Dunnottar Castle is quite possibly THE perfect landscape painter’s subject. Sitting atop a magestic outcrop of rusty red sandstone, surrounded by constantly changing seas and skies, it’s sheer immensity and magnificence are breathtaking – the scene simply demands to be painted!
My favourite place to paint!
The above painting is the view from the little bridge that spans the deep gully and leads to the cliffs on the western side of the castle. Those cliffs have also been a favourite haunt of mine over the past few months and are a great spot to paint en plein air (below).
After spending several months working on this particular painting – and trying do the scene the justice it deserves – it will be great to see it hanging at the Aberdeen Art Fair (AAF) from this Friday.
Muckle Flugga (Old Norse Mikla Flugey, meaning “large steep-sided island”) is the northernmost point of the British Isles and, in my own humble opinion, has to be one of the most dramatic lighthouse locations on Earth.
I hope to have captured something of the rugged nature of the rock itself, but also of the precariousness of that lonely lighthouse perched upon it. The perpetual crashing of great ocean waves has done little to change this scene since the lighthouse was built in 1854. But nothing lasts for ever – apart from oil paintings hopefully!
“The theme of the sea also comes up again and again in the work of Fife Dunfermline Printmakers Workshop in the Lesser Hall in James Street. Also part of the invited programme, this artist-run cooperative brings together a range of artists working in different styles and media. Particular highlights include Clive Ramage’s striking etching of the moon and Catherine King’s large monotype landscape, capturing weather, clouds and water in saturated shades of blue and grey.”
And I am also delighted to report that 3 of my Blue Moon prints sold on the very first day! That means there’s only 2 left to buy from the very limited edition of just 20 numbered prints!
This moon etching really does seem to glow as brightly as the real thing and it makes a beautiful and bold statement on any wall. It comes from an extremely limited numbered edition of 20 and they have consistently sold at the few shows I’ve entered them.
Here’s a video of me pulling a print from the copper plate just last week …
There are now only 2 numbered prints left, plus a few artists proofs (which I’ll be holding on to for my North East Open Studios (NEOS) event 10-19 Sept 2022 – more details to come!).
So if you want your very own Blue Moon to gaze at whenever you like then get in touch with me now or follow the link to my shop and bag yours before they’re all gone!
Original, hand-made etching printed on 310gsm Hanhmuhle etching paper.
Limited to an extremely small edition of only 20 prints.
Image size: 57.5 x 47 cm (22.5 x 18.5 inches)
Paper Size 71 x 53.5 cm / (28 x 22 inches)
Shipping: The print is sold unframed, but lovingly wrapped and rolled in tissue and packaged in a tough cardboard tube for protection. UK p&p is £20 and shipping time is around 2 weeks. International delivery is £25 but allow up to 3 weeks.
All are welcome to come along tonight for an early viewing between 6.30-9pm at Lesser Church Hall, James St, Pittenweem.
Above are 2 of the large framed prints I have in the show, St Monans and Dunnottar Castle. Both etchings were produced in July especially for this event.
I’ll also be showing my Blue Moon etching (below). There are only a few left from this very limited edition of 20 numbered prints, so if you want to own one you best hurry to bag yours!
I have a few other mounted prints available from the venue including the following, all of which are fairly local to the area:
If you can get to Pittenweem during the festival you will find art filling the streets and almost every home above the beautiful harbour and beyond. It’s a fantastic event and well worth the trip for a great day out!
I’m delighted to have one of my pieces used as the cover art for a fantastic new album by Scottish musician Tom Baird.
Tom got in touch with me last November, having spotted some of my work in a Facebook post by Braemar Gallery. At that point he was just finishing off the recordings and was looking for something different for the cover that would help illustrate the overall feel of his collection of new songs.
He particularly liked my Little Cottage series and East Neuk pictures and thought one of them would make a good cover. The album’s working title at this point was This Old Town, the name of one of the tunes, and he initially considered the East Neuk (Shooting Star) picture below for that.
But in the end it became House Music (Tom has a home recording studio and did all the work on the album there) and so it seemed a perfect fit to have one of my Little Cottage pictures to illustrate that. He felt Autumn Bothy By The Sea stood out because the yellow roof against the blue sky was particularly striking and, I have to say, I’m delighted with the final result!
The album has 12 great songs, all brilliantly written, performed and produced by Tom. It won’t be out until 10th June, but he kindly gave me a few copies and I’ve had it on repeat since getting it. I’ve been very impressed by the diversity and quality of all the album tracks, but my current favourite is the new single Peace Pipe. It’s short and snappy and a real belter of a tune, with a few surprising twists and turns in the music and also the philosophical (with a large dose of irony!) lyrics too. Several of Tom’s songs have been played regularly by Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music and on Radio Scotland and you can hear Peace Pipe and lots of his other excellent releases right now on Spotify.
I always fancied doing a book or an album cover so what an absolute privilege to have one of my pictures on the front of this great album by a very talanted songwriter!
Find out more about Tom and have a listen to his great music yourself by clicking the links below:
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!
I currently have several of my etchings in a fantastic new printmaking show at Frames Gallery in Perth.
I was very happy to see some red dots below some of my pieces at the private view, including the ones below, and also to be showing alongside some of my favourite Scottish printmakers.
It really is an excellent and varied exhibition, showcasing some of the best in contemporary printmaking techinques and styles and I’m delighted to be taking part. Click here to see the works on show and do drop by if you are in Perth.
As these are editioned prints there are several of each still available, so get in touch with Frames Gallery if you are interested in anything you see here (or there!).
Here are a few more of the framed etchings I have on show at the gallery, and click here if you’d like to see the whole show online.
The Urban, Land and Sea show at Heriot Gallery in Dundas Street, Edinburgh, closes this Saturday. I have several pieces in it inlucing these two large and colourful scenes of Dean Village, Edinburgh and North Berwick.
If you are in town the whole show is well worth a visit!
Click here for details and to see what’s in the show.
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 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.