Monthly Archives: January 2016

Blue series day 5

'Blue 3'. Mixed media on 20x16" canvas

‘Blue 3’. Mixed media on 20×16″ canvas

'Blue 2'. Mixed media on 20x16" canvas

‘Blue 2’. Mixed media on 20×16″ canvas

'Blue 4'. Mixed media on 20x16" canvas

‘Blue 4’. Mixed media on 20×16″ canvas

These are the latest versions of the blue series (Number 2 is finished). The rest are still in progress and I’m now collaborating with composer/cellist Atzi Muramatsu on the series. We’ll be responding to each other’s creative progress which will feed into the final results of paintings and music. As always I’ll post results of our work here via video and images.

It’s a pleasure as always to work with Atzi, who collaborates across many art forms including dance – we’re buzzing with ideas at the moment! You can view/hear Atzi’s work Here and Here

Also, this video shows our most recent small collaboration..



A pile of books

P1300331This is a painting in progress started today, just as a change of scene from the blue series. It’s of an abandoned building in Gosford House in East Lothian, where a pile of books created an interesting contrast against a crumbling wall. Tomorrow I’ll be working more on the way the light falls on the wall and adding book details.

I’m still tweaking several of the blue series paintings but changes aren’t radical enough to merit posting them here today, though I plan to have a couple completed tomorrow!

Commissioned Work

Today’s post is about work that’s been commissioned – a process that artists often feel mixed about, but which I’ve found very rewarding, probably because I enjoy the collaborative element, and the people who’ve commissioned me are usually former buyers so they have realistic ideas or hopes about what I can or can’t do! We agree a price up-front that’s similar to my usual prices (on larger projects, artists will usually arrrange a contract and a three-stage approval process).

Having said that, of the hundreds of paintings I’ve made, only a handful have been commissioned, usually because a buyer has liked a work that’s already sold so I paint something for them, other times it’s a specific idea, person or place they’d like painted.

I’ll start with this atmospheric work, which was commissioned by Lynn Carter, who’d bought several of my paintings and knew exactly which aspects she enjoyed most..

'Stormy Sea 2'. Acrylic and ink on 10x10" wood

‘Stormy Sea 2’. Acrylic and ink on 10×10″ wood










It’s called Stormy Sea and I suppose it’s really an amalgamation from imagination, of waves crashing against rocks, quite west coast in feel. Lynn had liked a previous work that had sold, so I offered to paint something similar.

This is the original version below, difficult to re-produce exacly, I think I like the composition more, but the version for Lynn (above) has much more atmosphere and life..

Stormy Sea. Acrylic, ink and salt on 5x5" wood

Stormy Sea. Acrylic, ink and salt on 5×5″ wood









I could never copy a previous work exactly since my paintings involve very experimental elements – splashes, loose work with palette knife, drips etc. Lynn was very clear that she loved that visceral sense of atmosphere – the feeling that you can almost smell the sea and feel the spray of the waves on your skin. My first version, which I sent as a jpeg via email, wasn’t quite right. Lynn knew I could capture more of a sense of atmosphere, and this is the part I really enjoyed – it’s very encouraging to have someone say, in effect ‘but I know you can make it better!’ Lynn mentioned the ‘waxy’ blobs of paint to depict waves and ‘salty, wild sky’ so I knew what she meant.

This second work, On Croy Beach was, in contrast to Stormy Sea, copied from a photograph. The challenge here was to involve a sense of atmosphere so that the painting didn’t look like a straight copy from a photo. The commissioner was Sarah Meddings, a former buyer of my work who wanted to give this as a gift to her sister who loves Croy beach as she spends much time with her family there.

'On Croy Beach' Acrylic on 20x16" canvas

‘On Croy Beach’ Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas

I exagerrated texture in the foreground and added more shimmer and light here and there in the form of light dry brush work (clouds) and palette knife (sea) with white paint. The main challenge was the figures, because though I’m fairly confident with depicting the human form (a rigourous foundation training in life drawing before art college thanks to tutor/artist Bill Gillon!) I couldn’t quite see details of the distant figures. To-ing and fro-ing with Sarah via email helped me pick out certain characteristics to make the figures look somewhat like the actual people, who I’d never met of course!

