Thu, 28 May 2020
Neon Greens

Below is a screen capture from a short YouTube video, an interview with David Hockney. The video's only about 4 minutes long and he's talking about the state of his art and the world. As usual, good sense and humour from him.

I don't think I can get such bright, almost neon, colour in my painting! Mine aren't backlit though.

He speaks of a philosopher he saw talking on television: the news comes on and he's asked how he can be optimistic with news like this? He replies, well, that's television. Bad news sells. So he's asked, what's the good news then? And he replies ... the arrival of spring. Hockney chuckles and it's a typical Hockney observation (about "observation" itself).

he says, of course nobody notices spring arriving usually but in the past, everyone noticed. In 2020, I think many more people started noticing as well. And now it's summer. End in sight of the "crisis"? At least the beginning of the end.


Wed, 06 May 2020
BP 2020 Offline

The National Portrait Gallery in London are hosting the BP Portrait Award show online this year and have created a virtual gallery in the web browser. I had a poke around and it works very well, although I think I heard my laptop fans start to spin a bit faster. A "virtual" gallery like this is not bad at all but no substitute for real life. I'll be having a "stroll" around it and checking out the pictures, almost as usual. The painting just in the above frame to the left is the 2020 winner.

BP Portrait Award 2020


Above: Heavy(weight), portrait of Benjamin Gasinga Gaspard - Rwanda, Papay Solomon, oil

I hope the London gallery does the virtual display like this every year. I was very disappointed that 2019 was the last year the BP Portrait Award exhibition would be shown in Edinburgh. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery decided they did not want to host anything sponsored by BP, an oil company. I'm opposed to that decision and feel a loss. I bet a lot of people do. Edinburgh's loss.


May Gardening

Four years ago, the Royal Academy had an exhibition I reported on called Painting the Modern Garden ("Monet to Matisse"). I enjoyed it immensely (I think I went twice): the RA know how to put on a great show. The Monet water lilies in the last room were like being before an altar. Quite magical.

The Academy have just put their film of the exhibition on YouTube. Beautifully produced and full of colour as you would expect. This is worth putting up on a big screen and sitting back to wallow in: much art and beautiful plants.


Fri, 01 May 2020
Portraits 2020

No visits to the Mall Galleries this year either! This is the gallery I think I miss the most. This year's Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition is on and we've all got the email alert. Great paintings, online only. It really does pay to take some time to have a look through them.

Darren Butcher's painting shown below could be called caricature rather than portrait. Does it matter though? Very well painted anyway and there's an Expressions Two as well. In fact, there are a lot of new artists in the show this year, as well as the usual ones I remember and love.

Below: Expressions One, Darren Butcher, Oil, 63x63cm

The portrait below is by Alex Tzavaras. He runs a good YouTube channel called SIMPLIFY Drawing & Painting where he teaches painting technique and does some artist interviews.

Below: Peter Wearing a Plaid Shirt, Alex Tzavaras, Charcoal, 90x70cm

It woud be great if the various painting societys and groups could work out a way to take their exhibitions north of the border each year as well somehow.


Thu, 30 Apr 2020
RSA Annual 2020

The Royal Scottish Academy annual exhibition is on just now. In normal circumstances I'd be up there in person. Unfortunately, these are not normal times. Anyway, thank goodness for the internet. These are a few pictures I liked, but there are quite a few others worth seeing.

Below: Om Elephant Temple No. 1 (detail) by Alan Robb. Acrylic and Oil. 183x153cm

The above Alan Robb painting is very striking (and large). This is only a detail.

Like the RA Summer Exhibition, it can be a hit or miss affair but there's always something good in it and I won't be alone in missing being there in person. Although there are many good things about viewing art online, it's not the same at all, no matter how good the photograph. I feel a lot of sympathy for the organisers of the show this year, but in particular for the artists. Some would have been looking forward to their first RSA presence. They must be very disappointed.

Below: Night of Wonder by Gordon Mitchell. Oil. 41x51cm


Below: Pennan by Neil MacDonald. Oil. 71x82cm

Thu, 23 Apr 2020
And the Winner Is ...

Geraniums by Ruth Murray.

Ruth Murray has won the Jackson's Painting Prize with this amazing oil painting of a garden greenhouse at night. I wrote about this prize a week or so ago and remember opening this picture to have a closer look and thinking how good it was. Very deserving. You can see some other examples of her work linked on the Jackson's page.

Ruth's web site is here.


