Sunday, 14 April 2013
Here's the "Aldebaran", a wooden-built Danish trawler, tramping along in fresh weather east of Sumburgh Head. She, and hundreds of others like her, used to fish around Shetland in the late 1960s and early-to-mid 1970s. In bad weather, Lerwick harbour used to fill up with these, and other Scandinavian vessels, providing a valuable feed for my almost obsessional interest in these splendid little ships.
At around 65ft in length, the "Aldebaran" was built in 1960, was just a fraction under 50grt, and was powered by an Alpha 240bhp diesel engine. According to the 1977 edition of Denmark's Fiskeri
Årbogen, she was owned by an A Bjerg of Harboøre, on the shoreside of the Nissum Bredning, which is an inlet of the large sprawling expanse of inland waterway which occupies a large part of the north-west Danish mainland. How do I know all that geographical stuff? I just looked it up in my Collins European Road Atlas, of course! I've never been to Denmark, although some of my paintings have. Regrettably they all had return tickets!
Why have I painted a Danish trawler? Well, it could have been a Norwegian whaler or great-liner, or a Swedish "bung-bung", or a larger steam trawler from Germany, Poland or France, or any one of the many types of fishing boat which could have been seen in Lerwick harbour during my formative years. The Danish trawler just appeared out of the mix somehow. I like to indulge in a bit of nostalgia now and then as regards subject-matter, and, judging by my list of commissions over the past few years, I'm far from alone in this. Many people reflect fondly on a time when boats were of a more graceful design, even if the work was back-breaking (the more so when the catches were bigger!).
The fact that this painting is of a Danish trawler is pure chance, then, and it's my entry for this year's OBA competition. I was persuaded to enter again by an old friend, who told me to "do them one of my seascapes, and put my heart and soul into it!" This is a best-can-do then, and I'll see what they make of it. My picture of Lower Voe didn't seem to trouble the judges last year, but the administrator in charge of the entries says she loves my seascape. I bet she says that to all the boys - wish me luck!
Sunday, 24 February 2013
My creative visits to this blog have beeen so few and seldom over the past year that it scarcely merits the description. I could roll out such excuses as feeling out of sorts and experiencing computer problems (both of which are true) but the fact is that, for whatever reason, my muse has been absent, and consequently so have I.
I've continued to go through the motions with my artwork, and the pre-Christmas stalls were very successful. I hope you like my Cat and Dog painting (above), which was a rush job for a wedding anniversary present. I didn't have much time to plan it properly, but I think that what I came up with just about worked. The JPEG above has exaggerated the "blueness" of it quite a bit.
I'm hoping to get a good rant together for publication here, one of these fine days. Let's face it, there's been plenty to rant about recently, and I've been going through a good few topics in my mind. Please bear with me meantime - the muse will return to me soon.
This is the second painting that I've done with a print edition in mind, prompted by requests from visitors to my Toll Clock Centre stalls (the first being the "Swan" at the back end of last year). There is still a long list of gaps in my print and greeting card "repertoire". According to the good folks who take the trouble to visit the stall, my display is the poorer for the lack of Whalsay, Burra Isle, "up nort" and Unst representation. I'll do my best to make amends in the months ahead.
The MV "St. Ninian" was the third vessel to bear that name for the North of Scotland, Orkney and Sheland Steam Navigaton Company. She was built in 1950, and ran a weekly service between Leith, Orkney and Shetland, carrying passengers and freight between these destinations. When Leith ceased to be part of the company's operations, the ship was sold to Canadian owners for further trading in the early 1970s. During the early 1980s, renamed "Bucanero", she was being used for excursions in the Galapagos Islands, but I have no knowledge of what happened to her after that. Maybe somebody out there knows?
In my painting, she is pictured approaching Lerwick harbour in fresh weather, viewed from near the Bressay lighthouse, with the Scord of Quarff and Clift hills in the background.
This commissioned painting shows the 40ft seine-netter "Pilot Us" (LK271) coming in past the Bressay Lighthouse on a fine summer's evening. This boat, built in 1931 at Fraserburgh, is now owned by Shetland Museum, after a long and successful fishing career for the Watt family of Scalloway.