After these final tweakings, Sarah declared she was happy with the painting, and later reported that her sister was very moved by the gift. (though it’s good to earn a living by painting, the best part that really stays with you, is when someone enjoys the work and responds to it emotionally)

This next painting Emma and Friends, River Tweed, 2009 was commissioned by my mum, it was intended as a Birthday gift last year, but I was so busy on other paintings I never got it quite finished as I’d wanted, so I returned to it in a quiet patch before Christmas.

'Emma and Friends, River Tweed, 2009'. Mixed media on 11x11" wooden panel

‘Emma and Friends, River Tweed, 2009’. Mixed media on 11×11″ wooden panel

My mum really enjoys texture in a painting, so although this painting is all about clear reflections and green-glass-like water (I’d normally use more water and pooling/running efects) I used almost a combing technique through thick paint to get the water patterns with a small palette knife, then placed ridges of thick paint to highlight and colour the water paterns. The trees too were created with palette knife and fan-brush. The figures (of my niece and friends) were actually much easier to paint – the main thing I wanted to capture was the way the green water reflected on skin, making them look other-worldly and slightly luminous – like water naiads!

These two works were commissions where a first-time buyer of my work, Milly Van Croonenburg, particularly liked a painting I’d done of the Bass Rock. And another commission by a buyer – Oonagh Reynolds, of a stone tower in Seacliff Bay on the coast of East Lothian. I stayed as faithful to the originals as possible, but it always seems to be the case that the original is bettered in some ways, but perhaps not as good in others. I’ll leave you to decide which you like of these, but I’m not saying which are the originals!…

Bass Rock. Acrylic and ink on 7x5" wood

Bass Rock from North Berwick (2)










Seacliff. Acrylic on 7x5" wood






Seacliff Bay, Scotland. Acrylic on 7x5" wood

Seacliff Bay, Scotland. Acrylic on 7×5″ wood







Lastly, I was watching a programme on BBC about Contsable recently. His technique, using loose brushwork and impressionistic sketches of nature, was revolutionary for that time, and it’s fascinating to see how he attempted to retain the loose vibrancy of his sketches in the huge paintings he submitted for exhibitions. He succeeds, but there’s still something, to my eye, that’s more affecting in the originals. In his later life, freed up because he’d inherited money, his work became even more abstracted, gestural and expressive. His influence stays with us – back then Turner was inspired by his freedom with paint. Here’s one of one of his beautiful sketches of sky, it looks utterly contemporary and fresh. I love it…








Though I wasn’t thinking of Constable when I did these loosely sketched paintings below, they were made when I got into that freedom with paint zone that’s quite elusive, and usually only happens at the end of weeks of intensive painting..

'Veil'. Acrylic and ink on 10x10" wood

‘Veil’. Acrylic and ink on 10×10″ wood









'Lindisfarne Series No. 1'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood

‘Lindisfarne Series No. 1’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

Blue series day 3

blue series 1 Blue series 2 blue series 3 blue series 4

Playing around with texture, colour etc, with a mix of acrylic, salt, black dylon, marble dust, Prussian blue, varnish, Indian ink and anything else that’s available. These are all still on 20×16 inch canvas, some painted over previous paintings I didn’t finish or wasn’t satisfied with. I’m no closer to going on to bigger canvas so these are ideas in progress.

The light was fading so these aren’t quite focussed.

January Sale

The following paintings and limited edition giclee prints are available until the end of January

Giclee prints of each of these work are also available, please email me at for details



Swimming in the Tweed

'Emma and Friends, River Tweed, 2009'. Mixed media on 11x11" wooden panel

‘Emma and Friends, River Tweed, 2009’. Mixed media on 11×11″ wooden panel

The painting above was a private commission, or more accurately a painting for my mum’s Christmas! Finished last year.

It shows my niece Emma and friends swimming in the Tweed River several years ago – it was an idylic summer day in 2009 and they’d just finished all their exams. I suppose it was the start of their adult lives – a sense of freedom and ‘what’s next?’. Emma and her partner Joe are travelling for two years in the far east just now, lucky them! We miss them, but it’s great to see them enjoying adventures together.

