Monthly Archives: October 2015

Winter Landscapes

P1290082 P1290083 P1290085





A few winter landscapes in progress today – I’m just waiting for these to dry then I’ll be adding more texture and light tomorrow.

I’m creating a whole series of these new works and will exhibit them in November at the Hill Street Design House, Edinburgh, and at Portobello Market at the end of November. (more details to follow)

Also, in the next two days or so I’ll be launching the charity art prints series for Lindisfarne. Details are tbc, but 25% will most likely go towards the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site, which helps conserve the landscape and wildlife of Lindisfarne as part of its remit.

I’m full of admiration for these organisations, which mostly rely on donations from the public to help conserve our landscapes and wildlife, which is so important for the entire ecosystem, especially in the light of today’s news about the endangerment of the Puffin and Turtle Dove population. It’s good to be able to contribute in a small way through my art print sales!

In the meantime you can view the Isle of Eigg Series and Bass Rock art-print series on this link  –Prints for Charity

Support the Eigg Heritage Trust

The paintings above are from a series of 50 created last year as part of my project inspired by the Isle of Eigg.

These five are available to buy as small prints – 25% of the sale goes towards the Eigg Heritage Trust (see info below) –

You can buy them direct through Paypal on this link – Eigg Prints

I love the beautiful colours of the west coast of Scotland, especially the islands with their white sand and turquoise sea, but last year I wanted to explore and paint Eigg because I was fascinated by the islanders’ innovative way of life.

Eigg’s comunity of 90 people bought the island together in the late 90s, and since then they’ve brought in a 100% renewable energy system which provides all the island’s electricity needs.

It’s a great example of what’s possible if enough people work together to make positive changes. Also the island community have benefited from changes in tenanacy and house-buying arrangements, so there’s more security for people who live on the island.

All of these changes have been supported by the Eigg Heritage Trust, which is based on the island and adminstrated by Eigg-dweller Maggie Fyffe (I interviewed Maggie last year and you can read about how the islanders changed their entire way of life Here)

For each one of the fifty Eigg paintings I created last year, I wrote a blog post, basically an arts diary about Eigg. You can read about the post for each of the 5 paintings above on these links below

If you like these landscapes, you can order a high quality window-mounted giclee print, which you can buy direct through Paypal on this Link – Prints  and as mentioned 25% goes towards the Trust  (if you prefer to pay by cheque or bank transfer please contact me at

No. 18

No. 23

No. 24

No. 30

No. 50

Inspired by..

'Waves in the Rain, Singing Sands Bay'. Acrylic and ink on 40x30" canvas

‘Waves in the Rain, Singing Sands Bay’. Acrylic and ink on 40×30″ canvas

Nice news today that I’ve been included in Saatchi’s ‘Inspired by Impressionism..’ series.

I’m not actually particularly inspired by Impressionism, but last year one of my paintings (‘Waves in the Rain, Singing Sands Bay’, above) was compared to Gustave Courbet by the Curator of French Art at the National Gallery of Scotland. I was very touched by that, and she followed up those kind remarks by buying the painting too, I was thrilled!

This is Courbet’s ‘La Vague’ (the wave). I honestly wasn’t thinking of Courbet at all when I painted my waves, but I actually do see what she meant in a way – the energy I think. Courbet was a messy painter, as I tend to be too especially with larger works.

And since I’m blowing my own trumpet today (somebody has to!) other good news is that ‘Cockenzie Power Station’ was pre-selected for the RSA (Royal Scottish Academy) Open 2015.

'Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2015'. Mixed media on 17x11" wood panel

‘Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2015’. Mixed media on 17×11″ wood panel

Thanks to the RSA and Saatchi, I must say it’s given me a wee glow today!



'View of Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock' by Alexander Nasmyth

‘View of Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock’ by Alexander Nasmyth

A dramatic work by Nasmyth, of Tantallon. (he’s stretched the Bass Rock, though maybe it was taller then!)

