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..



Visionary film


Scene from ‘The Revenant’

I’ve just returned from seeing ‘The Revenant’ at Edinburgh’s filmhouse and was deeply inspired and moved by it. I know I’ll be watching it again, not just as it’s one of those films in which a lot is being said, but because of the way nature is depicted. As a landscape artist I found the director’s vision and interpretation of nature profoundly affecting,so I want to try to explore what it is that moved me.

From the opening scene which shows the film’s main character, Hugh Glass, asleep with his wife and son, I imagined this might be the precursor to a Braveheart-like epic of revenge (having read reviews of themes of machismo, violence and so on) but revenge is just one thread that weaves throughout the film.

Long after the credits had rolled, I still felt quite emotionally raw as I re-visualised scenes; the repeating image of tree tops viewed from the ground in different weather – swaying in sunlight, bending in a storm or silhouetted against twilit sky. Nature is more than an epic backdrop in this film. In one eagle-eyed view a river valley appears as an etched meandering scratch on a vast tundra-like plain, which to me suggested the sheer vulnerability of humanity when we have nothing but willpower, wits and the clothes on our back to survive.

The camera view repeatedly follows rivers throughout the film – perhaps a reminder of the continuity of nature versus our brief moment on earth. The sub zero conditions of Canada mean that the actors’ breath is visible and (uniquely as far as I know in cinema) Inaritu uses this – allowing the camera screen to fog up, or dissolve from this evidence of human life to billowing clouds, mist and the elements we breathe and survive on.

The film’s final moment shows Hugh Glass abandoning his revenge quest because, in the words of his dead wife, ‘revenge is in god’s hands’. Glass releases his enemy Fitzwilliam into the river, where he drifts to a bend of land and is hauled out by a native tribe leader who looks across the water at Glass then kills Fitzwilliam. Glass, now dying, looks on as they pass, one woman in the tribe looks directly at him as she passes and we realize it’s the woman he helped escape from a group of French fur trappers who had raped her. And in an echo of Glass’s journey to avenge the death of his son, she is also the daughter the tribe leader has been seeking to rescue or find, whether dead or alive, throughout the film.

‘Male revenge porn’ and ‘machisimo’ have been some of the words used by critics to describe the film, but I didn’t get that from the film at all. Through his dreams and visions it’s Glass’s dead wife who helps him live and die with courage and grace. This film suggests we’re just one small part of a terrifying and beautiful world, Innarritu shows us nature’s indifference to our hopes and desires – there are no sides to take, no ‘man against nature’ – ‘life’s but a brief candle’ and in the context of environmental changes on our planet that may be as a species not just as individuals.


Film still from ‘Andrei Rublev, by Tartovsky

DiCaprio, as it happens, is a dedicated environmental activist and his relish of this role seems palpable. In one shot where Glass painfully hauls himself out of a grave in which he’s been left for dead, I couldn’t help but be reminded of DiCaprio’s famous comedy qualude related scene in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’. In a sense both show characters with indomitable will, for contrasting reasons. ‘The Revenant’ explores what motivates our will to survive. For Fitzwilliam it’s about greed and power, for Glass it seems at first to be about revenge, but in the end my interpretation was that he lived and died for love. A deeply moving dream-like sequence, reminiscent of European Avant Garde cinema (I wasn’t surprised to hear that Tartovsky is one source of Inarritu’s inspiration) shows Glass in a broken down ruin of a church, holding his son (now dead) in an emotional embrace, and brought to mind Larkin’s words ‘Our almost instinct, almost true: What will survive of us is love’.


It’s true there aren’t many Hugh Glassalikes in our times, but equally true that DiCaprio, Inaritu, cast and crew (those who tholled the entire gruelling 9 month shoot at least!) suffered to some degree for their art – the bear isn’t real, but swimming in sub zero temperatures is. All credit to the incredible talent and skills of Director, crew and cast that we feel immersed in it with them, and that this is our story. Also, perhaps, the reason behind that final shot of DiCaprio’s direct stare to camera where his breathing is still audible after the screen turns black.

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