Sunday, 18 December 2016

Photographing Glasgow

Photographing Glasgow

I've added a blog post over at outlining my 15 years living in Glasgow and the time I spent studying at Glasgow in the 1980's.

It was an interesting blog entry to write and made me think a lot about my past. As I say a couple of times in the blog article, I am not a photographer. Just an artist who likes to take photos. These shots have become important to me over the years. Partly because it's a nice way to document your life but also as I use my photographs quite often as source material for painting sand drawings.

So, I'm not going to say much more about it here but if you want to hear my thoughts on studying and living in Glasgow and see some photographs I've taken over the years in addition to the one above, please follow the link to this Glasgow Artist's Photography Blog.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Returning Artist 

There has not been an entry on this blog for a very long time. I probably need to change the strapline at the top which says that it is regularly updated.

To cut a long story short, health issues got the better of me. Although I am not yet back to "normal", there are signs that things are improving a little. You can read a little more about this on this Pencil Drawing post.

All the cliche's about "if you don't have your health, you have nothing" are true. It's only when you are in the position where you are living it every day do you realise just how accurate this is.

Coloured Pencil Saviours

A few years ago, before I had to give ip the ghost, I had been building up a portfolio of new artwork. I had been in touch with a few new galleries and I had really been looking forward to setting off in a slightly new direction for me with the aid of some new art galleries. None of this came to pass and the art world seems to have changed a little in the past few years. 

Quite a few galleries I  knew of have gone. Victims to the financial downturn and its aftermath. So sad.

I am in the position that when I do get back to some kind of normal, I have over 30 half finished artworks to complete. This is an odd position to be in . It is a good place to start and it will also be interesting seeing how my approach has differed after an enforced break.

At my worst, I was entirely bedridden for days. I would have gone insane listening to radio and watching TV when I could. Respite came in the form of coloured pencils. 

I kept some pencils and paper nearby at all times. Some days I never touched them or only doodled for ten minutes but ten minutes was better than nothing.

Coloured pencils were a medium I saw as "less than". Unfortunately this is a common perception and it is entirely wrong.

There re now some wonderful coloured pencil artists out there. Coloured pencis themselves have changed greatly. They are now available on light fast versions and some of the best galleries worldwide are starting to take notice.

"Aries" shown above, is one of the pieces partly created from the artist's bed! I feel that I am in good company as I know Frida Khalo had to paint from bed after her accident.

So, I will endeavor to keep this little blog updated with some different articles from my main website.

Art Exposure

One of the things that has amazed me is the sheer volume of visitors to this website  whilst I have been away. It's in the many thousands. I am surprised, pleased and would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to visit.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Joan Eardley Art Treat

Joan Eardley's story and her artwork strike a chord with many people. Perhaps because she died at a young age, but that aside, there is just something really emotional and honest about her drawing and painting.

It was a real treat for me then today when I popped into my favourite Glasgow Picture Framers today and found a really unusual framing project going on. Joan Eardley, possibly because of financial constraints, created art on all kinds of surfaces. So far I have seen her artwork on metal, hardboard, cardboard, sandpaper as well as plain old paper. She also use two sides of the surface she was working on.

This is the case with the portrait and the landscape art shown above, the are on opposing sides of the same sheet of paper and Art Hire Framing were creating a frame which could be viewed from both sides. Quite ingenious.

The framer was commenting that the portrait was the better executed artwork of the two and it was definitely full of character. I however, loved the landscape. In the distance, at the top, you can see the Clydeside cranes. Even in this rough, sketchy piece, there was so much Eardly drama and emotion going on. The way she splits the composition, the differential line-weights, the smattering of colour and the wonderful perspective.

I only had a moment or two to get a quick peek but it set me up for the day and put a smile on my face. I little slice of Scottish art history during a plain old Friday afternoon.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Online Art Problems

Online art problems are mainly related to the visual aspect f getting your artwork to look the way it does in real life.

This has plagued me for years and I have chopped and changed the way I photograph my artwork, the way I show it and this has meant redesigning my main art website repeatedly over the years. I have always quite liked th eway flickr shows images, large and clear. Fine Art America is also good.

One of the things that should not be a problem, but is, is having your images stolen. It has happened to me a couple of times now, the last time tey took the trouble to photoshop my watermark out before making my artwork available to buy on the side of a mug!

