Here’s the third and final painting of the kitchen table. This one features Josh, the cat we brought north with us to Scotland; a young half-starved semi-feral cat when we adopted him from North Staffs RSPCA five years ago.
His description stated to be prepared for a lot of time and effort before he would be ready to trust anyone. I was fine with this and left him to settle in. Within days, he was quite curious about what I was doing – which was drawing streets in Eccleshall, and he jumped up to see what was going on.
This is the same kitchen table and chairs! It didn’t take long for Josh to work out that he was in a safe place.
Another key component of our kitchen table is the teapot.
I don’t think I’m the only one partial to a brew! This tea pot has featured a few times in my sketch book too.
The last key component of this drawing/triptych is the beautiful Burleighware jug which my sister Anne bought for me from Middleport Potteries in Stoke, whilst on a visit from Australia.
Sketching out my work before starting on a surface allows me to weigh up the composition and add or remove things. In this instance Flo is shown sketched above but she got rubbed out and moved into the central picture (previous post). Rum Tum in turn, moved on to the chair. I had realised that the glow from the flame would hide Flo and I wanted Mum’s candle as the focal point of the table with the statesman-like Rum Tum serving as a good table end.
This is the second of three of the exhibition pieces for the Carluke Jam and Ham Festival 2021. It’s nothing to do with streets but I like to participate in local art events and hope you enjoy the change of subject.
A candle has blazed on this particular holder on our kitchen table most nights for close to 19 years. We light it in the evening to invite the spirits of the ancestors to join us.
I’m no musician, but music of all kinds has been important to our family for as long as I can remember. Candlelight, music, stories, glasses filled with a wee dram, a pottery jug from Ireland – all part of our Kitchen Table at one time or other.
I used collage for the pottery/cats. I painted a thin layer of blue over natural straw-coloured tissue paper, then made more pattern marks with finger prints and the end of a brush. It’s flimsy and easy to tear but once it’s held in place with ‘matt medium’ it becomes part of the surface.
Here’s the finished piece – ‘A Night in with Rum Tum’.
Rum Tum, once a wild boy roaming the braes and trusting no-one. That said, since we moved in, he has worked out where his bread is buttered.
‘The Kitchen Table’ is 2021’s theme for the Carluke Jam and Ham Exhibition (online). As I thought about the subject, I realised how much the Kitchen table is the heart of our home and how many stories and relaxed evenings have been spent around it. It brought to mind the highlight of last summer when restrictions were lifted enough for my family to come and visit – a magical time!
I really enjoy sketching the things we use each day – they become more familiar and loved with use, such as our wee red tea pot and the rainbow mug from Grapevine in Alsager.
The Carluke exhibition invites up to three entries so I decided to go for it with a triptych of our table, working out a composition for three stand alone paintings, all on 25cm square wooden boards, which would flow one into the other. I first made tiny thumbnail sketches then drew them at the same size as the boards.
I love the start and close of each day. It’s at the end of the day that the table lights up and it’s a treat to get out a wee dram and capture the moment in my whisky sketch book.
Animals have been a part of my life for many years – this is Flo, our most recent addition to the household, she joined us from Lanark Cat Rescue, a timid curious wee cat and though she is still very shy she seems content with her life on an orchard.
The whisky glasses were gifts from our visit to the Union Jack pub Berlin, when they were filled with some very fine malt whisky and great hospitality!
I found a few music sheets in the local Oxfam shop which I thought would be useful for collage. I gave them a wash in red and orange inks and tore them into shapes for the flowers which sit in the Burleighware jug from my sister.
Music from Radio Scotland or Radio 6 late into the night is part of the evening kitchen. If my brother is visiting, then we’ll have a session as he is great on guitar and stories.
Our striped red, orange and turquoise table runner is also something that brightens up the table – from Staffordshire days.
I will sign off with the finished painting. This is the central part of the triptych – more to follow on the other two very soon.
Being part of the Tolbooth’s new exhibition feels rejuvenating. A call for new work, not shown before, inspired by living in the Clyde Valley – Garden of Scotland, has been a summons to shake out the cobwebs and create something fresh.
