very happy to see some red dots below some of my pieces at the private view, including the ones below, and also to be showing alongside some of my favourite Scottish printmakers.

The North Face, Ben Nevis 🔴

It really is an excellent and varied exhibition, showcasing some of the best in contemporary printmaking techinques and styles and I’m delighted to be taking part. Click here to see the works on show and do drop by if you are in Perth.

Spanish Hornet (ii) 🔴

As these are editioned prints there are several of each still available, so get in touch with Frames Gallery if you are interested in anything you see here (or there!).

Here are a few more of the framed etchings I have on show at the gallery, and click here if you’d like to see the whole show online.

Edinburgh Castle
The Old Wooden Pier, Culross
Blue Moon
Dean Village, Edinburgh
The Old Iron Pier, Aberdour

Heriot Gallery Show – Last Few Days

The Urban, Land and Sea show at Heriot Gallery in Dundas Street, Edinburgh, closes this Saturday. I have several pieces in it inlucing these two large and colourful scenes of Dean Village, Edinburgh and North Berwick.

If you are in town the whole show is well worth a visit!

Dean Village (Sunset)

Click here for details and to see what’s in the show.

Happy New Year!

The Bell Rock (Twilight)

Just a quick note to wish you a very Happy New Year and also to say a huge !!THANK YOU!! to everyone who bought my paintings and, therefore, supported me greatly in my work throughout 2021.

Lots of very good things happened this past year, including my move to Aberdeen and settling into a great new studio here. I’ve also recently begun working with some local galleries (including Ballater and Braemar) and have lots of energy and inspiration for new pictures to paint and send to them, as well as to my regular galleries in the coming months.

Keep an eye out here for news of my latest works in progress and exhibitions, including Land & Sea which opens later this month at Heriot Gallery in Dundas Street, Edinburgh.

In the meantime, I wish you a safe, prosperous and very happy 2022!

Heriot Gallery Winter Show

Just a quick update to say I am very excited to be working with Heriot Gallery in Dundas Street, Edinburgh. They recently got in touch to say they admired my work and requested some for their current Winter Show.

The Old Town, Edinburgh (Twilight), Mixed media 65×50 (image size)

So I delivered these paintings yesterday and very much looking forward to continuing to work with owners Angela and Lorna. I haven’t shown any work in Edinburgh since moving to Aberdeen earlier this year, so it’s great to have some of my locally-inspired pieces available in the Capital once again.

Ramsay Garden (ii), Mixed media 60x18cm (image size)

The show runs until 29th Jan 2022, after which I’ll also be including new work in their follow-up exhibition Land & Sea in February 2022.

Dean Village, Edinburgh, Mixed media 65×50 (image size)

I’m currently working on some new Edinburgh-based oil paintings for that, so watch this space for further details … !

St Monans (Blue & Red Boat With Smoking Chimneys), 35x15cm (image size)

Studio News

I thought I’d post a few pictures from my new studio here in Aberdeen. I’ve been working up here for a few months now and have really enjoyed getting back into painting with oils. Having my own studio again is wonderfully liberating, as I can work much more freely and splash the paint and thinners around without worrying about getting it all over my furniture at home! It’s also great to have all my work materials out of the house and to be able to find everything I need within arm’s reach.

I also became a member of the very highly regarded Peacock Print Studio earlier this year. Working there has been a real eye opener on many levels, and having the entire space to myself (thanks to Covid!) has felt like quite a privilege. But I’ll dedicate a post to all of that at a later date.

So, in the meantime, here are a few pictures of things I’ve been working on recently at my studio in Eagle House.

Rattray Head (WIP)

This first one (above) is an oil painting of Rattray Head Lighthouse, between Peterhead and Fraserburgh. Some of the pebbles in the foreground were carefully painted while others were literally lashed onto the canvas using a liner brush with a very runny mixture of oil paint and thinner.

This second Rattray Head picture is a larger version I decided to do after feeling quite happy with the first. Both need further fine tuning though. The lighthouse painting below it will be built up in painstakingly slow glazes to convey an altogether different mood using a different technique.

The following 5 pictures are the products of my end-of-the-day palate scrapings (as I like to call them). When I’m finished working on the main picture each day, I basically smear together all the colours left on my palate and add a little oil painting medium to produce what Whistler would call his ‘soup’. He would apply this liquid paint in streaks across his canvases to produce many of his nocturne paintings. This painterly ‘soup’ often produces the loveliest of greys which I then use as the ground for future paintings. These sky and beach pictures were done this past week from imagination and I’ve yet to decide how to finish them off.

Cloud and beach studies (WIP)
A rather messy corner of my studio
Bennachie (WIP)

The above picture is a quick sketch I did this week of beautiful Bennachie. I’ll work it up into a finished painting, but quite like the dreamy quality of it as it is. And below is another of Rattray Head from a different angle and then there’s Catterline, one of my favourite places to paint and to spend time.

