Just over a week to see this amazing show of 70 pictures by 30 artist at Fidra Fine Art in Gullane. All of whom have been inspired by the sheer beauty of the Bass Rock.
4 September to 3 October
Julia Albert-Recht, Claire Beattie, George Birrell, John Boak, Georgina Bown, Davy Brown, Dominique Cameron, Alan Connell, Ann Cowan, Fee Dickson, Matthew Draper, Michael Durning, Ronnie Fulton, Andy Heald, David E Johnston, John Johnstone, Suzanne Kirk, Simon Laurie, Neil Macdonald, Julia McNairn White, Rachel Marshall, Ann Oram, Clive Ramage, Gregory Rankine, Pen Reid, Pascale Rentsch, Arran Ross, Jayne Stokes, Astrid Trügg and Darren Woodhead.
It has cast its spell over artists and writers such as Turner and Robert Louis Stevenson. In the 17th century, it was dubbed Scotland’s Alcatraz following Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland. Now the Bass Rock, which sits a few miles off the coast of North Berwick in East Lothian, is to be the subject of our latest exhibition.
Around 30 artists have been invited to present their unique view of the famous volcanic plug, which is home to 350,000 seabirds, including over 150,000 gannets – the largest ‘single rock’ colony of northern gannets on earth.
It is an irresistible, imposing, brooding and beautiful muse for artists and it has inspired a fascinating and varied collection of work for this show.
The exhibition continues until Sunday 3 October, I hope you will be able to come and view the work “in the flesh”.
I’m delighted to be showing my very first linocut print as part of the fascinating INSECTARIUM: Fear and Fascination show at the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club in Aberlady. It’s already fantastic place to visit on a lovely sunny day, but this exhibition featuring a miriad of beautifully depicted creepy crawlies makes taking a trip to East Lothian all the more worthwhile.
More details below …
3 June – 25 July 2021 | Viewing Room Thursday – Sunday 10 – 5pm
Free entry and no booking is required Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY
Insectarium: Fascination and Fear
Insectarium: Fascination and Fear presents artworks created by SSA members in response to the conflicting feelings that insects inspire in us.
If most of the time we ignore them, insects loom large on the human psyche. We adorn them with contrasting qualities: jewel-like beetles or scary spiders, carriers of disease or inspirational designs, collectors’ items or targets for eradication. Beautiful or repulsive, dangerous or inspiring, insects are above all essential to life on earth, and certainly our own. They play such a big part in the natural world that studies highlighting their recent decline have prompted worry among conservationists and the general public.
The exhibition offers a collection of works in a wide range of media that reflects our complex feelings towards these small but crucial creatures.
Insectarium is a new collaboration with the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club and was co-curated by SSA Past President Sharon Quigley and council member Catherine Sargeant. The exhibition was originally due to take place last May but had to be rescheduled due to Covid-19.
The Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) is a charity promoting the study and enjoyment of birds in Scotland. Waterston House, the Headquarters of the SOC in Aberlady, is a resource centre for birdwatching that is open to the public and offers a library, a shop and an art gallery dedicated to wildlife.
Elaine Allison | Paul Charlton | Tess Chodan | Finlay Coupar | Helle Crawford | Louisa Crispin | Robert Crozier | Helen Denerley | Rhona Fairgrieve | Jane Gardiner | Joyce Gunn Cairns | Zsofia Jakab | Tzipporah Johnston | Gavin Johnston | Olga Krasanova | Miriam Mallalieu | Kit Martin | Karen Maxted | Norman McBeath | Greta McMillan | Claire McVinnie | Janet Melrose | Noelle Odling | Clive Ramage | Douglas Reed | Catherine Sargeant | Chris Shields | Jenny Smith | Gill Walton | Eleanor Whitworth | Lynne Windsor | Natalie Wingate | Yingchun Zhu
After almost a year without access to the print workshop, I’ve come to realise just how much I get out of the whole technical aspect of printmaking. It’s a very different form of creativity in relation to the much more instinctive activity of putting paint directly onto a surface and seeing instant results. Good or bad!
Etching in particular requires a more methodical and analytical approach to the production of every piece, which in turn forces you to slow down and think hard about each and every step of the process along the way. A painting can be done in minutes, but an etching can take weeks to get right.
I often find painting pictures to be extremely frustrating, as I do tend to work quickly and instinctively and this can sometimes result in nothing more than a deflated feeling of having wasted lots of time and materials. Somehow I never feel like that when I’m making prints, probably because it does require that level of concentration and focus that seems almost to be the opposite of how I want to work with paint.