It has also been a delight to think of new growth against a backdrop of the traumatic 20th anniversary of 9/11 and two personal family health situations. Life is so complex and I never forget how fortunate I am to be here in the Clyde Valley.
I’ve been working on a few things – taking the Paintbox approach to not putting all your eggs in one basket. I find this freeing as it means I don’t get locked into worrying over one piece of work. It allows a bit of space and time to compare and contrast as I go along.
For the few long term readers here, this is a step away from drawing streets, but only a step. I feel like my current work is only archiving our orchard landscape which is the wider context of the streets.
Here’s ‘Pick the Bloody Ploughman’ – an apple tree growing in our orchard and named after a mythical character who was caught red handed stealing apples…
The Tolbooth only thrives because there are committed people who realise the value it brings to the community.
There’s a great display of work up at the Tolbooth – if you are in the area – please do call in and have a good look around and a chat! You will receive a warm welcome!
A recent post by Tolbooth Arts has prompted me to look a little further into the history of this significant Lanark landmark. It sits at the bottom of the High Street with the Provost’s lamp (from the 1890’s) standing outside. The lamp is a relatively recent feature in it’s history – the third of the Tolbooth buildings to have existed on this site since the early 1400’s.
Lanark is one of Scotland’s oldest Burghs and back in the 12th century it was a favoured hunting ground for the Kings of Scotland. Over the years, the town has been a creative hotspot for shoes, gloves, saddlery, weaving, oil, and knitwear whilst the Lanark markets traded in livestock and agricultural implements. A walk through the Closes of Lanark give a great insight into the layers of history woven into the town.
The Town Council would have had a Council Chamber – a ‘Tolbooth’ in which to hold their meetings and to serve as a base for their officials, the treasurer and town officer. The Tolbooth served as a point for collection of customs or charges imposed on all goods brought in to the town for market. The ‘Customer’ or ‘Tacksman’ based here had control of the weights and the ‘Tron’ or public weighing machine located nearby.
The first building referred to in Lanark records was located approximately on this site and is thought to have been built around 1400. By 1571 it was in a ruinous condition and was replaced by a building which survived until 1778 but the Council didn’t have the funds to repair it.
However, this was when the “Gentlemen of the County” stepped in and offered to pay for erecting a new building entirely at their expense with the one condition that they were allowed to use the Upper Hall as a gathering place. This is the Tolbooth building that exists at present.
There is plenty more on the history of the Tolbooth on the Discover Lanark website and on the Canmore website.
In 2017 The Tolbooth Trustees embarked on the redesign of the ground floor unlocking the buildings potential as a gallery, heritage centre and arts hub open daily manned by a dedicated group of volunteers. For the past few years that I have been living near Lanark, the Tolbooth has indeed been a creative hub and I’ve been delighted to have participated in several exhibitions with many happy hours spent sketching inside and out – a few examples follow:
The Tolbooth Christmas shop has been a growing success over the past few years and artists are well underway preparing new work for this year’s stock, myself included.
Look out for the next exhibition – ‘Clyde Valley – Garden of Scotland’ coming very soon to the Tolbooth – more on that in the next post!
In the meantime, I will sign off with this drawing of the Tolbooth Lanark. It will be in the Christmas shop from November, or get it touch with me or a volunteer at the Tolbooth. Price is £225 framed (20 x 17in) which includes a commission towards the upkeep of this fantastic community hub.
A hold up, a queue or a gap in the day’s proceedings are a gift to me – if I remember to take it – or if I have my sketch book to hand. Today was one such gift. A slight delay for my sis-in-law as we waited for her pre-flight Covid test on Westmuir Street, Glasgow.
You just have to look up and there’s the skyline full of Victorian chimney stacks, turrets, ridges and eaves.
Birds flying with ease from one perch to another.
I’m almost at the end of this pocket sketchbook – a strange feeling as sketchbooks are companions to me. When a book gets filled up there is a sense of a chapter closing.
A page has turned in our family story as my nephew begins a new life as a student in St Andrew’s, a long way from his home. Little does he know but it’s thanks to him that I have filled the last pages of this sketchbook with Glasgow rooflines and scarlet rosehips!
