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 March 2010


It's nice to be able to have new paintings to show you (above). One is a commissioned work of the tour boat "Dunter III" at one of her regular destinations, the cliffs of Noss, which is one of the largest seabird colonies in Britain. It was featured in the recent BBC production of "Simon King in Shetland". The other painting is a "stock" work which I've entitled "Tall Ships Seascape", which features, strange to relate, tall ships at sea! A second completed commission, of Lerwick's south end, slipped through the net as regards getting it photographed for representation here. My clients seemed well satisfied with my efforts - you'll have to take my word for it!

Two more commissions came my way this week, so I'll be starting on these shortly. In the meantime, I've been putting more work into another stock work featuring tall ships - I hope to have this as a feature on this blog within the next fortnight.

In view of the fact that I have no mainland exhibitions booked for this year, and, taking into account that I have concession travel vouchers to use from April onwards, I have decided to take a trip to the mainland at the end of next month. So I made the necessary bookings, including a night's stay at one of Aberdeen's Premier Inns. This is a totally unnecessary extravagance, and will be a new experience for me, as I've never stayed in one of these establishments before. Watch this space at the end of April for a Michelin Guide-style report on it! I was pleasantly surprised when I heard how much my ferry fares were costing - being over 60 definitely has its compensations!

My friend, business adviser and web designer, Igor Mournly, paid me one of his regular visits on Monday afternoon, and quickly dispelled any illusions which I may have harboured about life getting easier in the near future. The website upgrade is going to take an awful lot more work over the coming weeks and months. He was showing me how to go about creating a proper archive page to contain images of previously sold works and fulfilled commissions, and I was frantically taking notes on the procedures involved. These involve large images AND thumbnails, along with internal links between them, and I am not a little proud to say that I have since completed the "Commissions" archive, which is now "live", largely by accident - I just forgot to "hide" it. After further consultation, we decided to leave it as it was. It can be seen at

Your opinion, as always in such matters, would be valuable - let me know what you think. You can click on each image on the main page to get larger images. Now I have another archive to create, this time of other non-commissioned "sold" works - and it's bigger than than the "Commissions" one. I'm really looking forward to a time when all this - the product database, "basket" and "checkout" functions, and narrative sections, as well as the parts already described - is ready to "go public".

A north-easterly gale is sweeping the islands as I work towards getting this post done. Altogether, it has been a fairly satisfactory week from the point of view of productiveness. My family are keeping well, which is even more important to me, and I hope for more of the same in both categories during the seven days to come. I hope it's the same for you!

Sunday, 21 March 2010


This morning dawned bright and fair, with the prospect of a beautiful day ahead. I was gazing on the spectacle of a sun-drenched Breiwick Bay, when I was surprised to see a Northlink ferry appearing through the hazy sunshine, and still more surprised when, instead of carrying on into Lerwick harbour, she came to a stop in the bay itself and remained there for over an hour before moving towards the harbour entrance and out of my field of vision. The reason for my initial puzzlement was that the "Hjaltland" was only due at Aberdeen yesterday evening, and would scarcely have had time to make the return journey. On consulting my Ship AIS, I discovered that the ship I had been looking at was in fact the "Hrossey", fresh from her annual refit at Birkenhead.

Northlink ferries have been the subject of some heated discussion over the last couple of weeks. And, if any Shetlanders ever harboured any doubts over what life would be like in Shetland under the administration of an independent Scotland, the recent behaviour of the SNP-led Scottish Parliament, with regard to the lifeline ferry service to the islands, must surely have dispelled these. Our government has, without a word of consultation with anyone (including the ferry company itself, it seems), produced an edict to increase ferry journey times between Aberdeen and Shetland through operating the ships at half-power. This is under the pretence of saving money on fuel on the government-subsidised route.

This, in itself, will not make a great deal of difference to most travellers, who will grumblingly adjust to the new timetable. We'll probably leave an hour earlier and arrive half-an-hour later, or something like that. But this could well prove a bigger nuisance to people shipping containers of time-sensitive cargo such as salmon, which must reach its markets fresh.

But it's the lack of consultation which is getting seriously up islanders' noses. The fact that the Edinburgh government can just gratuitously impose its will on the islands, and mend what isn't broken without even a by-your-leave from the people affected by its tyrannical edicts, is making folk very angry in the archipelago. The SNP-led parliament is beginning to behave like insurgent nationalist dictatorships have through history, and is casting any pretence of fairness and statesmanship aside in favour of vindictive and spiteful tyranny against those who have not supported them in the past. Shetland and Orkney had better look to their laurels, and other bits, because the petty Edinburgh bureaucracy is going to target the Northern Isles with all sorts of little nuisance regulations and by-laws over the coming years.

