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, 28 February 2010


While Shetland children, their schools having been closed for most of the week, have been enjoying the prolonged sledging bonanza, most of their parents are weary of the apparently endless arctic winter, which refuses to release the islands from its icy grip and is thwarting practically every activity which involves leaving the comfort of their own firesides. The heaviest snow of the winter (so far) fell on Monday evening, putting an end to most people's aspirations of any kind of social interaction whatsoever, and, while people are finding life difficult, I can only speculate about, and be afraid of, the effect the conditions are having on the birds and animals.

Snow joke! The gallant snow-clearing crews of our local council have been doing their best to keep avenues of communication open, but even their best efforts were inadequate at times. Their vehicles are now displaying symptoms of the effects of prolonged hard use, and the clearance itself has its own unfortunate side-effects, such as ridges of cleared snow piled along the Lerwick kerbsides. These present difficulties for pedestrians trying to cross roads, and, for anyone with even slight mobility problems, negotiating one's way around town on foot takes on the nature of a mountaineering expedition.

"Oh, stop moaning, Tait!" I hear you say, in tones of chastisement, "Get your brushes out, and paint some snow scenes!". It might not be a bad idea at that, but my enthusiasm for artwork has been further curtailed by a stinking cold, which appeared in my tubes (there's a pun in there somewhere!) on Tuesday and has been with me since then. For most of the week, I have been dripping over everything, including my canvases - it adds nothing to the quality of the work applied thereon, nor, I suspect, to the value of any affected paintings.

Picture, if you will, the scene, at a time far into the future. A gallery assistant is accompanying a group of visitors around a Jim Tait retrospective exhibition, and he is explaining to the assembled company that "this painting of Lerwick harbour was part-painted, part sneeze-sprayed by the artist in late February 2010. The effect is similar to looking through a car's windscreen during a sleet-storm, and this is reputed to be the artist's only attempt at pointillism. He called the work 'Lerwick after Signac'. Moving on......"

No doubt my ailment and the snow will eventually disappear, as is the nature of things, but it cannot go fast enough for me and the rest of the residents of these ice-plagued islands. We are all yearning for a time when we can go about our business and recreation normally again. I observe, from the Met Office's excellent website, that they are predicting the temperature to rise to a balmy five degrees celsius in Lerwick tomorrow. In such sub-tropical conditions, the snow cannot fail to start melting, and, for thousands of snow-weary islanders, the thaw is long overdue.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


While my body continues to display symptoms of premature decomposition, artwork progress has been maintained at a reasonable rate this week. On Monday morning, after ordering a fresh supply of Scholl's corn cushions from an online pharmacy (not a spammer!) and digesting some paracetamol to dull the pain of a headache which had been plaguing me since the previous evening, I hied me hither to the post office to send a painting to Surrey and a print to Argyll. Both recipients have since been in touch with glowing reports of their new acquisitions. This is what makes the job of self-employed artist such a rewarding one - it's certainly not the money!

Work on the two commissioned paintings has continued apace, but it has been to the exclusion of other artwork, which has to wait its turn. There are, as yet, no exhibition dates for this year.

My evenings have been spent compiling the product database for my soon-to-be-updated website ( My web designer, Igor Mournly, should be home from his Swedish holiday sometime this incoming week, and I would like to have all my groundwork done for his return. The sooner we get the new system up and running, the happier I will be. Dare I hope for richer?

May you have riches untold this week!


I watched the final episode, as I did the previous two, of Simon King's Shetland, on BBC2 on Thursday evening. As did, I suspect, most of the population of my native islands, I couldn't help being affected by his obvious love for this archipelago and its wildlife. It has to be said that the summer he picked for this enterprise was one of the best in living memory, although I suspect that, had it rained for most of the time (as it did only 200 miles south in Aberdeen), his enthusiasm would have been none the less. After all, he did see the other less beneficent side of the place during a winter visit too.