2015 was a year of green paintings, the painting above representing a sort of zenith of green! I have enjoyed a few days of selecting blue shades for my next series which will be semi-abstract sea and night sky. I usually prefer a darker or more monochrome palette and enjoyed painting these two earlier works from 2014, some of the elements of these might come into the new series..

'Stormy Sky, Lindisfarne'. Mixed media on 20x16" canvas

‘Stormy Sky, Lindisfarne’. Mixed media on 20×16″ canvas

 'Moonlight on Eigg'. Acrylic on 20x16" canvas

‘Moonlight on Eigg’. Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas


Winter night-watching

Night Sky #18 1998 Vija Celmins

Night Sky #18 1998 Vija Celmins

This new year I visited Port Soy on the north coast of Aberdeenshire where I watched fireworks then constellations in a crystal clear, black and unpolluted sky.

I found it inspiring, the images I experienced stayed with me and so I’ve been exploring the work of artists whose ideas express a response to infinite skies. The notion of endless space is compelling and I remember when the existence of infinity first interested me as a child when reading the mysterious chapter in George MacDonald’s ‘The Princess and the Goblin’, where during Irene’s bath she looks up to see that the walls have disappeared and there’s an endless night sky. Very unsettling, yet beautiful. MacDonald was inspired by the Jansenists (German Romanticists) and sought to express these ideas in literary form through children’s books.

During my arts degree I returned to these ideas through study of concepts of the sublime, from Burke and Kant to Paul Crowther – the notion that when presented with a experience that goes beyond our understanding we’re faced with the limits of human perception, which can have profund effect.

I’ll be working on a new series of paintings titled ‘Nocturne’ and I’ve been exploring a small series of works by artists which express some of these ideas, some in a more visceral sense, purely through colour and form, others in subject matter.

Web #5

Web #5

The paintings above and right by Vija Celmins were created as part of series depicting space, stars and night sky. It’s a  repetitive series with very subtle differences between each version, later she began to develop the subtle cobweb effects.

Her work was photo realist though always minimal, elemental and monochrome. Reading about her life and work as an artist, I wonder if her sense of rootlessness – or of not belonging, contrasting with her need for freedom, had a lot to do with her fascination for endless space.

There are no horizons, no exactpoints to anchor the paintings, though she begins to suggest subtle connections with the web-like lines, which also recall constellations, and the patterns or connections we create to make sense of life. These themes echo a conflict that’s often experienced by artists, or people whose lives are lived through creativity.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. White Circle Series 1

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. White Circle Series 1











The painting above is one of my favourites by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. She lived part of her life in a family house outside St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland. I stayed overnight some years ago (she was no longer alive by that time, so artists and writers had been invited to explore her work as part of residencies and I was there to visit a writer friend in residence at the time). I’d spent the day gazing at her paintings, and later walking along the beach in the evening, I saw her vision in the simple, beautiful forms of rocks and moon against those huge northeast skies.

This work by Andrew Melville from the 19th century is in total contrast with the abstract works above, but it’s the quality of blue I find compelling, it has a visceral effect on me that has something to do with the depth it captures, perhaps the desire to travel and explore – as expressed in the idea of orientalism from a western perspective maybe. He contrasts the warmth of lantern-lit brickwork and sky perfectly – our eyes are naturally drawn to the velvety depth of twilit sky.

The Blue Night, Venice 1897 Arthur Melville 1855-1904 Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940

The Blue Night, Venice 1897 Arthur Melville










In this dreamlike work below by Yee Jan Bao the horizon appears as a hair’s breadth, or a  tightrope, traversed by a ship surrounded by endless blue. the effect is cold, unsettling and at the same time compelling; we’re drawn to this sense of space and the unknown while simultaneously fearing it..






I’ll be posting photos of my own painting forays into these themes over the next few months. In the meantime, here’s wishing everyone a wonderful happy new year.

This is a photo taken on the streets of Portsoy at midnight…