I’m not the first to volunteer to be on air/ video. It’s something that I think many other artists also find hard to do but when the reasoning behind the idea is so compelling – well I just have to get over myself.
Stephanie Whatley and Christine Brown are both glass artists who work in Biggar and Lanark respectively and were moved by how many artists are ‘swiped away’ on social media. They were moved enough to set up a podcast and interview local artists at work in their studio, simply to get to know them a bit better. This is such a generous and supportive move of their fellow artists – how could I refuse when they asked to come and chat to me!
Pause a moment with Steffi and Chrissy as they join me in my studio for a wee art blether.
From their podcast web-page: “Stephanie Whatley and Christine Brown are both glass artists who work in Scotland. Frustrated by the amount of art on social media that is easily swiped away, they want to stop…take a minute and talk with the artists behind the art, Track & Trace the processes, materials and thought behind the creations. With lively discussions, in a podcast that doesn’t take its self too seriously. The podcast may be based in Scotland, but they are keen to talk to artists from across the world whither they are painters, sculptors, potters or glass artists.“
There’s a new florist in the Clyde Valley. It’s exciting to witness this new business appear. The Flower Shop at Silverbirch (Silverbirch Garden Centre), is full of life and colour and only a few minutes from where we live in Hazelbank.
It’s all the more exciting for me as my new body of expressive flower work is now on the walls and available to buy from The Flower Shop at Silverbirch.
As artists, we are always looking for outlets to support and collaborate with us at various stages of our work. These last few years it has felt like many doors have closed; to have some open up feels so encouraging! I would like to extend a big thank you and a warm welcome to the Clyde Valley to @john_gold_floristry for giving me this opportunity to share and sell my new work.
You might be wondering how I’ve moved from drawing buildings to flowers. In short it’s in response to living on an orchard and wanting to express the vitality of the plant world. As ever, Paintbox – the art school by the sea, was there with a four day workshop ‘Garden Extravaganza’ where we immersed ourselves in the structure, textures, colour and variety of the gardens at Cockenzie House.
There’s a clear process as to how to approach a subject at Paintbox – I like the structure of the exploration – settling into a particular place in the gardens, responding to colours, forms, textures, shape, line and movement and simplifying what we experience into bold black and white drawings at a big scale – then moving along. Here we were given a 4 leaf concertina sketch book, each page A2 in size. We prepared the paper with white emulsion paint to give a tooth and texture.
Things move at quite a pace and next up are some fast colour plays on what we have experienced to make material for collage. It also makes a great surface to cut down into a small concertina sketchbook – everything has a use!
Next along was to find details from our black and white explorations that called for further development. I loved the sea thistle and so we looked at several colour palettes adding in our collage material as a disruptor.
Here you can see how these giant drawings of nasturtium leaves serve to form the base of these paintings – the flat round leaves forming a contrast to the wild lines of the sea thistles.
Foxgloves are a favourite of mine as they appear in the warmth of summer with their vibrant pinks contrasting against rich purples of the undergrowth.
We taped off sections and worked freely on large sheets of paper. Although time ran out, I knew what to work on when I got back home.
It’s always a highlight to see the work finished, cropped, framed and named.
Many thanks to John Gold for the thoughtful display – here are a few on the walls.
Silverbirch Garden Centre is a great destination here in the Clyde Valley and the Flower Shop is located right beside the main entrance, open Tuesday to Sundays, 10-4. If you are in the area – why not call in?
My ‘handbag sketchbook’ has been dormant for a while. It’s a hand-sized book which I normally sketch in when out and about but over the last year or so, trips out have been straight to the point and home again.
I realised how much I had missed capturing some of the day-to-day aspects of life when I was waiting for my second Covid jab. This chap was ahead of me in the fast moving queue at Ravenscraig Sports Centre and it struck me that I should get the moment down even if it was just a few lines.
I was surprised at how l had fallen out of the habit of these short sketches – I’ve been drawing and painting plenty of other things (more on this another time) but these sketches are my visual diary. Life goes past so quickly that I sometime wonder what I was doing last week and these capture the moments when I pause.
