I’m delighted to be showing my very first linocut print as part of the fascinating INSECTARIUM: Fear and Fascination show at the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club in Aberlady. It’s already fantastic place to visit on a lovely sunny day, but this exhibition featuring a miriad of beautifully depicted creepy crawlies makes taking a trip to East Lothian all the more worthwhile.
More details below …
3 June – 25 July 2021 | Viewing Room Thursday – Sunday 10 – 5pm
Free entry and no booking is required Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY
Insectarium: Fascination and Fear
Insectarium: Fascination and Fear presents artworks created by SSA members in response to the conflicting feelings that insects inspire in us.
If most of the time we ignore them, insects loom large on the human psyche. We adorn them with contrasting qualities: jewel-like beetles or scary spiders, carriers of disease or inspirational designs, collectors’ items or targets for eradication. Beautiful or repulsive, dangerous or inspiring, insects are above all essential to life on earth, and certainly our own. They play such a big part in the natural world that studies highlighting their recent decline have prompted worry among conservationists and the general public.
The exhibition offers a collection of works in a wide range of media that reflects our complex feelings towards these small but crucial creatures.
Insectarium is a new collaboration with the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club and was co-curated by SSA Past President Sharon Quigley and council member Catherine Sargeant. The exhibition was originally due to take place last May but had to be rescheduled due to Covid-19.
The Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) is a charity promoting the study and enjoyment of birds in Scotland. Waterston House, the Headquarters of the SOC in Aberlady, is a resource centre for birdwatching that is open to the public and offers a library, a shop and an art gallery dedicated to wildlife.
Elaine Allison | Paul Charlton | Tess Chodan | Finlay Coupar | Helle Crawford | Louisa Crispin | Robert Crozier | Helen Denerley | Rhona Fairgrieve | Jane Gardiner | Joyce Gunn Cairns | Zsofia Jakab | Tzipporah Johnston | Gavin Johnston | Olga Krasanova | Miriam Mallalieu | Kit Martin | Karen Maxted | Norman McBeath | Greta McMillan | Claire McVinnie | Janet Melrose | Noelle Odling | Clive Ramage | Douglas Reed | Catherine Sargeant | Chris Shields | Jenny Smith | Gill Walton | Eleanor Whitworth | Lynne Windsor | Natalie Wingate | Yingchun Zhu
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.
The year has only just begun but 2019 has proved to be pretty busy for me already. The recent Architectural Landscape show at Fidra Fine Art saw some of my work heading off to new homes and then I spent the remainder of February visiting lots of different galleries and delivering new paintings and etchings to some of them too. Details below …
But first, take a look at what’s currently on my easel. It has taken over a year on and off to get it finished with lots of thinly painted glazes, drying time in between and fine tuning. Then more glazes … etc etc! But all it needs now is my signature. Gold leaf has been used extremely sparingly, but there’s just enough to provide the subtlest suggestion of a beam of light coming from each of the lighthouses when viewed at a certain angle. If you are interested in owning this oil painting then please feel free to get in touch via the contact page or email me at:
February turned out to be a great month of sales. I was particularly happy to hear from Marchmont Gallery that 3 of my differently coloured moon etchings had been bought by one client to be hung alongside each other. That made my day as they were bought only a couple of days after being dropped off and it was the first time I’ve had all 3 moon variations for sale at the same time. (If you happen to be the new owner and read this then I’d love a photo of them on your wall if possible – and thank you for buying them too, of course!).
I also recently begun to sell limited-edition, signed Giclee prints with Aquila Gallery in Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh. They have the above and following 2 pictures for sale at the moment, but more will follow soon. Marchmont Gallery also have these pictures and I’ll be dropping off more moon etchings there as soon as they are all hot off the press and dry (a week or 2 from now).
Lastly, Morningside Gallery, also in Edinburgh, have a selection of my latest acrylic paintings for sale, including a recent one of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, along with some East Neuk of Fife and Edinburgh pictures. Click the link to see what’s available there.
That’s all my news for now.
I’m about to start on a new series of works and will keep you updated here as things take shape. I’ll also be contacting a number of galleries who’s collections and artists I’ve admired for a while, and hopefully I’ll have work available in some of them soon too. Watch this space!
I’ve also had my work shown in 2 other prestigious annual exhibitions held at the RSA this year, the RSA and RSW. So it’s been a great year on that front, but I’m hoping 2019 will be my best yet.
The new year will kick off with a show at Fidra Fine Art, Gullane, on the 25th of January, where 6 new paintings will be shown alongside works by 5 other artists who specialise in architectural landscapes, including my friend Ann Oram and some other artists I’ve yet to meet (George Birrell, Ann Cowan, Amy Dennis and Allan J Robertson). I’ve been working flat out on these pictures for the past few weeks and will post some of them here in due coarse.
In the meantime, thank you to all those of you who have supported me and my work this year and every other so far with your purchases and with your encouragement! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!
It’s been a while since I last posted anything here but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping busy. In fact, it’s because I have been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to get near my website to update it.
During the past few months I’ve taken to painting with acrylics on wood panels primed with gesso and I have to say that, despite not being one for regrets, I wish I’d done so much earlier. I love it!
The above painting of the Bass Rock (always a favourite subject of mine) is my first painting using acrylics and below is the second. I’ll continue to paint with oils for certain things, but for the time being acrylics are the way forward! Painting with them is so much quicker and easier for me and I can’t tell the difference in the end result. I always struggled with the fumes involved with turpentine, not to mention the sometimes ridiculously long drying times, which often mean waiting days if not weeks before the next colours could be layered on top of previous ones. I’m quite an impatient and impulsive person at the best of times and I like to work with a certain immediacy backed by intuition and feel, then step back to assess the results before getting on with the next stage. And because I like to work in layers across the whole picture the fast-drying nature of acrylic paint suits both my temperament and working methods perfectly.
I imagine the reason it took me so long to give them a go was because of the significant expense I’d already laid out on oil paint and the sundry materials required to get the best from them. It also meant a large initial investment in all my usual colours of artist-quality paints in the new binding medium (the pigments are exactly the same and isn’t that what really counts?!).
I think there’s also a certain historical stigma or bias (even snobbery?) attached to various methods and painting media – within the artistic community and among collectors, the public at large etc – which has meant that oil paint is sometimes seen to be king and the other binding agents are classed somewhere lower down the pigment-carrying rankings. And while there’s an obvious difference in the look and feel of a pastel, an oil or a watercolour painting of the same subject, I don’t really see much difference in the quality between oils and acrylics. I never really understood why say watercolour is often seen as a very poor relation when some of the finest artworks ever created were done in that medium (Albrecht Dürer’sYoung Hare, for example). But maybe I’ve been guilty myself of a little snobbery on that front too in the past. No more!
But the other big change for me has been using good quality plywood, which has a lovely grain and firm surface and is a pleasure to layer paint on, thick or thin. (I never had a great love for the ‘giving’ nature of canvas!) Adding gesso as a primer allows even more texture for creating interesting marks and runs of thin paint, which I also love to do.
So I’ve just primed a stack of plywood ready for painting a series of Bass Rocks of various colours and moods. The above ones are the first of many to come and they will be available for sale later this week at the 2018 Art Friends of St Columbus Hospice show, details of which can be found below.
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 …
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.
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.
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
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.
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 …
(Please ignore the heavy breathing in the video!!)