The series had some breathtaking scenes, such as abseiling down the cliffs of Noss to place mini-cameras at a gannet's nest, and the winter crossing of a burn in spate at the beach "up nort". It also had its comical interludes, such as the visit to Lastditchology, and little Savannah chasing a "shalder". All of these elements, and the spectacular otter, killer whale and gannet photography, combine to make this a memorable series.

Now I wonder how Shetland is going to cope with the multitude of visitors who will descend, like a plague of clod-hopping locusts, on the islands next summer. No doubt they will experience the other, more familiar, kind of "simmer dim" - the one which is permanently shrouded in permadrizzle! I always feel sorry for these damp cagoule-clad pilgrims wandering the hills and roads in a fog of misery, their eyes glazed in an expression which says, "Why didn't we go to Benidorm?"

Seriously though, Simon and his family have produced a masterpiece here. The superb camera work (which was not without its problems), coupled with the presenter's knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, his subject, have resulted in one of the best ever showcases for Shetland. Whether this was his intention or not, he has produced, for the wildlife of these islands, what Aly Bain's Shetland Sessions did for its music. That is no mean achievement, and he is to be congratulated on it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Yesterday morning, my sister Thelma and I set off to visit our mother in the Wastview Care Centre at Walls, where she is enjoying a fortnight's respite care. Seldom have I seen these islands looking as spectacularly beautiful, and never have I more regretted not having a camera with me.

The west side of Shetland was bathed in weak sunshine and there was no wind to ruffle the surface of the lochs and voes, which were partly iced over. Several species of duck could be seen in the water at the head of Weisdale Voe and, near the Walls marina, a group of seals were putting on a display of aquabatics to entertain the residents of the care centre. The hills, which were still mottled with the remnants of the late January snow, were perfectly mirrored in the glassy water below them. Every prospect pleased.

Today, the weather has broken, with a strong southerly wind blowing rain across the islands. The met office is forecasting rain, gales, sleet and snow for the remainder of the incoming week, so I will cherish the visual memory of yesterday during the dark days ahead. Brrr! I hope your prospects are better!


One of my regular clients bought the painting of Boyndie Bay (above) this week. I spent some time last night and this morning wrapping the picture, ready for its journey to Surrey, which begins tomorrow morning. At the same time, I'll also be dispatching a print to the Argyll region. These things all help to pay the bills, and keep my self-employment as an artist ticking over. This is also helped by my occasional commissions, and I have been working on two of these this week. On Friday, word came by email of another possible commission, this time of a multiple portrait, which is rather an exciting project. This, however, is in the early stages of negotiation, and may yet come to nought - I'll keep you posted on developments.

I finished work on the new Links page of the website,, this week, and this is going to be followed by many more new features, taking many hours of work to realise. My next task is to finish compiling the product database for the new e-commerce system, which should be up and running within the next month or so. On the subject of admin work, I have yet to start on my accounts for 2009/10, a job which I will have to make time for very soon. So much work, so little time....


A couple of days ago, I received a letter from a well-known mail order company, explaining to me the reasons why I really needed the black underwired bra, as illustrated by the photograph on the right-hand side of the page. I dutifully studied the picture of the smiling young woman, who, I felt, little required the underpinning, and came to the conclusion that no more did I. I am aware that my man-boobs have increased in size over the years, but gravity has not yet impacted on them to any great extent.

Among the many unnecessary and unsolicited items delivered to me by already overburdened postmen each week, perhaps the the ones which are consigned, with the greatest force, unopened, to the bin, are the offers of pills, potions and other quasi-pharmaceutical products and treatments. They claim to cure back pain, joint inflammation, haemorrhoids, penile deficiencies and hair loss, as well as a plethora of women's complaints. Those which appear in my email inbox are equally personal and irritating, and are just as summarily dealt with. Items from insurance companies get similarly harsh treatment (but I'll save these for a special posting later!).

