You know what makes me grumpy? All the Grumpy Old Men who appeared on the BBC TV series were younger than me, that's what makes me grumpy. Mutter, mutter....

The Grumpy Old Artist

The Grumpy Old Artist
Would YOU pose for this man???

Exhibition Poster

Exhibition Poster
Catterline Event, 2011

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Helford River, Cornwall

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Full-riggers "Georg Stage" and "Danmark"

Other Recent Works

Other Recent Works
Fordyce Castle and Village

Hay's Dock, Lerwick

Shetland-model Boats at Burravoe, Yell

Tall Ships Seascape

The Tour Boat "Dunter III", with Gannets, off Noss

The "Karen Ann II" entering Fraserburgh harbour

Summer Evening, Boyndie Bay

1930s Lerwick Harbour

Johnshaven Harbour

"Seabourn Legend"

Greeting Cards!

Greeting Cards!
Now Available in Packs of Five or in Assorted Sets of Four

Sunday, 30 November 2008

SHIPS' NOSTALGIA

Well, blow me down, shiver me timbers and hang me from the yardarm! I signed up for the forums (or should that be fora) on ShipsNostalgia.com, hoping to get some information I needed about some old Moray Firth fishing vessels, which I am going to portray for the Duff House exhibition next June.

I had to introduce myself to the other forum members, so I wrote a little about my origins, what I do, and made a reference to my website for anyone who might be interested in my artwork. I left this posting, and more or less forgot about it, planning to use the forum to seek the information I required the following evening.

WELL! Next thing I knew, visitors were arriving at my website in their droves, and suddenly I realised that I had happened upon a good SEO weapon. Mind you, I haven't found out the information I originally required yet.

ARTWORK

I received another commision this week, for a painting of the motor boat "Laerling", which was used mainly as a diving support boat, and taking visitors for trips to the island bird sanctuary of Noss, until the operators retired about ten years ago, at which point she was sold to Danish owners. She was a fine-looking vessel, about 40 feet long, with sleek and curvy lines.

Otherwise, progress has been slow this week. I now have 5 paintings on the "stocks", at various stages of incompletion, and this is a bad time of year for getting paint-work done. We only have about 6 hours of usable daylight, assuming it isn't overcast, in the depths of a Shetland winter, and I don't use artificial light, as it distorts colour. I need a good week of uninterrupted effort to make the amount of headway I'd like, and it's not going to start tomorrow. I'm off to Whiteness, to see that everything is ready for my mother's homecoming from Wastview care centre, and to make a meal for her when she arrives. Normal service will be resumed on Tuesday.

The weather has been quiet for most of this week - fine and frosty for most of the time, after a blustery start.

PHYSIOTHERAPY

Off I went, on Monday, to attend my first physiotherapy appointment at the Gibert Bain Hospital (which we Shetlanders affectionately and appropriately refer to as the GBH). Karen, the physiotherapist, prodded all round my spine and asked a whole lot of pertinent questions, then made me do some exercises which are to form part of my daily routine from now until Thursday 4th December, the date of my next appointment. Now, routines and I don't get on, and I'm supposed to do mine twice daily. On Tuesday I forgot about it completely, on Wednesday I did it once, on Thursday twice, Friday once, and totally forgot about it again on Saturday. Writing this blog reminded me about it, so I've just done it again. Actually I don't know if the problem is spinal at all - the pain is just as liable to be round the sides of what used to be my waist as in my back. What I've probably got is a recurrence of my hypochondria!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

BANGING AND CRACKLING

My uselessness at all practical matters to do with DIY is legendary. So, when the lampholder on my 30-odd-year-old standard lamp began to disintegrate, crackling alarmingly in the process, I was very nervous about replacing it, for fear of plunging Shetland into its darkest winter since the Vikings invaded. However, I was surprised when my workmanship actually produced the desired result on this occasion, and the lamp is now glowing a happy warm orange, in the corner of the room, as I write this. For me this is a result, an achievement!

In the meantime, the skill of the Shetland Islands Council's labour force, manifesting itself in a lot of banging and scraping, seems to have prevailed against the leak in my roof. I'll know for certain when the next wet westerly gale arrives - and I shouldn't have long to wait for that!

HOME AND AWAY

On Wednesday, I went out to Strand for tea with my sister Mary, an experience made even more pleasant by having Korky the cat take advantage of the extra lap as soon as I sat down in her living room. After tea, we set out on the journey to Walls, which is just about as far west as it is possible to get on the Shetland mainland. The object of the exercise was to visit our mother, who is in the Wastview care centre for a fortnight's "holiday". There she gave us the news that Angela, my youngest sister, is heading out to Saudi Arabia to take up a teaching appointment in the new year, and is looking forward to the new post very much.

