Thursday, December 31, 2009

Midwinter Birch painting

The snowy light is fascinating me,. daylight is so brief, but this last week has had a bright moon at night which helps combat the darkness, and in the snow makes everything amazing eerie colours, shapes distort, shadows shift. I like just going out in the freezing temperatures & looking at the sky trying to breathe in any light available. I hate Midwinter.

I've also been getting sick of 'painting by numbers' representational landscapes, which people like, and buy. But am currently allowing myself just to go mad with the paint, paint from memory and just splodge around to see what happens. Its pretty mentally exhausting but feels good. I also haven't had space/ house to myself in a couple of months, so am having to shift my working methods to try & work around this. Luckily the snow colours are inspiring enough to help combat the midwinter blues.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stags & Snow

After a very long, very slippy, very snowy, very beautiful drive to Inverness today, I painted 8 of these staggy pictures.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I haven't been blogging much, but thats not to say I haven't been busy!  There has been a couple of craft fairs, This is Lochcarron Hall at the producers day, where I sell my prints and crafty bits - Or  'little drawings ' as someone described my work this week.
I''ve done a recycled crafts demonstration, hopefully there will be some funding for some recycled craft workshops in the new year.  The community art class I run continues to be well attended.
Here is a picture of young people painting the pool table cover at a Youth Cafe workshop I ran on the east coat recently- The theme was about leaving home & homelessness in young people. Great fun & hopefully some important messages sank in.

Apart from that I've been pitching for some comic colouring work, can't show you samples yet I'm afraid!
I've also been press ganged into joining the Highlands Open Studios Committee, to help specifically with PR & marketing, should be fun!  In my case it should of course be called Highlands Open Spare room of chaos.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lochcarron Commission

Heres a Christmas commission painting of Lochcarron including village hall.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

quick sunset

Heres a quicky, commissioned by some kids at the door... I am a big softie & shall charge them some crisps or something.

mail me art submission

Finally finished this doodle, had meant to submit one a month to this but lost 3 months somewhere. I feel the need to delve back into squiggly lines and weird beasties, getting bogged down with 'representational' work .

The logic goes like this, I want art to be inclusive not elitist, that is so that anyone can appreciate it. So I'm trying to court the average person on the street as well as the arts establishment - to feed both my ideals and the chip on shoulder that art college left. So I make paintings that look like real things that people recognise "ooo its just like a photograph", but these aren't abstract or expressive enough for galleries, which also always used to sneer at my  squiggly stuff. However they do establish a degree of technical skill, which seems to annoy other local artists. But the average person ? is that the fake tan wanna be Katie Prices'? the x-factor watching masses? or the tweedy old ladies that pick up my art at craft fairs and say " ooo I don't like this modern art, but I like your landscapes "- modern art? why o why o why do I care what any of them think? why? well because art is a dialogue, communication, pointless in a vacuum. I just wish I could slough off this trying to be everything to all. stuff them, I want to squiggle- just forgotten how.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Heres my finished ' re-imagined ' Odin picture, for my friends at Asgard Crafts, who make really cool Viking/ Celtic/ Pictish pewter/ silver/ bone stuff.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

loch Sgamhain road

ON the road from lochcarron to..anywhere are some amazing empty sweeps of road, there are of course still 20 miles of blind bend single track pot holed road as well. This is the straight stretch near Loch Sgamhain ( pronounced 'skavain' ). the story behind that name is another story.
This is a small painting acrylic, pencil & pastel.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fire & Water

One of the gallery's Christmas/Winter Exhibition includes art in CD cases, that is 12cm by 12cm. I figured trying to do whole landscapes or figures this small would be messy, so went instead for this flame & splash of water. Enjoyable, getting the richness of colour for the flame was tricky, I need to invest in some expensive paint for some core colours. I'm really in the mood for running water scenes, with my proper new camera I should be able to have some fun with this- if I ever get time to read the manual & get outside photographing on decent days.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Highland Festival - 1995

Some History for you. Back in 1995 there was a Highland Arts festival. One of the projects was an art exhibition of art created within a set 24 hour period, as part of this there was an 'Art train' artists and musicians on the train journey from Kyle to Inverness, interpreting that journey then handing in the work at the end. The journey was great fun, a lovely atmosphere on the train. I had my three children with me, then aged 9, 7 and 2.

