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, 30 May 2010


The accommodation barge, for the workers on the imminent Sullom Voe Terminal gas plant refurbishment, arrived in Lerwick harbour today. The "Bibby Bigmodularcubething" is, I believe, to be moored at the same place as a similar edifice was, the last time a similar job was undertaken "up nort" a few years back. When the services have been plumbed in, it will provide digs for about a hundred and fifty artisans, and a few security and skivvy jobs for locals, no doubt some of them students, who will welcome the cash boost which long shifts will produce for them.

The presence of this sizeable waterborne structure means that the berth which is normally used for medium-sized cruise ships will be unavailable for this purpose for the whole summer. This will make little practical difference to me, as, in my opinion, cruise ships are a complete waste of time and harbour space. I have yet to sell as much as an A4 print to a cruise-ship passenger, and most local retailers consider these visitors as equally non-contributory to their sales totals. These big white monstrosities may as well be shunted out to the SBS base, or the Dales Voe terminal, which has sat unused, reeking faintly of mothballs and white elephant ordure, for the last ten years (could this not have been a better location for the accommodation barge?).

Or the ships could be anchored in the inner harbour, along with the vessels which are too large to be berthed. From there, their shell-shocked passengers can be punted ashore in the ships' lifeboats, before being corralled onto tour buses which take them to all the Shetland tourist destinations which are on the "favoured" list. Those venues which charge an entrance fee to cover some of their running costs are deliberately shunned, as a matter of the port authority and Visit Shetland's cosa nostra policy. Tours organised through Northlink Ferries have the same bias. Visit Shetland only will assist local producers who have paid their extortionate membership fees. I was told, on asking them to display a few leaflets in their premises at Lerwick's Market Cross, that they would only do so if I became a member, which cost £150! Surely a scale of service charges would be a more sensible policy.

Apart from a few "iconic" items, such as knitwear, along with goods which are passed off as Shetland products by unscupulous traders to gullible visitors, little is bought from local retailers by cruise ship passengers. They have excellent food provided on board as part of their tariff, so, apart from a few confections, little by way of foodstuffs is bought ashore. I have heard that some of the cruise ship operators actually discourage their clients from buying items from shore-based retailers, as they would much rather that they would spend their limited spare cash on merchandise from their own onboard shops.

The benefit to the local economy from visiting cruise ships is therefore very limited, and much overstated by Visit Shetland and the Lerwick Port Authority. The latter no doubt benefits (from the harbour dues for these vessels), along with local bus operators, a few knitwear manufacturers, and producers of Shetland pate a foie gras, products whose Shetland identity and provenance are based on their creators' residence alone. The umbrella organisations for the local tourist "industry" have found themselves in the position of large piscatorial beings in small aqueous volumes everywhere - they have far more power than they know how to handle properly.

So whenever a large cruise ship appears off the Bressay Light, I regard it with mixed feelings. I enjoy seeing the big ships simply because of my maritime interests, but not because of any financial benefit which might come my way from their presence. The "Bibby Bigboxything" offers more by way of sales prospects for local merchants - her residents will require locally-sourced food and other products. One of them might even want to buy one of my prints to send home to a loved one - who knows?


It's been a funny sort of a morning. The weather being bright and fair, I took the notion that, having washed my breakfast and swallowed myself, I would take a walk down to the local Co-op, a distance of some three-quarters of a mile (I still haven't been decimalised distance-wise!) from my home. This would serve the dual purpose of getting my fridge and cupboards stocked with a few victuals, and getting some exercise into these getting-on-a-bit limbs of mine.

As things turned out, I arrived home again with only the exercise part having been accomplished. The Co-op couldn't open, as there was something wrong with the doorlock! I couldn't grasp exactly what the problem was, as I'm not sufficiently fluent in Co-op staff gesticulation. So, along with the small gathered throng of would-be shoppers, I made a plan B which, in my case, was to trudge home again, with about a mile and a half of exercise in my legs, not a penny less in my wallet, and nothing with which to replenish my supplies.

