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, 29 November 2009


It's cuck-cuck-cold here in Shetland today. A cold northerly breeze is blowing round the cletts and wicks, and my joints are stiff and sore. This is a sad admission for a so-called hardy northerner, but my days of getting out to enjoy a bracing walk "aboot da banks" in such conditions seem to be tragically over. I fully intend to confine myself to the warmth of my living-room, and address myself to the knotty problem of extracting something interesting to tell you from my activities during the last seven days.

Let's start with the artwork, which should be easy, as I seem to have achieved very little in that direction. I've begun work on what will almost certainly be the last commission of 2009, a painting of the Buckie seine-netter "Chrysolite" which, as a child, I remember calling occasionally at Lerwick during her fishing operations of the late 1950s and early 1960s. To "normal" people, one fishing boat is very much like another, but, to an enthusiast like me, each forms its own distinguishable presence from a long distance away. I've also been working a little on my "stock" tall ships pictures, although I have little progress to report on these. I'm still struggling a bit with stretched canvas as a painting surface, and I miss the days of a readily-available supply of hardboard, and getting it cut on the "big saw" at Hay & Co's DIY store at Freefield. The surface of this material was smoother, and lent itself well to the "dry" application of thin layers of paint which I favour in my skies and seas.

My friend Mark Fuller, of Tay-CAD Ltd, has timeously produced the batch of giclee fine art prints I ordered at the start of the month. I collected (and paid a not inconsiderable amount of money for) them on Tuesday afternoon, and spent the evening numbering, logging, bagging and labelling these. I now have my "stock" ready for the vast numbers of Christmas shoppers who will be thronging round my stall at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre over the next three Thursdays (I hope!).

My copy of the RYA magazine landed on my doormat at some point during Friday. It carries my advert in its Classified section, and it is definitely visible, although to how many and with what result remains to be seen. Yesterday's edition of the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal also had my advert running along the bottom of one of its pages, but it had no discernable effect on the numbers of people who visited my website during the day. In previous years, the increase in visitor numbers due to the Saturday "big ad" was quite marked, although any effect on sales was more difficult to ascertain.

On Wednesday, I ordered another batch of my promotional leaflets from Shetland Litho. The first thousand seemed to disappear fairly fast, roughly half of them going to destinations outwith these islands. As with the magazine and newspaper ads, results are hard to quantify, and any attempt at analysis is futile. I have to let people know what I do, and hope that there are people out there who like it enough to want it on their walls!

The battle with Parcelforce, over my claim for non-delivery of the painting I sent to France, continues. The first claim was lost in the post (sic!), and, after a phone consultation with one of their representatives, I faxed a copy of the second completed form to them, together with a covering explanatory letter, and copies of the related email correspondence over the period. As I have written before in this journal, I await developments. I know there will be a positive outcome, as I am not going to accept anything else. I am a determined little cuss, I have the full force of my compulsive/obsessive nature trained on this issue, and I won't relent until I have my £49.99 postage and insurance refunded!

My website appears to be undergoing a substantial update as I write this. I hope it doesn't take too long, as the run-up to Christmas is a bad time to lose one's online presence. I hope that, on or offline, your presence is felt positively by all those around you, and that you have a pleasant and successful week.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


The long-running saga of my parcel, which I sent to France on 28th September, and eventually was returned to me undelivered on 24th October, continues.

I sent off a claim for refund of my postage and insurance, and heard nothing for a while. Last weekend I thought I'd better check up on it, by email, and today I received the news that they never received my claim. It was lost in the post!

If it wasn't so funny, I'd break down and cry!


Sunday, 22 November 2009


All my good intentions expressed in last week's post came to very little, in spite of much better weather and light conditions this week. I did a little work on the two tall ships paintings. One is going to be of the two Danish full-rigged ships "Georg Stage" and "Danmark", the other is going to be a composition of various distant vessels, on a sloping horizon, viewed from the deck of another tall ship, parts of the rigging of which will be foreground features. The sea will be lumpy. I still hope to have these finished by Christmas, if only as some kind of target date for completion.

I'm taking out advertising space in the RYA magazine (which should be out round about now) and in the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal in the run-up to Christmas. I have to remind people that I'm still here, although the financial benefits of such campaigns are difficult to quantify and seldom immediate. I know of people who cut out adverts for products which interest them, tuck them away somewhere, and use them to contact the suppliers months, sometimes years, afterwards.

