Monday, January 24, 2011

Traditional Tales

this is quite big, ink on paper. disappointed in how it turned out, but its prompted a head searching in how to achieve the effect I want, loose stylized spontaneous decorative crisp lines. When i get a minute I'll play with different inks again and if it comes to it, investigate making my own textured version of 'scraper board'.

This picture is about a story my storyteller friend told during a recent visit. These traditional tales are so strange and primal, scary, non linear, something beyond what we understand or expect from modern narratives. I think to capture them in an illustration form requires a more intuitive non-linear approach, not sure how yet. But even though i consider this picture a fail, I gained a better understanding of the primal metaphors within the story while doing it. I'll not tell the tale, a) i couldnt do it justice b) its gruesome !

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Moon

First of these type of paintings in a wee while. 'New Moon' Acrylic 36 x 42 cm on paper ( for sale of course )
Using Black is against my rules- Now I'm always telling my art students are no rules or cheats in art. But eventually we all set our own boundaries. I don't use black because its muddy and dirties the whole painting, I usually mix burnt sienna, phthalo green/blue, prussian blue and a red. But here Black was justified, although the layers included prussian blue and brown, just for richness.
Stars are the greatest things.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


1, 2, 3 awwww!
when moaning about how hard it is to make a living from art, the subject of 'selling out' often comes up, people accuse me of selling out, not selling out enough or needing to sell out more. what does this mean?  different things to different artists, but why should any of it be viewed as selling out? Getting to do what I love as a job is 'win' as far as I'm concerned. I do get in knots trying to preempt the market however. Which I should know by now not to. Its frustrating to get lots of feedback , praise & press coverage about aspects of my work...but no sales. So the self-doubt creeps in. A good chat with some creative folks has got it out of my system. I think its another layer of sneering, elitism and snobbery that gets planted in at Art college. So I can do cute, for me to sell out would be to stop doing art / making things. Or to do something which was morally, idealistically or politically offensive.

Anyway to prove a point, here is the most commercial thing I could think of. Coming next puppies jumping through hoops, cartoon highland cows doing the fling, and me tap dancing in a clown suit.

Meanwhile all that cute has put me wrong so I'm off to gargle vinegar and paint things BLACK. Thankyou.  and

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2011 finally gets moving

At last things have started up again after the long long snowy winter. I seem to have been in suspended animation or trying to run in slow motion for two months. I was disheartened and uninspired for a while about the lack of art sales and 2011 looking all empty with no work and no income ahead... however;

Finally the damn was broken when I managed to get to a fire brigade course ( a pass or fail one ) despite the heavy thick snow on the roads, I passed- and then made it to Glasgow and back for a very positive FBU meeting. the calender is now filling up, I have things to do, the art & money will just take care of itself...

In an effort to raise some desperately needed cash I have been offering up artwork cheap on my Facebook arts page. I have pencil sketches I'll let go of for as little as £3 ! if you are interested message me & i'll show you what I have to hand.

from £20 I will do quick sketchy paintings or drawings from your photographs ( it will cost a wee bit more if there is lots of detail ) Here is one I did for a Fire colleague down in London.

Talking of Fire colleagues. This painting of my Union Brothers was featured as a double page spread in this months 'FireFighter' magazine. Prints are £20 !

In other news The graphic Novel I was doing the colours on 'Slaughtermans Creed' is finished, the launch will be at Bristol Comic Expo in May, where some of the creative team (including me! ) will be available to sign and sketch.  There will be other signings around the country so watch this space!

Friday, January 07, 2011

on BBC online & Radio

The BBC online published my Review of our Russia trip this week. It is HERE

Heres the Three amigos in the Hot Russian Sun.
Today is The Russian Orthodox Christmas which Follows the Julian Calender. So- очень рад Рождественский праздник для моих русских друзейсегодня !