I could have gone to Tesco's, on the other side of town, but that was stretching the limbs a bit too far. In my pre-operation days, I would have probably made the effort, had I been desperate enough. But nowadays - nah!

Sunday, 23 May 2010


My sister Thelma and I headed, through the gloom of yesterday morning, to the Salvation Army's Lerwick headquarters on the North Road, having been attracted by their Shetland Times advertisement of a sale of office equipment in general and filing cabinets in particular (I have, of late, developed a need for such an item of furniture). However, we arrived too late to secure one of the only decent ones on offer, and all that was left was a couple of rather grotty grey ones, one of which I eventually decided to buy.

I'd forgotten how heavy a 4-drawer metal filing cabinet is, and I needed the muscle-power of the taxi-driver (who had arrived to provide the transport for the cumbersome object), to get the thing manhandled to street-level. Fortunately, there was a trolley there to help us. It was only when we began to move the thing that I realised just how rough it was. The bottom was rusted through, and had obviously been kicked violently a few times by dissatisfied staff and clients of the firm at whose premises the unfortunate object had been previously situated. Anyway, it was duly bundled into the back of the six-seater and, on climbing into the front passenger seat, I gave the instruction to proceed to the town dump at Rova Head with it. I had decided that it wasn't worth the effort of negotiating the revolting thing up the stairs to my flat. I'd helped the cause of the Salvation Army, and it was time to move on. I'll get a better filing cabinet somewhere else - soon.

I had better luck with another furniture acquisition this week. I have recently (see last week's post) secured a commission for a larger painting, and I decided that I wouldn't be able to work satisfactorily on the bigger work by my usual "flat" method. So I chose myself an easel from the vast selection available from Jackson's Art Supplies. These varied in price from under fifty to thousands of pounds; I opted for one of Jackson's own brand products at a mere £65, and I am well pleased with what arrived through my door on Friday. It seems much more stable than the ones I used to pursue round the room in a strange danse macabre in the old art college days. I have explained, in a much earlier post, how I used to put my left arm behind the easel (to steady it), as I belaboured the canvas with the brush in my right hand. This had the effect of moving the easel slowly forwards, and resulted in the weird dance, as described. The new easel has a square base, a much better modus operandi, and should prove much more suitable for my type of "action painting". Look out for a post next week, entitled "Jim test-drives the Jackson's Midi-H-frame Studio Academy Easel!"

The canvas which is to be first onto the easel is to be re-delivered tomorrow. I was out when a previous delivery attempt was made on Friday - this will be the third attempt by the suppliers to furnish me with a usable canvas, the previous two having arrived holed below the waterline and in a sinking condition, so to speak! I have my fingers crossed for the condition of the one which is arriving tomorrow.

Progress on the artworks which are currently "on the stocks" has been steady and unspectacular, and I hope that this is maintained during the next week. I'll let you know when I have any further news. Have a nice week!


I suspect that the fog, to which Dickens referred as a London particular, contained a few atmospheric elements which are peculiar to a 19th century fossil-fuel-fired nineteenth-century city, and absent from the blanket which has covered these islands in varying degrees of density over the past three days. Nonetheless, today it makes for a miserable prospect, as I survey the lack of scene from my top floor window. I saw nothing of the arrival of the Norwegian barque "Statstraad Lehmkuhl", making her first visit of 2010 to Lerwick today. In fact, the only way I know she is here is from the Ship AIS package on my computer, from which I also know that she is occupying the berth at the head of the Victoria Pier.

Having returned to composing this post after making, eating and clearing up after my midday meal, I observe that the fog has lifted somewhat, to be replaced by rain of the incessant miserable sort. This, however, will do nothing to deter the passengers from the "Statsraad Lehmkuhl", who will never let a bit of weather interfere with a trip ashore, if they have a mind to take one. The Norwegians, distinguishable by their helly-hansens and brightly-coloured umbrellas, are a recognisable feature of the crowds on Commercial Street on rainy summer days.