I did a sequential interpretation of the journey, watercolour & pens on 3 sheets of A1 paper, the landscape reading like a story as it unfolded. These later sold to a swiss couple.
 My son struggled but eventually wrote this poem;

I am moaning on this train because I cannot draw,
Living in the Highlands is lonely
Living in the Highlands is Cold
On the art train a nice train driver showed me the cabin and I got to beep the horn.
The festival train what a beautiful name
Engines roar as rails click
Beautiful scenery passes all the way
So go and buy a ticket.

My eldest daughter Tal painted colourful landscapes.

Our work all got framed up and exhibited. As a result of this came a book, "People in a Landscape", which contained some of the artists and their portraits, from the angle of " the New Highlanders " The author noting that many of these artists were not indigenous highlanders. Myself included as I arrived in 1976, what about my children? they were born & bred here? does it matter ? There was an article in I think-The Times, which caused much anger as it used the expression 'white settler'.
meanwhile, my daughter Tal was chosen for inclusion in the book. portraits were taken by the very talented Craig MacKay.

There was a book launch, lots of people in suits doing speeches, I put on my best handmedown homemade patched up frock & attended with my gaggle of children. I hated it, stood in a corner like uninvited guests ignored, I'd always felt such and outsider in the arts scene. A woman with a very English accent swathed in tartan courted the press. We slunk away embarrassed & miserable, the chip on my shoulder had got bigger, I think I took the children for a treat like chips or toyshop, something lowbrow & real. Its taken me some decades to get past this outsider feeling, and its nothing to do with ability, just who you know & how you present yourself. Of course being a single mom tucked away in a remote glen with no support network didn't exactly aid inclusion for me or my children.

It all seems a million miles away now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Witches

Seeing so many great Halloween art work around I thought I'd better make the effort. I have to confess I very rarely doodle, sketch or draw things just for the fun of it. The list of commissions, gallery pieces, commercial work and organisey work is just too long. Ironically when I do just 'play' its not only more fun, I learn more, and people like it as much as the more formal work.
Sadly I've been rather poorly for the last week or so, all normal work is off the agenda and I haven't been able to do much beyond housework and climbing the walls. This shows rather in the 1st drawing !
I wanted to draw a more practical, modern, feminist, real sized witch - not particularly a self portrait! However this drawing didn't work anyway as I'm rubbish at anatomy without a model or references, bloggers I follow & artists I network with all make it look so easy- depressing.

But I liked this 2nd one enough to colour. I think she's also fed up all those poseur willowy Goths & Emos going on about vampires and rubbish, when theres spells and being scary to get done.

Which reminds me, I have a tonne of leaves to rake up in the garden when I'm well enough...groan !

Monday, October 26, 2009

Two lochs Radio- Sunday Brunch

Today was my Radio Debut. Mike and Graham from Gairlochs' Two lochs Radio station were kind enough to invite me onto their 'Sunday Brunch' programme to talk about being a community Fire fighter. Apparently this is the UK's smallest radio station, the tiny building stands overlooking the scenic Loch Gairloch. Inside I was pretty impressed with the technical gadgetry, all the more surreal watching a hawk feet away outside the window during the programme.

I was a wee bit intimidated by the Microphones at first, especially as the show was live. However a few firefighting questions and a couple of shameless plugs for my website later and I was quite at home.
The really indulgent bit was that I'd been asked to select my 4 favorite songs to play, it was a real kick to hear those playing out !  The programme was available live over the internet as well as on traditional radio.

Its in no way a definitive list, but I'd selected a representational radio appropriate cross section. These were;
Pearl Jam - Alive  which is an emotional one for me, more so after seeing them live at the o2 this summer.
Audioslave-Cochise Chris's vocals & Tom's guitar? wow! the lyrics are also important to me.
Tom Petty - Saving Grace, what an evocative poignant song- a real road song.
Steve Earle- City of Immigrants, particularily topical this week after the Question Time debacle, We saw Steve Earle at Belfast in September, a powerful political & moving performance.

So check out Two Lochs Radio, and Thanks to Mike & Graham for asking me on.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two lochs Radio TODAY

I'd forgotten to post this until today ! I'm on two lochs radio later this morning playing my 4 'favorite' songs and having a chat about firefighting, art comics, life whatever comes up. I think their website has a web cam etc. they will also be taking callers, which could be interesting !

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Applecross Dancers

This is another small painting. 14cm x 21cm. Its based on a photo of two little girls from Applecross doing Highland Dancing at the annual games in 2008. It makes me smile as Applecross children are great.  They are unselfconscious, exuberant, and just a little bit wild, in a great grubby kneed sort of way like all children should be. I love doing art projects with them as its always a relaxed creative time, whereas with most children's groups nowadays one is always treading on eggshells.