I have now reverted to scanning. This can't be done for large paintings but much of what I have been working on recently has been smaller scale, more detailed pencil work and this lends itself quite well to scanning.

I recently completed a coloured pencil drawing which is approximately A3 size.

This was the first shot.

This was taken with my iPad, which can usually be good enough without photographing using My Canon Eos 350D which is what i use for making prints.

i realised this was pretty awful and so took a shot with my iPhone, which I have had really good results from in the past. Certainly accurate enough for my website. This was the result.

Utterly awful with regard to colour but it did pick up some of the pencil work, which took a long time to create.

Finally, I scanned the artwork and stitched it together electronically as it was too large for my scanner.

This was the result:-

Very close to the original and the detail in the pencil work is clear to see. So, for drawings from now on, it will be scanning rather than photography. Another small step forward.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Cash For Kids

A couple of months ago I was approached by artist Jimmy Mackellar who regularly attends the life drawing classes at WASPS Studios where I am based in Glasgow. Jimmy had an idea for a celebration of St Andrews day whereby Scottish artwork would be shown in a slideshow to the soundtrack of singer Agnes Munro performing "Caledonia".

A meeting was duly set and the project sounded simple enough. Agnes dispelled my fears about copyright as she has permission with regard to her performance. It was decided that we should try and do some good with this interesting little project and have since created a JustGiving page where viewers of the video can donate  to the Cash For Kids Christmas appeal.

I have blogged elsewhere about charity and art and how it is sometimes done in a manner that takes advantage of artists. This is mainly when artists are repeatedly asked to give away artwork. It becomes impossible to do, whereas if an amount is given to the artist, it allows them to keep giving. I fell foul of this again recently when I was asked to provide artwork for a very high profile charity event. I did not realise that I would have to give multiple paintings with less than usual commission coming to me and in the run up to the event I also gave to other charities. When I adviesd the high-profile event that I could only give them two pieces at the reduced rate and that it would have to be a 50/50 split on the remainder, they decided that they could not agree to this. Very frustrating - as a self employed person, it simply is not possible to give away that amount  repeatedly and yet certain people do not seem to "get" that in bolstering up their charities, they are making life difficult for artists. I know several artists who now just say "no" to everything but I don't want to fall into that category.

Since then, I have worked with another charity, which is very mindful of artists and they sold my artwork at an event which worked for both of us.

The Cash For Kids project was entirely different. All I have had to give was my time. Contacting artists and putting together the slideshow took a bit of time as I don't have a huge amount of experience in creating these slideshows. This project grew naturally and came about mainly because of Jimmy Mackellars passion for all things positive and Agnes Munro's willingness to help. They are both lovely people.

The slideshow has now been live for just 24 hours and the total is at over 200 pounds for Cash For Kids. I am surprised that more people don't make small donations. If all my Facebook friends gave just one pound, then there would be over 800 pounds by now. I guess however that there are so many charity projects that people cannot keep giving, even if it is a small amount - just as it is difficult for artists to give art freely on a repeat basis.

I hope people enjoy the video. - Please consider DONATING HERE

You can watch a larger version of the video on Youtube HERE

Monday, 11 November 2013

Keep The Cone

Keep The Cone probably won't make any sense to you if you are outside the Scottish City of Glasgow. If you know Glasgow, however, you will know exactly what it means.

The Duke of Wellington statue stands guard at the entrance of the Gallery Of Modern Art in Royal Exchange Square. For a couple of decades now, he has almost always had a traffic cone on his head, courtesy of passing Glaswegians.

I don't know anyone who doesn't find this humourous, or agree that it sums up Glasgow humour and all that is great about this city. A city that , yes, may have had a lot of negative press and in some cases it is justified but Glasgow has a wonderful side to it. Wonderful, warm people, great style, a vibrant nightlife and world-class art galleries.

Having moved to Glasgow to live just over a decade ago, I always had a soft-spot for the duke and his cone. So much that I produced several paitings of him.

So, it has been interesting to see what has happened today as Glaswegians sprang into action following Glasgow Council's decision to raise the plinth that the statue sits on  to prevent the cone being placed on top of the statue. They have said that it costs thousands to keep taking it down and it has to stop. Twitter is alive with #keepthecone chat and a facebook page Keep The Cone grew from nothing to 25000 in a few hours. There is also now an online petition.