Wed, 22 Apr 2020
Still Not Boring

At the end of his interview with Tim Marlow, Hockney says that he might be boring others but he's not about to go and bore himself: he'll do what he enjoys doing. This is another great YouTube video from the RA, covering Hockney's 2012 show with his amazing Yorkshire lanscapes, and his 2016 show with all the portraits (and a still life).

I've gone on about how much I loved his colourful landscapes many times before. He is 82 now and currently "stuck" in Normandy due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Luckily he paints and draws, so I hope he's capturing some great spring weather over there.


Tue, 21 Apr 2020
Picasso on Paper

With the "lockdown" continuing, we can't go to the gallery. If I was still in London, I would definitely have gone to the Royal Academy to see their Picasso and Paper exhibition. The RA have created a virtual exhibition though and they've done an excellent job. Watch on their own site (link above) or on YouTube :


Mon, 20 Apr 2020
More Goudie

Above: Swallows At Eggardon, 81.5X98cm, Oil On Board

I have to say that I really like some of Lachlan Goudie's work, especially some of his newer stuff. It's bright. colourful and accomplished, whether the landscape, still-life or complicated engineering (see his shipyard work). Some of the gouache sketches he did in the Holy Land were also very good (a BBC film was made). I think that as far as the landscape and still-life work goes, he is very much in the tradition of the Scottish Colourists.

If you visit Goudie's web site (which is not the easiest to use), start with the "gallery" link (bottom) and view his "New Work" to start.


Above: Sur La Cote, Oil On Board, 102x76cm

Paintings to draw inspiration from.


Mon, 13 Apr 2020
Lachlan Goudie

This is Lachlan Goudie's "isolation" message via the Scottish Gallery. He's well known from being a judge in the BBC's various Painting Challenge programs but also makes other art related programs (e.g. on Charles Rennie Mackintosh). I like his work. He's also one of the few artists who seems to regularly use gouache paint.

I saw his Shipyard exhibition at the Glasgow Art Club last year, which included some beautiful pieces and amazing detail. His web site is here.


Reasons to be Cheerful Part 1

Tesco were selling fresh blueberries : "100% extra free".

Part 2

It's nice not to have the constant thrum of traffic on the roads.


Fri, 10 Apr 2020
Life in Isolation

Also from Jackson's blog, a post from Lisa Takahashi.

She asked various artists how they're doing during the "lockdown" period. The first asked is Peter Brown, one of my favourites. A lot of art is created in a solitary way anyway, but some does require more space or equipment. Some artists don't have much of a "home studio", so have to make do and packed what they (thought) they needed. It's tough for everyone but I think that an artist has some advantage at the moment; maybe writers as well. Everyone wants to decompress in the sun sometimes though, or feel comfortable popping out to the shops. An online and virtual life doesn't cut it yet.


Jackson's Art Prize

I've bought quite a bit of stuff at Jackson's over the years, and quite a bit recently as well. I never visited a shop when down south but they do a lot of business online. I am not affiliated with them in any way but can vouch for their service, range and quality. They also have a good blog with regular and interesting posts.

As well as all that, they do a painting competition every year and have just announced their shortlist. I like this sort of thing, as well as group or club exhibitions, as it's great to see a wide variety of art on display. Some very good works of art here.

There are many pictures I like, one I've highlighted below :

Below: Cafe Culture, Paris by Hilary Burnett Cooper, Acrylics, 72x72cm

This sort of outdoor painting is called contre-jour, against daylight. Painting facing towards the sun. I think it is particulary good in urban settings.


Tue, 07 Apr 2020
Thinking Big

I've been enjoying listening to Professor Roger Penrose talking about aspects of his work on YouTube. Not only is he a very clever guy, he's also a good presenter. He's done an amazing amount of interesting and important work in mathematics and physics and is well known for his expertise in exotic things like Black Holes. I remember buying a book of his years ago called The Emperor's New Mind, in which he theorises on the nature of consciousness and its links to quantum mechanics. In book form, over my head; but in talk form, much more accessible.

Penrose saw work by the great Dutch artist M C Escher at an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1954. Struck by how ingenious Escher's "impossible" drawings were, he invented some "impossible" stairs with his father, Lionel Penrose. From a picture on Wikipedia :


Credit : Sakurambo - Own work, Public Domain, Link

Escher loved this and incorporated the idea in a famous drawing of his called Ascending and Descending :


Credit : Official M. C. Escher website, Fair use, Link

Here's some Penrose :


Sun, 29 Mar 2020
All Go

When Google's AlphaGo AI triumph was news in 2016, I was impressed but not very informed about the board game Go, or the real achievement. AI (and "machine learning") was starting to make a lot more news though, and people started to take notice.