My business adviser, web designer and friend Igor Mournly informs me that the spammers only need one response in a thousand sent emails to make their enterprise worthwhile. I am amazed that even this proportion can be stupid enough to respond to such material. Actually, many of the purported purveyors of medical aids to sexual deficiency seem to have given me up as a lost cause - I haven't heard from them for some time. Either that, or my Kaspersky internet security package is preventing them from getting as far as my inbox. What I tend to get more of nowadays is offers of relationships with Russian women. I haven't the heart to tell them that, for me, the sun is a bit far west for such activity, and I had difficulty enough understanding women of my own nationality, without introducing a language problem into the equation. So, with a sigh, I consign these beautiful girls, reluctantly, to my Deleted Items folder - sorry, Ludmila, Olga and Tatiana!

I think many of these spam messages are franchised in some way. I tend to get identical emails from several different sources simultaneously. Over the course of a few days, about a year ago, I was bombarded with similar messages, claiming to be from different people, offering me teeth-whitening. Sadly this fell on stony ground too, as my teeth ceased to be an issue more than thirty years ago. Tell you what, though - I've got really hard gums!

Maybe I should take the mail order company up on the bra offer - I wonder what size I am......

Sunday, 7 February 2010


On Tuesday morning, with a spring in my heart and a song in my step (or should that be the other way round?), I was descending the stairwell steps, when I went over on my ankle, and sat down rather precipitously on the stairs, realising that I had injured myself. I got up and carried on, rather gingerly, to the shops, as had been my original intention, but, by the time I got home again, it was clear that I was in for a painful few days. I surveyed the damage, which did not seem extensive, and carried on with the artwork I had planned for that day.

I now have two commissioned paintings on the "stocks", both with March deadlines, so I will have to work with a certain degree of urgency to get these finished on schedule. The most recent is a view of "da sooth end" of Lerwick, and it is to incorporate the "Lodberries" (stone buildings with their foundations in the sea!), the "Swan" at her old berth, and the replica Viking longship "Dim Riv" at her mooring. I had earlier applied the "stage 1" paint to the canvas, so I drew out the buildings, using my own "stock" photographs, and another printed from the Shetland Museum website, as guidance. This took most of the day, and I retired earlier than usual to bed that evening, in hopes that this might help my now painful and swollen ankle. It didn't really. I couldn't find a position which could ease the pain at first, although it began to subside in the "wee smaa ooers", and I think I actually slept for a couple of hours before morning.

On Wednesday, the pain was definitely easing. I made minor corrections to the drawing of "da sooth end" and began to apply the stage 2 paint to the work. Here I should explain that there are clearly defined stages to my paintings - procedures which I have come to adopt over the years. Stage 1 is simply the application of a rough layer of paint over the surface, which I effect by squeezing mixing white paint from the tube onto the board or canvas, and brushing it in roughly, with a little colour (blue-grey, for instance). In the case of hardboard, I whack it all over with a "fist" of cloth afterwards, to create a kind of texture, and leave the thing to dry for a few days. This is the most energetic stage of the process!

Stage 2 happens when I have drawn out the background to the work (all my drawing is freehand) in the case of a landscape, or a seascape with shore features behind it. I put in the cloud and light details in the sky, and do a base coat on the rest of the picture. At the end of stage 2, the sky should be, to all intents and purposes, finished, although I might go back later and alter bits I'm dissatisfied with.

Stage 3 is resolving details of land, buildings, trees etc. in the background, and beginning to suggest foreground details on top of this. Stage 4 sees the completion of the main features of the painting. The last two stages can involve a great deal of detail complexity, so they take a lot longer than the first two, but all are equally important to the final work.

On Wednesday afternoon, I attended a long-standing appointment at the Lerwick Doctor's practice, for the purpose of arranging NHS chiropody to the corn on my right little toe, which has proved bothersome over recent months. Treatment on the NHS has to be referred by a GP, and this was the purpose of my appointment. I mentioned my ankle, in the passing, to the doc, but it was getting less and less painful, so I decided it didn't merit an examination, although it was still a little stiff and swollen.

