Thursday, 13 May 2010

Don McLean in Concert

It was over 40 years ago when we first went to see Don McLean in concert. The second time was about ten years ago at the Kings and last night the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.
The first time, Jacqui reminds me, was for our 7th wedding anniversary when we saw him at The Glasgow Apollo Theatre sadly now demolished (and before you say it NO, it wisnae us, although we did our best on the night with a bunch of other juveniles :o{

The Apollo was so large an auditorium and we were so far away from the stage somewhere up in the darkest reaches of the gods that there were times when we could hardly hear anything let alone know that the tiny wee figure in the distance was in fact McLean. It could have been anybody and just playing records for all we knew.

So, I remember, we jumped around the seats having our own party.
All good fun but a million years and a million miles away from then, The RGCH, is much more civilised. And this time I got us very good seats. How the times have changed and what a difference having some spondoolies in my pocket.

Now these fantastic seats were not in the front row as you might expect for a big spender like me (believe it!) but up to one side so I could see the performers in profile. I have drawn hundreds of performers in action and usually I see them direct from the front so, for a change, getting a side view was important to me.

We were in early to hear the support act, a lassie from Camden in London, Lesley Rowley, who has the clearest and most beautiful voice which soared out across the auditorium:

A young singer/songwriter and great to listen to playing some good acoustic guitar. When I come to paint her I will definitely remember her richly dark red hair, a godsend for an avowed colourist!

For this fantastic support act the seats in front were, of course, empty. Some people appear to have tunnel vision when it comes to listening to anyone who isn't the headline act. And tunnel vision is what I needed when they finally arrived. How is it that in a hall of a few thousand people I get the biggest lad in front of me with sticky-out ears?:

It was only when he turned to one side that I could see anything through his lug-holes let alone draw!

But, even when the lights went down, trouper that I am, I managed to get some sketching done, that is while singing my heid aff to all the songs I love:

Winterwood, Crossroads, Empty Chairs, all from the American Pie album (which I bought way back when, in vinyl, and still treasure) building up to the whole auditorium belting out American Pie at least twice, after my very favourite of all time, Vincent.

"..You took your life as lovers often do,
but I could have told you, Vincent,
this world was never meant
for one as beautiful as you".

Here I am, misting up again as I write it!

And no wonder. When Jacqui and I got married the best I could do was to take us down to Rothesay, on the Island of Bute (just doon the watter from Glasgow) for our honeymoon. It wasn't till the following year, as a young student of architecture at the Glasgow School of Art, that I got a student offer to travel to Amsterdam. There we got to see van Goghs paintings in the flesh, so to speak, and were blown away, all the time singing McLeans song in our heads. And that was without any "grass" which is a whole other story (while walking in a park one day nursing hang-overs on cheap wine and Heinekin, a bloke comes up to us and says "Would you like to buy some grass?". Jacqui, ever the naive, says "get lost, we don't even have a garden!". Now you know why I married her :o)

Here's a second go at the man himself:

And the drummer:

The bass player:

Lead guitar:

And the drummer again, with all his equipment in front of him:

I can already see how all these sketches will come together in one composition. But that is for another day.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Found Out!

It's just as well I didn't take bets on how long it would take my darling wife to find the broken vase. I was thinking at least 3 months, but there she was at the door of my studio this morning only two days after returning from her extended holidays on Arran wanting to know if I had been swinging from the light-fittings and causing certain "damage" as she called it.

Of course I blamed the speugs and reminded her of the new wee blue vase and showed her the picture I painted with flooers in it.

You can probably tell I got away with it and still have both arms unbroken and therefore able to write this epistle :o)

Although there was in fact some "damage" while she was away there was also a fair bit of positive work done. After a long period there where I couldn't raise sufficient motivation to even unlock the studio door I have been painting like a demon possessed.

Following on from yesterday's post regarding painting direct from life sometimes the subject just steps up and pokes you in the eye. I had just returned from a sorte to the supermarket and put my fresh melon on the worktop beside a bowl of apples when there it was:

Oils on board 36x61cm.
It looks a bit small here and I don't know how to have it published at a larger scale so you will need to click on this image to see it as intended.