I’ve just realised I need to slightly tweak the second of the two Tantallon paintings below, which needs more mass on the headland and castle. These two were painted with a fellow artist in mind, Linda Cairnes, whose house, which is over 100 years old and overlooks Botany Bay in Australia, happens to be called ‘Tantallon’!

Linda was born and lives in Australia but also lived and worked for many years in the UK. The person who built the house, Linda tells me, was intrigued by Walter Scott’s stanza…

Tantallon vast;
Broad, massive, high, and stretching far,
On a projecting rock it rose,
And round three sides the ocean flows,
The fourth did battled walls enclose
It was a wide and stately square;
Around were lodgings fit and fair,
Here was square keep, there turret high,
Or pinnacle that sought the sky,
Whence oft the Warder could descry
The gathering ocean-storm.

From the poem Marmion
By Sir Walter Scott 1806

I’m delighted that Linda likes my paintings of Tantallon, and it got us chatting via email about our arts experiences; it turns out we’ve both worked as arts organisers for public arts projects in Stoke, so Linda had also enjoyed my blog post a few days ago about a project I also organised in Stoke!

KeithGYou can read about Linda’s excellent work on her website Here. She’s a highly talented artist (I love her portrait paintings) who’s organised many public arts and community projects in the UK and Australia.



On Monday the two Tantallon paintings will be winging their way to  ‘Tantallon’ in Australia, which feels very poetically satisfying to me.

Thanks to Linda – for buying the paintings, and for these pleasingly serendipitous connections! I’ve met several really great people here in the uk from Australia who became good friends then moved back, I must one of these days get over there for a visit, and I’d love to see Tantallon House!

That landscape too, what inspiration…



Tantallon Castle

P1280841P1280850Today’s paintings of Tantallon Castle on Scotland’s east coast.

These views are from Seacliff Bay, near the harbour hewn from the red sandstone that forms the cliffs along this stretch of coast. The first time I saw this particular view of Tantallon I found it as affecting as my first view of Venice in moonlight, it’s truly awe inspiring.255263_276673302431279_1864581534_n

The castle was built in the 14th Century by the 1st earl of Douglas, William Douglas, it passed through several hands, was mostly owned by the famous ‘Red’ Douglases and is now owned by Historic Scotland.

The history is complex as always, involving various nasty feuds; there were several violent takeovers of ownership, and a connection to the royal house of Stewart through marriage. The castle was attacked in the late 15th century by Scottish nobles in allegiance with Henry VII of England, but survived the first attack through surrender, so the castle wasn’t ruined at that time and its outer defences  and moat were developed.

Then in the 16th century it was attacked again by James the 5th of Scotland, but it wasn’t until the mid 17th century that the castle was finally breeched by Oliver Cromwell. Royalist troops defended the castle but the Douglas tower (the tower on the left of the castle) was destroyed, the troops surrendered and the castle has remained a ruin to this day.


Having visited a couple of times, what I find astonishing is that although the castle looks precariously ruined, you can still climb a long, steep spiral staircase to the very top of the  Curtain Wall (15 metres/49 feet high) and walk along its length, it feels pretty hairy but it’s actually safe (the walls are 12ft thick) and the views are spectacular!

Tantallon Castle 1821 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Manchester City Galleries

Tantallon Castle 1821 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Manchester City Galleries


It’s built in the beautiful warm pink sandstone of Lothian, so the castle, lit by an early sunset glow against the backdrop of wild sea, is a truly romantic sight.





And it is of course inhabited by a ghost or two! Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

In March 2009, psychology professor Richard Wiseman released a photograph taken at Tantallon, which appeared to show a figure standing behind railings in a wall opening. The image, taken in May 2008 and sent to Wiseman as part of a research project, was described in The Times as showing a “courtly figure dressed in a ruff“.[37] Wiseman stated that no costumed guides were present at Tantallon, and that three photographic experts have confirmed that the image had not been manipulated.[38] A second photo, taken 30 years earlier, and showing a different figure in a similar location, was printed in The Scotsman a few days later.[39

Ariel view of the castle at low tide..


