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

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


If you've read yesterday's posts, you will have gathered that all is not well in the strange demented world of the Tait Gallery. Actually, it has not been too bad as far as commissions go, mainly thanks to my Saturday stalls over the past few weeks, but the Duff House exhibition, which has been carrying all my hopes and dreams of the last nine months, has been a disaster, as regards sales, so far, and, at this moment, with less than a fortnight to go, it has not yet paid its bills, let alone yielded a profit. True, it has attracted a lot of favourable comment, and generated considerable interest, but I can't proffer favourable comment in payment for a packet of Weetabix, nor will considerable interest pay my electricity bill. I leave to your own consideration the number of times I can spend the best part of a year producing a loss-making exhibition. You'll probably come up with the same answer I have.

The attitude of the press towards this exhibition has been most peculiar too. While the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal did a feature on the event during its opening week, the Banffshire Journal, which is the local newspaper covering the area in which Duff House is elegantly situated, has chosen to disregard it completely in its columns, instead choosing to send a photograph, of me gazing thoughtfully at my creations on the Tea-room wall, to the Shetland Times, who duly published it! I realise that the Banffshire Journal is is no way obliged to publish anything on this subject, but I would have thought that local events are part of the scope of their coverage. I can but come to my own conclusions on this matter.

I finished my latest head-banging project, the rather detailed work of Johnshaven harbour (pictured above), which has been occupying some of my time, and trying more of my patience, over the last three months. I think it looks not bad. However, you may think differently - please let me know! We artists, working, as we do, in a complete vacuum, can absorb unlimited quantities of constructive criticism, as this helps us to improve our output. The most disconcerting response is complete silence, a sound that is, alas, all too familiar to me.

I've held my little stall at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre, here in Lerwick, these last three Saturdays. As a result, I've sold quite a few prints and postcards, and received one or two commissions, with the likelihood of more to follow. The stall has proved to be a useful vehicle - a symbol of my continued presence, a kind of denial of my demise in peoples' consciousnesses. Or something. I find it reminds people, who may have forgotten, that I'm still here!

The Musa Art Cafe, near Aberdeen harbour, has offered to display up to six of my artworks, so some of my unsold Duff House works (there will be a lot to choose from!) will go on show as part of their Coast exhibition (everyone seems to have a Coast exhibition these days!), which opens in September. Their commission rates are even more punitive than those of Duff House, but what's a struggling artist to do during a depression? Answers on a blank signed cheque, please, to Jim Tait, 11c Union Street, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0ET. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


The beauty of women increases in direct proportion to the age and decrepitude of the male observing and admiring them. This sad fact has been coming to my attention as, on 16th July, I attained the age of 61 summers (not to mention a few hard winters). This also means that a substantial part of my get-up-and-go has been getting up and going over the past few years. I used to be able to work a full day, and still be up for some fun and games in the evening, but those days are sadly well and truly behind me.

My work requires a degree of concentration, and, after eight hours of this, I find that all I want to do is watch a good TV programme (if such an article can be found), read a good book, or search for something obscure and interesting on the web. My creativity can only be properly focused for a limited continuous period of time, and afterwards I feel exhausted. Days involving more in the way of physical work leave me feeling knackered, although, after an hour's rest, I'm usually ready to go again. Let's face it, I'm starting to get old, and I only hope the rest of the process is going to be relatively painless.

I apologise, to the faithful few followers of this blog, for neglecting to post to it for more than three weeks. I've been rather busy and, to be truthful, my thoughts of late have been rather negative, about practically everything, and I didn't want to do a blog post while I was in that frame of mind. Perhaps that's wrong too - in order for the blog to be a genuine record, I should post in all circumstances. Anyway, things haven't changed, really, but I'm learning to live with it - to know the difference between the things I can and cannot change, basically.

There have been happy events too. Two friends, whom I last saw 13 and 38 years ago respectively, turned up to see me during the last two weeks. My youngest sister Angela, her husband Nigel and daughter Elanor (who was recently appointed leader of the Welsh National Youth Orchestra) have been up for an all-too-short holiday, transforming the peace and tranquillity of my mother's home at Whiteness into a palace of laughter and music for a week. My mother, who celebrates (although she doesn't know it yet!) her 93rd birthday on Thursday, sat in the middle of the chaos, smiling happily - she loves having her family around her.

We have been blessed with mostly good summer weather too. The flora and fauna of these islands have rejoiced as never before. On my birthday, the largest cruise ship yet to anchor in Lerwick harbour, the "Costa Magica", paid the first of her two scheduled visits for this summer. She made an impressive, if not actually beautiful, spectacle.

