Delighted to say that this painting, "Letterbox at Mellon Udrigle" is off to a new home after the local art exhibition which I took part in last weekend. Apparently the buyer (I did not meet her) had been to Mellon Udrigle, so there was a link. It's one of my favourite beaches on the west coast - take a turn off the main road at Laide, north of Gairloch, Poolewe and Aultbea, but south of Gruinard, and out along a single track road past a string of houses, over the little bridge across the burn and then up over the hill and back down to the coast again. Watch out for seals along the coastline. And seabirds - gannets diving perhaps. It was on Mellon Udrigle beach a while ago, on an overcast day, that I glimpsed a movement to my left, as I stood taking photographs of the sea. At first I thought it was a dog, but then I noticed the way the animal moved. A sort of lolloping, ungainly gait. It was an otter, headed from the dunes down to the water. They are built for swimming, of course, not running. I was not quick enough with my camera, choosing to enjoy the moment, instead.
Mellon Udrigle beach, photos taken early April, 2016.
Just a quick note to tell you that this lovely exhibition is on this weekend. Opening times listed in the poster. Teas, coffees and homebakes are available at the weekend, courtesy of Milltimber Playgroup mums. I will be on duty at the exhibition on Saturday and Sunday afternoons - hope to see you there! Also a wide range of artists' cards available, and some beautiful textiles and woodturned work.
The older I get, the more I believe in fate. In things happening for a reason. Those apparently coincidental meetings which result in all manner of happenings. Sometimes we have to engineer fate a little, but that's not a bad thing. Everything and everyone needs a little nudge in the right direction every so often. And so it was that I ventured out into Royal Deeside a few weekends ago, to see what opportunities might be there, for exhibiting my paintings. I had in mind a visit to Larks Gallery in Ballater. That is where we went. I got into conversation with the gallery owner, and the next thing I knew, I'd been invited to be "Artist of the Month" for March. I floated home on a little cloud, while feverishly working out if I had enough framed work to fulfill my promise. I didn't, but I had enough time to remedy the situation. I always work better to deadlines, so this helped me get myself organised. Over the past few years, realisation has dawned that no-one will see my work, or have the chance to buy it, if it is sitting in my studio. Simple really, isn't it? Occasionally, of course, someone will see my work here on my website, but that is less common. So, I am delighted to have some of my work currently on show at Larks Gallery (including the three paintings shown above) and hope it will be the start of an ongoing relationship. They are now stocking some of my greetings cards too.
This week, I've been helping out with the hanging of an annual exhibition of local artists. Somehow, I volunteered to be on the committee last year and so have been involved in organising some of the publicity for the event. This has included getting posters and postcards printed and setting up a Facebook fan page.
Nothing too onerous or complicated.
And then it came to hanging the exhibition. Everyone on the committee turned up at the hall on Tuesday morning to help out. We were variously armed with lists, hooks, hammers and sticky labels. Some people were wise enough to bring a packed lunch. Suffice to say, it took a while. There really is an art to hanging an entire exhibition. I have only ever had to hang about a dozen paintings before; all my own work and in a reasonably small space. And that has been tricky enough. It never looks right at the first attempt. Often it doesn't look right after the third one. Quite often, it's back to what looks remarkably like the first attempt before it looks right.
I gradually came realise that what looks "right" to one person will not necessarily be how someone else thinks it should look. There are so many factors to take into account; size, shape, subject matter, orientation (portrait or landscape), frame size and colour, boldness of colours of the image, to name the main ones. I'm sure there are many more that I have no clue about. Oh, and spacing between the paintings. And height above the floor. Oh yes, it's a tricky task indeed. And despite the fact that there are these factors to consider, it is, at the end of the day, not a scientific decision, but an artistic one. By the time we left, we were all happy with our efforts. I'm hoping that everyone attending this evening's preview will be suitably impressed!
The MBC festival Art Exhibition is on at The Phoenix Centre, Newton Dee, Bieldside, on Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th August, 10am - 5pm. Teas and coffees and cakes available too.
It's nearly the end of my week's exhibition at the GALE centre in Gairloch. People have come and gone. They visit the centre for different reasons. Some come in search of accommodation - the staff are unfailingly patient and helpful, even when requests are made quite abruptly. I guess it must be stressful to arrive in an area without any accommodation booked and not know where you will be staying that night. Stressful, unsettling, unnerving. And they are supposed to be on holiday. The headline in the local newspaper yesterday was about the lack of accommodation and long queues for ferries out to the islands. I hope this alarmist attitude doesn't put visitors off. There are often still beds available in Bed and Breakfast places which do not advertise on websites, or through official organisations. I have not heard of any tourists sleeping rough in ditches anywhere. The campsites are busy too, with tents, caravans and campervans.
Others come in to obtain information about what to do in the area. Or for directions to the campsites or the harbour or to the nearest cash machine. Or where to get fish and chips.