The fact that I am able to afford such extravagances as newspaper and magazine advertising is due in no small way to a multiple painting sale which I was able to conclude earlier this past week. As well as improving my bank balance (which had a distinct reddish hue about it until the sale took place), I can now issue a cheque for the prints which my friendly downtown graphics firm has produced for me. This also meant the application of quite a few more red dots on the Gallery pages of the website (Feel free to take a look - comments, good or bad, are always welcome!).

One of the maketing gurus, whose advice I occasionally heed, persuaded me that it would be a good idea to open a Googlemail account, as this can convey certain benefits in terms of online marketing, if one goes about it in the correct manner. I duly obliged, and I now have another email address ( and a profile, although I still have other interactive things to set up, in order to reap the rewards of using this facility. I think I should connect it to this blog somehow, although I have yet to discover how.

My faithful old printer (which I paid £15 for second-hand about two years ago) died last weekend, and, realising that death in this instance was terminal, I ordered a new Epson multifunctional device from Staples last Sunday. It duly arrived on Thursday (not bad for a remote location like Shetland) and I am now in the process of learning how all the bells and whistles work! I hope that your life is campanological and insufflative this incoming week!


One of the main events on the Lerwick November social calendar is the flu fair. This is the occasion when burghers of a certain age or infirmity can turn up at the Clickimin Centre, have a go on the dodgems, win a goldfish at the coconut shy, enjoy a cup of tea with the bearded lady (Dodie o' Nortroo always enjoyed dressing up!), and get speared like a tuna by one of the leather-clad jackbooted nurses employed by the Shetland Health Board for such purposes.

Actually, some elements of the previous paragraph are the result of my fevered imagination, and I apologise for any alarm I may have caused, in penning them, to readers of a delicate disposition. I received my jag from Dr. Krusche (who is referred to as Dr. Crush by some of the populace - makes him sound like a character from a 1960s teen magazine!). I didn't feel a thing from the injection (I almost asked for my money back) and declined the offer of a cuppa, as too much tea makes me want to do what rhymes with it (it's the tablets, you know!). I sat for the obligatory ten minutes, pondering on life, and reading some of the brochures describing the awful ailments which can afflict the human frame and what the Shetland Health Board can do about them. I then went home, duly inoculated against the dreaded flu bug.

Sunday, 15 November 2009


On a week when the wind has blown strongly and steadily from the south-east, and the rain has seemed incessant, progress at the easel has been slow. The light has been bad enough to preclude painting on several days, although, during the brighter intervals which did occur, I managed to put the finishing touches to the "St. Ninian" picture, on the topic of which I based the previous post. I've also been doing a little work on a painting of the Danish tall ships "Georg Stage" and "Danmark", which I hope to have finished by Christmas, if conditions allow.

I've booked a few stalls at the Toll Clock shopping centre here in Lerwick, in hopes to pick up some trade in the run-up to Christmas, although I was too late to book the most lucrative Saturday slots. I've got Thursdays 3rd, 10th and 17th December, which have one thing going for them, in that I will be there for the late-night shoppers. I've ordered more prints from tay-CAD, the local graphics firm, to extend my stock range, so I should have plenty to offer those who turn up on what will be three long days for me. My sister Mary has offered to help out in the evenings, in return for my help with her son's house in Sandwick. This is a very agreeable arrangement, as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of Mary, she is on her way north tonight, by Northlink ferry, with my Musa Art Cafe exhibition in the back of the Volvo estate, which has been giving her no end of grief on the mainland. After its service in an Aberdeen garage last Monday, the computerised transmission system caused it to stall on a busy roundabout near Hermiston Gate in Edinburgh. She got it going again there, but it subsequently broke down on the way out of the city, and this time she was an AA job. They tracked down someone who knew something about Volvos, and she managed to get to Aberdeen without further incident. I can foresee an imminent divorce between her and Swedish car manufacturers, however.

After seven days when I have been grateful that the human body is waterproof and reasonably wind-resistant, I hope for conditions more conducive to work during the incoming week. I must remember to attend the flu fair, to get my annual jag, at the Clickimin Centre on Tuesday. Otherwise, I intend to spend a lot of time at the drawing board. I hope your week is pleasant and productive too.


Ladies and gentlemen, for your delight and delectation, I present my painting of the MV "St. Ninian" running before a gale on her regular route between the ports of Leith and Lerwick, carrying her usual load of passengers and what was known in those days (between 1950 and the early 1970s) as general cargo.

