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.

      New Work, New Gallery and More News …

      The year has only just begun but 2019 has proved to be pretty busy for me already. The recent Architectural Landscape show at Fidra Fine Art saw some of my work heading off to new homes and then I spent the remainder of February visiting lots of different galleries and delivering new paintings and etchings to some of them too. Details below …

      Three Studies of The Bass Rock, oil and gold leaf (126x52cm framed)

      But first, take a look at what’s currently on my easel. It has taken over a year on and off to get it finished with lots of thinly painted glazes, drying time in between and fine tuning. Then more glazes … etc etc! But all it needs now is my signature. Gold leaf has been used extremely sparingly, but there’s just enough to provide the subtlest suggestion of a beam of light coming from each of the lighthouses when viewed at a certain angle. If you are interested in owning this oil painting then please feel free to get in touch via the contact page or email me at:
      cliveramage@gmail.com

      Three Studies of the Bass Rock (detail left)

      Three Studies of the Bass Rock (detail middle)

      Three Studies of the Bass Rock (detail right)

      February turned out to be a great month of sales. I was particularly happy to hear from Marchmont Gallery that 3 of my differently coloured moon etchings had been bought by one client to be hung alongside each other. That made my day as they were bought only a couple of days after being dropped off and it was the first time I’ve had all 3 moon variations for sale at the same time. (If you happen to be the new owner and read this then I’d love a photo of them on your wall if possible – and thank you for buying them too, of course!).

      Towards Arthur’s Seat (34x25cm)

      I also recently begun to sell limited-edition, signed Giclee prints with Aquila Gallery in Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh. They have the above and following 2 pictures for sale at the moment, but more will follow soon. Marchmont Gallery also have these pictures and I’ll be dropping off more moon etchings there as soon as they are all hot off the press and dry (a week or 2 from now).

      The Old Town, Edinburgh (65x50cm)

      Dean Village, Edinburgh  (65x50cm)

      Lastly, Morningside Gallery, also in Edinburgh, have a selection of my latest acrylic paintings for sale, including a recent one of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, along with some East Neuk of Fife and Edinburgh pictures. Click the link to see what’s available there.

      That’s all my news for now.

      I’m about to start on a new series of works and will keep you updated here as things take shape. I’ll also be contacting a number of galleries who’s collections and artists I’ve admired for a while, and hopefully I’ll have work available in some of them soon too. Watch this space!

        Fidra Fine Art: Architectural Landscape

        This month I’m showing some of my work alongside 5 of Scotland’s finest and best-loved landscape and architecture specialists in a show at the excellent Fidra Fine Art gallery in Gullane.

        Along with the 6 paintings below (all of which have been recently completed and were done especially for this show), I will have a few of my etchings included in what looks to be a really interesting exhibition. The show opens at Fidra Fine Art in Gullane this Saturday 25th Feb.

        Dean Village (Sunset) 65x50cm (Mixed media on Saunders Waterford 425gsm paper)

        The other 5 artists taking part are George Birrell, Ann Cowan, Amy Dennis, Ann Oram and Allan J. Robertson. Though we’re all inspired by architecture, each of us has our own very distinct style and employ different creative techniques to create our work.

        The Bell Rock, Dusk 61x61cm (Acrylic on panel)

        So if you happen to be in East Lothian between 26th Jan and 24 Feb then go along for a look (closed Mondays). I’ll be at the preview night this Friday (6-8pm), as will some of the other artists showing, so I’ll maybe see you at that.

         

        The Bell Rock (Snow) 61x61cm (Acrylic on panel)

        St Monans (Sunset) 50x20cm (Acrylic on panel)

        Here’s a link for more details on the show at Fidra Fine Art

        The Old Town (Morning Light) 65x50cm (Mixed media on Saunders Waterford 425gsm paper)

        St Monans (Between The Woods and The Sea) 50x20cm (Acrylic on panel)

          Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition 2019

          I’m very happy to have had the above etching hung at this year’s Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition, which is being held at the RSA building on The Mound, Edinburgh. The show will run from 23rd Dec-17 Jan 2019.

          I’ve also had my work shown in 2 other prestigious annual exhibitions held at the RSA this year, the RSA and RSW. So it’s been a great year on that front, but I’m hoping 2019 will be my best yet.

          The new year will kick off with a show at Fidra Fine Art, Gullane, on the 25th of January, where 6 new paintings will be shown alongside works by 5 other artists who specialise in architectural landscapes, including my friend Ann Oram and some other artists I’ve yet to meet (George Birrell, Ann Cowan, Amy Dennis and Allan J Robertson). I’ve been working flat out on these pictures for the past few weeks and will post some of them here in due coarse.

