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.
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!
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]
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!
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.
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.
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 …
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.
More washes added to the building and the window panes blocked in. It’s starting to take shape.
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.
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!
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 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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the greatest joys of being an artist, alongside getting to do what you love on a daily basis, is when you get a request to use one of your pieces for something other than to adorn a wall.
Over the years, my work has been used to promote whisky (Tobermory) as well as various exhibitions, including the RSA and SSA annual open shows. More recently I was contacted by The Fortnightly Review with a request to use my etching of The Old Pier, Aberdour to illustrate a memoir they were about to publish by author John Matthias. Of course I gave my consent and was delighted to be given an opportunity to have my work published in such an august and highly respected literary journal.
The memoir itself is the fascinating and highly evocative story of a family who have had a very close personal connection with Aberdour and the old iron pier over the past 100 years. I loved reading how that decrepit old pile of rusted iron had once played a significant role in the First World War, allowing naval sailors to land closer to home in Fife before their battleships went on to dock at Rosyth further round the coast. Never in a million years would I have guessed at anything of this history and, had I not made that etching and posted a picture of it on my website, the editor would never have contacted me and I’d still be unaware of the intriguing past life of what is a very familiar landmark! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, art often opens up conversations that can lead to the forming of new relationships, business ventures or even inspire all kinds of other things which might not otherwise happen or … or in this case, be discovered.
I was particularly surprised to read that the entire Grand Fleet of the British navy – comprising scores of battleships and support vessels – had dropped anchor in the Firth of Forth on 11th November 1918 (Armistice Day). And how there had been “excuberant rejoicing” with fireworks and dancing on board the ships that lay across the length and breadth of the firth like a pontoon bridge when the Germans finally surrendered.
I currently have 2 of these etchings available at half price in my Big Cartel shop. That’s just £100 each using discount code 5WXW5X. Click here to visit my shop or send me an email if you’d like more information and .
To find out more about the pier and to read this beautifully evocative memoir of life in and around Aberdour during wartime, and through the decades since, click here.
Here’s a link to some incredible footage showing the Grand Fleet at sea during WW1.
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!
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.