This was usually contained in boxes or sacks, which were offloaded in slings by the shipboard cranes. Nowadays, such cargo would arrive in containers, which would either be driven off the ship by articulated lorries, or discharged by a land-based crane, depending on what facilities are available shore-side.

I have good reason to remember the old "side-loading" system, as my very first job was a day's casual labour on Victoria Pier, Lerwick, unloading general cargo from the "St. Ninian" and loading boxes of fish for onward shipment "south". This was also when I had my first inkling that I wasn't really cut out for manual labour.

When a sling came down from the ship, my job, on this fateful day, was to guide it onto the long, flat-bed barrow, which was used to take the goods into the "steamer's store". My workmate would be standing by, with his back to me, hands clasped on the handles of the barrow behind him, awaiting the signal from me to move forward. My job, once the load was positioned, was to take off the sling, and hold the load there as we headed towards the store.

On one occasion, I had guided the load, about eight sacks (boles) of flour, to a position too far back , and, instead of going forwards, my workmate shot skywards, and hung there, straight-armed, with his little legs pumping fresh air, trying to manipulate the barrow handles in an earthward direction again. Meanwhile, the regular dockers, whose sole function seemed to be standing around enjoying the spectacle of us poor casuals struggling with our task, now started falling about in paroxysms of hysterical laughter. The chargehand, who had been supervising the sad process from the ship's rail, was mouthing words at me which, quite frankly, I had never heard before during my hitherto sheltered upbringing. At length, the sling was repositioned, and the load was lifted sufficiently for my workmate to descend to earth again. I guided the load further forward this time, and we carried on with the job.

Thus passed my first day in a "proper job", during which I gained the valuable knowledge that these delicate hands were going to earn a living other than by the sweat of my brow. I have good reason to remember the "St.Ninian", and I hope that you enjoy the picture (top).

Sunday, 8 November 2009


It's been a week of minor triumphs and aggravations. I've been working on the recycled painting of the "St. Ninian", although visible progress is difficult to discern, as it's been all about minor angle adjustments, which I must get right, or there's no point in continuing. I also started on the background of three new canvases, but I have little notion as to what is going to be depicted on them, apart from a vague idea of tall ships for two of them. People keep googling my website for tall ships, and I have little there to reward them for their search - I must make amends.

The Coast exhibition, at the Musa Art Cafe in Aberdeen, ended yesterday, without any results for me, beyond having my work showcased before the populace of the Granite City. The lack of sales is scarcely surprising, as I had hoicked my prices a fair bit to compensate for the hefty rate of charged commission. Apparently, the Musa's resident pianist (who is known by the delightful sobriquet of Chemical Callum!) recognised his grandfather's boat in one of my paintings - I haven't been able to ascertain which vessel yet.

A problem, regarding the administration of events from a remote location, was highlighted earlier last week. The removal of work after the exhibition caused me a bit of a headache, as the person who was going to transport and store the paintings for me is having to work elsewhere today, so a change of plan had to be sought. Here, Aberdeen City Corporation came to my rescue, as they have instigated a roadworks scheme outside the Musa Art Cafe, and no-one can get near the Exchange Street door with a car now anyway. A large new shopping centre has opened across the street from the gallery, and the old cobbled street has had to be sacrificed to provide more suitable amenity for the new mall. Anyway, the curator is going to store my artwork at her home until my brother picks it up some evening this week. Phew!

My sister Mary and I have been doing a little home decoration at her son's house in Sandwick. We spent part of Thursday evening and yesterday afternoon down there, doing a little "titivation" to the paintwork on the doors and facings, and various other small tasks. I'm afraid that DIY is not one of my strong points - even my wallpaper is covered in my own blood! However, I suppose I can hold my own with a paintbrush. It was a change of scenery too, and, while there, I watched the last noisy and colourful blast of the local Social Club's Guy Fawkes firework display from one of the windows. The Lerwick display, at Clickimin last night, seemed as spectacular as ever, from what I could see of it from my kitchen window. I must get out more!

Mary is off on the blue canoe tonight. Her Volvo estate car (referred to in previous posts) has an appointment with an Aberdeen garage, for a service, tomorrow, and she is going to work a few day's holiday around this and a meeting in Perth on Thursday. When she returns next Monday morning, I hope she will have my contribution to the Musa Art Cafe's Coast Exhibition with her.

We artists tend to plough a lonely furrow. Each time I am reluctantly obliged to look in a mirror, I see the person who is responsible for the ideas, planning and execution which goes into my artworks, as well as the idiot administrator who has to keep a small business going. If I don't discipline myself to put the work into this, I fail. However, I could not do the job without the logistical support of my brother and sisters, who drive me hither and thither, and without whom exhibitions would be a much more expensive and difficult process.

