Friday, September 30, 2011

wee wolf number 3

heres is another wee wolf, 12cm x 12.5cm, thick card, mixed media. £15 to first person who wants it. See also the two I put up yesterday!
 some more in the pipeline. Its good to have little things like this on the go that i can work at places like the village hall producers days where i was today.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

little wolves

two small wolves on thick card. 9 x 13cm and 9 x15cm . One may be sold already, the other one ( whichever that will be ) will be available for £15. message me if interested!

more in the pipeline. x

Monday, September 26, 2011

Colouring 'Band of Butchers'

I'm currently working my way through the last pages of digital colouring for 'Band of Butchers' a story which will be part of an anthology 'Tales of the Fallen' a graphic Novel spin off from Barry Nugents 'Fallen Heroes' Novel and rapidly expanding 'Unseen Shadows' universe.

Behold the gorgeous cover by Rob Carey;

Oo look there is my name there ( I love that ! )

I can't show you what I'm doing as it would contain spoilers obviously. I've got 5 pages to go, Rob finished inking his last page at 2am while I was colouring away 6 pages behind. How do I know this ? through social networking of course, facebook is great company for the long long hours chained to photoshop. Or at least it was before the recent changes to Facebook layout , privacy and functionality, some may think the outcry lacks perspective, but for those of us working alone for weeks on end it is like a virtual shared studio space which keeps us sane.

Anyhow, this comic story has taken me across the world and i'm on the spectacular final scenes at the moment. If you think its odd that someone with my oft voiced idealistic politics would be working on what appears and sounds like a lads soldier story- will have to read it and trust in Dan Thompson's awesome script. Gory, violent and with an important message.

I wonder how many of you blog readers are comic fans, so aware of how it works?  We've had a few surveyors and tradesmen in the house recently- One was fascinating in what i was doing, it reminded me how much of a mystery comics are to the non initiated, as is digital art. For those who don't know this is what happens;
a writer will write a story outline, possibly discuss it with prospective editor.
then writes the story into a script, it looks a little like TV, or drama script, they may well write up character descriptions and other background information. They may start working back and forth with an artist at any stage.
the script describes what happens in each box, and what the reader can see, and what the caption boxes and speech bubbles will say.
This goes to the artist/s who will draw up designs, and characters.
Then to the layout artist who arranges the boxes and action on the page, in UK it tends to be the same artist that then does the pencil drawing of the comic page, and then inks over that.
all these stages may be done traditionally or digitally or often a combination of both.
When the inks are done, it comes to me the colourist, scanned in & sent over the internet- hopefully the right size with nice neat lines ( borders ) between the boxes and all tidied up and no smudges or pencil lines. If not I'll do that bit too.
I then do my colouring in, again a mixture of traditional and digital, I approach it as a painting only in layers...there are many different methods.
Then I send it back to the team, the letterer then works from the same script and pops a layer on with all the words. This is a vital part of the process and a lot harder than you'd think!
off it all goes to the editor & designers who add introductions and covers etc , then to the publishers. teamwork and a little bit of internet magic! So I can sit in the mountains of Scotland and work with folks all over the world, pretty good ! I best go get on with it.

community art group Lochcarron

Saturday, September 17, 2011

recycling frames

When my pottery didn't sell after a few years on display i could at least take it home & use it around the house. I suppose I've been selling paintings now instead of pottery in the Northern galleries around 3 or 4 years now, and its got to that point that I have works sitting around in lovely frames> usually its just a matter of waiting as there is a buyer out there for each piece. But needs must , I can't afford to keep investing in new frames, so must start re using. I've already painted over some canvases- i know some people who'd be horrified if they knew what i painted out, but needs must!
Next week I'm planning on taking these two paintings out of the frames to put in some new work for Christmas shows.

So if you'd like to buy these framed in a nice pale ash frame contact me before Monday 19th Sept! If you'd like them unframed and suitably discounted also please contact -Great retirement presents for Fire Fighters!
 I accept most forms of payment and will also negotiate payment by installments or possibly barter!

I was also going to offer up this :

But i sold in in ten minutes on facebook!
My facebook page is HERE
Its where you catch the latest news, views, musings, and offers like this- which went for only £10! I'm happy to take commissions for similar items though! this one was 14cm x 10cm.

main web site of course is

Thats the ugly business of selling out of the way, time to get creating !