Prints for Charity Project


Calum MacDonald at Giclee, checking print proofs

We’re nearly there with the prints for charity project!

25% of proceeds will go towards to a charity related to each landscape.

For example, if you buy an art print of Eigg, 25% of your money will go to the Eigg Island Heritage Trust.

Or if the print is of my recent Bass Rock series, proceeds will go towards the Scottish Seabrid Centre in North Berwick.

It’s taken a wee while to get going, but I’ve been very encouraged by the interest from people and charities. Recently the SNP MP for Berwickshire, Roxborough and Selkirk, Calum Kerr, agreed to help promote the project on his social media sites, which is just wonderful!

I’ll be selecting five of my Borders Paintings, then Calum Kerr will post a link asking people from the Borders to suggest charities that could benefit from the project. It should help to raise interest, and I love the fact that everyone benefits from it – the charities which support the landscapes I’ve painted, my own arts business and my favourite printers, Giclee UK

I was at GP1280832iclee UK today checking proofs, and I took some photos of the printing equipment (below)  – these are state-of-the-art giclee printing machines which produce high quality prints that look almost like the painting (giclee means ‘spray’ in French, and refers to the fine ink-jet spray technique).

P1280829 As of next week, these prints will be available on the ‘Buy Prints’ option on this website.

The print images will be 5×5 inches with signed/titled/dated border in a 9×10 inch window mount, with card backing, info about the print and the charity it benefits. The price will be £28.


Just for interest I made up some samples today (the final versions will be mounted by the experts at Giclee!) …

P1280833The series (to include the Borders, Isle of Eigg, Bass Rock and Lindisfarne) should be ready to buy on this site by Wednesday next week.


Demolition projects

Rebirth Event, Rose Strang. Picture by: Steve Bould. Sentinel News

Rebirth Event, Rose Strang. Picture by: Steve Bould. Sentinel News. 2009

The Cockenzie Power Station demolition got me thinking about projects past – in 2009 I organised a public art project in response to the demolition of the maternity hospital in Stoke on Trent, and the building of a new centre. It involved hospital staff, local artists, mums-to-be and many families in Stoke on Trent.

The demolition of public buildings is often emotionally affecting and it’s a poetically charged theme creatively, so the challenge was to harness those thoughts and feelings while surrounded by acres of red tape, then bring the project to completion, to a short deadline, on a minimal budget!

NHS arts projects, or indeed any public art project, are challenging endeavours, usually hemmed in by bureacracy and conflicting interests, yet this was in many ways one of the most rewarding projects I’ve been involved in.

You can read about it in this article for Public Art Scotland on this link – Journeys Toward ‘Rebirth’

Cockenzie Power Station: 2 Paintings

'Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2015'. Mixed media on 17x11" wood panel

‘Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2015’. Mixed media on 17×11″ wood panel

'Watchers (Cockenzie)'. Mixed media on 17x11" wood panel

‘Watchers (Cockenzie)’. Mixed media on 17×11″ wood panel

These are the two finished works in response to Cockenzie Power Station which was demolished at 12 noon on the 26th of September this year.

It was a coal fired power station launched in 1967, run by the nationalised Scottish electricity board then by privatised Scottish Power, classed as inefficient in 2013 then decomissioned.

People lined the east coast shores on the 26th to watch it come down, and luckily I got a call from a friend who was driving out there. I knew it would be a good photo opportunity but only decided to paint it later.

Watching my video afterwards, I realised I’d captured the sound of waves, as I was just a few feet away from the shore, and I liked the way the sounds of explosion along with ‘oohs’ and ‘aah’s from the crowd faded into peaceful, lapping waves.

This is my video of the event…

The towers, reflected in the water, then vanished, seemed like seismographic recorders. The waves like time-markers or markers of disruption, lapsing into peaceful silence. I wanted to reflect these ideas, and played around with effects on a wood panel until it felt right. I liked the way the reflection of the towers began to resemble a seismograph, which is why I made the towers appear less real, more like graph needles or markers of time.