The week had started so promisingly weather-wise. A dry day greeted my mother as she returned from her regular fortnight's respite care at the Wastview Centre at Walls on Monday. I was there to greet her on her arrival, as I usually arrange to be, and I was looking ruefully at the rapidly-growing grass in her front garden, while regretting my inability to do much about it. As the week progressed, the sun continued to shine, until late on Thursday, when it disappeared behind a bank of fog and has not been seen since. Is this it then? Was that our summer - between Monday and Thursday of last week? Will it be like a few years ago, when I missed summer completely, due to an untimely visit to the toilet? I do hope not!

Sunday, 16 May 2010


The malady set in badly yesterday afternoon. It's a strange debilitating condition, the main symptom of which is a pressing urge to do anything else rather than sit down at my workstation and paint. For an hour after lunch, all I wanted to do was google filing cabinets on the web (I am in need of such an item, but only in a particular design and finish).

The day had started so well. I had finished my stock painting of Shetland-model boats drawn up near Burravoe pier in Yell (shown above) during the morning. I had paused to make, eat, and wash up after, my lunch, and it was then that the artwork antipathy hit me like a sledgehammer. I just couldn't face doing any more work on my Lerwick South End commission (which is in dire need of some serious attention, as the deadline approaches). Maybe it was the beautiful weather outside, or perhaps it's the fact that I am sick of painting this particular scene - I have portrayed this location, which is one of the most iconic views of the town, so often that I can nearly paint it in the dark.

Eventually, I mustered the will-power to prevail over the ailment, and did some work on the painting, but the results were well below my usual standard, and I'll have to make substantial adjustments during my next session on the picture.

Other items of bad news this week may have contributed to the malaise. The replacement for the large canvas, which was delivered substantially damaged last week, arrived on Thursday, also with a hole in it!` I knew, as soon as I looked at the gash in the single layer of cardboard (which was all the protection afforded by the suppliers) that there was no way in which the contents of the package could have survived intact, and so it proved. I immediately phoned the firm responsible for sending me this inadequately protected item, and they are sending me yet another one. The woman assured me that the next package would be more adequate for the purpose (it will have to be!). I also phoned my client, explaining why the deadline for completion of the artwork might have to be extended. Fortunately, he is an understanding kind of chap, and was sympathetic with my predicament. Other clients may have been less accommodating.

That same day, I heard of the death of my friend Tommy Watt, who had been ill for some time with leukaemia. He was only 50. As curator of Shetland Museum, he had overseen most of my exhibitions at the old building, and I could always rely on him for a fair and frank assessment of what I'd put on display. One of the last occasions I spoke to him was on the day I hung my only (so far) exhibition in the new museum. His words were enthusiastically approving of what was on the walls around us, but I could see then (early last year) that he was not in the best of health. I intend to be at his funeral in the museum on Tuesday, and I shall miss him.

"In every friend we lose a part of ourselves, and the best part," wrote Alexander Pope to HIS friend Jonathan Swift. I seem to have lost an awful lot of friends in recent years, and perhaps it's this diminution which I've been suffering from lately.

I promise you a more upbeat post next week. Stay safe!

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Looking back over previous posts, I see that it's three weeks since I last mentioned progress on my own artwork. I apologise for this, and hope to make amends for it here, as there is quite a lot of news, although I have no new completed artworks to tell you about. I hope to have more soon.

I have been working on a commissioned landscape/seascape of Lerwick's Sooth End, and I hope to have the buildings finished by the close of play tomorrow. I then have to attend to the piers, boats, foreground sea and reflections therein, so I'm still some way off completion, for which I have a deadline of 16th June. I am still hopeful of making this. I have been working on a "stock" painting too, of Shetland-model boats drawn up near Burravoe pier, on the Shetland island of Yell. There are other landscape features in the mid-and background parts of this work, and I have completed most of these.

A British ex-pat, now resident in France, was in touch regarding the possible purchase of some of my website paintings. However, despite several phone calls between this chap and me, something definite has yet to materialise from this. I still live in hope, as it's nice to sell paintings "ex-stock" now and again.