TreeHouse snagging

Friday 16th Sept a workparty got together to do some finishing work on our community treehouse. Remember that film about the armish community and that whole barn building thing ? it feels like we have and are doing this, everyone is just getting stuck in without all the usual inhibiting rubbish that gets in the way like committees, planning, regulations. There is a local builder on site finishing the more technical things and while he is to hand with a great array of tools we are all mucking in.

Trusty Bruno is on hand to help of course.

Of course i still can't show photos until after the TV programme is aired, which is a shame as its a gorgeous building. We are all itching to get it finished, light the stove and hunker down in there for meetings, classes, ceilidhs, workshops etc. I'll be putting on crafty arty classes in there this winter as soon as possible, its just such an inspiring space !

I'm a bit ached and bruised after a days physical, my job of late has meant far too much time hunched over an easel or wacom tablet, and I'm off to do it all over again today!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

renewables comic strip

 a while ago i did this piece of artwork for a BBC online article about renewables.  When asked recently to develop a comic strip idea about renewable energy it seemed natural to pick up and develop the story in this picture.  I'll only give a wee taster just now, until it's all confirmed, okayed and got the go ahead.

This is one part of one panel for the strip, I've drawn sketchy outlines into photoshop, then print it out A3 in blue. Then I ink it by hand, scan it back into the computer and knock out the blue, it saves messing about with smudgy pencils and erasing.
Then its coloured in photoshop.  I'll post up more on this later.

meanwhile the international art invitations keep rolling in, but i have no money to take up the offers :(

But I have sold a couple of the summers Vysotsky paintings, i'm offering art by installments to make it more accessible for normal people to buy. Mail me if you are interested in any of my work, it might not be as out of reach as you think!

This October will see some of my art on display at Beauly Gallery

Then i need to crack on and produce some work for some Christmas shows.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A news round up

The treehouse-
a builder will be finishing off bits and bobs this week, then there will be a work party next Saturday 17th to finish the cladding, seal doors and windows etc. I had a lovely e-mail off the architect about how much he enjoyed the welcome the crew received from the community and how the building simply would not have got as far as it did without the massive effort from local volunteers. We are already getting excited about the sort of events, classes and groups we can hold in there as soon as the finishing is done.

see previous blogs. The meeting on the evening of Wednesday the 7th was very positive, inspiring and well attended. As well as the international artists residencies in September 2012 there will be many smaller events and happenings throughout the year and across a wide area. We will be doing some art evening classes in Gairloch. I will probably be running a one off pottery class. details to follow.

Reactions to Vysotsky-
did you all see this review on the Northings site?

Winter art classes-
in the 22+ years i have been teaching in the community and wider area I have seen the funding shift, shrink and disappear. I had assumed that it would have gone completely this year, and have reconciled myself to only teaching on a voluntary basis ( because chasing money isn't the right way forward ) , however there might well be another organisation which has sprung up through whom I will be able to provide art lessons locally. watch this space!. In the meantime the lochcarron community art group will start up again this month. dates to be confirmed- Tuesdays Lochcarron church hall 10.30am to 12.30pm, £3 each, tea & biscuits, bring your own materials and art projects to paint, draw and make in a relaxed supportive atmosphere, all ages and abilities.

Fallen Heroes- 
I will be flat out for the rest of this month digitally colouring one of the stories for this graphic Novel anthology. Rob Carey's artwork is a pleasure to work on.

'Too little- too late'- 
I have 5 days left to complete another thing that is rather exciting and is going somewhere outside the UK. struggling as I haven't been feeling too great. Must press on however. Here is a wee taster- above.

and there is a tonne more little things, websites to build, art to sell, Comic cons to organise, epiphanies to have, studios to clear out, nuts and berries to gather as autumn wraps it's damp arms around us.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Ceangal. Installing Art at Beinn Eighe

Wednesday morning, pouring rain. off to Kinlochewe, Beinn Eighe nature reserve to meet the some of the other artists involved with Ceangal, Somu, Lynn, Pat, Ingela, Tanu, The primary and secondary school pupils and teachers. Installed the silver foiled natural objects in the landscape around the nature trail. Children enthusiastically engaged with the idea running about looking for good places to display their pieces, exploring and looking for each others work. Discussed with children; composition, nature, ways of looking, interpretation, landscape, materials, participation. Then, juice and snack, photographs.

