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.

Pictures available from Marchmont Gallery & #ArtistSupportPledge

The Old Town (Crescent Moon)

There’s no lockdown on art!

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.

Marchmont Gallery contact details:

Some work From Edinburgh to The Moon

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!

Marchmont Gallery Solo Show Preview is a Blast!

The preview gets under way

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!

Some of my paintings at Marchmont Gallery

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.

A wall of work

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.

St Monans, Acrylic on panel 98 x 60.5cm

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.

At the framers before the show

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!

From Edinburgh (and Perth!) to The Moon

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 …

The Old Town (Crescent Moon) will be on Show at Marchmont Gallery

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.

Showing at ArTay 2018, Perth Festival of The Arts 17-20 May and now at The Green Gallery, Dollar

 

St Monans Harbour (Sunset) mixed media over etching (framed size 55x36cm)

ArTay 2018

Next week sees the return of ArTay, an exhibition featuring over 60 artists and more than 300 works of art curated and hosted by Frames Gallery, Perth. The event is part of The Perth Festival of The Arts and runs from 17th- 20th May in a marquee beside the Perth Concert Hall.

As well as the painting above, I will be showing the 3 pictures included below, all of which are for sale.

Bass Rock Light, oil on canvas (framed size 92x92cm)

St Monans, mixed media over etching (framed size 36x30cm)

The Old Pier, Aberdour, etching & aquatint (framed size 45x37cm)

Green Gallery, Dollar

I also currently have work for sale at Green Gallery in the lovely Clackmannashire village of Dollar, including the paintings shown below. It’s a lovely place and Dollar and Castle Campbell on the hill above it are well worth a visit on a sunny day.

The Old Town, Morning Sunshine, mixed media over etching (framed size 90x74cm)

South Queensferry, mixed media over etching (framed size 49x39cm)

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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Tuesday 28th Nov is last day of my solo show … that’s tomorrow!

The Gallery

Tomorrow will be the last full day of my show at the Edinburgh Ski Club. 

It has been fantastic to have quite a large body of my work on show in one place again 2 years since my last solo. I’m glad to say the comments and feedback have been very positive from people who already know my work and the many who have come in out of the cold from the street to have a first look.

Harvest, Blue and Super Moons

So if you are able to come along tomorrow or before 2pm on Wednesday 29th November when I’ll begin to take it down then please do come in. 

Here are a couple more pictures and a video to give an idea of how it looks …

Wall of East Neuk hand-painted etchings

(Please ignore the heavy breathing in the video!!)

 

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 News

20 Hand-painted etchings of Edinburgh & the East Neuk of Fife
20 Hand-painted etchings of Edinburgh & the East Neuk of Fife

Here’s some news about some upcoming exhibitions.

I’m happy to say I have a number of exhibitions in the pipeline for this year and this lot of newly framed work will be heading off to a gallery near you in the coming week. I’ll have some of this work in the Gallery at Fifty Five Spring show opening in Stonehaven on 4th March.

There’s also arTay during Perth Festival of the Arts which takes place in May, and either side of that I’ll have work in the Pittenweem Arts & Galleries Weekend along with fellow Fire Station resident artists in April, and at the Fire Station Creative gallery which will be happening around Open Studios time in June. I’ll post the specifics for all of these nearer the times.

In the meantime, I’ll be working mainly on new oil paintings and etchings, including lots based on my recent Cornwall, Devon and East Lothian trips in the campervan.

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New work to be exhibited at The Quay Gallery, Aberdour

4 Paintings for Quay Gallery
6 New Paintings for Quay Gallery

Just finished these 6 new paintings and will be taking to the framer in edinburgh later this week. They’re off to the Quay Gallery in Aberdour, Fife, in a week or 2 and each is a hand-coloured etching painted in a variety of ways.

The one on the right, The Old Town, Edinburgh, is 65x50cm and was only just finished this morning. It has a watercolour base for the sky and buildings and the hard work was done with my recently aquired Faber & Castell pastel pencils. These were bought on Ebay by accident as I thought I was getting watercolour pencils (I hit the bid button in a bit of a panic to win them). Anyway, I’m glad I did because they are fantastic!

The Old Town, Edinburgh (2)
The Old Town, Edinburgh (2)

The middle painting, the 4th in my Dean Village series, is maianly watercolour over etching with a little copper acrylic for some of the roofs. It’s roughly the same size as Old Town.

Dean Village, Dusk (copper roofs)
Dean Village, Dusk (copper roofs)

The other four paintings are done over 2 etchings of East Neuk scenes. Again, watercolour base with pastel and gouache for the buildings.

East Neuk Paintings
East Neuk Paintings

If you have the time do go to the Quay Gallery in Aberdour. It’s a beautiful gallery and just happens to be in one of the loveliest seaside towns in Scotland. But wait a week or two!!