Glenariff Waterfall Painting

I love painting flowing water at the moment! I've been doing a disciplin thing of only using paint for everything in a painting, as going in with pastels or water colour pencils seems - not cheating, there is no such thing as cheating- but too much a technique based solution. I want to know I can do it with a brush first.A bit of chalk would have made the spray & texture on rocks a whole lot easier here, I might ease up a little & go mixed media with some of the next paintings.  This ones 17cm x 22cm.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

3 boats.

still working on small pictures, working my way back to the big stuff, I hope to do a lot from photos I took at the sailing club this summer. this ones 14cm x 18cm

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Glasgow Herald

Sunday magazine 17th October 2009. Whilst its nice to get these interviews, its also very embarrassing. The photos were done in the lobby of a Glasgow hotel while I was on an FBU course. My fellow students were watching a moving documentary about Martin Luther King and the rise of the civil rights movement- while I posed. Surreal.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Spinning lesson

another small one, 23cm x 19cm acrylic on paper. This is from a photo of Margaret Beaton from Applecross teaching a visitor lady spinning at Applecross games 2009. In a way I kind of like the early stages, I'm hoping that by working hard doing one after the other that I'll get looser and distill it right down, somewhere between an abstract wash & crisp reality.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ceilidh Dancers

paper, acrylics 19cm x 28cm. working from phone photo from ceilidh we were at last winter. muddy washes and masking fluid for a couple of layers.
enjoyed doing the shoes!

Everyone loves Highland Cows

Heres the cow I posted progress pictures of yesterday. Not too impressed with this canvas, prefer the flow I get on paper. This is one of the beasts over on Applecross Estate, the calves are very cute but look like silly teddy bear cow things. Box canvas, acrylic 24cm x 30cm.


Coire na Ba

Okay that's that one finished, 23cm x 30cm. People who saw the film 'Stardust' may recognize the site of Ricky Gervaise's shop atop this hill. I called the painting after the Coire rather than the Buttress, which is unpronounceable. Its a weird hill, from certain angles it looks like a friendly scramble and calls to me - from a distance it becomes apparent that its thousands of feet of slippery vertical death, even for someone with fully functioning knees and feet.

meanwhile I'm working on some small paintings for Tore Gallery Christmas Show. There is the Highland Cow, ceilidh dancers, spinning ladies- to save confusion I've decided to put progress pictures up one painting at a time. The coo is nearly there, stand by...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Buttress and Coo work in progress

Acrylics on thick paper, building up the layers. Another view from The road to Applecross, a bread & butter painting, trying to get the sombre light without making it all too dark. This technique means a lot of waiting about between wet paint layers, so I have a few paintings on the go at once. Its not ideal as I'd prefer to immerse myself in one at a time. My poor attention span craves to stop multi tasking for once !

So this is the other painting, the obligatory Hairy Coo, this is a small box canvas and I'm finding the surface laborious with my wet layering approach. we'll see what they look like tomorrow. Then there's also the spinning wheel ladies I've just started...

Turning Tiger

So Richmond has a new comic coming out with Renegade Arts Entertainment. Issue 2 has a variant cover drawn by the wonderful Simon Coleby, and Lo! It was coloured by me.

I can now announce that one of the comic strips I was working on this summer was for this ; more details to follow.

Meanwhile I haven't got much art done recently as I've been working hard on funding applications for 'Hi Ex - The Highlands International Comic Expo' that we run. We have also just got back from BICS, the Comic Show in Birmingham, where we had a great time catching up with the great & good of the UK comics scene, we also bought some great artwork & a tonne of comic books. The weekend before we were in Northern Ireland.. all of which has left us exhausted, ill & behind with my art work ... but thats what tomorrows are for.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Comic Cover art.

Here's the cover Art I did a wee while ago for Something Wicked #5, by Future Quake Press. Their main site has been devoured by Thrill suckers but you can buy the comics at their blog.

