Monday, 30 December 2013


Our way
Well here once again....December is coming to a close and as per usual I am filled with both trepidation and excitement at the prospect of beginning a new year. It helps to have plans and a few dreams and hopes too. The main thing is to keep positive and embrace whatever life throws at you. 
Oil and earth on card
In the mad run up to Christmas this year I was keen to do some painting and get some tangible ideas down. I did manage a few pieces on card and feel relatively enthused by the potential in them. Still drawn to the wild landscapes of Northumberland and the inclusion of burnt peat in these studies adds another dimension which I am enjoying's fairly unpredictable and it's archival fragility feels irresponsible which I like!

Tiny studies on card

All at sea

I'll keep on painting and have plans to take part in the first ever Scottish Borders Art Fair in March. More of this later. I have also been thinking about how to present my smaller works on card in a more commercial way. John carried out the plan.Below are some prototypes.
Oil on card float mounted on deep wooden frame
View from Hepburn
Small night walk
I worry constantly that I somehow might run out of ideas but the landscape keeps giving. I've written about this many times in other posts .... it's all down to the light and the weather. A place so familiar can offer up so many new things at different times and on different days. The Antarctic is not exactly a  familiar place for any mortal but  listening to the Forum the other day on Radio 4 it was fascinating to hear the photographer Camille Seaman talk about her methods used whilst photographing icebergs...she never photographs in bright sunlight...only in overcast and stormy conditions, these particular light conditions provide her with unique colour and shade unseen in brighter conditions. Stunning images and really worth checking out.

We have been out walking and bouldering in between the storms, strange weather patterns lately, like shifts, 3 days on, 3 days off kind of pattern. So no matter the form we've taken the opportunity to get out.

Looking towards Ruberslaw...River Teviot in Flood

Evening Sky

Gillean going for it

Little study-just for fun

Sunday 29th December

On the way out

If you have been reading,thank you and here's  to a peaceful and very creative 2014 :)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

November Blog

Looking back on all my photographs from the last month many of them have a very similar theme, light. It's a natural response at this time of year and when the sun has been shining I have been keen to photograph what I could. As it happens I have had a bit of a break from the studio this month.
Kyloe in the woods
Both of the ideas I had been working on have taken a bit of a back seat.
 I took a (long over due and very welcome) 4 day visit to see my sister in Ireland, and this past week a certain someone's 14th birthday meant studio work was out!
 Also with all the colder dry weather  climbing has had more than a few days look in too. Excuses, excuses, I know but
 experience has told me that a few days/weeks out of the studio doesn't do anyone any harm. It's pointless beating yourself up about it but I suppose we all do it at some stage or other.We should just try to relax about it and remind ourselves that new ideas often incubate very well when your out doing  things and seeing people.
Delicate greens
Time and the lack of it is an issue for  me and I know I'm not alone here. There are  always a million things to do!

Another thing too that is often overlooked is getting work prepared for  galleries/selling....not to mention  time consuming travelling etc
The amount of time an artist should and could spend updating web pages, sending out submissions and applying for this that and the next thing is unending should they wish to go down that route. Sometimes you have to and it's a real struggle to do these things when all you really want to do with your precious studio time is paint! Oh to have a PA !
In the woods

Sunset over the Cheviot

So now in the frantic run up to xmas I have made the conscious decision to get x amount of drawing and painting done to appease the time and guilt gods or else I won't be able to enjoy my turkey come the 25th!

Still thinking about the editing of my images and I made one A1 sized burnt earth/PVA and charcoal drawing earlier this month that felt promising so I want to get back into that zone now.

Burnt earth/PVA/Charcoal on linseed stained paper

Walking out from Kyloe 

Low sun
Yellow, the colour of the month!
Roses in November !

Dunbar harbour

Moody sky near Crailing

Time is never easy to fathom, only 20 days till the shortest day...another significant marker in the year, hopefully more good times to come.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Wet and dry in October

Autumn is upon us. Even though I have honoured my commitment to my monthly posts I still have lost August! Oh well I'll carry on secure in the Knowledge that it is now definitely October.

All change again as we enter into the second half of the year. It's sad to see the leaves turn colour and fall but with that the cycle of life goes on, moving forward and hopefully bringing new opportunities and new things to experience.

We had a weeks holiday this month and headed to Fontainebleau once again to climb on the beautiful sandstone boulders scattered throughout the forest.

 Wet sands at Rocher Fin
This time the weather was pretty unsettled and it rained persistently for three days in the middle of our week. Extremely frustrating as we hadn't really factored in what we might do if it rained!  This cheered me up. Keep things in perspective!
Collecting beta in the rain
 Needless to say we survived and at least enjoyed 3 days bouldering rain free. It's a vast forest with many bouldering areas hidden amongst the trees. Once out of the forest what is striking coming from Scotland is the utter flatness of the landscape. I loved watching how the distant trees and buildings changed in scale on the horizon whilst whizzing by in the car.The skies are vast too and if I could stay for a few weeks I'd certainly have plenty subject matter to inspire me.
"Two peasants in a field"  Francois Millet

Ipad sketch
We stopped by Barbizon on one of those wet days and I made a visit into Francois Millet's studio and house...I was keen to see the connection between the paintings and drawings and the local landscape. The studio contains a vast array of paintings and drawings from several artists of the time and although most of the paintings were very dingy and dark this connection was very plain to see. There are some very beautiful drawings on show and also Millet's very own wooden clogs placed carefully at his easel. Seeing his clogs gave me a mild thrill!!
 Francois Millet  Self Portrait 1845-46
"Spring at Barbizon"   1868-7  by Francois Millet

Millet's House and studio in Barbizon

Beautiful greens

The forest floor

I love these spiky little chestnut coats

Mushrooms everywhere you cared to look
Walking out

First day 
Wonderful colour

Yes it looks like a happy  pooch!

Back home this week we went bouldering in Northumberland. Time to reflect and both agreed that Fontainebleau is fantastic with some thing for every body and definitely not to be missed, but we are very fortunate to have Northumberland on our door step.
Back in Northumberland
Fun in the sun

Before we left for France a few things about my work had been preoccupying my thoughts. Nothing entirely new in that. Creativity by it's very nature is never static.
 Andrew Mackenzie makes beautifully crafted landscape paintings that are subtly contemporary in terms of their subject matter. We were  fortunate to have him give a talk to our students a few weeks ago and much of what he was talking about resonated with how I feel about landscape painting. My paintings are based very much on the natural landscape but as I have said in previous posts I edit out  a good deal of man made things and focus on the natural aspects of landscape. Nothing wrong with this and I'm not about to start painting road signs and highways but I am keenly interested in taking a less edited approach to landscape if at all possible.
There is an old military pillbox near where we climb in Northumberland (there are many dotted in this landscape) I have seen it many times and a few weeks ago I took some shots from inside the structure, looking out. I was simply thinking about how the openings frame and edit the landscape , anyway I did a few small painted studies before the photographing and am aware of the rectangular motif running through the images. Maybe it will lead to new work, who knows. It's a step I'd like to take, we'll see.