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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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