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, 27 June 2010


Early this morning, I awoke to the sound of thunder and torrential rain. My first thought was one of satisfaction that the plug plants, which I had set into my mother's front border last week, wouldn't need watering for a few days. Two weeks ago, any such horticultural thoughts would never have entered my head. By the time I had come out of my bath at about seven o'clock, the sun was attempting to break through the low cloud, and the kerbstones on the street outside were beginning to dry up.

I had decided on a walk to the Co-op again this morning, to take the air, stretch the legs and lay in a few of life's essentials. I was passing the nearby Morrison Dock, when I was amused to see the German flag flying from the foremast of one of the local whitefish trawlers, no doubt in response to the English one draped from one of the windows of the "Bibby Blockofbedsits" at the other side of the dock. Nothing like a good wind-up, eh? At the Co-op, several people asked me if I'd be watching the match this afternoon, to which I responded, in each case, in the negative. My lack of interest in the "beautiful game" must be the cause of great disappointment to so many people for whom it appears to be so important. In fact, the only World Cup fitba' I have seen has been on the pub tellies on the three occasions when I have been in such establishments since the tournament started. One of these visits was on Wednesday, in response to a phone call from an old friend who had come up for the Hamefarin. I had more than my usual quota of lager on that occasion, and I wasn't feeling too clever on Thursday morning.

It's been an odd couple of weeks really. I have had a power cut (while my computer and tumble dryer were both in operation - fortunately with no visibly adverse effects), a leaky boiler (which had to be replaced), a few raised glasses, and a few art sales too. And, on Tuesday, my sister Thelma took me on a tour of the south mainland of Shetland, an area of my native islands with which I am only partly familiar. I was at the Voe, Quendale Mill and the now ruinous Quendale farmhouse, Garths Ness (where the "Braer" was lost in 1993), Vanlop and Ireland (sic!), where I was up at a chapel I didn't know existed until a couple of weeks ago. I had never been to any of these places before, and there were many others that I had not been to for many a long year. One of these was the Sumburgh Hotel, where we had an excellent bar lunch and met a few more old Hamefarin friends. I had a lot of photographs to save onto my hard drive that evening.

And the artwork? It's been progressing steadily throughout. I have a new commission of a cruise ship, I'm in negotiations about another fishing boat painting, and work has continued apace on the others. I now feel the need to make more haste with the large 50 x 40 inch sailing ship work, as I promised to have this completed by early August, although I lost three weeks at the start of this project to a canvas supply problem, and I know my client would rather wait a little longer than have the quality of the work compromised.

I have been considering, since last Christmas, getting greeting cards printed, and I have spent a bit of recent time looking into possibilities with regard to this. My two new cardboard display units for these arrived this week. Guess what? - they're self-assembly, something at which I do NOT excel. At least I've got until November to get them finished!

Have a happy and successful week!

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Could I have invented a new buzzword here - or has someone else stolen my thunder and beaten me to it with this magnificent addition to the internet lexicon? It is a term for the behaviour of someone like me who, when once started on a search for a particular item on the web, carries on with the search for hours on end until either the search has come to its end, the phone or doorbell has rung, or nature has intervened, his compulsion/obsession having taken the whole exercise over.

The other week, I compoogled "Filing Cabinets", a singularly unsuccessful exercise. I spent a whole afternoon, which would have been better spent doing something more useful, discovering that the kind of cabinet I need doesn't exist, and anything approaching it is way beyond my means. This morning, it was "Small Display Units Suitable for Postcards". I found many items which would have been ideal for my purpose, but there was always a snag - a blip in the ointment (sic!), as I once heard a well-known female weather presenter (and metaphor-mixer!) describing it on a renowned television breakfast news programme. On that occasion, a strange image presented itself to me, of a fly appearing, mysteriously and unaccountably, on a radar screen in a parallel universe somewhere!

Anyway, to return to my own universe, which, far from being parallel, consists mainly of ever-decreasing circles, I came across the usual pitfalls in my search for small display units. One firm doesn't deliver to destinations outwith mainland UK (because they can't be bothered to find out how to do it - I'd be quite willing to pay an extra charge for this service). Another had a fault on its online registration/catalogue request form. Every time I pressed "Submit", it came up with the message "You have selected an 'Other' - please specify", despite the fact that I had done no such thing. There's probably someone at "Display Units 'R Us" who's wondering why they haven't had any requests or registrations lately. Come to think of it, how many businesses are going down the tubes because of such flies in their online ointment? Is mine one of them? The sooner I get my website upgraded the better!