I picked up a small but interesting commission, from an old school friend, while I was away on the mainland the other weekend. This is a painting of one of the ships on which his grandfather served as crewman, the SS "Clermiston", but there is no deadline on this work, so I will "clear my feet" of more urgent jobs before tackling this one. This also applies to a November-deadlined nautical commission, of the P & O ferry "St. Clair" (IV) coming out of Aberdeen harbour, with Girdleness lighthouse in the background.

The largest commission I have yet to undertake came my way a fortnight ago, and this has already been attended with difficulties. The size of this work is 50" x 40", so I had to order a stretched canvas for this, from one of my mainland suppliers. When it arrived last week, there was a tear, about 1.5" long, near one of the corners of the stretcher frame, which had obviously been the point of impact of a blow during transit. The canvas had been wrapped in only one layer of cardboard, which is completely inadequate for the purpose of sending by post or carrier. I well remember the exertions I had to put into claiming compensation from Royal Mail for a painting which had arrived in Anglesey with a hole through it, a few years ago. Of course, on this occasion, I had to replace the tall ships-themed painting with another similar work, adding another month's work to my bill! The lesson learned from this painful experience was to use polystyrene sheeting AND bubblewrap to protect work from damage by careless and busy delivery-men. The little bit of extra effort saves a great deal of potential time and trouble. But I digress.

The firm who sent the canvas were very good about making reparation, sending me another canvas (which has yet to arrive) and requiring only photographic evidence of the damage to support my claim for replacement. I supplied them with this immediately on request. They don't want the damaged item returned to them, which was a relief, as getting a package as large as that to a point of despatch was a logistical problem for me. Nevertheless, I'm stuck with a large, slightly damaged canvas, on premises in which space is already at a premium! Anyone want it for painting stage scenery, or something? If so, just get in touch and arrange to collect it, and it's yours - free!

I gave myself until the end of July to complete this painting, and I've already lost a fortnight of this. It is of a sailing ship heeling over in strong winds, and it is for what appears to be a potentially valuable client in Cheshire, so I hope I can still make this particular deadline. To misquote the call centre operative, and out of context too, "this job is important to me!"

There have been hints of further commissons too, so "easel-time" on stock works looks like being limited over the coming few months. It is just as well, therefore, that my next booked exhibition remains that which is scheduled for the Creel Inn, Catterline in November and December of 2011. By that time, Shetland will have had its second stint as host for the Tall Ships Race, and my 63rd birthday will be a fairly distant memory. Now and then, I wish that the passage of time had a brake attached to it somewhere!

The website upgrade is still a work in progess too. I would like to get a new look to the "moveable information" layout on the Home page, and my web designer and I will have to apply our joint best efforts on this soon. I haven't updated the information on this page for ages, and this cannot be good for my online search prospects, so I hope to have better news on this in the very near future.

And there ends the latest bulletin from the Tait Gallery. Have a nice week!


"The people have spoken, and no-one knows what they've said." The situation is as summed up by whoever first came up with this already-hackneyed expression, after last week's election to the British parliament. When the dust has finally settled, and whichever party has climbed into bed with whatever other one to form a kind of coalition, the position for you and me will be much the same. The country is in dire straits financially, and it will be down to us to make the necessary sacrifices to get the nation back on a sound footing again. The fat cats in the banking world, who were partly, but by no means entirely, responsible for the mess, will suffer little by comparison - they'll have made sure that, whatever happens to the masses, they'll be well buffered against events.

As to how it will affect my life, I haven't a clue. "Whit's fur wis'll no ging by wis," is one of the many rather trite titbits of homespun wisdom which form the lore of these islands, and it's especially appropriate to the current situation. Anticipating hard times ahead, I went out and bought a new fridge last week. I think that was the same day my underpants fell down on my way home from the Co-op. Just as well I'm not a kilt-wearer, or they would have descended to my ankles and beyond. As it was, they formed a kind of slack tourniquet around my middle thighs and impeded my forward progress. Yes, folks, times are getting leaner, particularly around my abdominal region, apparently.

