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, 18 April 2010


I hope you like the painting of the Danish full-rigged ships "Georg Stage" and "Danmark", which I've partly uploaded to the decorative area of this blog (above). I say partly, as Blogger doesn't like my "tall" paintings, so what you see here is the middle section of the artwork - there's more sky and sea in the real thing, which you can see in the Ships section of the Gallery pages on .

Speaking of which, meticulous and apparently never-ending work is still being done on the new version of the Tait Gallery website, in preparation for its launch in the indefinable and ultra-useful period of time which is known as "shortly". After all this, I hope it doesn't disppoint.

I'm working on another commission, for which my bespoke canvas, from Jackson's Art Supplies, arrived earlier this week. It's a very long one, as the actress said to the bishop, and will feature all the buildings in Lerwick's south end, from the "Dyook's Neb" to Church Road and beyond. Lerwick residents will be aware of the large number of buildings which this area encompasses, and how I'm going to complete this in the two months before the deadline is something I'm trying not to think about, as it will only scare the pants off me if I do.

Before starting on that odyssey, I began two "stock" works during that last two weeks. One of these depicts a row of Shetland model boats drawn up on the shore near Burravoe pier on the island of Yell. This one is nearly halfway towards completion now. The other is of Hay's Dock here in Lerwick, and this work is at a very early stage - only just drawn out, really, with no paint applied yet beyond the base coat. These paintings will now only occasionally be worked on, as all my efforts are concentrated on the Lerwick South End picture.

I'm off on the big blue Northlink canoe to Aberdeen next Friday evening. This time next week, I'll have checked out of the Premier Inn, after my first ever experience of such an establishment (provided that all is well, and the boats have been running to schedule). I also hope for a decent day next Saturday, so that my brother and I can enjoy a day's travelling round the Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire and Angus countryside, getting lots of photographs of some of the wonderful places in this part of the country. Last time we attempted this, a gale of wind was blowing sleet across the Mearns, and none of the few images which I had tried to capture came out at all. Again, if all goes to plan, I'll be back here on the morning of 26th April, hopefully with a smart-card full of beautiful pictures which will get my creative juices flowing over the next year or so.

My mother enjoyed her week's stay in the Fernlea Care Centre at Whalsay, and arrived back, much refreshed, at Brugarth, Whiteness, on Monday afternoon, to be met by my sister Thelma and myself. Thelma is "camping out" at Brugarth just now, while her own home is undergoing extensive refurbishments - a new kitchen, including the floor, all of which, I am happy to relate, is being paid for by an insurance company. This makes me glad that I am still a council tenant, and the bill for all repairs to my top-floor flat is never presented to me at all.

And so, as a mixture of wet snow and Icelandic volcanic ash precipitates itself on my beloved islands, I must bring this post to a close. I hope that your travel arrangements for the incoming week are not affected by this potent mix, and wish you all the very best.


Some months ago, I started to do a little history project, through this blog, on the subject of the old wooden 20ft Shetland model boat, which my father bought in a sieve-like condition, and restored to full seaworthiness by means of a mixture of fibreglass, glue and bits of board. We spent many happy summers thereafter, fishing in her with lines and exploring parts of the Shetland coast which, being inaccessible from land, had probably never seen the foot of man for many a day. Some day I plan to finish the story of this wonderful little boat, which my mother had christened "Hesperus" after the wreck in Longfellow's poem.

I was reminded of her this week, when someone made a posting on the Fishing Boats forum in about an old Fraserburgh drifter called the Hazael III, registration no. FR107. This was the number painted on the large plastic drift-net buoy which we found, on one of our "Hesperus" expeditions, jammed among the boulders on the beach in a rocky cove on the south end of Shetland mainland. The buoy, in good condition despite what it had encountered on its way to the cove, was a valuable find for a lad in his early teens, and it was duly taken to the Lerwick fishing agents LHD, who gave me the princely sum of 7s6d (37.5p!) for it. In the early 1960s this was real money!