After this BBC online article this week, the story was picked up by BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday the 4th as part of their Thought for the Day. The Guest was Amanda Saundy ( spelling ? ) Assistant Professor of Islamic studies at the University of Maimi.  She picked up on the points about tolerance and inclusion that we'd found in Yelabuga. About different religious living in harmony. She also talked about the value of humans meeting each other face to face to gain a better understanding of each others differences and learn about other cultures. Amanda commented that prehaps we lose this in the 'virtual' world of facebook and twitter. However without facebook and twitter those three friends above would never have met, never have gone to Russia & now would not be able to stay in touch. Yes 3D reality is a wonderful thing which we must never loose touch with. But social media is a great tool which can enhance this.

However, I was very pleased to hear my name in conjunction with a message of religious and cultural tolerance and harmony. I am forever debted to our Russian hosts for the kindness they showed us.   

The radio programme is HERE for the next couple of days. Unless you are an archers fan, skip to 1.22.25 in

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Life's Not fair!

Here's some charming characters, well I say charming....
I'm messing about while I have a little free time. Yesterday I finished colouring the final page of the book' Slaughtermans Creed ' its a dark graphic novel written by Cy Dethan, drawn by Stephen Downey, with help on Inks from Andy Brown, Colours by me, and letters By Nic Wilkinson. It will be published by Markosia, more details when I have them.

So doing something cartoony is about as far away as I can get from that ! although the dark subtext is ever present. You see the thing is, annoying people don't realise that they are annoying, the bad guys think they are the good guys, the bullies often think they are the victims. Adults don't often behave like adults. I guess thats why we need good honest friends to tell us if we are being horrible, but would we listen?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 Review - part 2

So I said in yesterdays Blog that I'd write up about the Russia trip today.
I also realise that yesterdays was a bit glass half empty despite it being an incredible year. I think things are awfie complex, if I painted A, A sells so I paint B and C, C sells > that would make sense. But what seems to happen is I paint A, D , F & G, and then theres a demand for X, Y, Z and Q happens. however I think somehow it must all connect.

I started blogging as a motivation to keep producing art, instead here I am pontificating, so I'm going to drink my tea, make it quick & go clear out the gloomy messy studio.

My friend Lynn Bennett Mackenzie was invited to an international Art symposium in Yelabuga, Russia, the organisers suggested she traveled with a fellow artist who fitted the bill. The bill was the theme of 'Breath of the Epic' I leapt at the chance. I have blogged at length about this, check out August / September 2010.
It opened up a whole new world of artistic possibility for us. We got tonnes of press coverage, out there we were treated like royalty. We were repeatedly told that Artists are a gift from god. Now it feels like a dream, of course it was an idealised bubble, If i moved over there to live, the fairy tale would soon blend into the same reality I have here... or would it ? to taste such a fairy tale is a strange thing, a life changing thing. I hunger for more, how to reproduce the same here? We were shown that anything is possible, that we need not be confined to our conventional roles, defined by the 'market'. But UK life very quickly puts us back in our boxes, labeled, packaged and cramped on a dusty metaphor. I like the international perspective. I like the core values that seem to exist outside UK plc. I like being free. I like painting what I want. I need to hang onto the Russian Fairy tale and hope, pray, dream for similar adventures this year.
now to reality.. have I got enough money to order a light bulb for my studio?

New Years resolutions ? yup plenty. I hope all of you have a wonderful year & can find some magic and wonder amid the toil. Keep in touch, give me your feedback, ideas, inspiration, keep creating.. and of course BUY MY WARES!

2010 Review - part 1

When it comes to New Year I like to do a wee round up of the previous year in order to help me gain focus for the year ahead- Like business planning but since my business is art and art is me, it's a sort of life review I suppose. So forgive me the indulgence fair readers. 2010 was one heck of a year. I live very much in the present, the darkness of winter clouds my objectivity, I forget where I have been, the road ahead is indistinct in the fogs and snows of December. So I skim blogs, diary's, calenders to remind myself... what happened?

What became immediately apparent was that yes, 2010 was an incredible year, a roller coaster, giddying life changing adventures. What however is rather strange and almost depressing is that none of these adventures were planned, predictable, inevitable or even a direct result of my actions ( or were they ? ). If stuff just happens, what can I do to make it happen? where do I go from here? I can't just sit and wait for stuff to happen, but most of the things which drove me in 2010 didn't actually produce any results- instead the wonderful thing happen themselves. You see my dilemma? Its all a bit too philosophical for an active, practical, driven, goal setting, realist, person like me.