My Partner Rich has been writing a new comic called Turning Tiger published by Renegade Arts Entertainment. There will be a variant cover by one of my favorite artists.... I'll tell you who later when its officially announced... However I had the great honour of doing the colouring on it .

meanwhile painting will resume as soon as I can stop playing task tennis. ThWACK!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Russel Burn

Here's the finished painting, Russel burn- as seen in the evening light on Sunday. Enjoyed doing this, frustrated how everything else impinges on painting time.
There are technical things which I want to work through, the work seems to be getting more & more representational, which I'm not sure about. I want to capture the light, textures, colours, movement, contrasts in things; but I want to do so in a lively, expressive manner, minimum brush work & layers, I want to avoid muddying, overworking, labouring over detail. I also want to avoid the techniques used by other local artists painting the same mountains - as plagiarism drives me mad! I'm not looking to recreate photographs. Someone today was talking about trying to paint in an impressionist style, I don't think one should aim for a particular style but just intuitively find one's own. Curious then that my work seems to be wandering off on a completely different tangent from me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Paint woman !

enough with all the workshops, meetings, admin, courses, openings, photo calls, schmoozing and hoop jumping! Its time I got some painting done... heres what I'm working on this is a painting for a wedding present commission, a bit bigger than A3;
Russel Burn by the road to applecross, September. drawn in loose colour washes, cover that paper. start the endless mucking about with the hills.

looking forward to getting stuck into the water, rocks & foreground next.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Politics & Art?!
Now many years ago I burnt out on Politics, as you do. Family life is hard work, and local level politics ( Community Council ) is a complete and utter waste of time, unless you like long meetings moaning about everything with self serving bigots.

marketing the area for tourism? "No we don't want more people here."
tackling local charity corruption & mismanagement? "Nothing to do with us."
dealing with homelessness of local firefighter? ( not me this time ) "Not our area."
direct threats to local businesses? "Not our problem."
Play area for local children? "No point, there won't be any young children in a few years."
supporting a sporting Cycling challenge? "No, they get in the way on the road "
recycling banks? " remove them from village as they're unattractive"
Youth cafe, " Nope, will encourage teenagers to hang about the village hall"
Firefighters travelling to a fire being held up by sheep & stubborn shepherd!? complained to police and fire service about us speeding.... and so on.

This along with a general cynicism that has swept the nation led to me deciding that I would only take on work related projects and NOT voluntary jobs for the greater good, or committee work. However, begrudgingly I found myself standing up to be our Fire stations Union Rep. There were so many issues coming down from top management, it could only help our crew if we got more active and started challenging all the pressures heaping upon us. Union activity can be career suicide in the fire service, but rural retained firefighters are in a complete dead end job anyway, so I had nothing to loose.

However once I went on my first union reps course I was convinced and re-energised, the unity, the family, the supportive structure, the warmth and non-judgemental acceptance in all the activists. Also being part of a wider social movement for change, swept away all the tabloid fueled doubts that had crept in in the 25 years since I naively but enthusiastically stood on Miners Picket lines & marched against Thatcher, War, apartheid and everything else.

So this week I went to Glasgow for a three day FBU "Engaging with Politics" course, The mere word politics had put off some of our reps, I was a little sceptical ' I don't need telling what's what' - however it was a fantastically stimulating chance to really chew over & thrash out all sorts of issues with good people. The point was "Engaging" as we all feel removed from the work of politicians these days, less empowered, hence voter apathy. But all humans are political animals, we should not be afraid to be active in protecting our families & communities. Another important point for me was that the FBU is not just about Fire fighters jobs & work conditions, its about making our communities safer- all communities. So I don't need to wear a different hat to campaign about education, environment, the developing world... they are all part of what trade unionism is about, a fairer safer better world for EVERYBODY.

whats this got to do with Art ? well nothing at all, although I am also a member or the Scottish Artists Union, and I recommend other artists join up as there are huge changes sweeping through parliament at the moment with the 'Creative Scotland' Bill.

But lo & behold everything in my life has a weird way of fitting in. The FBU wanted one of my paintings to present to our mystery guest speaker. last minute we found out the mystery speaker was First Minister Alex Salmon. Now if that isn't good for my Art 'career' I don't know what is !

And as for what he talked about & what we questioned him on.. that's another long story !

Thursday, August 27, 2009

End of summer
after a non stop busy busy exhausting couple of months, I've had a couple of days to catch up with myself . I need to get some more painting done, but these things can't be rushed, I like to sort, tidy, rearrange & 'footer' about between work chapters. De cluttering home & head to clear space before throwing myself into next project.

Also, the rowans are red the heather is purple, the chantrells are out, theres a colder edge in the wind - Summers over, our brief autumn and a long long wild wet winter is a coming. Which flips the craft switch in the brain- textile time! So I've been using up cones & cones of spare lambswool by making these wool & rag boas. addictive to do !

I've also been playing with words and colours, these should turn into driftwood hanger things when I'm finished.