Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Pencil on paper 43x30cm: I'm in a bit of a back-water just now searching for something to excite me and engage my mind. Making a big pot of soup I am looking at these leeks and thinking about St David's Day in a month or so's time. I set a challenge to a new Flickr Friend to do something for Burns' Day which he duly did, but I was to reciprocate with something to do with Wales and St. David's day, or Dylan Thomas. Now I really don't read Thomas finding him a bit hard for my limited sensibilities, but I can do something for St.David's Day. So when I see these leeks lying all in a row waiting for the chop I think: Leeks! This pencil drawing is the first stage in making my painting. I need to get to know them intimately and I do this by close scrutiny and drawing.
Pastel on paper, 43x30cm: Next stage in development is a pastel drawing/painting (it's definitely drawing but looks like painting!). Here I have enhanced the colours, particularly the blue, for the sake of a strong image.
Pastel on paper, 43x59cm: Another study, this time elongated and simplified as three stalks standing together wondering what has happened to the other two!
Oils on canvas, 80x50cm: Final attempt at portraying these leeks lying together awaiting their fate. Began by mixing the colours I was going to use and started with the white stalks, then the yellow/green, then the dark green applying the colour in sincle large strokes. Then I cut into the leek shape with the dark blue shadows, finishing (in the first session) with the blue background. I have always liked the combination of green and blue together. Next day I finished by going over where I thought the colours needed strengthening and sharpening up some edges. Pretty pleased with this!

Friday, 25 January 2008

John Anderson my Jo

Pastel on paper, 30x43cm: To celebrate the birth of Robert Burns, our national poet, I have chosen this small pastel drawing I made last year which to my mind encapsulates the closeness of the two lovers from Burns' poem:
"John Anderson my jo, John, when we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven, your bonie brow was brent;
But know your brow is beld, John, your locks are like the snaw,
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson my jo!
Today, 25th January, also marks the birthdate of my mother, Margaret Wallace, who always quoted this poem of Burns as her favourite. It is to her I also dedicate this painting. I never forget you.

Charcoal on paper, 43x59cm: I made this drawing today in preparation for making it into a painting, and while I am satisfied with this my atempts at painting were futile and a complete waste of time. Ah well, there's always tomorrow!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Julie Fowlis at Celtic Connections

Charcoal on paper, 59x43cm: Celtic Connections at the ABC with Julie Fowlis and her band. This girl is phenomenal! With an absolutely beautiful voice as clear and sweet as a bell she sings in Gaelic the most haunting melodies and foot-tapping crofters work songs from her home island of Uist. I managed to get good seats close to the front with a clear view of most of the band (I couldn't see the boron player for the huge guy right in front of me!), but I could see all of the others in the band and, as I often do, sketched them in a small sketchbook while listening to the music. This charcoal drawing is a composite of Julie and three band members: Mandolin, bass, and fiddle. Below is the original sketchbook drawing of the guitarist who was left out of this first composite but will try to include him in my further studies. I need to decide how this painting is going to develop. I am not too keen on straightforward representational figures and will try to get a degree of abstraction into it.
Julie has made a big impression on me! A slight girl with lovely face and eyes and soft fine hair she sings like a linty. I loved her in this little black dress with wide swirling flounces at the sleeves and satin neck-band and hems. But what a talent - she also played the whistle at such a fantastic rate, box accordian, and as part of her finale, these bag-pipes. Incredible to see this slip-of-a-girl commanding the stage and holding a large audience in complete enthral like some Hebridean pied-piper!
I can hear her again right now from this little sketch - watch the fingers fly, see her dress swirl with the skirl of the pipes, hear the crowd clap and shout for more as she finishes in a final flourish! A magnificent performance. I am now a dedicated fan!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Celtic Connections 2008

Acrylics on board 30x40cm: Last night I went to see and hear Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers Band at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow's Merchant City. Now I have never heard him before but he was recommended by some of the people in my mandolin class so I got some tickets. This guy is reconned to be one of the very best mandolinists in the world coming from a Bluegrass background. There's no doubt he can play and so also could the individual members of his band. However, for much of the show their music was far too experimental for me - and for most people in the hall. Not what we expected or came to hear. It was at times discordant and excruciatingly painful. One guy at the back of the hall shouted out for some bluegrass, but CT was not for changing and carried on in the same vein. This reminded me of two things - firstly when Bob Dylan changed his style from acoustic to electric his folky following were horrified and gave him the bird, and secondly, is it not also a mark of any artists development that they seek to push the boundaries of their art, often leaving their following behind? Changes in style do not always mean improvement but you have to admire the courage of an artist to want (or is that need?) to develop their art beyond what is expected of them. A good contemporary example of this, I think, is the British artist Gwen Hardie who is probably most famous for her large scale paintings of the female figure, usually slightly out of focus, who in the 1990's after great acclaim changed to painting smaller, stick-like, figures. I found the 'new' style jarring and uncomfortable, which was probably the intention, and left me disappointed and saddened because it was not the style I had come to appreciate and love. Having not seen her work now for some time I have just Googled her name and I see that she has returned to her former style. So perhaps that's the way of it - an artist comes full-circle and returns to her roots? Is that an economic decision, or simply getting the experimental stage out of the system? I guess it will be the same for Chris Thile so I will watch with interest to see if he will return to his bluegrass roots. Happily for the audience last night he finished off his gig with some older stuff, including an excellent rendition of "Baby's in Black" written by the Beatles. We all need to develop and grow and find new means of expression but it's good to reprise where you came from even just to give your audience something to cling on to while they get accustomed to the new direction.