The weather, for our little trip west, was rather indifferent, with a westerly gale driving outbreaks of heavy rain across the islands. Colder conditions followed the next day, and, by Friday, the snow was sweeping over us, the strong north-westerly wind blowing it into drifts. These conditions prevailed into Saturday, when my stall at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre was to take place - it was doomed from the start.

On Friday evening, my old heart was gladdened by a concert from Maddy Prior and friends on BBC4. Her guests included June Tabor and some of the old Steeleye Spanners, and, to an old traditional folk groupie, since the 1960s, like myself, this was music to the ears - literally. The nervousness was showing in Maddy's voice initially, but she soon warmed to her task, and the audience was very warm towards her. Thank you, BBC.

ARTWORK

One of my regular clients took possession of the painting of Busta House on Monday, and, on Thursday, a new contact from the isle of Harris got in touch regarding a possible commission of a painting of his boat. Later, he confirmed this as an order. This keeps the whole operation ticking over for another month or so - I can start issuing cheques to pay for some of my Christmas magazine advertising now.

I have made further progress with the seascape paintings of the Gamrie drifter "Utopia" in a sea swell, and the drifters "Golden West" and "Forethought", from the same Moray Firth port, heading out past the Bressay Light to seek the herring shoals east of Shetland. I'm satisfied with the course both works are taking. I have also started a picture re-cycling, with the February exhibition at the Shetland Museum Gadderie in view. The painting of the Fraserburgh pelagic trawler "Christina S", which has been exciting no attention since it was finished a year ago, is now in the process of being transmogrified into one of the North of Scotland, Orkney & Shetland Steam Navigation Co.'s cargo vessel "St. Rognvald". More on these subjects at a later date.

THE STALL AT THE TOLL CLOCK

My friend Neil Robertson must be mentioned in despatches here. He gave up part of his Saturday morning to transport my chattels and me, through snow-covered roads, to the Toll Clock Centre, and did the same run in reverse at the end of my day's trading, such as it was. I thank him from the bottom of my heart. I have never passed a driving test, and probably would not be able to afford to run a car in today's financial climate, supposing I had. Friends and family have to make up for my shortcomings in this area, and yesterday's friend in need was Neil.

The stall was not a successful venture, largely because of the snowfall, which kept all but the mad and the needful snug and warm at their firesides. I sold one A4 giclee print, and nearly twenty postcards, which was remarkable, considering the sparseness of the buying public around the Centre. Quite a few people picked up my leaflets, mentioning the possibility of future commissions, so the value of Saturday's effort is actually quite difficult to quantify. The place was freezing, and I was glad to get back to my little flat to thaw out and contemplate another attempt, perhaps in a fortnight's time if space is available.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

SATURDAY

On Saturday it was bright, showery, windy and business as usual. The same two paintings, which had occupied my time for most of the week, did so again. Progress has been slow, which is the best kind, I believe. One of my best clients phoned in the afternoon to make an appointment to view my recent work on Monday at 2pm, and someone else phoned regarding the painting of the Norwegian STS "S├śRLANDET" which hangs in the Lounge pub upstairs. The chap, who did not introduce himself properly, sounded slightly inebriated, so I doubt very much if anything will come of this transaction. Another caller, female this time, and equally inebriated, asked me if Megan was in. I had the sad duty to inform her that, much to my sorrow, there was no such lady at this address.
I had roasted a chicken for lunch today. The trouble with a chicken is what to do with the large amount which still remains after two days of eating. In the evening I consulted my cookery books, most of the recipes in which seem to be for four or more persons. This set me thinking that there must be loads of cookery books out there which are aimed at single caterers. I found three of these on Amazon and duly bought them for just £15-odd, thereby qualifying for free postage. I look forward to using and browsing through these.
The Dave channel was running another evening of Red Dwarf programmes, which meant a hilarious end to my day. I take my hat off to Messrs Grant and Naylor for a brilliant concept, and realisation thereof. Falling-about-laughable comedy at its best.

FRIDAY

When I woke, the pain in my gut had eased, to be replaced by a splitting headache. The day dawned dull with the threat and forecast of heavy rain later in the day. I was determined that neither minor ailments nor weather would deter me from taking the pre-arranged trip to Whiteness to visit my mother. This would be my last chance to visit her before she goes for a fortnight's respite care at the wonderful Wastview care centre at Walls. We shared a few hour's pleasant companionship, as I made a traditional Shetland meal of whiting fried in batter, with tatties and melted margarine, and helped her with a few little tasks around the house.
On my return to Lerwick later in the day, I found that nothing had happened in my absence at all. As the gale and rain beat against my window, I settled down to an evening of mundane administrative jobs, which sometimes get neglected in favour of more "important" work.