Monday, 3 May 2010


Saturday 24th April dawned dull and damp in Aberdeen, but the weather forecast was predicting better things for the rest of the day. My brother arrived to pick me up from the Premier Inn at North Anderson Drive, and off we went for a day's sightseeing and snapping. I had a vague idea that I should get more images of the fishing village of Gourdon, and of the area near Luthermuir and Sauchieburn, which I had found interesting on a previous visit, but had been unable to photograph due to adverse weather conditions. The last time we were in the area, the wind had been so strong that I could scarcely stand up, let alone use a camera.

I had a walk around the attractive harbour at Gourdon and the streets leading to it, making good use of my little Pentax Optio 50 as I did so. The sky was still largely overcast, but there were glimpses of brightness here and there - enough to make some interesting effects. Next, we headed for the Luthermuir area, where there are wonderful views of fields (some recently ploughed, some green and some bright yellow and white with crops of variegated daffodils), interspersed with groves of trees and brick farm buildings, all set against the blue of distant hills. We always seem to end up in Fettercairn, although we approached it by a different route on this occasion, and I found more camera-fodder here. In a previous artistic existence, I would have had a sketchbook, a rapidograph set and pencils with me, but this process takes a great deal of time, I only had the one day to get as much material as possible, and the images I get with this little camera are superb (provided conditions are right, as they were that day).

After a good wander around this attractive village, we set off again in the Fiesta, this time up Glenesk, and into the higher hills through which the river North Esk flows - quite rapidly on that day. We found some splendid viewpoints near a place called Millden, where the signage indicated that visitors were not entirely welcome. We didn't overstay ours, but I did get a few more photographs here, before we carried on with our excursion.

This took us up to lunchtime, which called for a visit to an eatery we have used twice before, namely the dining room of the Panmure Arms Hotel at Edzell. It didn't disappoint on this occasion either. Having eaten, the question of where to go next arose. I had achieved all I had set out to do with the camera that day, and anything that occurred from then on would be by way of a bonus. My brother suggested a visit to an old chum from our schooldays, who stays at Auchmithie, having first established that he was at home and receiving visitors.

When I reflect on the group of our contemporaries who were going through the process of growing up in the Shetland parish of Sandwick in the late 1950s and 1960s, creating our own brand of mayhem among the long-suffering parishioners as we did so, I suppose we little thought, in those carefree days, of the variety of paths our subsequent careers would take. One became a professor of geology, one a haematologist, another a seaman, one an insurance agent and Citylink bus driver (not simultaneously). Still others never left the district, married and raised families in the same parish they grew up in. One died before reaching the age of forty, and another, after promising much and delivering little on several occasions, became a self-employed artist. Kenneth Bull became an architect, and now lives, semi-retired, in a converted coastguard station atop a sea-cliff at Auchmithie, just outside Arbroath.

So it was hither to Auchmithie that we hied on Saturday afternoon. The Angus countryside was now bathed in warm sunshine, and this was creating a strange weather phenomenon - steam! The newly-ploughed fields were wet, and clouds of steam were now rising from these - when they were close to the road on both sides it was like driving through fog! We went via Brechin and Montrose, and I was saddened to see large numbers of road-killed pheasant and grouse at the sides of the highway in this area.

Over a cup of Kenneth's tea, we spent an hour or so reminiscing about past events, and discussing current circumstances and future projects. He gave us valuable advice regarding exactly how to get to a suitable vantage point from which to get pictures of the south-east corner of Montrose basin. I had noticed this scene, with small boats ebbed up in the mud at low tide, as we had passed through earlier, and I ended up with a few more useful photographs of that attractive location, when we stopped there later, on our way back to Aberdeen.

It was close to six o'clock when we arrived back at the granite city, after what had been an enjoyable and successful day, although I had no idea at that time just how good the images on my smart card were. I only discovered this on being reunited with my computer on Monday morning. Now all I need to do is to commit some of these scenes to canvas!

