Thursday, 27 October 2011

Over the Sea to Skye

This blog is in grave danger of becoming inert and as unchanging as my socks, stuck in aspic you might say, and in need of a bloody great shove to overcome the inertia that has become as negligently pervasive as the space between my ears.

So in order to counteract that freefall I offer these small delights to keep y’all from pining and nodding off:

A short while ago my darling wife and I set off on the Road to the Isles (with the far Cuillins calling us away…anybody know that song: "Oh, The far cuillins are calling me away as step I with my crummock to the road…" fills yer hert wi joy! [don‘t know whit a crummock is so don‘t ask) to sample some unpolluted air and paddle a while in the ice-cold briney oceans around the dead romantic Hebridean island of Skye. The good news is that we no longer had to take a ferry-boat like some latter-day Flora McDonald and Prince Charlie(me being Charlie, of course) since they built the Skye Bridge - a big lump o’ a thing that flies you over from the Kyles of Lochalsh to land on the island without getting your feet wet.

A wonderful place on this earth. And peaceful too…ahh, I can still smell the tangle o’ the isles as I fondly reminisce.

Very little actual sketching done with so much grandeur on every side - endless seascapes to the horizon and atmospheric skies, rugged mountains and peaceful bays, lots of sheep and heilan’ coos, nae midges (too late in the season), and some excellent music at night in the Isles Bar.

Here is the sum total of my efforts, including one painting that sprung from my memories of a very special island:

Loch Leathan (the skinny bit between the hills in the distance and the scrub in the foreground), felt pen on paper, A4.

"Heartland", a husband and wife duo in the Isles Bar, pencil on paper, A5.
I liked the way this ended up with the girl flying over her husbands head like a pair of Chagall lovers.

"Kate on the Fiddle" pencil on paper, A5.

"Da Ferry Reel", pencil on paper, A5
Makes you want to get up and dance, especially wi' a few pints in ye!

Sgeir nan S'dhean (Waterstein Head), felt pen on paper, A4x2.
So windy at this most westerly point my bunnet and my rug nearly blew away!

"Beinn Bhreac and Loch Bay", felt pen on paper, A4x2.
The dark clouds gathered and heavy slanting rain rushed across the bay just to make me feel alive.

And from some of these sketches came this response:

"Red Headland and Dark Cloud", acrylics on hardboard, 45x61cm.

I hope you all have had as good a summer's break as I have and are cooking up your own storms!

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Change is the one constant in life. Wanting to maintain the status quo we often resist it, but eventually we must embrace it.

There have been major changes in my life recently, and not just becoming a grand-parent, but in many other ways too, some good and some not so good. Such is life. And there are more changes on the way, so there has been little time for blogging at present which is not to say I haven’t been thinking of you lot, I just haven’t been able to keep up with all that’s going on for me and write about it as well.

So this is to say that it may be a little while before I get back to a more settled state and feel like blethering with yous again.

The good news for you art lovers out there is that drawing and painting is still my number one concern. It may no longer be the second career I hoped for but it is still my principal occupation.

And one thought I’ll leave you with for the present is: what do you do with all the artwork created when there is no more room left in your studio to turn around?

Hasta la vista!
Acrylics on canvas, 50x70cm.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Dhanakosa Day 2

Another wet day. Dark clouds depositing everything they have on top of us - wouldn't be Scotland otherwise.

Beginning to get the idea that I am better off out on my own even if frequent showers catch me without warning. Not exactly ideal weather for painting watercolours - the paint refuses to dry with so much moisture in the air., but I start with a small pastel sketch to capture one moment:

 Neocolours in Sketchbook, A6 x2.
I quite enjoy working at this scale, but of course I always try to put too much into it.

Further on I come across this stand of tall pines with just the merest glimpse of the loch:

 Neocolours in Sketchbook, A5 x2.
Another sudden shower catches me unaware and splatters the page disolving some of the Neocolour pastel. I like it.

I dive under a beech tree humming a happy tune and wait while the rain batters down. Now this is the perfect moment for meditating on the impermanence of life.

After a while I venture out and the sun is shining once again so I wander along my merry way and down closer to the loch I am attracted to these trees on the shoreline:

 Felt pen and watercolour in Sketchbook, A4.
What a beautiful place to sit sheltered from passing showers and a fresh breeze blowing through to keep them pesky flies from my fevered brow. Blue is, of course, my natural response, but what if...?

What if I let myself go for a moment and paint how I FEEL about it?

Orange felt pen and watercolour in Sketchbook, A5 x2.

 This small double sketch is much more satisfying...I am getting out of my head and down into my gut.

A happy day but hark, I hear the bell summoning me to Metta Bhavana meditation when I shall engender some loving kindness towards my fellow human beans. But not the one I am sharing a room with who snores and farts!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


I had always wondered what it would be like to go on a “painting” holiday, and listening to others at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre talking of the meditation retreats they had been on I always wondered what that would be like too (this is why they call me The Wonder Boy). Last week I finally fulfilled both these things by going on a Painting and Meditation Retreat at one of the WBO’s centres in the Scottish Highlands at Dhanakosa on the shores of Loch Voil.