          In the meantime, thank you to all those of you who have supported me and my work this year and every other so far with your purchases and with your encouragement! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

            Just off the easel …

            Dubh Artach Lighthouse

            Dubh Artach Lighthouse
            57x57cm
            Acrylic on plywood

            This newly finished painting is off to Frames Gallery in Perth soon for their winter show, which opens on 16th Nov.

            Dubh Artach Lighthouse sits on an isolated basalt rock which protrudes just 35 meters above sea level at the head of a deep, 80 mile long submarine valley. The strong Atlantic currents rush in along the valley towards the Rhinns of Mull a few miles east before rising up and around the rock, causing a maelstrom of turbulence.

            The lighthouse was begun in 1867 following the previous winter’s storms, which sunk 27 vessels in the area. It was built by David and Thomas Stevenson (Robert Louis’ father) to warn ships approaching Oban through the Firth of Lorne and stands 107 feet high above the rock base and is 37 feet in diameter. An incredible feet of engineering considering its extremely remote location 16 miles from land and the rock’s tiny size! It could only be worked on at low tide in calm weather over the 5 years it took to build. Many of the workers lived on the rock in a small hut built on stilts during that time. It was automated in 1971, but it must have been a dreaded posting for many Scottish lighthouse keepers during its 101 years of being occupied.

            So here it is, flashing its first beam of the night on a relatively calm summer evening.

              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)

               

                Pictures From My Solo Show

                I wanted to share some photos from my recent solo show in Edinburgh for those who weren’t able to see it in person. There were 45 pieces hanging in total and it was the biggest collection on my work to be shown in one place to date. 

                Three Studies of The Bass Rock

                A wall of East Neuk paintings

                It was hugely beneficial for me in a creative sense to hang the show myself (well, with a lot of help from my friend Celie) as it gave me the opportunity to put the pieces together into groups that worked as mini collections on each wall.  Every picture being part of a wider context. It took 2 solid days to hang the exhibition and I was glad to see that my combined output over the past 2 years or so also worked as a whole. This is something I have often wondered about (and I’m sure that’s the case for many other artists who work across a variety of media in relative isolation as I do). But the visitor feedback was also very positive in this sense, which helped to make the whole experience an absolute pleasure for me.

                Three versions of the full Moon

                Of course, selling several pieces and meeting lots of lovely people and hearing their thoughts was also wonderful. As a result, I’m really looking forward to putting together my next solo show in the coming year.

                A wall of landscape oil paintings

                In the meantime, I have lots more work out there in 6 different galleries this Christmas. A full list and links to those current exhibitions can be found here

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                  Press release for my show at Edinburgh Ski Club – open today from 11am

                  Clive Ramage will be exhibiting more that 50 works of art in a solo ‘pop-up’ exhibition at Edinburgh Ski Club this November. 
                   
                  Works From The Studio is the latest solo show of works by Dunfermline-based painter and printmaker, Clive Ramage. The show will include some of Clive’s atmospheric paintings of lighthouses, along with his popular Edinburgh and East Neuk scenes and a variety of hand-coloured etchings. This will be the biggest collection of Clive’s works to be shown in one place to date.
                   
                  The self-taught artist originally from Arbroath said:
                  “I am very excited about the show having put the whole thing together myself. It has been quite a challenge! Not only painting and framing 50 pictures but planning and publicising the event to ensure it’s looks right and is a success. There’s still a lot of work to do with only a week to go, but I’ll get a helping hand with hanging it from my friend and fellow painter Celie. It will be great to see all the work I have created over the past year or so all together in the one space.”
                   
                  Clive mainly works from his home-based studio in Dunfermline and is also a member of the Fife Dunfermline Printmakers Workshop. He frequently travels around Scotland in his camper van (or mobile studio) seeking inspiration in the country’s wild and remote corners and it’s often dramatic weather. Many of the paintings in this exhibition have been inspired by these trips along with Edinburgh and the villages of Fife’s coast. 
                   
                  Describing his work, Clive says: 
                  “I usually start drawing from a reference sketch done on site, but as soon as I am happy with the general composition I paint purely from imagination. As I work my way through a painting, the colours and atmosphere become the focus for me. The final result is my own emotional response to a place and my attempt to capture it’s unique atmosphere.”
                   
                  Clive exhibits regularly at the RSA, SSA, RGI and the RSW annual shows. He frequently sells his work with many galleries around Scotland with his prints and paintings hanging in private collections around the world. 
                   
                  Works From The Studio will be open to the public from 11am-5pm daily between Thursday 23rd November – Tuesday 28th at Edinburgh Ski Club, 2 Howe Street EH3 6TD

                   

                    Details for my solo show this November …

                    There will be a variety of recent watercolours, oil paintings and etchings on show. Proceeds from sales will go towards the costs of a 2 month residency at Castlemaine Press Print Workshop, Australia next year.

                    Please join me at the private view. I look forward to seeing you there!