I couldn't resist replying to the Shipsnostalgia post, telling them this little story.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


I've always known that I should get out more, especially when it comes to getting around my native Shetland islands. What it requires is a reason combining with an opportunity, and both presented themselves yesterday, in the form of my mother enjoying a week's respite care in the Fernlea centre, and my sister Mary being available with her Volvo to provide the transport. My last visit to Whalsay took place in the dark, and under rather stressful circumstances, but yesterday even the weather was in co-operative mode. The ingredients were all there for a grand afternoon out, and so it transpired.

I had booked us on the two o'clock ferry from Laxo, which got us into Symbister around 2.30pm. The first thing that grabs the attention of a marine artist is the harbour, which was dominated, but by no means overwhelmed by the presence of the large pelagic trawlers "Antares", "Charisma" and "Zephyr". The whitefish boats "Athena" and Prevail" were also there, along with the cargo vessel "Havgull" and a good number of salmon-cage tenders, workboats and pleasure craft around the marina area. The harbour gave the impression of only being able to contain what was using it, and space seemed to be at a premium. It all gave the impression that Whalsay is doing very nicely, thank you very much.

This was also reflected in the buildings in Symbister, and the Harlsdale, Sandwick and Clate areas to the south of there. None of it really tempted me to reach for my camera, but it all reflected how well Whalsay has done from the fishing industry (with help from the oil industry, of course, as in the rest of Shetland) in the forty years since I was last here with the Bank of Scotland mobile unit. We called along the shop near the harbour, and seldom have I encountered such a range and quantity of products, ranging from food, household goods and clothing through to tools and ironmongery.

We took the road over the hill past Livister and Huxter to Isbister, and there I began to find myself reaching for my camera, as the true beauty of this prosperous island was beginning to present itself to us. I've seldom seen so many skylarks at close quarters as at Whalsay yesterday, and the wheatears were also very much in evidence in the lonely out-of-the-way places in the centre and east of the island. I didn't realise until yesterday that it's quite possible to walk for miles on this island without seeing a human habitation at all.

I liked Isbister, which has a slightly eccentric feel about it, and the old is not completely overwhelmed by the new, as it is to a large extent in the south-west of the island. Drystone dykes, which look as if they've stood for centuries, are quite conspicuous here. We took the alternative route over the hill towards Creedie-knowe. At the top, three children, who had got off their bikes to let us pass, gazed reproachfully at us for spoiling their afternoon out. We visited the second-hand store Shoard, more to satisfy my pressing requirement for a comfort break than to view what they had to offer in terms of merchandise, which was nevertheless impressive. I bought three books in there, but I could also have, if I had been so inclined, come out with a TV. a bed, a sewing machine and a large selection of household ornaments, crockery, cutlery and clothing, to mention but a few items from the range on offer.

From Shoard, we turned north-east again, driving past Challister and Veevoe (I've spelt this phonetically, not as it appears on the signage and the OS maps) on our way to Skaw, where we ran out of road at the golf clubhouse, which appears to be the most northerly inhabited building on the island. From there, we had no option but to turn south-east again, visiting the two hamlets I've already mentioned on our way back. Here, I began to use my camera in earnest, as the kind of skylines which appeal to me were presenting themselves.

Passing Creedie Knowe again, we turned right in the Brough road, and finished up on the shore, across a kind of causeway to the church and cemetery which obviously give the Kirk Ness its name. Here, disaster struck, as my camera had finally run out of battery-power and, despite good intentions in the run-up to our departure on this trip, I had forgotten to take new ones with me. I must return to this place soon.

We made our way back towards Symbister, calling at the Fernlea Care Centre to visit our mother. We were just in time to watch the Grand National on the splendid big-screen TV, which, we were told, had been a gift from the Boating Club. A P McCoy seemed very pleased to have won the big steeplechase on his 15th attempt. We found our mother looking very well and happy, and we enjoyed some of the hospitality on offer in the establishment when the staff came round with tea and home bakes, which were excellent.