Here a mention must be made of my nephew Kenneth, without whom the Catterline exhibition, early last year, would have been impossible. He devised and executed the hanging system, and drove all over the east coast of Scotland, distributing my posters in every shop window, from Stonehaven to Arbroath, which would accept them. We had a lot of fun along the way, of course, but his support was crucial to the success of this event, which turned out to be my most lucrative display to date. I look forward to my next slot there, and I hope that Kenneth will be able to lend his unique brand of input to the venture, when it happens.

And of my mother who, at 93, is still a guiding light to the rocky barque which has been my life, through tempestuous seas largely of my own making, I must make a special mention. If I have known inspiration, it emanated from her strength, wisdom, love, encouragement and penetrative good humour, and I hope it will still be a beacon before me for many years to come.

Monday, 2 November 2009


As I promised yesterday, the latest painting is shown above (top). I'm very pleased with it, as I really knew I would be as soon as I saw this scene that evening in late June. Normally I don't try to make my work evocative of a single moment in time. Usually it's better just to have it stored in the memory, but I made an exception this time.

Today the clearance in the thick cloud, which has been enveloping us, made its long-awaited appearance, so I was able to capture the painting on my little digital camera (Pentax Optio 50, for anyone who's interested!). I hope you enjoy looking at it (the painting, that is!), and any comments, as always, would be very welcome!

Sunday, 1 November 2009


I admit it - I'm a pedantic old curmudgeon, and I quite enjoy it at times. So, when radio or TV presenters give me an opportunity to growl and show my false teeth at them, I seize it eagerly. Weather forecasters are frequently and unwittingly at the wrong end of my grumpiness. They seem to have forgotten that temperature is a scale on which numbers are used to indicate the degree of heat and coldness in the atmosphere at a particular location. So temperature is either high, low, above or below (or well above or well below) or at the seasonal average - right? Not according to the current generation of weather-people.

They announce that the temperature will be mild, cold, warm, hot, perishing or any other adjective not associated with with the numbered scale, and I feel my pedantic hackles begin to rise. Why can't they just get things right? Or doesn't the licence-payer understand temperature any more? Sadly, scales are probably an alien concept among the great unwashed and soundbite-educated of the vac-packed and pot-noodled consumer generation.

There was a saying which went: "Red sky at night is the shepherd's delight; red sky in the morning is the SAILOR'S warning." This is constantly being misquoted over the airwaves these days. I heard this represented, for the second time this week, on Radio Scotland's Out of Doors programme, yesterday morning, as "shepherd's warning". Why on earth would the gales and rain portended by a red glow in the eastern sky around sunrise constitute a warning to a shepherd, whose flocks are little concerned by such conditions? The sheep merely seek the comparative shelter of walls and embankments during the worst of rainy windy weather.

I recall, while at primary school, being gently and firmly corrected by the teacher when I uttered this snippet of folklore incorrectly. I would like to see a buxom leather-clad schoolma'am take a keen tawse to some of the hapless media presenters, whose grammatical gaffes and cliche-peppered output are the main focus of my curmudgeonliness. Let's face it, this is one of the few pleasures left to people of my generation - and the light at the end of the tunnel is always on the level playing-field at the tip of the iceberg, isn't it?


As I intimated in last week's post, I finished the painting of Boyndie Bay (on the south side of the Moray Firth) on Wednesday. Unfortunately the weather conditions have precluded getting it photographed to put in the gallery above, as I like to do with newly-completed works - and I'm particularly pleased with this one. It's been dull and fairly windy (the weather, that is!), the only brief bright spell happening on Friday, when I was out at my mother's. I'll put the picture up as soon as the situation allows.

I entered two online painting competitions this week. I put the Fordyce landscape into one, and the canvas of Johnshaven harbour into the other. The competitons are being run by and the Artist's Magazine, but I'm blessed if I can remember which work I put into what contest. I haven't a hope of winning anything, but most of the hundreds of other entrants will be in the same position.

I'm still working on my recycled painting of the MV "St. Ninian" which ran between Lerwick and Leith from around 1950 to the early 1970s, when it was sold to Canadian owners. I don't know what happened to her after that - someone might enlighten me through this blog - who knows? I have yet to decide where to go genre-wise when I complete this work. I have a box of new canvases, still in their cellophane wrappers, awaiting my attentions. I expect I'll think of something - any ideas?