Kenny from SNH, Pat Gulliver the High school art teacher, Tanu Banaik, Me, Somu Desai and Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Ceangal-Connections, day 1

My artist friend Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie who travelled to Russia with me last year, has been busy working on an international artists residencies project called Ceangal - which is Gaelic for Connections. She is working in collaboration with artist Somu Desai.

As a precursor to the main residential programme which will take place in 2012, Somu is currently visiting from India, these two will be a putting on a presentation at Inchmore Gallery on the 23rd September. Part of the work being undertaken during this visit is creating some art installations on Beinn Eighe nature reserve near Loch Maree, with the permission of SNH and participation of local school pupils. Artists Tanu Banaik, originally from India,  has travelled from London to help out, Gairloch Artist Ingela Davis and myself are also  involved.
 The BBC picked up the story this week.
 The idea was to transform natural objects in a simple and achievable manner. I wasn't sure how the school pupils would respond to coating driftwood, skulls and stones with tinfoil, but their reaction far exceeded our expectations. These objects will then be placed in situ in the nature reserve. The first stop was Kinlochewe primary school, the group also contained very enthusiastic nursery children. These small village schools are always a pleasure to work in, you couldn't ask for nicer behaved and enthusiastic children!
As well as covering more stones than we anticipated, the children were taken with the idea of placing them in  a natural setting and had some very imaginative ideas about what the stones looked like, or what people would think upon finding them. What i loved was the way they naturally gravitated to the silver pile and started spontaneously arranging them into sculptural piles ( even though the weather proof glue wasn't dry & we had lots of repair work to do ).

Next stop was Gairloch High School where we were to tackle some more ambition shapes. We were joined by some of the Gairloch primary pupils, including ones from the Gaelic medium unit. Before work started we had a quick cup of tea in the art department, which was one of the most inspiring school art rooms I've even seen! What a sanctuary, the pupils high standard of work in there is a credit to the Art teacher Pat.

Lynn & Somu taking 5 minutes out to watch all the activity in the class room.
Tomorrow we will finish off the foiling. Wednesday taking the pupils to the nature reserve to install the artworks. Wednesday evening;

Its a privilege to work with so many inspiring artists! ( and Somu makes the best cup of Chai ! )

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Great Treehouse Challenge end of build

As previously blogged, SKY1 has a TV series in the autumn coming out, 3 programmes called the great Treehouse challenge. 1 programme is about the treehouse here that our community asked for & I did the 1st initial designs for. The project has been managed by a local community group and charity ' The Kirkton woodland and Heritage Group' who are now running the Smithy Heritage Centre site ( where my previous pottery studio building is ). This group is bidding for a community buy out of a local forest which is overdue for harvest and will otherwise go to private developers. It could provide a massive boost for this area which desperately needs affordable housing, small rural business development, skills, training, amenities, recreational facilities etc.

We had suggested and hoped that this Treehouse project would galvanise the community to be in a better position to purchase and manage the forest. We also wanted to regenerate the Smithy site which has virtually been abandoned in recent years. This community has a small church hall & a village hall but needed something different, a community building that would draw people towards it and stimulate activities.

I blogged about the ideas and project process previously;
August 31st 2011
August 10th 2011
July 20th 2011
July 11th 2011

The link to the SKY1 page about it is here

So This week the treehouse got built, I was one of the people that was asked to not see the site until completion for the 'wow' surprise factor on camera. I did manage to do some bits and bobs up at the Smithy ' site office' end of things.

Thursday night, the fire crew put up the tent for the Friday finale.

Friday. The celebration and hand over to the community was scheduled for 8pm. There were some heavy downpours during the day which put the schedule back, they were already a day and a half behind due to the late arrival of the lorry with the timber and building materials. People started to gather at the Smithy but weren't allowed down to the site, food, drink and a piper from the local primary school were there to entertain people. Those of us who were in the 'surprise' party were told to meet at the Strathcarron Hotel at 9pm. Apparently at this point doors, windows and cladding were still frantically getting put on the building. The build crew and local volunteers had been working flat out from 6am to 10+pm every day. local people had been dropping by with soup, lunches and sandwiches all week. The local folks who pitched in and helped out were not the usual handful who do everything around here, yes they were there, but so were new people. People who expressed cynicism even a week ago, people who were completely disinterested, they turned up and got stuck in too. I'd imagined the lure of 15 minutes TV fame would have encouraged people to join in , but most were actually very camera shy! It was the actual treehouse itself which got people talking and participating. We heard heroic tales about the hours and effort that these local folks were putting in, the TV crew were genuinely blown away by the help they got. 

