Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Alastair Salvesen Award

Imperial Facade, watercolour on paper

It has been 10 years since I received this scholarship. I spent 3 months in China, and it proved to a seminal point in my art career in terms of subject matter, materials and methods used.

Turning point- Winning the Alastair Salvesen Award

When I decided to return to college in 1995 to study a post Graduate Certificate in Secondary Education, I had already been painting, and exhibiting, as well as working full time for eight years. It was during this period while at College, that I applied for a number of scholarships, one of which, I was fortunate enough to win, the Alastair Salvesen Travel scholarship.

I chose to visit China, and spent 3 months traveling and painting, almost as soon as I had graduated that June in 1996. I traveled from Beijing to Xian, Chongching to Nanjing, down the Yangtze River, and then on to Guilin and Yangshuo in the South of China.

As part of winning the scholarship, it was necessary for me to produce a number of paintings documenting my experiences. These were then to be exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, on my return to Scotland. In the end I produced a total of 51 pieces.

I worked mainly from life and began to establish a rapport with watercolour, a medium I hadnt really explored properly up until that point. Since the material was light and convenient to carry, I found I could climb hills, produce a painting at the top, return to the hotel and finish the work from memory. This versatility gave me confidence to really start enjoying watercolour and I began to experiment with it.

This was the turning point where I established my interest and association with the medium of watercolour. The year before, I had been elected a member of the royal Scottish Society in Painters in Watercolours, but it was mainly with my acrylic work. I really didnt start using the medium in earnest until the China trip in 96.

For the past few years I have concentrated on watercolour and I have discovered and investigated a number of techniques which can describe a multitude of surfaces, (which I think are particularly unique). I owe it all to winning the Scholarship because it forced me to confront a medium I had considered at one point too difficult to even contemplate trying.

Escape, Oil on Board 1996

The reason for bringing up the Salvesen Award is to mention that my friend and colleague at Dundee College, David Martin is the most recent recipient and you can follow his travels through the middle East (brave man).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Welcome to Marrakech, Watercolour on paper

I am still working on the Morocco series for my exhibition in the Open Eye Gallery. I have a couple of months to work on my paintings and have completed about half the show .

Small paintings like this one still take me around a day to complete. Some of the larger pieces take months. What matters to me is the quality of the work and I would never knowingly let a piece out of the studio incomplete. The worst thing to me is to come across an older work which I know is not finished to the best of my ability at the time.

A finished work is one that no longer annoys me. When I do finish them I like to put them away and not look at them for quite some time. I know some artists like to live with their work for a while but not me. Once they are complete I move on mentally.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Made in Fife

The Alchemist's door, watercolour on paper

A mixed exhibition featuring the work of artists living or working in Fife opened on the 2nd of June, 2006 at the Jerdan Gallery, Crail. The exhibition continues until the 26th of June, 2006 and some of the work can be viewed at their website;

I have 4 pieces in the show, two of which are seen here.

"The Ascent", watercolour on paper

Sunday, June 18, 2006

In the Store

"In the Stone of Venice", watercolour on Paper, 101 x 117cm

Sometimes through circumstance, the storeroom contains one or two gems which have only been viewed a couple of times. This piece, "In the Stones of Venice" was originally painted and shown in the Singer friedlander watercolour exhibition. When it returned I had it in the Queens Gallery for a couple of weeks then buried it in the store. I thought I would let you have a look as its feeling neglected (but alas not alone).

A wee note;

“In the Stones of Venice”, alludes to my feeling that the passing of time is conveyed by the surface history contained within an object, much in the way an old person is said to have their past written on their face.

In this painting I have hidden within the lower part of the wall, a map of Venice, which can be seen glinting from the surface like a vein of gold. The history of Venice is very much contained within her buildings and it was this, above all else, that impressed me the most about this unique city. So much so that I felt I needed to communicate this through my work.

The title also alludes to John Ruskin’s, “The stones of Venice”, where he spent long months working in Venice until he had reduced its beauties to “mouldings and mud”. My studies of Venice have reduced her to surface texture and ambiguity.