I have met tourists who love the statue, and what it represents. They ask taxi drivers to take them past it and are dissapointed when it is not there. I discussed this when I was contacted by a reporter at the Scottish Sun Newspaper today. They had contacted me as I have painted the Duke of Wellington Statue with his traffic cone several times. I told them that I believe that the counclil should glue the hat on rather than raise the plinth. That would prevent the statue being damaged and it would save money whilst keeping everyone happy. Glasgow Council have already had to make an embarassing u-turn this year after plans to "modernise" George Square in the heart of the City cause a public outcry.

Yes, everyone loves the Duke of Wellington statue and his traffic cone: it remains to be seen if Glasgow Council do.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

To Russia With Love

To Russia With Love came about after I watched a Stephen Fry documentary recently. Stephen was interviewing some Russian Minister about the new anti-gay laws when this man rather incredibly started to talk about angels falling from heaven.

My painting, above, is of Tatiana, one of the murdered Romanov daughters, dressed in what is I believe, her Red Cross uniform, offering some healing to a nation gone crazy.

It's an interesting theme for me to explore. I have been watching American politics over the past few years and the new heights of crazy are just unbelievable. Ron Paul, who could have been Vice President has been discussing the rights of rapists to sue their victims if they decide to terminate and I also recently watched the documentary on Sarah Palin "You Betcha". The woman is a fruit loop.

How do these people get into power?

Whilst I believe that people have the right to follow any faith they may choose, I am an advocate of keeping religion and state separate. The fact that people such as Anne Widdicombe in the UK ask their "God" for guidance scares me. I want them to use their brain for decision making, not turn to a deity for advice.

I could go on. I have had some interesting debates relating to this subject on Facebook and whilst I am always interested in hearing the point of view of others, there comes a point when it should be acceptable to say "enough".

Read more about the artwork

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Even More Coloured Pencil Art

I'm m starting to take this coloured pencil artwork thing quite seriously.

Having cut my teeth on some small figurative pieces and then progressing with some more detailed landscapes, I am almost finished with this piece which has taken many more hours (days) than I thought she would when I set out to create her.

Inbetween all this I have been finding out more and more about coloured pencils. The main issue seems to be that in some quarters, they are not taken seriously as a medium. this is just plain silly. I think their is a psychological connection with many people to the fact that we all drew with coloured pencils when we were children. Well, things have moved on since then and although there are still these types of pencil on the market, companies such as Derwent, Faber Castel and Caran d' Ache have all invested in developing superior quality professional ranges. With colourfastnes of a century, I am happy to use these products. In fact I am more than happy: I adore the medium. 

I spent most of 2012 drawing and only painted a few pieces. A whole year working with graphite and charcoal taught me so much. Drawing also has a rawness about it and shows the "bare bones" of an artist. there is no hiding. By the start of 2013 I was finally beginning to miss colour - something that some galleries had told me their customers wanted. I was not influenced by this and stuck to my guns. I reintroduced colour when I was ready to.

So, to the lady above. Although she is not completed yet, I like the way that she has progressed. She has given me so many ideas for new pieces and also for the way I approach those pieces from a technical viewpoint.

I think my brushes will be staying dry for a little while yet.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Post Open Studios Post

Open Studios at WASPS is over for another year.

If you read my last post, which I had quite a few emails about, then all my predictions came true. The usual artists behaving badly and artists without a clue. thank heavens for the visitors!

On the subject of visitors, the number of visitors seemed to be down. There were several big events in Glasgow City Centre that weekend including a marathon and a notable football match. We heard that several people intending to come couldn't make it through the traffic.

I felt very supported with a great turn-out from people I had invited. It really is appreciated - thanks again to those of you who battled the traffic.

Feedback this year was very positive. I know that in the end, we do put on a great event. I managed to get a little time away from my studio and there are some new artists in the building up to some really interesting things which is great to see.

I shot myself in the foot at one point when a gentleman who was scrutinising my small landscpaes rather closely asked "have you considered the RGI?" I replied with "Oh, I can't be bothered with all that art-snobbery". He as speachless and made a hasty retreat much to the amusement of other visitors. "I think you hit a raw nerve there" said another chap. I think I did , and I didn't really mean it. I had heard that the EGI were considering a "failures" exhibition a couple of years ago to show all the art that didn't make it into their annual open show and if that's true, then I think it sums up a lot that can be bad in the art world.