DeepMind's artificial intelligence system AlphaGo beat the Korean Go master Lee Seedol 4-1. Go is an extremely popular board game, especially in China, Japan and Korea, and it is considered a much harder game for a computer to play than chess. DeepMind was a British AI company that Google bought in 2014. Few people thought a computer could beat a good human Go player, at least not for a decade.

Watching the documentary film AlphaGo - The Movie on YouTube opened my eyes to the scale of thing. The Korean interest in the AI challenger match was intense: the sort of press scrum you get on the Hollywood red carpet for big film stars. Also quite astonishing how much the Korean Go experts discounted the possibility of losing (any game). I found this film quite riveting. Great to see inside a cutting edge technological start-up as well.

You can watch AlphaGo - The Movie on YouTube. You don't need to understand the game.


Thu, 26 Mar 2020
Victoria Crowe
This comes via The Scottish Gallery. Victoria Crowe in her studio talks about the "self isolation" she's doing :

Like her, I see an artist's life can already be quite isolated in the studio, on your own. It's harder for many people. I loved Crowe's show at the City Art Centre last year. I'd love to see her actually painting because I was intrigued by some of her techniques.


Tue, 24 Mar 2020
Smaller Still

Talking about small scale art, the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh has an annual show in December called "On a Small Scale". It is an exhibition of small postcard sized (15-21cm) works of art by well known and invited artists. There are four walls filled with all these works, perhaps a couple of hundred in total (I didn't count). All media and all small. This type of exhibition is my favourite because of the huge variety on the walls: there's always something good, sometimes great. Another reason to look forward to December.


Path to the Loch, Argyll, by Robert Maclaurin, oil on linen on board, 15x21cm


Slow Morning, by Gertie Young, mixed media, 15x21cm


Sun, 22 Mar 2020
On the Brighter Side

Maybe more time for :

  • Spring Cleaning
  • Art - more painting
  • Reading - getting through a queue of books
  • Learning something new
  • Talking to friends and family
  • Meditation - would love to get into this again
  • Getting a different perspective on life

Oh, and maybe there'll be a baby boom.


Sat, 21 Mar 2020
Trying Times

And within a breath, the world was changed ...

It looks like we're in for a difficult and trying time for the next few months. If the disease doesn't get us, maybe the cure will. The BBC, doing their bit, have ramped up the coverage, extending their (5) PM radio news program to start at 4:30 pm, more news to add to our misery keep us informed. I'm listening to much less of that and more Radio 3.

I used to be a bit of a news junkie, reading the papers and taking in the news all the time. However, given the explosion in news media over the past few years, even from as far back as the start of the 24 hour news cycle with CNN 30 years ago, I've reduced my consumption a lot. Especially over the past few years, I've shrunk what I read, hear or watch a huge amount. This was for the sake of my own mental health: the news media seemed to cause a constant anxiety, worry and agitation, let alone political polarisation. I think this could well be a major causal factor in the decline of many people's health over the past decade. That and advertising perhaps. The internet, for all it's wonderful utility, has made it much worse.

With this new pandemic hitting, things are much worse. I'm trying very hard to not take in too much horror or hysteria. I don't even watch television but I know it will be winding up the panic day in and day out. No wonder we all get so sick, tired and angry.

Stay informed but it might be a good idea to switch off the firehose of negativity.

Take care everyone.

The above cartoon is by (I think) an American political cartoonist called Bruce Beattie. I took the image from the blog Maggies Farm.


Thu, 19 Dec 2019
Even More Advanced

And from the History Blog again, a post about more discoveries from the Mycenean site of Pylos in South Western Greece. These are digs close to the so-called Palace of Nestor (Nestor being King of Pylos and having fought on the Greek side of the Trojan War).

One of the original finds include a small agate sealstone made on Crete, so of Minoan manufacture. This is the "Pylos Combat Agate" and is described in more detail here. It is under 4cm long and exquisitely carved into the very hard quartz agate. The detail is stunning.

This is 3.6 cm long (click to enlarge) :

From the post :

one tiny agate sealstone of Cretan manufacture emerged from its thick lime accretion to reveal itself as one of the greatest masterpieces in ancient Greek art, far more advanced in craftsmanship than anybody realized the Minoans were capable of in 1,500 B.C.