And I am cured. The boxes are ticked but never to be repeated.
On arrival, Friday evening, the first thing I was asked to do was put my name down for six (that’s right, 6) work activities ranging from breakfast prep and tidy away, food prep with the cook (vegetarian), dishes wash-up, kitchen cleaning, toilet cleaning, hoovering, etc. I agreed to do dishes wash-up on Saturday and Monday, morning noon and night. As luck would have it I actually only carried out one of those duties since two sisters, who arrived late, (both young, lively, and very beautiful) offered to take over all but one of my duties. Must have been my boyish charm! Sadly they then both left after a few days unable to stand it any longer, and I can’t blame them.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, however, I prefer to just tell you about the drawing and painting I did. Well, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about, ain’t it?
Day 1:
Saturday was the first full day of drawing activity starting with drawing flowers brought in from the garden. A pleasant enough activity and interesting to see everybody’s drawing capability but there were the seeds of my discontent right there: working alongside other people. I thought that I would like to do that kind of thing but when it came to it I was disconcerted. I couldn’t concentrate on the work for chatting - theirs, and mine!

Centaurea, pencil and watercolour on paper, A2

In the afternoon, even though it was quite wet we were allowed out to play and the task was to use charcoal and consider the landscape in tone:

 Value Study #1, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #2, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #3, charcoal on paper, A4.
The sky was alive with swallows and martins swooping and diving. It's a long way to come from Africa just to catch our midges, but good on them I say!

 Value Study #4, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #5, charcoal on paper, A4.
Beginning to feel the more abstract qualities already after just a few sketches.

 Value Study #6, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #7, charcoal on paper, A4.

Moving on from just using charcoal I began to introduce some lines in ink:

 Value Study #8, charcoal and ink on paper, A4.

Then, finally, I dispensed with the charcoal and just made these two ink drawings:

 Hill and Sky Study #9, ink in sketchbook, A6.

Mountain Stream Study #1, ink in sketchbook, A6.

The best thing about it all was being out again in the living landscape (after months in the studio) with mountain, loch and sky before me and a rucksac of art materials and a fold-away chair.
This is my kind of meditation.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Arran 2011

I go away for a week and get lost for another fortnight! Such is life. The problem is, even when you are working like a dervish, the minute you take a break the whole impetus collapses and you find a million other things needing done before you can bring your mind back to heel and restart work again. Well it is for me.

I thought I'd share the little of my holiday that I actually produced. Having taken a load of art materials with me expecting to be languishing around with little else to do I found the actuallity quite different with long walks through highland glens and paddling in the briney ocean taking most of my time.

On occassion I got to sit basking in the warm sunshine and observe nature going about it's business, in this case a bit of lovey-dovey:

 Twin Terns, ink in sketchbook, A6.
What a racket these two made plighting their troth!

Even inanimate objects can exude the wondrous diversity of Nature. These rocks have been baring the brunt of biting wind and tides for millenia and their stoicism in the face of adversity give a foothold to bladderwrack:
 Ink in Sketchbook, A6.

Spring is definitely in the air and these two have got the future in mind. Just as well it's fun for there's nothing like a cauld blast from the Urals to dampen yer ardour:

 Wagtails of the Pied variety. Ink in sketchbook, A6.

After miles of walking it's good to park yourself for a few hours on a sand-dune and watch the gannets plunging dive and white-sailed yachts drift over a glassy sea, and watch dogs mad with liberation run their hearts out along the waters edge. Then suddenly, the sun slips over the yard-arm and it's time for tea:

 Looking South from Drumadoon Bay. Ink in sketchpad, A6.

After a whole week of walter-wall sunshine on our last day deep in Glen Rosa the rain finally comes pouring off the mountains:
 Creag Rosa. Pencil in sketchbook, A6.

Butit is with a tinge of sadness that we leave this Island of Dreams. A dead Shearwater lies on the beach as in sleep but lifeless:
Shearwater. Acrylics on board, 34x61cm.

The world turns and we move on.

A happy holiday nonetheless.

Friday, 22 April 2011

We Are Sailing

Tomorrow we are off to the rainy Island of Arran so I thought I would post this painting before I go:

Mixed media on board, 59x87cm.

The important element in this is that when I do my Subconscious Musings each morning I do them on A1 paper. But on Tuesday there my Musing got more and more extended to the point that it has become a painting in it's own right:

Acrylics and oil pastel on paper, A1.

The obvious question which arose was: "Aye, but can you do it directly on a board responding only to your inner being and without a safety net?

You bet your sweet bippies I can.

And I did.

See y'all in a couple o' weeks when I get back from Arran weather-beaten and brown as a berry.