I've chatted to many of the visitors here this week - from those who return year after year to the area, either simply because they love it, and/or because they have family or family connections, to those who have never been here before. Everyone is positive about their experience. Even on a grey drizzly day, there are comments on the beauty of the scenery and the wildness of the landscape. On a beautiful sunny day, such as today, there are fewer people in to browse the gifts and crafts and souvenirs, or to sample the lovely homemade cakes. They are all out busy enjoying the sunshine, either on a boat trip, or on one of the many unspoilt beaches, or perhaps up a mountain somewhere nearby. And that's as it should be; that's why we come here ourselves, after all.
It's that time of year again. I am preparing for an exhibition of my paintings, to be held in the GALE centre in Gairloch, Wester Ross. The same place where I held my Local Letterboxes exhibition last year. It is a lovely place; specially designed to be energy efficient - lots of wood and glass and light. There are huge floor to ceiling windows along the front which look out over the sea towards Skye. Not just towards Skye, you can see the north end of the island. I took some photographs of the building last year, which you can see above. I'm not quite sure that whoever put the sign together in the top middle photograph had fully thought through what the finished article would look like. Perhaps I am just being childish. Not that that is such a bad thing.
I am busy framing paintings, deciding which paintings to reproduce as prints, mounting work, putting together new sets of greetings cards and generally gathering my work together. It has given me a good chance to review what I have done in the past year. I realise I have probably not been as focused as I might have been. I start out with good intentions - to paint a series of boats, or buildings, or birds. And I end up with a smattering of each, a few birds, a few sheds and houses, some more boats. Perhaps that doesn't matter. This year's exhibition is entitled "Inspired by Scotland", so all of these subjects can happily be included. It's an eclectic mix. It will be interesting to see what people think.
Every so often, it is necessary to refill one's well of inspiration. That's one of the many things I love about North East Open Studios - I can go out and fill my well with all sorts of lovely things.
These are not necessarily finished pieces, or paintings, or creations. They may be fabrics, or an assortment of tools on a workbench, or raw materials waiting to be made into something new.
Or they may indeed be finished items. Paintings, ceramics, textiles. All with their own colours and textures and depths. Here are a few images of things I have seen during my days out visiting NEOS participants.
I am sure you will understand what I mean.
North East Open Studios (NEOS) is on this week, in my area. I finally managed to get the cabin ready for visitors, tidying away my art materials into the garage and making space for folk to see my paintings and daughter's photographs.
We've been open for two days so far; Saturday and Sunday. It's been fun again, meeting new folk and welcoming in old friends who I realise I don't see often enough throughout the year. Some of them I am guilty of not having seen since this time last year! It's been great to catch up over a cup of tea and a muffin - baking before breakfast is part of the routine this week.
It's always fascinating to find out the reasons for folk visiting NEOS venues. Because there always is a reason. Nosiness, interest in art, or photography, or creativity in general. Many, many folk are looking to be more creative themselves, and are keen to hear about classes in the area, how to start, how to keep going and all those dark arts that creative people apparently possess.
For those keen to paint and draw, I encourage them to carry a sketch book. And to use it! That's one of the key things I have learnt from the classes I have been going to for the past few years at Udny Green. Draw, draw, draw. And for the photographers, look at things differently, if you can. Zoom in on a puddle and see the reflections, or an ancient rock to see the patterns made by the lichens, or examine the patterns left by a receding tide on a sandy beach. It's all there. Just look.
Thanks to Mike for the photo of me "at work".
I have been putting together my first ever solo exhibition. "Local Letterboxes". This sounds exciting and it is, but I have this constant nagging voice at the back of my head saying things like :
1. "What if nobody comes to see it?"
2. "What if they do come and they don't like your paintings?"
3. "What if they do like them, make positive noises about them, but nobody buys anything?".
The rational, sensible, scientific part of my brain can sometimes respond - but not usually at 4am - with something along the lines of :
1. "You have put up lots of posters, there's a piece about it in the local paper and you've been posting on Facebook and Twitter for weeks now - what more can you do?".
2. "If they don't like them, they will probably whizz round and then leave. They are not terribly likely to come up to you and say they think it's rubbish. They have not paid to view the exhibition. They will not be demanding their money back. Not everyone will like your paintings. Fact."
3. "Make the most of the feedback. Don't stress about selling - if you do, it will be obvious and probably put people off. It's more important that you're getting out there and showing the world (well, a small part of the world) what you do."
All artists have to find a way of living with the fear of rejection. I have read about this on many artists' blogs; the above is simply a distillation of my thoughts on the subject. It is very simplified; there are plenty other things to worry about. But I intend to try and keep things in perspective and stick to these three. It's remembering the rational replies that's the tricky bit!
My "Local Letterboxes" exhibition of watercolour paintings is on from 6th-11th August at the GALE centre in Gairloch, Wester Ross.