Many of the visitors to my 2013 art exhibition turned up wearing Top Hats. Fabhatrix in the grassmarket must have been totally cleared out! I got them to pose in front of my paintings to give a sense of the scale of the work….and because it was fun.
There are a lot of effortlessly stylish folk in my town!
I hung the jacobite Stramash in the Netherbow Museum as part of their Jacobite season alongside the Prestonpans Tapestry. Perfect location as the tower in the background of the painting is the Netherbow Gate. It was really nice to bring it home. Coincidentally they had reenactors playing out the story of the storming of the Netherbow, the scene thats depicted in the painting, 17th September 1745. All very exciting and a bit surreal. I decided that if there were reenactors there I wasn’t going to wear my kilt and come of second best so I wore tweeds. But thought I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun so I wore one of the wigs from the paintings production all day…. maybe its time for a perm? Ross the master piper who featured in the picture and wore a mad professor baldy heid came in full regalia and played for the gallery, he even got a shot as a reenactor. I knew I should have brought my claymore.
2011’s Art Complex Show focused on a spectacular Tam O Shanter painting. As usual in the arts complex shows I was working on it live in the show. I got a body of work completed and entertained the crowds, also made the local news. The funniest thing is that we hung the mural inconspicuously in the far side iof the gallery. Some people would wander in oblivious to its existance and physically shriek when they rounded the corner. Its a shock to the system when you’re mugged by a fourteen meter painting, the elephant in the room. As usual I was filming the picture being painted and we had a video of its production projected onto the wall, proper art galleries feature tellies.
I also fired off an email to Lorraine Kelly and being a gallous lass she’s agreed to be the bar maid in the pub scene – celebrity involvement! Here are some of the highlights.
On 16th July 2010 I had my first solo show at The Arts Complex in Edinburgh. It featured a broad range of work from seven years of metamorphosis from illustrator to artist much of which is featured on this website. Kind of like a premiere retrospective.
The title of the show had a double meaning, from one of my favourite proverbs. ‘It is the open hand that clutches the tightest.’ I believe applying marks quickly, leaving the bones exposed allows for maximum emotional impact. Also it more obviously refers to the opening hand in a game of cards.
When the cowparade came to Edinburgh in 2006 I was commissioned to decorate one of the cows. I really wanted to paint a green cow festooned in massive flies, lying down and call it ‘Pat’ . (A cow -‘Pat’ I still think that’s funny)
The commissioners preferred this idea of a Highland bull in a kilt. I poured around 100 man hours into painting the kilt alone but I think it was worth it, he truly was totally bad assed. He was the only boy on show. I turned the cows udder into a sporran and gave her a sex change. In future though, I’ll buy kilts not paint them. When the cows were auctioned at the end of the parade he was the fifth highest grossing cow out of some hundred that were put up for sale.
Subsequent to that I was commissioned to repaint another two of the cows as highland warriors. (no kilts) It’s an odd feeling walking into that garden and feeling them eyeballing you. Even though I know they’re fake on a gut level it makes me nervous.
I think it a pity the Victorian historical painting has gone out of fashion. It was their equivalent of the grand movie experience and unveilings used to attract queues round the corner. It is also something one man can have a go at, you don’t need permission. Just a big wall. In 2009 I had a shot, as much to set myself a challenge as anything else.
The painting is three and a half meters tall and two and a half meters wide. It was originally conceived stretched onto batons on a wall at Leith School of Art, then I took it into my garage and draped it up the wall and onto the ceiling. At this time I managed to resolve the composition and get the colour balance right prior to it being hung in the Leith School of Art show. Personally I was unhappy with the finish of the individuals in the crowd. They looked like ghosts of people and cartoons rather than proper individuals, so in the time honoured fashion I went in the huff…
Until… just before the dawn of my first solo show. The Opening Hand. I decided that instead of twiddling my thumbs and watching the show unfold it would be better to finish the painting in a live event. Get the visitors to pose for the characters in the picture. So that’s what I did. Painting live models into the scene was a much better laugh for all parties concerned. Wigs, fake beards and all! The picture finally reached a logical conclusion. Better late than never.
When I started painting the Jacobite Stramash again it didn’t even have a name! The faults in the image as far as I was concerned were many and varied. There were some hundred figures in the painting and they weren’t good enough. I decided that it was important to get models in to pose. Both to enliven the exhibition and provide a hook for the event but – more importantly to breath life into the crowd and turn it into the party I had imagined in the first place. I managed to get a shout out on STV and in the evening news requesting models.
Here are a selection of snaps of some of the loons I snared to thicken the plot. Some of the shots are from my studio as it didn’t quite get finished in the show.