Rattray Head and Catterline

So that’s what I’ve been doing this past week or two. Every week I intend to start a whole new batch of pictures and finish at least some from the previous weeks, and continue on in this vein for many years to come. So as long as I can keep my studio (and lungs and head!) free of turpentine fumes, I’ll also try to keep posting regular updates on what I’ve been working on and also where the work will be available to see and buy.

Watch this space!

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!

The Beggar’s Mantle Fringed With Gold

A recently finished commission: East Neuk (Waxing Moon and Stars)

Until recently, I’d never heard of “The Beggar’s Mantle Fringed With Gold”. It was King James VI of Scotland who coined that description of Fife’s coast; the ragged shoreline being the frayed cloak from which the begging hand of Fife is held out in hope that the sea will provide sustenance. The gold lining perfectly captures the beautiful fishing villages that fringe the East Neuk, especially when the phosphorescent orange street lamps are aglow and the houses are lit up and cosy on a cold winter’s night.

I came to hear of it one Saturday morning a few weeks ago when my phone pinged to inform me that another painting had sold from my Big Cartel shop. As always, I got in touch with the buyer right away and, after discussing postage and various other details, asked where he’d come across my work.

Back to the beginning

The reply was so very unexpected and it not only made my day but also gave me the biggest confidence boost an artist could wish for.

The answer had its roots way back when I first started exhibiting in 2008. In fact, it was at the first exhibition I ever entered (the annual open at Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery) that Jim had spotted my work. It was an oil painting of a row of typically-colourful cottages all huddled together along the shore, looking almost fearful of the next incoming tide. I’d given it the title Awaiting The Turn of The Tide with that thought in mind.

East Neuk (Starry Night)

A few days after the opening I returned to see the whole show and was thrilled to find my first ever red dot. The painting really seemed to glow and stand out quite nicely in that large space. I walked out with my feet in the air and feeling this idea of being an artist I’d had for a while might just work!

But you never really think about all the other people who might stop and have a look at your efforts in a gallery. So it came as a big surprise to hear that it was way back then that my new buyer informed me he had first seen my work. He had gone in on a mission to find inspiration for a song he was trying to write for a performance he’d soon be giving at that year’s Stanza Poetry Festival in St Andrews. The song had to capture that ‘beggar’s mantle fringed with gold’ feeling. He told me that it was my painting of glowing cottages tumbling down into the sea that had helped him to visualise an idea of what he wanted to capture in words. He went off and wrote the lyrics below for Dances With Angels, performed it at Stanza and that, as they say, was that. 

East Neuk (Crescent Moon)

But now, 12 years later and living in Kent, he told me he’d always remembered that painting (someone else had bought it) and was now in a position to buy one of my East Neuk pictures for himself. In fact, he’d had a hard job choosing between the two I had for sale on my website and a couple of days later he ended up buying the other one as well. (The two paintings directly above.)

That he’d remembered my work all that time was incredibly uplifting for me. But that it had also helped him to write his lovely song was just wonderful to discover all these years later.

And so One thing leads to another

Jim has since gifted me a cd of his work, much of which has been covered by internationally renowned folk singer June Tabor. It’s a wonderful, highly evocative album and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves great music and the romance of the sea – and the East Neuk of Fife in particular. It’s called Diamonds In The Night by Andy Shanks and Jim Russell and is available to download at Amazon or from Greentrax Records. Dances With Angels isn’t on this album, but here’s a link to a Youtube video of Andy and Jim performing it live in Orkney back in 2000.

I think it’s great when work made in one art form inspires and informs that made in another. And to have had a wee part in that myself is a lovely thing! 

I’ll be listening to Diamonds in The Night a lot this winter while I work, and I’m sure it will in turn inspire many more pictures that are still to be conjured up and painted into existence.

Dances With Angels, words by Jim Russell

The whole town is tumbling down to the sea,

Footsteps we left in the sand

Are gone when the moon pulls up the tide

Changing the paths we had planned.

Where is my comfort? There’s no angels here,

Unless they’re all hiding their wings,

Or dancing in small towns with strangers like me,

Hoping tomorrow brings.

Dances with angels

Dances with angels

They say angels dance by the steeple clock moon

With lighthouses flashing like stars,

Casting shadows and shapes and turning in time

To the staggering songs from the bars.

Now we travel with care and the tracks of our lives

Are a cage, but if you break free,

Go tumbling and turning then soaring like gulls,

Crow stepping down to the sea!

But where is my comfort? There’s no angels here,

Unless their all hiding their wings,

Or dancing in small towns with strangers like me,

Hoping tomorrow brings.

Dances with Angels

Dances with Angels

The streets are all dancing

The children are dancing

The songs from the bars spin around with the stars.

The ghosts are all dancing

The ministers dancing

The waves are all dancing

Tonight the whole town is dancing.