But to be able to switch between these two seemingly opposing methods of creativity (even if the end result can look quite similar) is something that helps keeps me constantly motivated and inspired. Each can inform the other approach but also provides an opportunity to think and work with a fresh impetus.
The above prints were the result of my first day back at Dunfermline’s printmaking workshop in over 6 months. I have to say it was the most enjoyable day of work I’ve had all year!
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 …
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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a quick note to tellk you about two paintings I have available to buy at arTay 2020. It’s an online only show, of course, but still runs for just 4 days (ending on Sunday 31st May). So you best get in quick if you want to buy one of these two or something else from one of the 80 artists also showing.
It’s been great to sell some of my work directly via the #artistsupportpledge on Instagram recently. And I’m very excited to unwrap my first pledge purchase today. I bought it having reached £1000 in sales through the scheme and, as promised, I’ll also be sending £100 to Dunfermline Food Bank this week. (See below for more details on how it all works.)
Despite the Covid19 lockdown, I do still have paintings and prints available to buy from Marchmont Gallery, Edinburgh. It’s currently closed to the public, but my pictures can still be viewed and purchased there online.
Click the link below to browse the brochure from my recent solo and contact the gallery if there’s something that takes your fancy.
And here’s a little more info on Artists Support Pledge
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists have found themselves without work, teaching, technical support and gallery work. Exhibitions and sales have disappeared. ARTIST SUPPORT PLEDGE is an attempt to help alleviate some of this.
The concept is a simple one. Artists post images of their work, on Instigram which they are willing to sell for no more than £200 each (not including shipping). Anyone can buy the work. Every time an artist reaches £1000 of sales, they pledge to spend £200 on another artist/s work.
Search for pictures using #artistsupportpledge; or use the same tag to sell your own work. Simple!
After a busy few months of painting, I had the opening of my solo show at Marchmont Gallery last Sunday. It was a fantastic afternoon and stayed busy throughout, with a number of people taking away paintings and prints. It was great to have so many people come along and I’d like to say a big “Thank You!” to all those who made it and to all at Marchmont Gallery for being great hosts!
I’ll be topping up the show over the coming weeks, but had to take a week off to recover from the inevitable post-show cold that kept me in bed for days afterwards. I have been thinking about what’s to come though and can’t wait to get back to the easel on Monday.
On the painting front, I’ve been really enjoying using acrylics on larger-scale plywood panels and have prepared 2 new ones to get started on. As is the case with these, I often like to use the golden ratio to determine picture dimensions and sometimes compositional elements too; here’s a recent example below, but there are others in the Marchmont show.
I am hoping to get away soon in my campervan to explore some new areas I haven’t painted before. Possibly a trip to Orkney or even further afield. The Faroe Islands are top of my list for etching inspiration and I can see a lot of printmaking happening over the summer months if I make it there.
If you get along to the show, do get in touch and let me know your thoughts. It’s always great to get any kind of feedback!
It’s been a very productive start to 2020 and I have two new shows coming up this month. There’s my solo show From Edinburgh To The Moon at Marchmont Gallery, which previews on Sunday 16th Feb. And I’ll also be taking part in a printmaking show at Frames Gallery, opening this Friday. All details below …
From Edinburgh to The Moon
I’m currently putting the finishing touches to the last few paintings that will be included in my solo show at Marchmont Gallery and titled From Edinburgh To The Moon. It’ll be a selection of recent mixed-media paintings (including these below) of Edinburgh and Scottish coastal scenes, as well as some hand-made etchings and prints. I will have at least 25 original pieces large and small hanging and can’t wait to see how they look as a collection. You are most welcome to come along to the opening on the 16th (1-4pm) where I’ll be happy to chat about my work and answer any questions. There will also be drinks and nibbles!
Solo Exhibition – Marchmont Gallery, Edinburgh (Preview 16 Feb 1-4pm, all welcome!) Runs until 22 March.
Fife Dunfermline Printmakers Workshop at Frames Gallery
This Friday 7th marks the opening of the Fife Dunfermline Printmakers Workshop exhibition at the lovely Frames Gallery in Perth. The preview is from 6-8pm and there will be around 80 works including a great variety of printmaking techniques and a huge array of subject matter produced by my talented colleagues at the workshop in Dunfermline. I have the following 4 pieces in the show and, altogether, it looks like a fantastic exhibition of work. So go along if you’re in the Perth area and we’ll maybe see you on Friday.
Frames Gallery, Perth (Preview 6-8pm, all welcome!) Runs until 29 February.