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!
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
I’m delighted that my latest Dean Village hand-painted etching (Sunset) has been accepted to be exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy Annual Open 2017. It’s the 4th in a series of 10, each of which depicts the scene at a different time of day or season.
I’m especially pleased that this painting was accepted as I think it it’s the best piece of work I have done to date. It’s certainly the one I’m most satisfied with, insofar as it’s the closest I’ve gotten to achieving what I had in mind when I began the series last year. I’m also really pleased to have work in this particular RSA Open as it’s on during the Edinburgh Festival, so it’s going to be very busy.
I won’t make it to the opening of the exhibition unfortunately, but I’ll look forward to seeing the exhibition when I return from my summer holiday. I’m off to Belgium and Holland to get up close and personal with all my favourite paintings by artists like Bosch, Brueghel, Avercamp, Rembrandt and Vermeer. I’m especially looking forward to going back to the Rijksmuseum which was mostly closed for refurbishment the last time I visited, so I only saw a fraction of the artworks they normally have on show.
I’m currently reading the weighty Van Gogh, The Life tome and so this is also going to be a bit of an artistic pilgrimage to the places where he lived, worked and painted in those 2 countries. I’m hoping to come back brimming with ideas and inspiration and, despite the huge amount of anticipation I have for going on this trip, I’m already looking forward to getting back to work when I return.
I’ll try and post a few pictures from my trip here and on my Instagram page, so watch this space.
On another note, I just delivered a batch of etchings and paintings to The Coach House Gallery in Pittenweem, which will be on show there during the Pittenweem Art Festival. So drop in for a look if you’re planning a visit (which runs between 5-12th August). And if you haven’t been to Pittenweem or the festival before then it’s well worth the trip. The village is stunning and the interiors of some of the houses perched on the hill above the harbour are well worth a visit in their own right. There’s over 100 artists showing, as well as music and other events so there’s plenty to see and do.
I have a few pieces in this show at the lovely Strathearn Gallery including these 2 above and below. It’s on until 21st May, so do drop in tomorrow for the opening or before the show closes in a month.
I also have new work on show at The Quay Gallery, Aberdour, including this large oil of The Bass Rock (a favourite subject!).
The other news is that I have left Fire Station Creative and will no longer be taking part in exhibitions or open studios at there. I will, however, be opening my new studio doors (in Edinburgh) to the public at some point in the future, so keep an eye out for news on that front.
And Finally …
Many thanks to those who visited the recent show at Gallery at Fifty Five in Stonehaven. The feedback was fantastic and I look forward to exhibiting there again in 2018.
Until then, I’ll be working on new pieces including more versions of the 2 hand-painted etchings above and those I’ve done of Edinburgh and the East Neuk, along with more oils based on my recent travels to Yorkshire, Cornwall and Northumberland. There will no doubt be a few more lighthouse paintings and new etchings in the pipeline too.
There’s more to report as far as exhibitions coming up are concerned and an exciting piece of news (for me at east!) about my work featuring in a new glossy magazine … but I’ll leave that for next time.
You can always find more updates and pictures of my latest works in progress etc by following me on:
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.
A little bit of background on the project Steven Blench designed and I printed as an etching and which has been included at the SSA open exhibition this year. It was great to get the piece on the front cover of the exhibition catalogue and also hung up at the entrance to the show as a huge blow up on vinyl.
Steven and his wife Ffion design and make plasterworks including highly ornate cornices and ceiling roses, among other things. They were to exhibit some of their work in Edinburgh earlier this year and Steven asked me if I had any ideas as to how they could render what they do in a 2D format to hang in a frame alongside their other work.
I pictured an etching featuring several of Steven’s ceiling rose designs as a good way to show off the incredible detail at it’s best. Etching on copper gives a very precise line and Steven’s designs obviously required a huge amount of accuracy. So I prepared a large piece of copper plate onto which Steven enscribed his designs before I etched it and ran off a couple of prints.
We hoped to get something we could at least hang in that exhibition, but when the print was pulled it was probably much better than either of us had expected (see top picture). Steven and I agreed that this could be an interesting collaboration with more prints to come as a sideline to what we normally do. He took one of the prints home and, a couple of days later, came back with it having dusted down some lines and areas leaving the final design more prominent (bottom left).
This process informs the next, which is to render the 2D design into a 3D plasterwork (top photo).
The print was exactly what we had hoped for but then one of those happy accidents occured that added that something extra to the final piece. I’d been keen to show the prints to Steven asap, so they hadn’t been allowed to dry properly. I resoaked and dried them out on an old piece of plywood, not realising there was a residue of sepia watercolour on it. This soft tone bled out across the wet paper giving the prints a lovely ‘antique’ feel.
Prints are available from the RSA building on Princes Street until 24/11/16
£260 unframed (£350 framed)
I was delighted to sell this painting of Dean Village at Dusk along with a Super Moon aquatint this weekend and help to raise some funds in the process for St Columbas Hospice in Edinburgh. I recently finished the painting below (Dean Village Sunset) which will be up for sale later this month along some more of my work in support of Maggie’s Cancer Care. The way I see it, working with charities like this is a ‘win win’ way of exhibiting my work.
Selling art through charity exhibitions is a fantastic way to increase both the profile of artists and the charities and I would love to see more of this kind of opportunity for both to work together. It works the same way galleries do, in that the charity takes a percentage commission for any sales made. So the artist still gets paid appropriately for their work, but the charity makes money too. I know many galleries are struggling in today’s tough economic climate, and art can be seen as a luxury, but if those who appreciate art feel like they’re also helping to give something back to society while getting something that they can cherish forever then that is a real double whammy for all concerned! Not to mention the important point that any sale helps to promote art and artists and to encourage them to continue to do what they and hopefully some others love.
I’ll certainly be looking out for more opportunities to sell my work via charity exhibitions in future. Watch this space!
Here is my latest version of Dean Village in Edinburgh. It’s another hand-painted etching and I have focused here on the pinks and blues of the setting sun. I have also added a detail of the bottom right-hand corner of the painting below to show better how the colours are built up in layers using various methods.
We will also be opening our doors once again at the Fire Station Open Studios event over the whole of next weekend from the evening of Friday 27th and all day Sat/Sun 28 & 29th (10-4pm). Celie and me have completely covered our studio’s walls along with half the walls in the building with work to see and buy! Do come along if you’re in the area, or make a special trip and I assure you it will be worth it. Lots of very good work and interesting artists to see and meet and also great entertainment in the cafe throughout the weekend.
Finally, I will be exhibiting and hopefully selling my work alongside a selection of other artists in support of the St Columbas Hospice from the 3-5th June. Please come along to any or all of these events and remember to say hello if you do.