Why the Northern Isles? Because there is no substantial SNP sympathy here. Unlike the Western Isles, which have regularly returned Scottish Nationlist MPs and MSPs to Parliament, there is, has never been and never will be any hope of doing likewise in Orkney and Shetland. There is also a certain jealousy in mainland constituencies about the perceived wealth in these islands arising from the displacement funds negotiated from the oil industry at the start of the Sullom Voe terminal project. This is, of course , an unfortunate misconception. As a Shetlander, I am no better off than anyone in a similar position "doon sooth" and, in many ways, worse off. Things are expensive up here - food, drink and fuel are all dearer, and rent and council tax is no cheaper than in many areas of mainland Scotland. On top of everything else, the cost of travelling to and from the islands in the first place is prohibitive, whether by sea or air. Ordinary islanders received not a penny rent or fuel rebate from the oil fund, which can only be spent on capital projects such as roads, leisure centres, care homes for the elderly, or sports and arts venues which will be utilised by a small minority of the population. But the fictional image of the oil-rich Shetlander persists in the mind of people from the central belt of Scotland. Meanwhile, it is a fact that the Western Isles, with their sizeable SNP support, get preferential treatment when it comes to any benefits which may emanate from the Scottish parliament, while the Northern Isles are first up for any punishment which the central-belt-dominated Tonton Macoute can dish out. Shetland is certainly no better off, in any way, governed from Edinburgh than it was from Westminster. I believe that the SNP, with their slogan "It's Scotland's Oil", should be regularly and clearly reminded exactly where most of the oil is located, and it's nowhere near Edinburgh!

There are tough times ahead for these little islands, and many difficult issues are going to have to be faced and resolved over the next few years. Let's hope we still have a ferry service at the end of the next decade - there are people in positons of power in Scotland who would grieve not a bit if we were cut off completely. A part of me hopes that this will happen - then we would be in complete charge of our own destiny. And what would become of us then?


On Monday morning I posted a couple of prints to a customer in Stirling. Then, being struck with my conscience over my lack of adherence to any kind of exercise programme, I walked home via Mounthooly Street, which any Lerwegian will tell you is a fairly steep climb up from the main shopping thoroughfare. I then finished, bar snagging, the second of the commissioned paintings which have been preoccupying me for the past six weeks or so, had lunch and set off with the first of these works to the framer. I then walked north along Commercial Street and Commercial Road, then up King Harald Street to Union Street. My legs, which have never regained their full capacity since a knee operation more than two years ago, before which I was unable to walk at all for eighteen months, told me that this was quite enough of this kind of exercise for one day, so I gave them a rest. In the evening I paid my subscription online to, one of the online galleries in which I have a small display, but I had some difficulty with the uploading procedure, so I abandoned the project in rather a bad humour - something for another day.

On Tuesday, I decided that the second commissioned work would benefit from the presence of a few seagulls, so I duly applied these, a risky venture, as many of my seagulls have ended up looking like distant Vulcan bombers, which rather spoils the ambience of the tranquil scene which I have been trying to portray. In this case, the birds (I hope) added to, rather than detracted from, the quality of the picture. In the afternoon, I finished a long-procrastinated-over task, the alteration of the bow and bow-wave of a fishing-boat in a previously-commissioned work which had been returned for after-sales service. In the evening I tried again to upload work on the Re-title gallery, but the system defeated me again. I abandoned it in a foul temper, and turned to another online presence of mine, Galleries-Online, and started to update this.

On Wednesday, I returned to my long-neglected stock works, and one of two paintings featuring tall ships in particular. I picked the one which shows most promise, one which portrays (or will) several distant sailing vessels against a background of bright sunbeams piercing a light cloud cover and a fairly rough sea. It will be, I hope, an atmospheric work but, at the end of the day, I still hadn't resolved the light issues in it. This will come - I'm not concerned about it at the moment. In the evening, I worked on the "archive" pages of the new-look website, which I'm looking forward to having "live" for your delectation soon.

On Thursday I resolved the light problem which had been affecting my tall ships work the day before. I should have this painting finished this incoming week, in which case I'll upload it to my blog and website - it'll be the first new non-commissioned work for some months. I made a pot of soup for myself and my sister Mary, who has just returned unbloodied from a skiing holiday in the French Alps. Afterwards she gave me a lift downtown with the second of the commissioned works, which I took to the framers, getting back the one I put there on Monday. It now has attractive brown and gold moulding around it, with which I am well satsified. The evening was spent on necessary domestic tasks and phoning people.

