Studio News

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.

Rattray Head (WIP)

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.

Cloud and beach studies (WIP)
A rather messy corner of my studio
Bennachie (WIP)

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.

Rattray Head and Catterline

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.

Watch this space!

New Year / Old Superstitions

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 …

Happy New Year from me! (1st Jan 2021 with Whitewisp hill in the Ochils behind.)

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.

Castle Campbell (or ‘Castle Gloom’ looking positively radiant!) near Dollar

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).
  • Take a decent photo or 2 (as above).
  • Read a good book – Sky Atlas by Edward Brooke-Hitching (it’s a thing of beauty!).
  • Feed the birds – always!
  • 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.

As good inside as it is on the cover!

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!

My lucky lucre!

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!

arTay 2020 is online now … and you can see and buy 2 of my paintings there!

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.

And here’s a link to what’s available and more details.

Dubh Artach Lighthouse (Nocturne), acrylic on wood panel 67x68cm in frame
St Monans, acrylic on wood panel 108x70cm in frame
 

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:

56 Warrender Park Rd
Edinburgh, EH9 1EX
UK
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.

My Shop Is Now Open!

Towards Arthurs Seat

Only a couple of weeks left until Christmas! But that’s time enough to buy one of my very limited edition prints and etchings for someone special (including yourself!).

The Old Town, Edinburgh

There’s 12 pictures to chose from including these 4, some moon etchings and a few others. All details can be found here at Big Cartel.

Dean Village Sunset

Buy something unique and help support my work at the same time! If you order straight away there should be plenty time to get it before Christmas. But sooner is always better!

Ramsay Gardens from The Castle

Happy Christmas!

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.

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.

RSA Summer Exhibition 2018 News

Dean Village, Edinburgh (Dusk) – 80x63cm framed – Mixed media over etching

I’m very pleased to have another Dean Village hand-painted etching accepted for the RSA Summer Show this year. Last year the colours were dominated by pinks and inspired by the setting sun. This time the sun has dipped below the horizon, so it’s blues and greens that predominate. It was especially good to get it in as it had to be reframed to meet the 80cm max size rule. The image itself is 65x50cm.

This painting has also been selected for inclusion in what promises to be a lovely and exciting new art book showcasing Edinburgh art and artists; it’s due to be published next year, but I won’t say too much about that for now. More details to follow …

I made the copper etched plate for this scene about 2 years ago and have now done 6 different versions. I really enjoy painting these and like to think I’m following in a tradition set up by the likes of Cezanne and Van Gogh, who would often return to paint familiar motifs and much loved scenes. Cezanne painted the view of Mont Sainte Victoria in Provence, France more than 10 times and Van Gogh did several versions of his sunflowers, blossoming trees and various other motifs over the course of his life. While it might look like repetition on the surface, it’s actually a great way to experiment with colour and technique and that helps any artist to keep improving.

I have to admit though that I do love painting this particular scene, so will probably continue to create more paintings from it at least until I’ve used up all the ideas I have to make each an individual artwork in it’s own right. I’m thinking of doing a couple based on snowy weather next.

Working up my etchings into stand alone paintings is something I initially did in order not to waste what might have been an early proof copy, or perhaps one of the prints that didn’t make it into a final edition. Now I enjoy making line etchings specifically for hand colouring in a variety of media, as it allows me to experiment so much. Sometimes I’ll then go on to produce larger paintings in oils or acrylics that are based on work I consider to have been successful in this hybrid etching/painting format.

The RSA Summer Exhibition is open to the public from 3 June 2018 – 25 July 2018 and should be a highlight of any trip to Edinburgh during this summer!

Here’s last year’s entry for a comparison of the two versions …

Dean Village, Edinburgh (Sunset)