Perhaps what made it all the more difficult was because the support band, "The Bills" from Montreal, were so good playing an eclectic mix of French Canadian Folk, Tango accordian, Italian Tarantella, simple folk songs and a bit of Jazz. They were well appreciated and I spoke briefly to Marc Atkinson, their mandolin player asking if they knew of "Tillers Foley", another Canadian folk band which I saw a few years ago in Ullapool to which he replied "yes, they were very good friends". The small acrylic painting at the top of this piece is actually of Tillers Foley from sketches made during their gig.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Young Woman Sitting

Pencil and acrylics on paper, 30x43cm: What a technological whiz-kid I am! I don't think I have posted this before (I sometimes lose the place you know!) so I'm using this image to introduce my new link to my new gallery shop on which you will see on the right-hand column. It may be a "virtual" gallery but the link is definitely there. I can see it, and it works too! Give it a try and let me know what you think?

Monday, 14 January 2008

The Scott Monument

Oils on board, 30x40cm: My trip through to Edinburgh on Saturday reminded me of this little painting I did not so long ago. It's the wonderful Victorian monument to Sir Walter Scott in the Waverley Gardens facing on to Princes Street. This view is from across the Gardens on the other side of the railway at low level. It was Springtime and although the Cherry trees were in full bloom it was a cold grey day with a chilly sea harr coming in from the Firth of Forth. I chose this view in order to get Sir Walter silhouetted against the sky gap between buildings. The building on the left is Jenners a large department store offering good quality merchandise and designer labels at top prices. Needless to say I seldom purchase anything there although I did once buy a new bunnet to keep my head warm!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Joan Eardley Exhibition

Yesterday we travelled through to Edinburgh by train to catch the penultimate day showing of this fantastic exhibition of Eardley's work at the National Gallery of Scotland. Although I had already seen a number of her paintings at a small exhibition in the Peoples Palace in Glasgow Green, I hadn't actually seen a good number of these paintings before. The gallery was packed with people like us making sure we got a last look before the show ends today. A good natured crowd respectful of other peoples need to have a good look at the work without jostling. No fights broke out that I saw anyway!
And what a show it was! She was prolific, and expansive - I was amazed at the number of paintings which were gathered here from many sources, both public and private, and the scale of many of the paintings was fantastic: huge expansive seascapes like the one at the end of this blog, with layer upon layer of paint and rich textures like you can't believe, and these paintings of people, especially the children. We were all in reverent awe of what we were seeing!

This is the front cover of the exhibition brochure and shows a large detail from "Children and Chalked Wall No.3" painted in oils with newspaper and metal foil collaged on canvas, 1963. The full picture of these two pals measures 61x68.6cm. A total inspiration with it's textures and colours.
If the previous painting was inspiring then what does that make this picture at 101x179cm painted in 1960 called: "Glasgow Back Street with Children Playing". For me this was the best in the show not just because of it's size but the complex interlocking of shapes and colour of the kids playing in the street just as I did as a child. This brings it all back for me. You can almost hear the laughter and the noise and the fun!

The Samson Family: Joan painted this group of children, individually and together, many times. This is a brilliant photo of them standing together in Eardley's studio. The little girl front right is Pat Samson who features by herself as "Little Girl with a Squint". Only recently did the media find some of these kids grown up now and let us hear their own memories of posing for Eardley. Fascinating insights!
Finally, this is an example of one of her seascapes:"Foam and Blue Sky" painted at Catterline in the North East of Scotland just south of Aberdeen where she stayed for a number of years towards the end of her short life. There are so many fantastic seascapes like this with it's grandeur, colour, textures, and movement I would like to show all of them but the best thing would be for anyone interested to get a hold of the brochure for themselves. It is a very high quality publication with great colour photos and only cost £9.95. Astonishing! It is published by National galleries of Scotland, ISBN 978 1 906270 04 9.

So what a day! It was wonderful, if a bit exhausting, to travel through to Auld Reekie, have our lunch in Harvey Nicks with an excellent glass of wine, and then get a look at this fantastic exhibition. My feelings as we came out were, as usual, very mixed: on the one hand I was, of course, inspired beyond doubt but also a bit deflated by my own inability to do anything anywhere near this quality standard Eardley has set for us. Having now seen these paintings 'up close and personal', many for the first time, I am in sheer awe and admiration of this womans fabulous talent. Well done Joan - you are one of the very finest painters that Scotland and even the world has ever produced. You are my hero!

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Here we are in the depths of winter and I am thinking peas! I made this little watercolour sketch from my harvest of last summers maincrop peas - just what you need on a dreich January day: the captured rays of the sun in succulent fresh vegetables. There's nothing to beat them. Whatever else I grow these are always a success! And whatever else I draw I am always fascinated by the natural lines and shapes of flowers and plants. I remember when I was just starting to develop my drawing skills in the late 1960's/early 70's my hero was the architect Charles Rennie Macintosh who also drew and painted these wonderful images of flowers. Today, of course, his flower images are highly sought after. Shame he didn't reap the benefits while he was still alive as he died in 1928 a broken and penniless drunk unrecognised in his own country.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Lie Like A Chair

At long last I have opened my first virtual shop at and if anyone is interested you can find me at:
I started setting this up last year but never quite got to posting any items for sale until a few days ago when I recieved an enquiry about this pastel painting 'Lie Like A Chair'. This enquiry was the catalyst to get me moving, dive in and open up my shop, and make it easy for someone to make a purchase using PayPal - a third party payment facilitator that protects both seller and buyer.
The painting itself is in pastel, 43x30cm, and shows an imaginary couple in close embrace while sleeping.