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.

    Gallery Heinzel Winter Show

    I have these two large pictures for sale at Gallery Heinzel’s upcoming Winter Show. Opens on the 9th Nov and runs until March 2020.

    Three Views of The Bass Rock

    Three Views of The Bass Rock
    Oil and gold leaf on gesso-primed hand-made paper
    (126x52cm framed)

    The above painting has been over a year in the making. It glows and looks great in this frame with non-reflect art glass. The tiniest touch of gold leaf adds a very subtle beam and sparkle to each of the lighthouses. I’d liked to have kept this one for myself, but needs must!

    Non-reflective glass allows more light and colour to bounce back from the picture rather than off the glass. This also means there’s no annoying reflections that prevent you seeing the picture properly. It’s very expensive but well worth the money and I’ll be using it more from now on.

    Harvest Moon

    Harvest Moon
    Etching & Aquatint
    (65x55cm image size)

    This Harvest Moon etching is the 3rd variation I’ve made from a single copper plate. This edition is the result of a seemingly never-ending series of painful and time consuming trials with various ink colours (each pigment having its own peculiarities which can make or break a picture). I’m finally happy with this combination. Fellow printmakers have asked how I got the blackest ink and palest orange together without a gap or mixing the two. The simple answer is with great difficulty, as both colours are wiped onto (and off) the plate together for a single pressing. For every successful print two others went in the bin. This is by far the most difficult print I’ve ever made!

    This is number 9/20 and is framed and available at the gallery, but there are more unframed copies available. I also have some Super Moons and only a very few Blue Moons left for sale. Contact Gallery Heinzel or myself directly if interested.

    The show opens with a preview between 11-2pm at Gallery Heinzel this coming Saturday.

      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!

            Blue Moon in Morocco

            Blue Moon
            Etching
            58x48cm

            I love to see how the moon appears to change colour, size and character as it moves through the sky on its nightly arc. For me, the moon is a thing of ever changing beauty, mystery and inspiration.

            But where I am now it’s a cold, drizzly November night and unfortunately there’s no moon to see at all as yet, though she is up there in all her glory. So here’s one I made earlier. Inspired by a moonlit night in Marrakech 8 years ago.

            I remember being mesmerised watching it rise slowly and lazily above the flat-roofed souks of the Djemaa El Fna in Marrakech. It was a clear late-November night, but the town’s main square was as busy and colourful as I’d heard it always is. Above the seething masses of lost-looking tourists, locals on the make, donkeys and carts, charmers and snakes, children begging, children fighting, shopkeepers bartering and the constant barrage of mopeds and bicycles, horses and goats, the moon’s bright glow cast a beguiling spell over my first Moroccan night. The warm breath of camels condensed then wafted up on the chilly breeze that had begun to sweep down from the High Atlas mountains 30 miles away. Pungent aromas steamed from cauldrons filled to the brim with earthy-tasting snails for curious tourists to try. Spicey flavours sizzled from market stall tagines and exotic vapours oozed out from deep inside the crowded souks. Here I was, only 4 hours after leaving Scotland where the same full moon cast a very different spell across the icy land that would soon be blanketed in deep and heavy snow for over a month.

            And a quarter of a million miles above us, indifferent to the bustling world below, the moon appeared frozen in the sky. Familiar features intoned with the cool transparent hues of Prussian Blue, spread thin across a face of brilliant white. And as I looked up, she appeared to look down, watching everyone everywhere that ever was or ever will be. And in turn, each tiny, insignificant character continued to play out their roles, heads down in the darkening night.

              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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                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!

                 

                  Exhibition at Dancing Light Gallery

                  The Old Town (mixed media over etching) 65x50cm

                  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, but it’s not because I haven’t been busy painting and printmaking. In fact, it’s probably because I have been so busy doing that that time has flown by. But as I’ll be taking part in a mixed show at Dancing Light Gallery in Whitmuir over the next few weeks, I thought I’d better get my act together on the marketing front!

                  The gallery will be having a preview over this coming weekend and I have 10 pieces in the exhibition, including those above and below. If you’re in the area (it’s halfway between Edinburgh and Peebles) then the gallery is well worth a visit. As is the lovely restaurant and organic farm shop which are all together under the one roof. Here’s a link to the gallery for details of the exhibition and how to find it.

                  I’m also putting together the finishing touches to various pictures for a solo exhibition which is taking place in Edinburgh in 3 weeks time. I’ll post the details for that over the weekend, so watch this space …

                  Tobermory (Mixed media over etching) 65x26cm

                    Royal Scottish Academy Open 2017 etc

                    Dean Village, Edinburgh (Sunset)

                    I’m delighted that my latest Dean Village hand-painted etching (Sunset) has been accepted to be exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy Annual Open 2017.  It’s the 4th in a series of 10, each of which depicts the scene at a different time of day or season.

                    I’m especially pleased that this painting was accepted as I think it it’s the best piece of work I have done to date. It’s certainly the one I’m most satisfied with, insofar as it’s the closest I’ve gotten to achieving what I had in mind when I began the series last year. I’m also really pleased to have work in this particular RSA Open as it’s on during the Edinburgh Festival, so it’s going to be very busy.

                    I won’t make it to the opening of the exhibition unfortunately, but I’ll look forward to seeing the exhibition when I return from my summer holiday. I’m off to Belgium and Holland to get up close and personal with all my favourite paintings by artists like Bosch, Brueghel, Avercamp, Rembrandt and Vermeer. I’m especially looking forward to going back to the Rijksmuseum which was mostly closed for refurbishment the last time I visited, so I only saw a fraction of the artworks they normally have on show. 

                    I’m currently reading the weighty Van Gogh, The Life tome and so this is also going to be a bit of an artistic pilgrimage to the places where he lived, worked and painted in those 2 countries. I’m hoping to come back brimming with ideas and inspiration and, despite the huge amount of anticipation I have for going on this trip, I’m already looking forward to getting back to work when I return.

                    I’ll try and post a few pictures from my trip here and on my Instagram page, so watch this space.

                    Pittenweem Arts Festival

                    On another note, I just delivered a batch of etchings and paintings to The Coach House Gallery in Pittenweem, which will be on show there during the Pittenweem Art Festival.  So drop in for a look if you’re planning a visit (which runs between 5-12th August). And if you haven’t been to Pittenweem or the festival before then it’s well worth the trip. The village is stunning and the interiors of some of the houses perched on the hill above the harbour are well worth a visit in their own right. There’s over 100 artists showing, as well as music and other events so there’s plenty to see and do.

                    Happy Holidays!!