On Thursday a thaw set in , with rain during the morning, and the hills turned from their early pure white to the colour of juvenile seagull plumage by afternoon. I completed the stage 2 on the Lerwick "sooth end" painting, and attended to other pressing tasks. Late in the afternoon, I took a taxi down to Commercial Street (my ankle was continuing to improve) to collect a prescription, top up my mobile phone credit, buy some more corn cushions and, when all was obtained, have a couple of pints of lager at the Lounge, where I was served by the redoubtable and amiable Derek Hendry. On the way home, I called at the Happy Haddock chip-shop, where I bought a chicken supper for my tea - very nice it was too. I then carried on with the work on my new website Links page, which hopefully will be on view to surfers soon. When I had finished this, I washed my hair - I am very grateful for my mop of mousy locks. Most men of my age either have no hair at all, or have had it turn a different hue over the years.

Friday is always mother's day for me. I engaged the services of Ertie Burgess to take me out to Whiteness in his taxi, collecting fish and mother's pension and shopping on the way. At Brugarth, I attended to my usual tasks there - making lunch, tea and coffee, washing up, checking out the greenhouse and helping with any other little tasks that needed done. Mother goes in for her "official" respite care period at Wastview Centre on Monday. By the time she comes out again, it will be late February, and , hopefully, most of this particularly vile winter will be behind us then. Back home, I put my plan to make a meat roll for weekend meals into action. This took me about two hours (it would probably take a "proper" cook about half an hour!) and I hope the taste will justify my time and labour on it!

Yesterday dawned beautifully mild, dull and damp, and I turned my attention to the other commisioned painting, of the marine wildlife cruise boat "Dunter III" off the cliffs of Noss. I completed the stage 2 work, firming up the sky, drawing out the boat itself, and applying a rough base coat of paint to it. The meat roll, which I'd left steaming for three hours, wasn't bad, but it lacked the piquancy of those my mother made us in years gone by. It needed a certain je ne sais quoi. My taste-buds did not go into a series of somersaults - they merely nodded their heads thoughtfully and appreciatively. Should I have used more smokey bacon? Put in a little sage maybe? Seasoning (my mother never put in seasoning)? I must do better in future!

I hope the incoming week leaves nothing to be desired for you!


On Monday morning, under leaden skies and with the beginning of a slow thaw in the air, I took a taxi out to the Whiteness shop, where I bought a few essential groceries and began the trudge up the Brugarth access road, which was best described, under prevailing conditions, as a mini-alp. The snow, only ankle deep at the base of the slope, was more than a foot deep at the steepest part of the climb, and I struggled to "bux" through it. The prospects of getting it sufficiently clear to allow a mini-bus, containing my mother in a wheelchair, to ascend, looked very remote indeed. Just after I arrived, my nephew and his wife got stuck less than halfway up in their landrover. They dug the vehicle out, and set off back to recruit a labour force from other family members (all schools in Shetland were closed that day, so pupils and teachers were available!). I began the task of snow clearance with a garden spade and, after an hour and a half, and about three yards of road cleared, my back and legs declared their non-compliance with any further such activity.

I limped back into the house, and was sitting there, with my mind in a very dark and pessimistic place, when my sister Thelma and brother-in-law Magnie arrived, closely followed by a son, daughter-in-law, son-in-law and three grandchildren. From this point, the snow never stood a chance, and, within an hour, the road was cleared, salted, and ready to admit the ascent of any vehicle which ventured on to it. It was a happier me who sat with the squad in mother's kitchen, enjoying tea and soft drinks afterwards. Mother arrived on schedule at 4.30pm, her arm much the better of treatment and rest at the Fernlea Care Centre in Whalsay. She had enjoyed her week at the centre, and the staff there had been apparently unanimous in their invitation to return again soon!

I returned home that evening in a much more contented frame of mind than that in which I had left that morning. The weather forecast was for more drifting snowfall that evening and the next day, and I was not in the least concerned about it. It could snow all it liked - mother was home, and safe.