I was of course very frustrated at not being allowed to get hands on, and once i heard about the immense efforts of others i felt guilty too. It seemed rather prima dona-ish to be ushered in at the last minute, however that was the deal this time around, so that was that. 10pm and we were still chatting at the pub waiting for our call, it was a good chance to speak to people and discover common connections, we usually just rush past, nod and wave at people and don't take the time to get better acquainted- even in a small village like this. 10.30pm we piled into cars to meet up with all the other people waiting patiently in the cold, damp night. 
The crowd were ushered off to the treehouse, the now muddy wooded site floodlit.They were got in position the camera and lights set up. Our 'surprise' group was then given our instructions, we were walked down to the site with a black sheet in front of us eyes down, we waited a while behind the sheet getting warmed up by one of the researchers "are you excited?" "what do you hope this will do for the community?" etc . bats flew overhead, the trees lit up took on a magical quality, the clouds broke revealing bright constellations. We were then taken down to the front of the crowd behind the sheet, eyes covered and or shut to wait out cue. I have spent a lot of time at that space by the river over the years, I know the site well, perhaps it was the accoustics but I sensed that there was something pretty big in front of me, could feel the excitement of the crowd behind me, the hope and expectation in the tv crew's voices.
Presenter Charlie Luxton did his introduction speech,
 " lochcarron, here is your treehouse, now open your eyes !"
and now you dear reader will also have to wait until the programme is aired in november. A lot of people used the word 'magical', imagine the noise of the river, the lit up trees and nestled in the branches there above and in front of us a big timber building, forget treehouses from cartoons and childhood. There have been a few changes since my last concept sketch. it is set further back behind the trees, it is round, has a balcony over the river, is on stilts. It is beautiful, it is peaceful, warm, inviting and quite astounding!  Gasps and Applause. ( luckily no embarrassing tears but nearly, being the big softie that I am ) . Then of course TV being TV we had to repeat the surprise twice more to get the different camera angles, but it didn't require too much acting as it was all too much to take in the first time anyway.
Then our group were filmed going into the building, and out onto the balcony, a couple of takes, then everyone else were taken in in groups, It was wonderful to see the children & teenagers faces and enthusiasm.   That's what its all about, building something for them, the young folks, preventing this area turning into even more of a retirement village.
Now there was time for some individual interviews with a couple of us, and a chance to speak to the build crew and volunteers who had done all that incredible work. Some real heroes there!
I am pretty cynical about TV, in fact we don't have one. But I can say in this instance that the 'reality tv' drama was all genuine ( apart from having to do 2 or 3 takes of course ), nothing was scripted, the presenter Charlie, and fellow architect Alex, were alongside everyone else working flat out. You could see how exhausted everyone was. Impressive!

Peter and Michelle from the Carron Restaurant had made a treehouse cake - as well as keeping the crews well fed all week so i heard!

I can't show you the tree house, but i can show you the cake !
Then we partied while the camera crew worked on and wrapped it up.

Note as many cans of red bull as beer... if you want stomach ulcers and a stressful life, work in TV.

Kristine presents the crew with local gifts as a wee thankyou.

James the 'runner' kindly drove us home at late o'clock.
These guys were so nice! they were enthusiastic and really behind the project and wanted to help this community and build a great treehouse, it wasn't just about making good TV like we feared it might be. They also loved the welcome they got here. Maybe highland hospitality isn't quite dead yet?

Saturday morning. 
Back on site, the crew were back at 8am, clearing up & doing some finishing. There are a few fixtures and fittings, more cladding and such things to finish on the treehouse before it can be used properly. This will be good for us as it keeps up the volunteering momentum, The more folks work on a thing, the more a sense of ownership and pride. I'm so pleased that it has worked out so well, it is a stunning example to hold up to those who moan and complain " whats the point?", " its too difficult ", "no-one will bother". Negativity, complaining and cynicism can just burn out community minded people, this tree house just shows what can be achieved with the right support and momentum.
 Liberty gets a helping hand during the clean up.

One of the Tree Chaps removing a strop

a helper doggie ...erm.. eating a stone

Rich looking down from the treehouse to muddy me.
Watch this space to hear when it is going to be shown on Television, I think we will be having another community get together to watch it which will be a lot of fun.  I think i'm still in a state of shock that a seed of an idea can become an actual building in such a short space of time!  Brilliant!