I have established myself as a painter in Peebles in the Scottish Borders since the 1970s.
My work is securely based on drawing for which my training at Gray’s School of Art gave a vigorous grounding. It divides into two broad categories, firstly the “daily bread” of traditional genres, which is necessary to keep any sensibility fresh and objective, and just to celebrate the passing days. This includes a great deal of local landscape and domestic perceptions. My native Peebles provides a lifetime of motifs.
Secondly, I have pursued certain themes of a more general nature. Some of these have been the subject of exhibitions, and continue to develop and diffuse. Music and musicians, memory, time/place locations (1920s London) readership (Ruskinian themes), consciousness and embodiment.
Many artists have influenced me, including Munch and the expressionists, Sickert, Spencer, Coldstream and the Euston Road school, Vaughan, Sutherland, Minton, Uglow…….
Born Peebles 1949, Lived in Edinburgh 1952-69. Daniel Stewart’s College, Gray’s school of Art Aberdeen, taught at Selkirk High School and peripatetic art teacher at Borders Region primary schools, painting and history of art tutor at Borders College (Heriot-Watt), U3A residential art history courses
After Ruskin 2000, Zombies and Demigods 2004, Painting for a Generation 2012
Also at Waterside Studio, McHardy Art & Framing, Kirkbride Gallery, Cairns Gallery, Chambers Institute (Peebles) Halliwell House Museum (Selkirk) Torrance Gallery, Netherbow, RIAS, Scottish Arts Club , Fine Art Library(Edinburgh) Lyth Arts Centre (Caithness) Alciun College, University of York
Mixed exhibitions including RSA, Aberdeen Artists’ Society, Peebles and District Art Club
Lectures: The Ruskin Centenery, Coldstream’s Quest, Iris Murdoch and the Painters, Genius and Childhood, Proust Drawing and Memory.
Publications : 'This if Anything' (an integrated collection of poems and pictures), 'How Art Works in Life' (24 poems on possible artists), contributions to 'The Eildon Tree'.
Since school art teaching, I have tutored adult classes, lectured on art history, and written poems which attempt further exploration on all fronts.
A spectacular “breaking the boundaries” is the wishful cliché of radical breakthrough in art. But for a serious painter it is the dissolving of internal limitations that is the desired outcome of thought and work. He is not manufacturing pictures to a marketable formula. Art must evolve in some direction.
An artist’s quandary, then, is what to do when (a) amongst painters there are no convincing public eminences or exemplars. One might argue about the late Lucian Freud or Euan Uglow, but it is years since a general public accepted the pre-eminence of, say, Francis Bacon. “Celebrities” in current usage are frivolous persons by definition. And (b) painting is an evolved art form, although incomplete in the sense that humanity is incomplete. Having a central place in our evolved expectations of art, painting will not die quietly, contrary to modernist rhetoric.
Strangeness and excess is a response to the difficulty of being an artist now, and particularly for a painter, the practitioner of an evolved art with nowhere to go, and its leaders offstage.
My response is this: there are major and there are minor art forms. (This is contrary to the conventional wisdom of the art world, and would be considered uncool.) Major arts: painting, sculpture, poetry, the novel, film. Minor arts: fretwork, pokerwork, marquetry. This major/minor is a historical and impersonal distinction. There are of course major, minor and non talents in any field.
It is open to a painter to practise under the governing conceptions of major art forms, and therefore to move between them, and to perform them, even badly, rather than fool around on the eccentric fringes of visual art. I play the piano, not well, and in a narrow classical canon. This playing, such as it is, is a leaking over into another artistic realm, and, though private, an extension of art making.
Hoping to find a more communicative art, I started writing poems. 'This if Anything' contains 36 poems and twelve paintings, and How Art Works in Life attempts a ”well-tempered” 24 studies of possible artists.
Sale of artworks. Prices range £100 - £1000
Sale of books. THIS IF ANYTHING (£10) HOW ART WORKS IN LIFE (£5)
Portrait house or landscape commissions
History of Art courses, lectures
Tuition in drawing and painting