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, 25 January 2009


There's a buzz of exceitement and anticipation around here, as Lerwick gears itself up for its biggest night of the year. On Tuesday evening, the Up-Helly-A' procession takes place, ushering in a night of pillage, murder and rape around the town - just like any other Saturday night really. Seriously, the festivities will be lively and last all night.

Today's the day when most of the forty-odd squads get their official group photographs taken. All the hard work of suit-making will have been done by the squad members and their seamstresses, and the souvenir picture will testify to this and provide a memoir of their 2009 act. Many of the squads use Islesburgh House as the venue for the photography. This imposing building is almost next door to my studio, so I get my first glimpse of some of this year's outfits, normally a closely-guarded secret until the night itself.

I have never been involved in the festivities, and I will be spending tomorrow and the morning of the big day at my stall in the Toll Clock Shopping Centre, hoping that I can interest some of the many visitors to the islands in my prints and postcards. This is the first year that I have tried this, so I have no idea what to expect. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Artistic headway was somewhat spasmodic of late, but the general tide of progress has been maintained in a roughly forward direction. I finished the pictures of the drifters "Golden West" and "Forethought" going out past the Bressay Lighthouse, and of the dive boat "Laerling". I've continued to work on the commissioned painting of the second "St. Sunniva", which I hope to finish this week, and I've started on artworks 6 and 7 for the Duff House exhibition. I've located and booked a suitable B & B for my stay in Banff towards the end of June. I love staying in these places, where a warm-hearted landlady breezes into the dining room and asks what the weather's been like in Shetland, just when I've got a mouthful of rice krispies, and she has to change the tablecloth after my reply.

The client who commissioned the "Laerling" picture came to see me on Sunday. He seemed to like the painting, and departed with it under his arm, leaving me with something to keep any ravening wolves, which might have been contemplating calling on me, from my door.

Also on Sunday, I observed that the double-glazed window in my living-room, out of which I spend many languid hours gazing on Breiwick Bay, the Ness of Sound and the island of Mousa beyond, had ceased to close properly, and was admitting quite a draught. So, on Monday morning, I alerted the housing repairs service of the Shetland Islands Council to the situation and, in a spectacular display of speed and efficiency, no doubt to prevent me from writing any more dreadful poetry, two workmen arrived at my door, toolbags in hand, and proceeded to their task, their faces set with a grim sense of purpose.

The hinges on my window, along with the screws holding them in place, had become so rusty they could no longer perform their function. It took some time and effort with a hammer and crowbar to dislodge the screws. When this had been done, and my window was now inside the living-room, leaning against my sofa, the workmen discovered that they had brought the wrong size of new hinges with them, and they would have to return to the depot to get the correct ones. Meanwhile the wind was strengthening, the room was open to the elements, and things were starting to take flight from my workstation, situated near the window, or hole, as it now was. All was well, however, for soon the men returned with the right hinges, and my studio is now wind- and watertight once more. Hurrah again for the Shetland Islands Council Direct labour force! They do great works like keeping our roads and pavements clear of ice and snow, so that pedestrians and motorists can get to work, family or recreation safely, and also turn out to do minor repairs for little people like me.


I've discovered that holding an exhibition in the Shetland Museum is not the simple straightforward process that it once was. In days of yore (the 1990s) I turned up with my pictures (having previously established a date with the museum staff) at ten in the morning, hung and labelled them, gave the curator a list for his records, and I was normally addressing a pint of lager in a local hostelry by midday. Now I have to hang three days before the opening date, having provided the exhibitions co-ordinator with comprehensive details of the exhibition weeks before that date.

In bygone days, at the close of the show, I got my work down fast, as the next exhibitor was breathing down my neck. I did a quick tally with the curator as to how much cash I'd made and how much commission was due from me. I took my customer's cash and cheques to the bank, and that was it. Now, after the event is finished, I have to agree a figure with the museum, deduct 20% (+VAT!!!) from my total, raise an invoice to the Shetland Amenity Trust for what is due to me, and wait up to 30 days thereafter for them to deign to give me a cheque. The whole process is so hidebound in bureaucracy that any enjoyment I may have derived from the experience is largely dissipated in the quagmire of rules and regulations. Never mind - I'm getting some bureaucracy of my own going! I'm challenging the legality of charging me VAT on their commission. I'm not registered for VAT and I don't believe I'm obliged to pay this.