These sketches are for me – I don’t mind how haphazard they are as long as I sketch something of the moment. I had added a wash of yellow ochre on one of the pages – it’s a simple but effective background to liven up a few hasty lines.
A ten minute wait for a routine vet visit was a great opportunity to sketch the profile of the church at Lesmahagow.
Here’s my first café sketch in over a year – looking up to the shelf where there was a line up of colourful Edinburgh Gin bottles.
A visit at last to see my sister in York for her birthday. She placed these beautiful lily-of -the valley flowers in a vase that came from Kerry, the part of Ireland that my mother came from.
In-person classes have resumed at Paintbox – the Art School by the Sea – over in Cockenzie. You can catch the feel of a place in just a few lines – enough to remind you of the day.
If I arrive at Cockenzie a little earlier than class starts, I have a coffee from my flask and sketch the view from the car.
The perspective is skew-whiff on this one below but I loved the crow-step gables against the red roof and bright blue sky.
I’ve been over to Cockenzie many times but not stayed to have a look further up the coast so we set Midsummer’s Day aside to go out to Bass Rock. Another few minutes waiting our turn to board the boat and I sketched what was in front of me.
Bass Rock is spectacular! Located just off the coast of North Berwick, it’s high-rise accommodation for 150,000+ gannets! We had booked on an hour trip which took us right up to the side of the rock where we got a great view of the birds and their young chicks.
The only way to pick up where you left off is to turn the page and pick up a pen.
Gemini is the sign of the zodiac from 21 May to 21 June and depicts the mythical twins Castor and Pollux, the names of the brightest stars in the Gemini constellation. Twin sons of Zeus and Leda, they appeared in both Greek and Roman mythology and were worshipped as gods who helped shipwrecked sailors.
This association is linked to the natural phenomenon called St. Elmo’s fire which occurs during certain stormy weather conditions. It appears as a glow on the top of tall pointed objects, such as the masts of ships, and is often accompanied by a cracking noise. When stars appeared on the heads of Castor and Pollux during the Voyage of the Argonauts, the twins became known as the protectors of sailors. From that time, sailors believed that St. Elmo’s fire was actually Castor and Pollux coming to protect them during a storm.
The Romans also considered Castor and Pollux the gods who watched over horses and their riders. There is a lot more to read up on these two but to summarise – they stand as symbols of brotherhood and the bond that unites two people even after death.
When I completed these paintings, I wanted to add something celestial so I added tiny dots of pure gold, starry highlights above the genuine earth and mineral pigments.
These roundels can be found on the Wedgwood Institute, Burslem (below). It was funded entirely by public subscription from 1859 onward and built with the intention of making art, science and literature available to all. At the time, the estimated cost was £4,000 and the six year construction period began in 1863 with an official opening by Earl de Grey in 1869 as a library and school of art.
The facade is spectacular for all the sculpture, symbolism and stories woven in. Looking at the band of sculpted panels – these depict the working stages of pottery manufacture. They are elevated above the window arches.
Above these are the months depict the turning of the year and the continuous cycles of life. High at the top are the astrological signs of the celestial heavens which crown the arches with jewel-like mosaics.
This style of architecture is known as ‘Venetian Gothic’ and was made popular by the Victorian art critic John Ruskin. I have a book ‘John Ruskin Artist and Observer’ which gives an overview of the scale of artistic skill, passion and observation he had for life – put it on your birthday wish list – it will fire you up to sketch and draw!
Coming back to these drawings/paintings all completed using hand made paint with natural earth and mineral pigments. Here are May and June, the months which span Gemini. May ‘depicts a young woman growing mature as the plants are maturing in the ground’.
Let’s not think too far ahead but already June is ‘depicting an older man shearing a sheep’
All the original artworks for the months and zodiac signs are now available to buy from Barewall Gallery Burslem. When you buy through Barewall, you also support the livelihood of the Burslem community so more people benefit. After all, I am only painting what another artist has created a century before me!
Card sets are also available to buy in my Etsy shop. Can’t find what you need – don’t hesitate to get in touch!