I was the PR person on an arts committee, this resulted in some great friends, and a lot of anger and frustration, I resigned when the year was up. Shaking my head about committees, art cliques and petty politics. I like results, I'm no-ones 'yes wo/man'

I painted lots, kitch Scottish, traditional landscape, fantasy, figurative, impressionistic, all sorts. sold embarrassingly little. a couple of commissions, some prints a few cards. Just no Market or Money in the North.

I exhibited in most of the areas Galleries, Open Exhibitions, joint Exhibitions, an Exhibition at Inverness Airport. I didn't bother with many craft fairs & producers days until the winter and cash starved desperation kicked in, I took £5 at the last one, and that was a good day. They really are a waste of time.

Workshops are good, I did recycled things at the eco-housing expo, comics workshops, willow sculpting, , recycled mini comics, space rockets, science inspired super heroes with Gary Erskine. around 15 in all, these are fun and I actually get paid. Every year these differ, its all funding dependent.

I ran a community arts group voluntarily all year. This Autumn I also got paid to run a proper painting course by the West Highland College- there was a lot of prep work for the wage but its still a wage, and the students were great.

Myself & Rich ran a successful Hi-Ex Comic convention in Inverness in March, we managed to raise money for Children 1st and actually break even this year, 600 folks attended. However with our work loads and the lack of funding we took the sad decision to cancel the 2011 event. In Retrospect this was bad because I've been bored and climbing the walls this winter- But good because lots of other events have sprung up for 2011 across the UK meaning the guests and funding will be spread even thinner.

I passed my ECDL ( computer basic certificate ). Got shortlisted for a Fire service award of achievement type thing ( free bar & night in a hotel ). We ran a fundraising car wash for Haiti. We played extras in a horror film. I dressed as Rosa Klebb for my Brothers 40th Bond theme party. Designed an arts trail leaflet for area. Designed amenities for a community woodland project. Sold my studio workshop ( wouldn't even buy a new garden shed with price I got ). Produced a 4.5 metre long interpretative exterior mosaic. Ran the community November Fireworks display with my Fire colleagues. There was a book launch for my first fully illustrated Children's book. I learnt not all organisations treat professionals in a professional manner. I resigned from such a one.

My youngest daughter left home, went abroad, came back, went away again...

Thrills> Flying lesson for my Birthday. Pearl Jam in Belfast. Eddie Vedder sent me a Polaroid picture of him with one of my paintings I'd sent in for a competition. I cried, he is my hero, They provide the sound track.

We has a few days holiday in the summer in Northern Ireland visiting Rich's family & seeing the Antrim coast with friends. We did Bristol Comic Expo. Leeds Thought Bubble festival. Octocon Sci-Fi festival in Dublin. I traveled about a bit doing Fire brigade Union things, I am now the womens and retained Rep for Highlands. This is all good. I rant about the revolution a lot, but with public sector cuts from the Coalition Government its no laughing manner. I would happily do a whole load more politics stuff, as long as it feels like its useful & i'm contributing something, somewhere.

I worked on the colours of a brilliant Graphic Novel called 'Slaughtermans Creed'- watch this space. I got an illustration In John Freeman's 'Sci-Fi Art Now' Book ( go buy a copy its jam packed with great art ! ). I pitched & produced sample work for other stuff that's come to naught yet. a page here of colouring an illustration there published bits and bobs. Such is the unpaid labour of freelance.

How can I pay the bills then? My Fire brigade work, the retainer fee is something like 1/6 of a salary, but it keeps me afloat, I've lived my life & raised three children under austerity measures, we always get by. I also got temporary promotion to Acting Crew Manager, so am working hard to keep that! Its a wee bit extra money & masses more responsibility but I enjoy the challenge.

Then there was Russia. I'll write more of this tomorrow. Russia was huge, it hurts my brain thinking about it, I left a chunk of my heart out there in Tatarstan skies, red Russian sun. how can 2011 top that ?

tomorrow > making sense of it all, Russia & What next ?!