I'm still operating on an intermittent dial-up connection, ten days after my ISP pulled the plug on their internet service. I can't get a new one until my former supplier either gives me a MAC number or gets off my line completely. So far they've done neither and there's nothing, as far as I know, that I can do about it except wait.

I rang up Igor Mournly, my business-cum-IT-cum-everything else advisor, who recommends Freedom2surf as an alternative broadband supplier, when I eventually get to the stage of getting one. In my experience it is foolish to ignore his advice.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


Things started to go wrong at about 5pm last Friday. After spending a pleasant day with my mother at Whiteness, doing things around the house and enjoying some quality time with her, I returned to my flat-cum-studio in Lerwick and, after checking the post and phone messages, and receiving and paying for some new giclees from my graphics supplier, I decided to log on to have a look at my emails, and delete those which were offering me physical impossibilities and replica watches. But my connection was dead. I kept getting a message about a cable having become unplugged, so I checked all the sockets and cables, which all seemed fine. I thought my ethernet cable might have packed in again but, by now, all suppliers had shut down for the weekend (remember this is Shetland).

Things got worse. I knocked over one of the set of mugs which I had received as a present from my parents about twenty years ago, and which, up to now, were still intact, without even a chip on them. The handle broke off, and I had no choice but to bin it.

Later, I decided to have a snack of the beetroot which my sister Mary had grown in the Whiteness garden, and which she had vinegar-pickled in a jar for me. Unfortunately I hadn't noticed that the lid was loose, and I ended up with magenta vinegar over everything on my worktop, my floor and my jeans. I started to lose my presence of mind. I was walking in figure-of-eight shapes around my kitchen and living room, with my eyes bulging and my mouth trying to form words which hadn't yet found substance in my brain. I stared at my magenta hands, doing a fairly decent impression of Lady Macbeth. I sat down. I stood up again. I sat down again. I sat up. I stood down. I scratched my head, causing beetroot streaks in my hair.

I don't know how long it was before I regained enough composure to start cleaning up the mess. By the time I'd finished, about the only reasonable thing to do was go to bed. So I did.

Saturday dawned with an apricot sky, portending a storm. Fishing boats were scurrying for the shelter of Lerwick harbour. I decided the best thing to do about my own particular depression was phone my friend and computer expert Richard Jackson, who came round the next day and, after conducting a few preliminary tests, informed me that my ISP had withdrawn my connection - without prior warning. I should, of course, have foreseen something like this happening, as the company had been in trouble for some time. Richard fixed me up with a temporary dial-up arrangement, which is painfully slow, but it will do for email and checks on my website. So, now I'm looking for another ISP - any ideas, folks? I've more or less decided on one of the BT deals - keep it simple, eh? I'm a simple man, after all.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


Christmas Eve, the day after my bathroom repairs, dawned bright and clear. I made my way, by taxi, to my mother's house, picking up the turkey, chipolatas and stuffing, along with other essentials, at the Whiteness shop on the way. I helped make the butterscotch trifle, which has become the stock third course of our Christmas Day feast. We did the necessary preparations to the turkey, which, the next morning, I whacked into a hot oven, and started to deal with the carrots, potatoes and sprouts (yes, all of my family love sprouts!). My sister Mary arrived in the late morning to do the more finnicky details of the repast. At this point I bowed out of the operation, the work of the kitchen porter being largely done for the time being. Mary's daughter Caroline, son-in-law David and three-year-old grandson Robbie also arrived, and we all sat down to gleefully stuff ourselves with the results of the hard work of the previous 24 hours. Very nice it was too. Afterwards I took charge of the substantial washing-up operation, and Mary ran me back to town in the early evening. My mother had enjoyed the whole thing very much indeed, which was the main point of the exercise. There can't be many 92-year-olds still making trifles!

On Boxing Day, I finished the painting of the "Utopia", a Portknockie-registered MFV which I remember being in Lerwick Harbour, during the herring season, when I was a youngster. She is pictured (above) in fair weather, ploughing through a residual North Sea swell. These sea conditions are quite tricky to depict, as the waves have to be grouped together in what appears to be a haphazard fashion to form each swell.

On Saturday, I posted an A4 giclee print to Hong Kong, the first package I have sent to that part of the world. I continued to work on the other paintings I have at various stages of completion, as I have most other days.

On Sunday, I updated the Home Page of my website (, and started to come down with the cold, from which I have been suffering ever since. It doesn't seem to want to leave me. Today I finished the painting, of the motor boat "Laerling", which was commissioned at the end of November. I hope it will be the first of many successful projects in 2009.

I hope your year is prosperous too.