THURSDAY

On a day which saw the weather deteriorate again, I was awakened early with a pain in my stomach and side which persisted through the day. Nevertheless I carried on with work on the two paintings and made satisfactory progress.
My sister Mary surprised me with a visit to borrow my stepladder, which was to be used by an electrician in re-wiring the Samaritans building here in Lerwick. I agreed readily - it's probably the only thing I'll do for a registered charity this week.
I retired to bed early, hoping my tummy discomfort would dissipate overnight.

WEDNESDAY

The day dawned bright, fair and clear, and remained so, a day which saw further progress on the artworks in hand. It also brought news of an appointment, next Monday at the physio department of the hospital, for which I have sore need. I've been suffering from back pain to a greater or lesser degree since I became partly disabled with a knee ailment more than two years ago. Since the knee operation last October I have been able to walk pretty much as well as I could before the condition started, but my back now gives me a bit of trouble. Such is life for the over-sixties - our bits start to drop off!
My sister Mary has a friend over here for a couple of days while on a UK holiday, and this nice lady bought one of my giclee prints today, for which I am grateful. In current economic conditions, any sale is to be rejoiced over. As a matter of fact, I felt so good about this and the fine weather that I decided to go for a pint or two at one or more of the local hostelries, but I soon came back, having seen little of interest in the latin quarter. I bought a fish supper on the way home.

TUESDAY

Scaffolding was erected today around the section of my roof which hosts the chimney. This means that the leak, which has been affecting my flat for the past decade or so, could now be about to get repaired. Whenever there is a westerly gale and heavy rain, the water pours in, but, strangely, only from that direction. Fortunately it is bright today, with a moderate south-easterly.
Work has progressed on the two pictures which are "on the stocks". This was interrupted by a welcome visit from my older sister Thelma, with whom I had our usual cuppa and natter.
Most of the evening was spent on the rather soul-destroying drudgery of sticking labels on postcards, the second consignment of which arrived today. I should have a variety of items ready for sale next Saturday - A4 and A3 giclees, postcards, the odd painting or two (depending on how much room I have at my disposal) and a few items to give away too, such as the leaflets I had printed earlier this year, and a sheaf of "Artwork" magazines which, for some unknown reason on the part of the editors, I have received today.

MONDAY

The weather was fine at first, but it soon clouded over with the inevitable rain not long in coming. I started work on two new paintings, with the forthcoming retrospective at Duff House in mind. The first is of the Banff-registered MFV "Utopia" in a fairly heavy swell, the main thrust of the picture to be in the lighting, which I plan to be fairly dramatic and Turnerish. The other will be of drifters, as yet unidentified, going out past the Bressay Light on their way to the grounds.
Later, I started on the major task of numbering all my available giclee prints in their limited editions - a rather painstaking job, then putting them in sleeves and labelling them ready for the stall at the Toll Clock next Saturday. The first of two consignments of postcards arrived from the printers. This will be another item of interest for the multitudes of people who will, I hope, visit the stall.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

AN EVENING OUT!

I went out for a few pints of amber nectar at five o'clock yesterday afternoon. This was the first time I'd been out of a weekend evening for more than a month - normally I can't be bothered nowadays. The Lounge has always been the pub of choice for me, and is a regular meeting-place for friends of mine at Saturday tea-time. But only one of them turned up yesterday. The smoking ban has definitely affected the numbers of people visiting such establishments. Most of the smokers don't bother coming out now, which means that many of their non-smoking friends stay away too.

Whether for this reason, the weather or other causes, attendance at the posher upstairs part of the Lounge (where music is occasionally played by local minstrels) was very low. There were more bodies in the public bar downstairs, where a few people were doing their best to avert their eyes from the television screen, which was showing the hapless Scottish rugby union team being drubbed by the Kiwis. There I spoke to my namesake, the Shetland Times sports reporter Jim Tait, who regularly gets accused of painting my pictures, and I get blamed for his sports reporting!

Upstairs, my friend Colin Jamieson and I proceeded to drink our lager and engage the pretty Norwegian barmaid in conversation, which passed a pleasant hour or so. At a tender age, due to my interest in fishing boats, I learned a bit of Norwegian, so that I could find out more about the great-liners and whalers, from the west coast of Norway, which operated around Shetland. Although I've forgotten much of the language, it still comes in useful sometimes. Nowadays, most of the Norwegian visitors to Shetland arrive in yachts during the summer months - and nice it is to see them too.