Soon it was time to head for the ferry, and I was reminded why it is a bad idea for me to get comfortable in an armchair - I always have the Dickens of a job getting to my feet again! We 'd had a wonderful time in the friendly atmosphere of Da Boanie Isle, and I have unfinished business which it will be a pleasure to return to take care of soon. Oh, and the photographs I took came out beautifully.

I'll be back!

Sunday, 4 April 2010


Satisfactory and steady progress makes for a boring narrative, but it's all I have to report from the last seven days. Just think how few people would watch the likes of Eastenders (I never have, by the way!) if the characters in this soap opera got on with each other, and it wasn't a strange fractious fairyland in which everyone is either at or up everyone else!

Alas, all I have to report is maintained progress on the artwork front. I have started two new "stock" works, without many preconceived ideas about their subject-matter, apart from their probably being landscapes. I should have the second of the tall ships paintings finished this incoming week. I have ordered a bespoke canvas from Jackson's for my latest commissioned painting, the dimensions of which are to be 16 x 36 inches, rather an odd shape, but it's what my customer (who is always ultimately right!) specified. I couldn't find an off-the-peg canvas of the desired shape in any of my catalogues, so I was forced down the bespoke route. I hope my client is still keen when she is presented with the canvas bill!

The website upgrade is also progressing, but too slowly for my liking. There is an awful lot of work to do, in order to make this the quality site which my web designer and I would like it to be. I'm not confident enough to predict a launch month, let alone a date - hopefully during 2010 sometime!

In the meantime, the old set-up is still there at

Some of my family were caught up in the foul weather which has plagued much of mainland Britain this week, but all have reached their destinations in one piece. My niece Elanor has been doing a Scottish tour with Camerata, a group selected from the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, and they were performing at Queen's Cross church in Aberdeen on Tuesday. My brother, who is a member of that congregation, reported a brilliantly performed concert attended by a disappointingly small audience - perhaps they could have done with a more effective publicity agent! The group were due to perform at Edinburgh the following night, to whence Elanor's mother and father (my sister Angela and brother-in-law Nigel) were travelling, one from Saudi Arabia and the other from North Wales. My mother was relieved to hear, on Friday evening, that they had all got home to Gwynedd safely afterwards.

Talking of my mother, she is off to the Bonnie Isle tomorrow, for a week's respite care in the Fernlea Centre in Whalsay. The weather forecast is none too promising for the half-hour ferry crossing to the island, but I hope she'll be OK. She took a liking to the centre on her last, more hastily-organised "holiday" there in late January, and she is looking forward to the experience.

I am hoping for an equally and boringly progressive seven days ahead, at the end of which I hope to have another new painting to show you. I wish you good things for your week too.


Every now and then I get an idea which is so brilliantly devastating in its clarity and simplicity that I fel the best thing to do is to forget all about it and take to my bed for a fortnight, in order to spare the human race the consequences of it. However, this particular wheeze would not be denied, and it was a solution to a problem I had encountered in the course of my artwork this week.

Here's the background to the issue. I have been working on the second of two tall ships seascapes this week. This one features the Danish full-riggers "Georg Stage" (the nearer of the two vessels and already more or less finished) and the "Danmark"(further away, and creating my problem). I have been carefully delineating her masts, sails and rigging in pencil, sometimes rather too heavily, in pencil, and this has been leaving scores in the canvas, which didn't matter much until I wanted to change the angle of the set of the ship's sails. This made them much more visible, and they couldn't simply be painted out.

The solution, which presented itself to me in a blinding flash of inspiration, was - why don't I press the marks out? I put my iron on to moderate heat, got my ironing board out, placed a cloth-protected phone book on it, as support to the lower, painted side of the canvas, and proceeded to give the canvas the same treatment as I would to a stubbornly-creased shirt-front. And, much to my surprise, it worked - to a large extent.

This has been another successful experiment from the Tait Gallery - but not under laboratory conditions. Please don't try this at home, children! No animals were injured during the course of this experiment, although the neighbour's cat swapped ends on the shed roof when I leant out the window to sneeze.