Lastly here are a few photos of people watching on the shore or from the sea..

P1280615 P1280603 P1280620



Cockenzie Day 5

'Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2016'. Mixed media on 17x11" wood panel

‘Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2016’. Mixed media on 17×11″ wood panel

Today’s version of Cockenzie Power Station. I’m a bit more happy with this, but the light’s fading so it’s hard to tell. Tomorrow’s the last day I have time to paint for a while, so I think it’s almost there, it had better be!

I was sorry to miss the Demarco European Art Foundation’s exhibition of Romanian Artists yesterday. Romania commemorates the holocaust on the 8th October and yesterday was the preview evening of the Romanian artists Richard Demarco has worked with over the decades.

The exhibition is still on at Summerhall in Edinburgh, so drop in if you’re nearby. I hope to see it in the next few days. There is sure to be fascinating work there, often by artists responding to Romania’s often troubled history from past to present, including Neagu, Horia Bernea and Ion Bitan. It’s an inspiration to see the Demarco Foundation’s continuing committment to presenting the work of artists across Europe.

You can view more info about the exhibition Here

Yesterday was also my mum’s birthday and the day an asteroid ‘SKIMMED’ (Daily Express 🙂 ) past the earth at 45, 000 miles ph, missing us by a mere 25 million miles!

Cockenzie Day 4

P1280725 P1280721 P1280719





I’m playing around with this painting in an experimental way, somewhere in the process I’ll maybe wipe out the whole thing and start again. I quite like the layered look and texture this gives to a finished painting, and it echoes the themes I’m exploring of impermanency, which is a shorthand for concepts I’m exploring instinctively rather than intellectually at the moment. I’ll know when the mood feels right.

On the subject of impermanency, I’ve noticed in the past few years is that less people are buying paintings, this is echoed by the chats I’ve had with artists and gallery owners recently, so I know it’s not just down to my paintings as such! With working tax credit cuts coming up at the start of 2016 a lot of artists are facing tough times ahead. Unless they’re famous, most artists have a part-time job to supplement their income, which is on average about £8,000 £10,000 per year. Apparently the minimum wage will rise to £9. Don’t spend it all at once folks!

Artists are obviously just one small group facing difficulties, and I share the anger of millions in the UK just now, at the increasingly grim implications for everyone on a low income, unemployed, struggling families, pensioners whose fuel allowance is about to be cut, people with illnesses or disabilities or young people struggling to envisage a hopeful future where they might fulfil their potential.

Out of interest though, this article compares other country’s attitude to the arts –

And here’s a report on the survey about UK artist income carried out by DACS

I’ve been lucky enough to get the odd curatorial job in the arts and health field in the past, but let’s face it the NHS won’t be splurging on arts projects in the coming years. I’m not complaining on a personal level, I don’t have kids or huge responsibilities, I’m just adjusting to the current economic fantasy as presented by the tory government, more fantastical by far than my paintings, less permanent than Cockenzie Power Station given it stood there so long, the point being that things change, and there’s always hope.

I’m left to ponder in bemusement at those people who believe tory spin about being frugal with the economy, as though it’s comparable to a household budget. God knows I’m no expert on economy, my seven or so years of education (which I paid for with loans and by working as a flower picker and part-time cleaner lest anyone assumes I’m a pampered arty type!) was in the arts, but I can at least understand the concept that investing nothing, and taking more and more, not just from those on benefits, but from ordinary working people, means people spend less.

How many houses, services, clothes, or paintings, for example, can a super rich person buy?! We know that 40% of the UK are on some form of benefits now, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that what’s left of the business owning middle classes, not to mention those facing cuts in public services will be really feeling it soon. Bye bye arts career, not that I’d ever stop painting…

In the meantime, if you’ve read this so far, you might welcome some tranquility in the form of a few works by some of my favourite painters, I’ve been gazing on some of these today, most inspiring..