We are sailing,
we are sailing,
across the sea,
to have our tea (just made that bit up).

Sunday, 17 April 2011


Still searching for the image that says "abstract" while expresses "figure":

Acrylics on canvas, 30x40cm.

I feel that I'm getting closer.

The real step forward for me here is scratching through one colour to get to the colour below. That requires  thinking ahead which, of course, is my forte.

Aye, right!

Thursday, 14 April 2011


Fritilaria meleagris to be precise. Coming up everywhere in the garden they are. Except the ones my darling wife planted - turns out she put them in upside down, so all you Aust-raa-lians down under, "Cheers Mates, g'day, and enjoy!"

Pencil and watercolour in sketchbook, A4

Pencil and watercolour in sketchbook, A4

Pencil and watercolour in sketchbook, A4

The 'Snakeshead' common name refers to the resemblance these flowers have, with their scale-like markings and open mouth, to the head of a cobra.


Saturday, 9 April 2011

Peter Tudhope at Gracefield

A fabulous summer-like day and a fine drive through wonderful countryside south from Glasgow to Dumfries and the Gracefield Arts Centre where we went to see some very fine paintings by fellow blogger, Peter Tudhope.

The main gallery:

A very nice venue but who is that wummin posing for her photie?

Gallery 2 set in beautiful mature gardens:

Environmental sculpture by Charlie Poulson:
No idea what it's about...

A corner of the cafe where Peter's paintings are displayed:

A nice space and a nice lunch surrounded by excellent paintings.

Another view:
There's that wummin again...I think she's following me! "Paintings?", "What paintings?" "Another coffee, please!" - that's all I get....
Actually all joking aside it was great to see Peter's painting 'in the flesh' so to speak - bold, energetic, and powerful strokes of colour that a computer screen hardly does any justice to. Much to enjoy and ponder on. My favourite is Galloway Hills which was the complete package - great colours and brush-strokes set off well in just the right frame. And I hope he doesn't mind me saying that his "Treescape" is pure Soutine - all slanty and expressive brush-strokes!

Congratulations on the exhibition, Peter!

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Spring is rushing up on us here in Scotland and this can be seen potently with the bursting forth of brand new rhubarb leaves:

 Neocolours in sketchbook, A4x2.

First drawing looking down on top of the 'barb stalks shows that give-away pale bulb of a flowering-head which will have to come off before too long if I want to have any stalks worth eating.

Second drawing from the side of my second clump is much more refined and will provide me with lots of strong stalks to bake in my crumble:

Neocolours in sketchbook, A4x2.

The ice-cream is in the freezer and the oven is warming in anticipation.

Good things come to those who wait. 

Friday, 1 April 2011

Scratch My Back.

 A number of weeks ago while travelling home from Glasgow on the train I started doodling in my brand new A5 sketchpad. This is one of the pages in which I was considering what it would look like to try to scratch that annoying itch on my back when I could hardly reach it (lower sketch):

Ink on paper, A5.

This was developed a few days ago with a B&W value study first:

Neocolours on paper, A5.

...then a whole series of colour studies trying different colour combinations culminating in this one where I made a fantastic leap of the imagination to use orange and red to show where the irritation was just out of reach of my finger-tips:

Ink and Neocolours washed on paper, A3.

...don't know why it didn't occur to me earlier but there you are - the process has to be gone through and, with perseverance, there it is when it was in fact obvious all along.

And then, just as obvious when it happens, I see that the whole image needs to be turned upside down for the legs finally to take on the same contortions of the arms to express the madness of having an itch that cannot be reached!:

 Charcoal and Neocolour on paper, A2.

I have got no idea how to paint it, but the good news is that my darling wife was able to put me out of my misery with a well-placed scratch after I put new batteries in Thomas the Tank Engine for her :o)

Prior to all this cavorting around the day was started, as usual, with a bit of Subconscious Musing:

Charcoal, ink, acrylics on paper, 59x87cm. 

So, all-in-all a very good day and satisfying too, and no more itchy back. What more could a boy ask for?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Jacqui's New Laptop

And now for something completely different...

Jacqueline enters the 21st Century and shows off her amazing computing skills with her brand new laptop:

Well, you can't be glum all the time!!!

Monday, 14 March 2011


Charcoal and acrylics on paper, 59x83cm.

This is beyond words.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Double Three!

Which is not bad at all since it adds up to a 6! [for all you inadequate innumerate adders out there]. And this six takes me forward and up a short ladder to a land of great promise, sunshine and twittering birdies (except I shouldn’t get too carried away for ye never know the next snake around the corner). But we’ll have no negative thinking here, for a corner has indeed been turned and it’s full steam ahead, damn the torpedoes:

"Fun Fur Two", Acrylics on canvas, 31x23cm.

"High Ball", Acrylics on canvas, 31x23cm.

"Emma", Acrylics on canvas, 31x23cm.This is my favourite of the three since it is closer to what my intentions really are.