Maybe better times are ahead. My sisters Mary and Thelma, along with myself and whichever other family members are able to come, are going to give Mother a birthday party on Thursday evening, and I'm going to enjoy judging the drawing and painting entries in the arts and crafts section of the Voe Show on Saturday. All I need now is news of a couple more sales of my own artwork at Duff House, and life will take on a distinct rosy hue again. I need the depression to lift from my recession - soon.


I have never been in possession of a full driving licence. I've held a provisional on a couple of occasions, but have never gone through to taking the test with it. There are no doubt pedestrians and other drivers who are grateful for this fact. I hold the distinction of being the only man in Shetland who has driven a Ford 8 van up a flight of steps backwards. I hasten to add that this action was unintentional - I was about seventeen at the time, and it pleased my long-suffering father not one bit. The vehicle was slightly shorter and higher as a result of the incident, and the front doors wouldn't open or close after it.

Whether this episode put me off driving for life, or for other reasons, I have had no subsequent interest in getting behind the wheel. Consequently, whenever I need to get anywhere beyond reasonable walking distance, I have to get someone else to do the driving, whether by bus, taxi or with a friend or family member at the wheel of a private vehicle.

So I have bribed and cajoled my sister Mary to give me a lift, this coming Saturday, to the parish of Voe, in the north mainland of Shetland, where the annual Voe & District Agricultural show is to take place. The committee have invited me to be a judge in the Arts & Crafts section, and I am very much looking forward to the day. I have performed this pleasant duty on several occasions in the past, and have always enjoyed these days to the full. There are always beautifully-made articles in the crafts section, and excellent drawings, paintings and other 2D exhibits too.

On one past occasion, I had had a few lemonades and other beverages the previous evening, and had turned up feeling a little the worse for wear. I found myself gazing at a lovely piece of embroidery, in the form of a framed text which stated "He who hoots with the owls all night cannot soar with the eagles in the morning." I burst out laughing at these mots juste, to curious glances from my fellow judges and stewards.

The judging process has to be a careful mixture of objective and subjective reasoning, and I must be doing something right, as they keep asking me back. Roll on Saturday!

Saturday, 4 July 2009


Everyone loves a public hanging, and the main reason for my trip to the Banff area was mine, which was taking place at Duff House from Monday 22nd June. This was my first at this prestigious venue, and only my second Scottish mainland event. Never mind that my display was only in the ground-floor tea-room - one has to start somewhere. Maybe someday I will ascend that hallowed horseshoe-shaped staircase as an exhibitor.

On the appointed day, after I, the condemned man, had eaten a hearty breakfast, I met Jo Edwards, who supervisies the exhibitions programme, at 11.15am as previously arranged. As is normally the case, I had arrived far too early, and had made the acquaintance of a tree-stump, near the front of the house, to which I was to return on many occasions over the next few days, to enjoy the sunshine and have a smoke. I had a quick meeting with Jo and John Mair, who was going to be in charge of the actual hanging process, and we discussed the forthcoming event. She agreed to display the A4 Aberdeen harbour prints in the shop, and to display the Tait Gallery leaflets in the tea-room. With my main issues resolved favourably, I arranged to meet John Mair again next morning at 10am, and left, to walk back to my lodgings with a spring in my heart and a song in my step.

So, next morning, I found myself sitting on my tree-stump, surveying the Baroque mansion, designed by William Adam in 1735, and constructed over the ensuing four years - quite a short time to finish such a magnificent building, I would have thought. It was built for William Duff, Lord Braco, later the Earl of Fife, but he and the architect quarrelled, mostly over the cost, which was the then-astronomical figure of £70,000, and the 1st earl never actually stayed there.

From then until 1906, when the then Duke of Fife gifted the building to the councils of Banff and Macduff, the building had an interesting and sometimes violent history. Apparently, one Countess of Fife attempted to murder her husband, presumably because he had come into the house wearing his muddy boots, had aimed poorly in the toilet, broken wind in bed, or done some other of the things which drive wives to completely the wrong kind of distraction. If she had succeeded, would it have been earlicide?

Since 1906, it has been a hotel, a sanitorium, and accommodation for German prisoners during the second world war. It was given into the care of Historic Scotland in 1956, extensively restored, and re-opened in 1995. It is now jointly (and apparently successfully) operated by Historic Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council, as a venue for the arts.

I met John Mair, and we started to hang my paintings, by means of mirror clamps to hold them in place on boards suspended from the ceiling with chains. The walls are a warmish pale green colour, which set the pictures off well. We managed to hang 8 paintings by 11am, when the tea-room opened to the public, and we had to suspend operations. We arranged to meet again at 9.30am the next day to finish the job.

By 11am on Wednesday morning, the paintings were all hung, numbered, and the numbering altered on the price list to accommodate the hanging order we had completed. I went upstairs to the 1st floor, where artworks by such old masters as Allan Ramsay, Sir Henry Raeburn, El Greco and Cuyp are displayed, along with Chippendale furniture and other historical artistic gems. It felt good to have my work exhibited in the same building as these masterpieces.