Friday is always mother's day for me, so I spent most of it at Whiteness. The weather was inclement - a severe gale, gusting up to 70mph, was driving heavy rain over the islands, but it didn't have much bearing on what I was doing. This consisted of collecting shopping and pension, checking out the greenhouse, making coffee and tea, cooking lunch, washing up afterwards, and helping mother in any way I could with sundry little tasks around the house. She's well, but having trouble with her hearing aids, both of which have packed in - again. When my older sister and my niece came to visit, around lunchtime, we all made the most of the communication problems in our usual whimsical manner! I returned home just before tea-time, and did little else for the rest of the evening - I usually feel fairly knackered on Friday evenings!

On Saturday, I received the dates for my next Creel Inn (Catterline) exhibition - November/December 2011!. This means that, as things stand, I have no shows confirmed for this year or most of the next. However, I will use this as an opportunity to build my stock of local scenes for the next few months, then concentrate on getting some really good paintings done for the mainland event, so that I can cherry-pick the best works for display in the Mearns venue.
Meantime, I did some more work on the tall ships painting until the late afternoon, when I had to pick up a prescription from the chemist's before they closed for the rest of the weekend. I then headed for the Lounge for my first alcoholic beverage consumption of the week. This consisted of two pints of lager, followed by a visit to the Chinese takeaway on my way home. What a dirty little stopout I'm turning out to be!
I watched Scotland narrowly beating Ireland at the six nations rugby. After that, I watched a few other things on the box, and did not a lot else.

Today, I'm doing lots of domestic things like changing beds, washing clothes, drying clothes and cooking, as well as getting my blog, hopefully, sufficiently well posted to make it worthy of your reading it. My customer for the first commissioned work called just after lunchtime, collected his painting, with which he seems well pleased, and gave me some money - altogether a very satisfactory way for things to be done.

And that, dear friends, is the story of my week at's awa'. I hope that the incoming seven days is full of good and interesting things for you.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


This week I finished one of the two commissioned paintings which have been taking up most of my easel-time for the last month or so. I hope to complete the other one tomorrow. I'm sorry that I can't put them on display yet, as their prospective owners will have to get first peek!

There are no further commissions in the immediate offing, so I plan to get back to my stock/exhibition works this week. I received new ready-to-use canvases from Jackson's yesterday, with this in mind - I hope to transform them into attractive works of art soon. My supply of off-the-wall paintings is getting rather low, as sales have been surprisingly good in the last few months, considering the financial climate. There are no exhibition dates to tell you about yet - I tried to get in touch with someone about this yesterday, but he was off to Edinburgh for the Scotland-England rugby match. I hope he wasn't disappointed with what he witnessed - maybe I'm biased, but I thought Scotland should have won that game.

I have completed the product database for the website e-commerce upgrade, which should be evident on soon. My web designer is now going to help me with the presentation of this. Meanwhile, I have a couple of archive pages to construct, one of past commissioned works and one of other "sold" paintings. These pages might be subdivided, and what format they take will soon become clear, I hope, as I start producing it. The Octeportal system, which supports my website, has its idiosyncracies which can ensnare inexperienced users like me. I've made some dreadful mistakes in the past - fortunately I can contact my web host or designer to dig me out of it whenever that happens. It's a steep learning curve for a 61-year-old online newbie!

Spring is in the air - the crocuses are out here, having emerged heroically from under the retreating snow, and the daffodils will soon follow. The snow has nearly all gone - just a few patches left in the deeper hill-hollows. I celebrated my vernal mood by getting a much-needed haircut on Wednesday, and it's nice to be able to get out for walks again.

I hope there's a spring in your step this week!


Yesterday evening, I decided to round off my day's labours with the domestic task of ironing a few shirts. While I was setting up the ironing board, one of its "feet" caught the handle of the frypan, which had been on top of the adjacent cooker. It (the frypan) did a couple of somersaults with one-and-a-half twists, spewing its contents of adulterated vegetable oil over the floor, before landing, upside down, on the lino.

I said nothing - had I made an utterance, it would have been short and to the discredit of my Christian upbringing. I stood, surveying the scene of devastation, for a few moments. This was now the worst evening chez moi since the day my ISP went bust and I spilled the beetroot-jar vinegar over my art worktop, thankfully now more than a year ago. And I had yet to replace my old minit mop which I had recently consigned to the dump. I found an old shirt which had been designated a new career as paint-rags, boiled some water, found some detergent, and carefully mopped up the mess therewith.