My evening out finished, at eight o'clock, with a visit to the chip-shop and a taxi-ride home. I'd consumed a total of four pints of lager. And that's as exciting and over-indulgent as my social life gets now!

ART, FAMILY AND OTHER WORK

On this week of momentous world events, the most exciting thing to happen to me was accidentally knocking my wristwatch into the toilet bowl on Tuesday morning. As I gazed sadly at its little yellow face staring back at me from the murky depths, I contemplated on the passage of time and considered whether to flush it or attempt a rescue. In the end I did the latter, and the timepiece is still going today.

Apart from this cataclysmic occurrence, my week has been fairly routine and quite productive. You can see some of the results above, the second and third of the oil paintings I am producing for the Duff House exhibition next summer. The main other news on the artistic front is that I've booked a stall at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre market, here in Lerwick, for Saturday 22nd November. I hope that this will be a good selling venue for my giclee prints, which need an injection of interest from prospective buyers in the run-up to Christmas.

I spent most of Thursday and Friday with my mother at Whiteness, going through boxes of old family photographs. I had an idea that I might make up a few display books of them, but the task ahead is enormous. My ancestors, especially on my mother's side, seemed to have DEVELOPED a love affair with the camera at an early stage in its evolution. There are fewer early pictures of my father's forebears in the collection - I think other family members must have most of these. Either that or they were more camera-shy, which seems unlikely from my limited knowledge of them.

Both my Shetland-resident sisters and my nephew Kenneth visited me during the week, and very glad I was to see them. My nephew always helps me with home decor tasks around the flat. Recently he put up a window blind in my studio, and coat hooks in the hall. The very idea of operating an electric drill scares the pants off me, as I am useless at all forms of DIY. Even my wallpaper is blood-spattered (my own)!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

WHAT? WHO?

I received an interesting item through the post on Friday. Apparently someone has nominated me for the Shetland Islands section of "Who's Who", and the communication I received was the application form for inclusion in this prestigious volume. I have no idea who the nominator was, but I am very grateful for the kind thought, or sense of humour, which moved him or her to take this step. I have filled in the online form with my particulars, and await further developments. I seem to spend a lot of time doing just that these days!

THE FOUR-LETTER WORD

This is work, of course, which is reputed to be the curse of the drinking class, not that I do much of that nowadays. I have continued to make progress on the paintings, and the reason I haven't posted on this blog earlier this week is that so little out of the ordinary has happened. The weather has been quiet, as has life chez the Tait Gallery. I hope to have another two artworks completed before my next posting. Also by that time, I hope to have had a haircut (under local anaesthetic!), attended a medical appointment for a minor complaint (which is too painfully embarrassing to discuss here) and attended a flu fair at the local sports and entertainment centre. It will probably be my only visit there until this time next year. Such is life for a 60-year-old artistic curmudgeon - and richly deserved!

THE STRANGENESS OF CATS

At this time of year, when people get involved in events celebrating ghosties, ghoulies, and witches with brooms and black cats, I thought I would tell you of a strange occurrence which took place in a parish here in Shetland a few years ago.

It concerned an old lady, whom I will call Maggie, which is not her real name (It goes against the rules of etiquette to call her by her real name). She was a well-liked and respected woman who had never married and, since her retirement from the local knitwear factory, her main interests were one of the local churches, of which she was an office-bearer, and her two cats, which were very well looked after, and probably the most contented moggies in the neighbourhood.

When Maggie died, one of the problems facing her friends and neighbours was what to do about the cats. One of the felines was a very sociable animal and, when a man, who lived at the other side of the parish nearly two miles away, volunteered to adopt it, the beast went willingly and tamely with him to his home, where it settled contentedly into its new situation. The other cat, however, wanted nothing to do with anyone. It took to the hills, and fiercely resisted all attempts at capture, the people eventually leaving it to its own devices for survival.

So things stood until the morning of Maggie's funeral. Then the cat, which had been quietly, and apparently happily, living at its adoptive home, suddenly and inexplicably went frantic. It was eventually let outside, where it disappeared quickly into the distance.

The funeral, which a good number of local people attended, took place, the interment being at the local churchyard, quite near to Maggie's home. It was a typical country parish graveyard, approaching an acre in size and had a boundary of fairly low walls of concrete and stone. As Maggie was laid to rest, the mourners, one of whom was my father, gradually became aware of something strange. On one of the walls sat the cat which had, that morning, bolted from her adoptive home two miles away, and on the adjoining wall sat the cat which had never been captured, and which, soon after the funeral, meekly arrived at a neighbour's house, where it settled as happily and peacefully as the other had previously done at the other side of the parish.