Sunday, 2 May 2010


The receptionist at the Premier Inn seemed genuinely pleased to see me when I arrived at her desk early on the wet evening of Saturday 24th April, accompanied by a holdall which was ridiculously large for a weekend sojourn. My effects were rattling about in it like a pea in a pod, as I set off down a corridor in search of room 17, which I found at the other side of the third fire door from the reception area. The room was spacious, the bed even more so. I dumped my luggage, and set off to find the eating facility, as I had survived the boat trip on four packets of crisps and a couple of cartons of Ribena, and I was more than ready for a meal.

This hotel is remarkable in that it has no eatery contained within it - all meals are served next door in the Cocket Hat bar and restaurant, which seems to be run as a separate entity. I stood my nephew a meal there as a reward for his pains in providing me with free transport from the ferry. Very nice it was too. After we had eaten, I retired to my room, and my nephew, who is studying for a university degree, went back to whatever students do an Friday evenings.

I saw no sign of Lenny Henry at this branch of the Premier Inn. I did, however, have a Frank Spencer moment, when I went to take a shower next morning. The showerhead came off in my hand, leaving a hole in the wall, when I attempted to direct its flow to different parts of my body. Fortunately, the water was not turned on at the time, and I was able to stick the thing back on. Miraculously it still worked.

I enjoyed my Premier Inn experience, and would definitely stay there again. The room was spacious, with all the facilities I needed, and the bed was much too large for a chap on his own. I found myself reminiscing about happy times past, when hotel experiences were something shared with the woman I loved.....

In fact, the only fly in the ointment was my fellow residents, most of whom seemed to return from a celebration of some kind or another at 2am on the Sunday morning, and carried on carousing for some time afterwards. The walls between the rooms seemed paper-thin. I could practically understand every word which one particular guest was uttering!

So, the Premier Inn gets several stars from me. For someone who isn't in the high income bracket, it ticks all the boxes for comfort and service, and I'd recommend it to my friends. And they aren't paying me to write this!


The Icelandic volcano was responsible for extending my weekend trip off Shetland by about 9 hours, and by an extra night in the Premier Inn at North Anderson Drive in Aberdeen. Let me briefly explain. In the week leading up to Saturday 24th April, all aircraft flights on and off the Northern Isles were cancelled for most of the time. Northlink Ferries decided, in their corporate fashion, that they would run a shuttle service to accommodate the people stuck because of the flight disruption, and those who had booked passages with them previously would be accommodated too, albeit at different times from their original bookings. Are you with me so far?

To compound the problems, one of the two Northlink Ferries was still in drydock for her annual shampoo, shave and bottom-scrape, so the one ship, the "Hrossey", ran flat out, leaving Lerwick at 9am each morning, arriving at Aberdeen at 6pm, discharging and loading passengers, and leaving for Shetland again at 9pm, docking at Lerwick by 7am.

So I, as a pre-booked passenger, was left with a choice - either alter my journey to the earlier sailing time (on Friday 23rd April) which would mean spending an extra night in Aberdeen, or abandoning the trip entirely, as the whole purpose of the exercise was spending Saturday on a photographic excursion round the Mearns and Angus regions with my brother. I went for the former option, and enjoyed the day-time boat-trip in pleasant conditions, with a gentle following wind and moderate sea.

The skipper greeted us over the speaker system as Captain Scott, which amused me somewhat: "Bing-bong! Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Scott welcoming you aboard the "Hrossey". The wind is force 4 northerly, the sea state is slight. I hope you have a pleasant journey. Great God, this is an awful place! Bye." I have to confess that part of that announcement is a figment of my imagination.

By 10am, we were leaving Sumburgh Head behind, at 10.45am Fair Isle was abeam, and the next land we saw was near Kinnaird Head just before 3pm. We were tied up in Aberdeen harbour by 5.45pm, and my nephew was there with his car to run me up to the hotel. I felt that an enjoyable and profitable weekend was about to begin.