The concept was to simply have the points of each oval disc touching each other and provide a richly textured background to set them off against.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Diversionary Tactics

Still in one piece (unlike the vase, of course) after a fantastic weekend on our Island of Dreams (aka Arran) my cunning plan is to divert attention away from the broken vase by gifting a new wee blue bowl from a young potter, Jeff Irving, working out of his own workshop on the Island, Cladach Pottery:

And here is that wee blue bowl which has indeed worked it's magic:

Now, taking sound advice, I'm sure, from Melanie, I also need some flooers to draw further attention away from The Vase Wi' a Hole in It and keep everything sweet.

For well over a year now I have been painting figures, abstracts, and more figures in a semi-abstract fashion all done from pure imagination. For now, however, I need another diversion to retain my sanity (who said "aye, right"?) so I set up these Rhododendron flowers in a jug with my favourite yellow pot and a sweet pear to paint direct from observation:

Oils on board, 30x40cm.

There is a world of a difference between painting from imagination and direct from life. When painting from imagination the options are indeed only limited by your palette. But what colours to choose? Depends, of course, on what you are trying to say.
In my "Facial Feelings" series the colours arrived at were 'felt' rather than 'seen'. And while this is an incredible way of working sometimes it is good to return to what is seen to keep the eyes on their toes, so to speak, and observant.

Even though you may think that the options are limitless from imagination sometimes it is better to simply be expressive with the colours you see rather than just "making them up". Ask Melinda.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Had a bit of an axcident.

I was just leaning to one side to get a better view of what all the squabbling was about outside between a bunch of speugs (sparrows, to you non Scottish speakers out there) when her-who-must-be-obeyed's favourite vase ran into my elbow and then hit the floor:

Gawd! Panic! What to do? Where can I hide?

No, no, calm doon. It'll be ok wi' a spot of glue:

Do you think she'll notice?

It will be fine as long as she doesn't want to put floers in it with water.

Any questions (which is a certainty) I'll just say it's like the Japanese call it - Wabi Sabi - not quite perfect but full of character.
Yes, that'll do it.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Just a wee additional blog for a Sunday Nite -think of it like having dessert.

The question is: Whit's missing in this photie:

Well, before you answer the question you should know that my darling wife has disappeared to Arran for a week with her sister and I am left to fend for myself. So, with that in mind, you now realise I have also to make my ain dinners. And tonights delicacy was to be stew with carrots (need to get my five a day somehow [that's five bits of carrot I think?]), a bit o' pastry and mashed tatties.

Look again.

Yer no wrang...I forgot to put the spuds on. Ah well, that's ok - for I need to be watching my sylph-like waist-line anyway!

On the up-side, while savouring this less-than-perfect delight, I did get the chance to listen to a fascinating programme on BBC Radio 3 on Gustav Mahler's often inclusion of voices in his Symphonys, including his "Songs Without Voices". Don't know how he worked that one out but, hey, can't critizise a fellow depressive :o{

And as far as the dinner went? Never missed the spuds at all. Goes to show what a good wine can do :o)

The Glasgow Lyric Choir

A very good friend of mine, Rosemary, managed to sell me tickets for a concert last November by the choir she sings with, The Lyric Choir, for a performance of the 'Mass For St Cecilia's Day' by Franz Josef Hyden. And as if getting me to put my hand in my pocket wasn't enough the Recital was held in St Andrews in the Square Church in Glasgows city centre. And as if all that wasn't enough it started with 'Zadoc the Priest'. Ma heid was birlin'! But, then, almost immediately, so was my spirit. Absolutely sublime music in a most wonderful venue.

Shy to begin with (step out to the front the person who guffawed!) I soon got out my wee sketchbook and started scribbling:

The lassie in the middle is my pal Rosemary, and here is a close-up of her singing away like a lintie:

But the soloists for the evening were something else again. Soprano Emma Versteeg was a pure delight:

And Ian Paton was also terrific:

I couldn't get drawings of either the Mezzo-Soprano (person in front with big ears) or the Bass (so close I could only give you an impression of his nasal hairs) but I could just about see the closest celloist:

An absolutely fabulous evening which brightened up the deepest and darkest November in Glasgow last year.