The floor is now cleaner than it was before (good cometh oft out of evil!), and I still got my shirts ironed. Sometimes there's a quality of grim determination which emerges from the primordial soup of my inner being.

Or something.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


In 1979, when I was a comparatively young man, I joined the ranks of the thousands-strong workforce who were transforming the largest muddy hole in Europe into its largest crude oil landfall. It was an amazing experience, and I considered, at one time, writing a book about the job and the people who were doing it. I was discouraged from this idea by the cynics who told me that no-one would believe it as a factual account. My official title was offsites administrator for the scaffolding firm who employed me, and my main duties were being in charge of timekeeping for our 180 operatives, and trying to create and run a system for materials control. There were, of course, many amusing incidents and wind-ups involved in the daily life of the massive building site and, for most of my four years there, I relished the thought of getting up at 6.30 each morning to catch the bus at 7am for the hour-long journey to Sullom Voe.

Most of the skilled workforce of scaffolders were travelling men, who hailed mainly from the industrial centres of northern England, although there were also a fair number of Londoners and Glaswegians on the payroll. They did their four weeks on the job, took their week's official leave, then began the 35-day cycle over again, and so until the end of the project which, in the case of our Offsites contract, was in 1983. I was employed as a local, so there was no week's paid leave every month - for compensation, we locals were given radius allowance for our daily travel, which was a welcome addition to our pay.

At the project's end, most of the itinerant workforce carried on to work on projects elsewhere in Britain, offshore or abroad, although a few stayed on, having developed local attachments of one kind and another. Meanwhile, I started having difficulty finding work in my chosen clerical/administrative field, so here began the process which ultimately led to my self-employment as an artist. Jobs, which had been easy to find prior to the Sullom Voe construction phase, were now at a premium. I was now in my late thirties and, for the first time in my life, unemployed. No-one seemed to have need of my skills and experience any more. Of course, I was doing all the wrong things then - wallowing in uncooperative self-pity, and not re-training in the new information technology, which was revolutionising office work at that time. It was years later before I finally realised that this was the only way to go.

However, I have digressed from the intended subject for this post, which is the sudden reappearance in Shetland of one of the travelling men from my section of the Sullom Voe workforce of those days long ago. Bobby O'Donnell arrived on the contract, along with two other Jarrow lads, Jimmy Gallagher and Peter Atkinson, shortly after I did, and these cheerful Tynesiders and I subsequently quaffed many a pint of lager together, in the bars of Lerwick, in the heady days of the early 1980s.

So it was a surprise to hear his voice on the telephone, last Friday afternoon, more than a quarter of a century after I'd last heard it. What he had to request of me, though, was not exactly music to my ears. He was arriving in Shetland on Monday morning to work, and could I find somewhere for his two colleagues and himself to stay for a few months?? In other words, he expected me to perform a miracle - do people think so much of me that they believe I do these on demand? Well, to coin a phrase - I know a man who does!

Various possibilities, all remote, presented themselves to me in my pursuit of a solution to my problem. The accommodation websites provided nothing useful, and the appropriate column in the Shetland Times seemed to be the best recourse for me. There were a couple of two-bedroomed flats advertised to let in Lerwick, and a three-bedroomed cottage not too far from there. The two-roomed flat I tried was not available until a fortnight's time, but the cottage had immediate entry. I contacted the advertiser, who suggested I come to see the house, and agreed to pick me up on Sunday morning at 11am for this purpose.

I spent an anxious Saturday, having little enthusiasm for my morning's artwork, or the window-cleaning which my sister Mary had engaged me to help with at Sandwick in the afternoon. I had a couple of pints of lager in the Lounge at tea-time (never seen it so quiet at that time before!), and retired early to bed that night.

As arranged, the advertiser picked me up on Sunday morning, we viewed the property (which was beautiful!), I had a cup of tea with him, his wife and his family, we discussed things about the prospective lessees and the lease, touching on my artwork too, and I was run back to town again. They had other people to see about the property, apparently. About an hour later, he phoned me - my friend and his colleagues had the lease, and could move in the next day.

So, at lunchtime next day, Bobby and I found ourselves on the way to the cottage again, as I had to show him its location. It's nice to have a blast from the past now and then, and I'm glad I was able to prevent them from arriving in Shetland as homeless persons. However, I can still scarcely believe my own luck in finding that place. Sadly, Bobby wasn't so lucky that day - he broke his finger when a sudden gust of wind blew the van door shut on it!