The truth about my comment though is that it was just a throw-away quip. I tend not to approach the likes of the RGI. It's a confidence thing with me and I still think of myself as quite a new artist as I onlty became pro later in life. A couple of years a go I saw a series of postcard sized landscapes by RGI members at the Southside Festival in Glasgow and they were amongst the most beautiful small pieces of artwork I have seen so I hope the gent I offended forgives me.

Since Open Studios I have been working away on new pieces, including the one shown above. I have tried to take a slightly different approach to things (not just art) recently and I am enjoying the new leaf I have turned over. I'm hoping this continues as I develop new work and I am already working on pieces for some upcoming exhibitions.

Friday, 4 October 2013

WASPS Open Studios 2013

WASPS Open Studios is an annual event i have come to love. The process of getting to the weekend of the event is, however simply exhausting.

In previous years, I have been one of the artists who become heavily involved in organisation. This year I decided I needed to take my foot off the gas a bit. It is a frustrating process - over 40 artists - all with their own opinions, trying to make the weekend work.

In the past it has frustrated the hell out of me as, if you don't already know, artists can be over-sensitive. That's fine and I think it's right that everyone has a voice but it gets to the point where, well, I just want to scream at the insanity! In my previous career in design, I worked in a medium-sized company that really evolved over the years. they worked on changing the culture from the early days and after I had been there 16 years, many of the people there had become quite sharp and efficient. I ran a small but, I would say quite switched-on design department. Driven to "exceed customer expectations", that translated into creating the best designs at a competitive price, making a profit, enjoying ourselves in the process, hopefully having done such a good job that the customer came back to us in the future.

The Bad Stuff

Working with a group of artists is the opposite of this. I was having a T-break with an artist friend who also had a different career for 2 decades before going back to painting and I was glad she also was feeling the frustration. Reinventing the wheel, talking about the same thing over, and over, and over but not actually doing it. Needing a committee just to put a fucking price label on a wall, not learning from mistakes made in previous years, the list goes on. We came to the conclusion that it is just an "artist" thing. For some, it may be the fact that they have never known anything else.

When I was a young designer, I learned from other designers. As I moved up the ladder I still learned from other people. What strikes me at WASPS is that there are several people who are really not very successful and yet they want to run the show. Whilst I think everyone should be heard, people who have sold one painting all year really should learn to shut the fuck up when it comes to TELLING other people how it's done. It beggars belief.

I am, however, getting used to it now.

So, this weekend, I will be used to the selfish bastards who hogg the public spaces, meaning that their fellow artists won't get as many visitors into their studios and the stupid artists who , despite bing asked, won't park their car outwith the WASPS car par and leave space for our visitors because they just don't get that visitor experience is hugely important (some of us unerstand that if you have three kids it can be a nightmare having to park a ten minute walk away).

I will also have to take on the chin, the visiting artist with NO business manners whatsoever, who take up too much time when you only have a limited amount to speak to your customers. I will also have to put up with the really rude ones who hand out their business cards and take photos of artwork without even asking.

The Good Stuff

Why do I bother with all of the above? In the end, I think that most of the people I've referred to are trying to do a good job. Most are decent people, just trying to make the event the best they can. I don't mind differing opinions, it's just when they can't be backed up with evidence that it drives me crazy. There are a couple of A-holes at the studios but that's the same in every walk of life, isn't it?

So it all comes together in the end and what WASPS have created with the Open Studios event is, I think an amazing opportunity for artists and the public alike. I've seen some other shows around Glasgow in the past couple of years ago and none of the collectives have IMHO come anywhere near to what we put on in Hanson Street. The feedback we get is hugely positive, from the quality of the work to the fact that we put on a treasure hunt for the kids.

For me, I love meeting people in my own environment. I am a bit of a fish out of water when I am present at out of studio events but there is something about exhibiting from the studio that I am really comfortable with.Many visitors don't hold back and discuss there opinion on my art with me and as I am not present at galleries except on opening nights, there is not usually the chance to get that kind of feedback.

So here's to a great Open Studios 2013. Full Exhibition details here.

I hope it's a great event for the artists involved and for all our visitors and I have one day left to get the mess that is my studio (above) finally knocked into shape.