The next day was the official opening of my exhibition. I hung around the tea-room, chatting to anyone who looked remotely interested in my efforts, of whom there seemed to be quite a few. Two people, one of whom worked in the building, mentioned that boats owned by their fathers were among those featured in my paintings (the "Silver Wave" and "Faithful Star"). This was the kind of reaction I had been hoping for, along with a few sales, of course. There were no takers on the first day, but I still have high hopes of a few red dots before the 9th of August, when the paintings are all taken down to make way for the next exhibitor.

As I sat on my tree-stump, later in the day, I reflected that, however the venture turns out financially, it has been a pleasure, honour and privilege to have my work displayed in this beautiful and historic venue. And, one never knows, they might just ask me back!

Thursday, 2 July 2009


My evenings would have passed slowly at my Banff B & B, during the process of setting up my Duff House exhibition. In a previous life, I would have found a pub with a nice atmosphere and got quietly sloshed. But, since my disability, operation and subsequent slow process of returning to something like fitness, I have lost the lager habit, so to speak. I can still enjoy a pint or, on the rare occasion, maybe three or four, but most days and nights pass alcohol-free, my evenings usually spent working at some aspect of my business.

A lady came to rescue my evenings from the fate of boredom. She was a friend of two of my sisters, whom she had met during a stay in Shetland some years ago. She hails from the Moray Firth coast region, heard I was in the area, and she offered to give me a tour of some of the more remarkable places in this part of north-east Scotland. It would have been foolish to turn down such an opportunity, and I gratefully accepted the invitation.

And so, on the Monday evening, she took me first to the remarkable pet cemetery near the shore at Whitehills. This flourishes thanks to a special dispensation from the Queen, who had been petitioned to intervene, after an attempt was made by the local council to remove it. Next, we had coffee from her flask on the pier at Sandend (pronounced San-INE in this parts), and then proceeded to the headland between Cullen and Portknockie, where there is a remarkable sea-stack formation known as the Bow Fiddle Rock, which had to be approached by a footpath to view. We had our evening meal at the Marine Hotel in Buckie, after discovering that our plan A choice of venue, The Admiral's at Findochty, was fully booked for the evening. By this time, the weather, fair up to now, had taken a turn for the worse, with low cloud and drizzle obscuring most of the views, but the damage had been done to my ennui for that evening.

On Tuesday, my tour guide had other fish to fry, so it was Wednesday evening when we set off on another magical mystery tour. This time, I had remembered to take my camera with me. The evening was fair, although low cloud came across from time to time. We had our Thermos coffee again at Sandend, then we drove to Fordyce, a beautiful village built around its own castle (now run as a self-catering establishment). I took a good few photographs around the place, and then we were off in the direction of Huntly. The scenery was breathtaking in the undulating countryside, made more so by the effect of the sunlight coming and going through the mist onto the hills and valleys. On the way, we passed the stark single overgrown gable of Conzie Castle, near Forgue, standing on its own in a field, and this is possibly the image, from my whole trip, that I most regret NOT taking a photograph of.

The river Deveron, flowing past Huntly Castle, is a beautiful sight, and I did get a digital image of this. This spot is reached by a road which, at one point, runs through an archway in Huntly Academy, with a cricket club and golf club among the recreational facilities along its route. Altogether I was very impressed with this picturesque town. The square, on which the hotel where we had our evening meal was situated, was another fine feature, and I took more snapshots here. Then it was back to Banff, via Tesco's filling station on the outskirts of the burgh, the village of Aberchirder, and the Sandyhill Road, which follows one side of the extensive grounds of Duff House. We visited Scotstown, a row of fishermen's cottages situated on Boyndie Bay, which looks over a sandy beach to Whitehills. Here, the late evening sun shining through the low cloud made for an extraordinary light effect, which again I caught on camera, rounding off another interesting evening.

Thursday evening was spent taking in some of the views of east Banffshire and Buchan, which were no less interesting, although my enthusiasm was flagging a little after my exhibition's opening day at Duff House. The beach and old church at New Aberdour stand out as a particularly nice location, although the strange arrangement of things at Mintlaw, which seems to consist of little more than a roundabout, the mile-long row of buildings at New Pitsligo and the town of Strichen were also noteworthy places. For my final evening meal of my stay on the Scottish mainland (for this trip!), we had very good fare at the Banff Springs Hotel which, I today observed in the Banffshire Journal, is on the market - again.

We did a good number of miles together in the elderly Fiesta, which might have seen better days, and protested at some of the steeper gradients we encountered, but it got us to some bonny spots and inspirational viewpoints. I am very grateful to this friend, whom I had never met before last week. Without her, my evenings in Banff would have seemed a lot longer.