I have a childhood memory of being one of a number of people standing on Blacksness Pier, Scalloway, looking at a huge skate lying on the foredeck of the "Pilot Us" - this would have been around 1960, I guess. At that time, she was one of a number of smaller fishing boats which went long-lining for better-quality fish during the summer months, the "Roost" off Sumburgh being a favourite "hunting ground" for them.
Wednesday, 5 December 2012
The ship replaced the old "St. Giles", which had been lost after running aground in thick fog on Rattray Head in 1902. The new vessel came into service in 1903 and, according to Alastair McRobb's excellent little book, The North Boats, was placed on the direct route, so the ship may never have been in St. Magnus Bay at all. Not for the first time, my depiction could be a "dadbusted lie", as the magistrate said in the Comancheros film!
What McRobb's book does not tell us is what end the second "St. Giles" made. Was she sold for further trading, or did she become a grounding casualty like her predecessor of the same name? She is not in the author's list of north boats sunk by enemy action in World War I. I would be very interested to know what became of this ship.
Last night I updated the website www.tait-gallery.co.uk by uploading the recently completed artworks (including the above) to the Gallery Shop pages. If you live in the islands, come and visit my stall at the Toll Clock Centre in Lerwick on Saturdays 8th and 15th December. The usual selection of prints and cards, including the new stock additions, will be on offer, and commissions can be discussed there too! All of it is also available to buy online through the website. Visit me on- or offline!
Sunday, 18 November 2012
The "Swan" was built at Lerwick in 1900, and spent her first few years, under Lerwick owners, rigged as a lugger, as she long-lined for white-fish in spring, and took on drift-net gear for the summer herring fishing. She was bought by a Simpson-headed Whalsay partnership, who converted her to the fore-and-aft "smack" rig which she carries today. The sails disappeared as her main means of propulsion when she had an engine installed, and a wheelhouse fitted, in 1935. She fished on in this new "rig" until around 1960, participating in the new seine-net white-fishery from the late 1940s, long after most boats of her vintage had disappeared from the commercial fishing scene. She began a new career as a pleasure craft and houseboat south of the border, but fell into neglect, and actually sank at her moorings in W Hartlepool on several occasions. She was finally rescued from her plight, and the Swan Trust was formed in 1990 to restore her to her former glory as a sailing vessel. Her transformation was completed in 1996, since when she has been in regular use as a sailing boat, both running "tours" around Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles, and competing in Tall Ships Races.
Olsen's Almanack, in the 1938 and 1950 editions (and presumably the ones in between too!), has her details as 18 tons nett, engine 21hp, and owned by T H Simpson and others, Whalsay. Manson's Shetland Almanac and Directory of 1949 lists her as 44.1 tons (presumably gross!), 60.4 keel length, and 75hp of engine. I don't begin to understand the difference in engine rating between the two publications, but no doubt a marine engineer will tell me! I have read somewhere else that her overall length is 68 feet.
I've painted her against a background of the Bressay lighthouse and the cliffs of the Ord and Bard on the south end of the island. The painting is currently in for scanning at my printer's, and I have been promised giclees of this work (both A4 and A3) to be ready for next Saturday's Toll Clock Centre stall. They'll also be available for sale online (as will the original painting) through the website. www.tait-gallery.co.uk
Have a good week!
Sunday, 4 November 2012
One of them is the third in a series featuring the Gamrie dual-purpose boat "Silver Wave" (BF372). She is pictured hauling a good shot of herring, attended by the ubiquitous flocks of gannets, fulmars and gulls, as the crew perform the back-breaking operation of getting the heavy shot aboard.
The other painting is of the Lerwick pilot boat "Knab", viewed from the headland from which her name derives, as she re-enters the harbour after performing another "escort" duty. This was the first of two vessels to bear the name, built in the late 1980s and replaced by a more powerful state-of-the-art version around 2005 (I'm not sure of my exact dates here!).
I'm currently working on a painting of the local tall ship "Swan". I'd originally planned to have prints of this ready for my first pre-Christmas stall at Lerwick's Toll Clock Centre on Saturday 17th November. It now looks as though I'll miss my own deadline by a week or two, but I should have the giclees available by the end of the month. Watch this space!