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!
Doors might be closed but the windows of The Scrib Tree are free for all to look into when going for a stroll through Douglas. Level 4 lockdown here in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, sees many doors closed but people are finding ways to continue working safely within the restrictions.
‘Around the Corner‘, an exhibition of 16 unexpected views of the historic village of Douglas, is now on view to the town and I’m really pleased to have it on display in this wonderful place.
I know I could put the work to one side and wait till we have the all clear for a proper on-the-wall exhibition but this work sums up the spirit of place that we are in right now – the feeling that better things are ‘imminent’, ‘on the brink’, ‘on the horizon’…. which are all names of paintings in this exhibition.
Just to side track a moment – look at this wee Scrib Tree charmer! He was no help whatsoever in putting up my work! If you read to the end, I promise you a melty moment pup pic….
I think this is my favourite photograph of the window exhibition. Big light cloudscapes behind dark skylines. It shows a little of the drama of this intense historic village.
Here’s a detail below from ‘In the Air’.
From ‘In the Air’ we move down to earth – but not for long….
…Where are these stairs leading us?
‘On the Brink’.
I’m curious to find out where these stairs lead – are they simply going around the corner with another flight out of sight or is there another level that has since disappeared?
Here we have tall chimneys against a dark sky. This is a dramatic building that lies empty – ‘Ready and Waiting’.
All the original artworks featured can be seen on my website.
The hotel above lies empty, ready and waiting – but not this little chap.
Sometimes, ideas fall into place so fast that it’s hard to keep up with them. I had 18 Douglas compositions sketched out (16 which I used), the name/theme of the exhibition was clear and I’d settled on painting in monochromatic colours and in a square format.
Every painting is made up of choices. I’d like to go through some of these with you here. I’ve talked about simplification in the previous post – about paring the subject down to what I want the painting to be about. Here, it’s about what’s around the corner, when the times we are living in seem dark and quite threatening, but I see something hopeful in this title.
These paintings have been growing against a backdrop of Covid/Brexit and the US presidential elections, not to mention the climate crisis.
Learning about Spectral Black caught me by surprise. Imagine a black made up of all three primary colours, in this case Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and a shot of Lemon Yellow. This became my foundation palette for this exhibition – a darkness made up of colour!
There have been many examples of colour in the dark throughout the last year that choosing to work with shades of spectral black has felt a way to acknowledge the kindness and courage that show up clearly in times of crisis.
Let’s look at how this all took shape. I started with a thumbnail sketch using a soft pencil to clarify the composition, shapes and focal points. Using the pencil sketches for reference, rather than the photographs, I then drew the shapes onto acid-free 300gsm smooth paper.
To get some perspective on my own work , I found that putting my thumbnail sketches high up allowed me to get a distant view.
Stepping back reminds me to simplify, so the essence of what the exhibition is about is clearer. For me, a lot of this has involved breaking a few habits. You know how I love detail – how I include it as an archive – an acknowledgement of the skill of the person that created it – whether a drain pipe or a roof tile. I found it an ongoing exercise to keep simplifying and not reverting to type!
This time, I held back on the architectural details and included only details of flowers in bloom – expressing life that goes on, but acknowledging the losses with fallen petals.
Most of the paintings have several corners, some up close and others distant.
Painting in monochrome changes the whole atmosphere – it feels like the village is being observed at night and seems timeless. The empty streets reflect lockdown.
This is my small contribution towards expressing ‘these times’ and it has encompassed Douglas, a beautiful South Lanarkshire village that I hope one day you might visit.
I will share more about of this body of work in my next post but in the meantime, if you would like to see the first 12 paintings, these are now up on my website .