Strange how many issues can arise out of a Google search which, in this case, stemmed from an inadequate postcard display at my stall at the Toll Clock Centre in Lerwick yesterday. I did OK, by the way, but not spectacularly well. I sold a few prints and postcards (out of a cardboard box!), met some old friends and made some interesting new ones, and had some good repartee with my fellow stall-holders. The day passed quite quickly. My next set-up will probably be in the run-up to Christmas, and I'd like to have a better presentation unit for my postcards (and maybe Christmas cards!) by then........

Monday, 14 June 2010


I hope you like the painting of Lerwick's Hay's Dock (above). I used my own photographic archive for reference to get the details, of the place, as they were before the recent North Ness and Shetland Museum developments changed the appearance of this area of town completely. It's as it was around 15 years ago, with locally-owned pleasure craft and workboats drawn up on the beach, at their moorings, or alongside the "arm" of the dock.

I received fresh supplies of oil paint from Jackson's last week, but I am having trouble getting hold of the kind of fine-point oil/acrylic brushes that I use to get best results in my detail. I have done more work on the big seascape project - it sits on my easel in the back bedroom, which now has temporary status as a side-studio, as there isn't enough space for it in my main workroom (which also doubles as a living-room, dining room and office). I'm going to have to paint masts, sails and rigging soon, which involves fine lines, so I have been casting my supply net wider for the tools to do the job.

Talking of tools, my efforts at clearing moss and other clinging vegetation from the concreted paths outside my mother's house at Whiteness on Monday, using a Dutch hoe as the most effective weapon, left me with a badly blistered right hand palm. I'd carried on working with the injury a bit longer than I should have, so I've been carrying the handicap of a bandaged weeping sore for most of the week. It's on the mend now, fortunately, as I'm very right-handed!

From an northern archipelago about to embark on a week of serious yippee-yahooing, I wish you all the best for your midsummer festivities. I'll be back, possibly with a slight hangover, next week. Enjoy!

Sunday, 13 June 2010


Shetlanders are good at organising and enjoying a party, as was clearly demonstrated during the Tall Ships Race of 1999, and the International Island Games two or three years later. I recall mentioning this faculty to my mother on the occasion of the former event. She looked at me with what amounted to slight indignation, and said, "Of coorse! Look at an Unst wedding!". Although the scale was a bit different, the enthusiasm and skills involved are much the same.

We are now on the threshold of Shetland's big summer bash, at the height of which the population of Lerwick will almost double. This week, a number of happenings are going to coincide as they never have before, and amalgamate into a gigantic party around the Victoria Pier area. The 2010 Hamefarin begins tomorrow (officially), and lasts for a fortnight, all kinds of events having been organised for the visitors, who will have returned to the land of their forebears "fae aa da erts". This happens once every ten years or so, and this year the competitors in more regular events, such as the four-yearly Round Britain- and annual Bergen yacht races will be here at the same time. All these people will be well fed, watered and entertained by the Flavour of Shetland binge from the 17th to the 20th, and a good time is going to be had by all. There will be a gastronomical and musical extravaganza at the harbour, and the only losers will be those yachtsfolk who want to get some sleep! The climax to the whole thing will be the midsummer carnival next Saturday evening. As for me, I am hoping, perhaps forlornly, for some overspill from the Victoria Pier area to visit my stall at the Toll Clock Centre.


So the World Cup has started, and with it my four-yearly channel-hop to avoid any reference to it whatsoever. This is increasingly difficult, as many of the adverts on the commercial TV channels now contain material which is referential to it. I already have a policy, however, to turn the sound off all commercial breaks, so this does not present a real problem. Why? Because I'm worth it, of course!

I don't care who wins the World Cup, as long as I don't have to witness the obscenity of this spectacle. Whether it's England, Brazil or the Trashemite Republic of Asphyxia who carries off the coveted silverware doesn't matter in the slightest - they'll be doing it unwatched by me. And the same situation would obtain if Scotland had succeeded in achieving the embarrassment of participation in the later stages of the tournament. I feel no particular national affiliation to Scotland (I've always regarded myself as British), and Scottish goal celebrations (on the rare occasions when they occur!) are as obscene as any other nation's. The same goes for for the foul-mouthed, drunken, ill-natured throng who compose the team following. If anyone harbours any hopes with regard to how far mankind has advanced over the millenia, let him/her take a look at an aggrieved football crowd and weep. And why can't they sing in tune, for heaven's sake??


Sunday, 6 June 2010


"All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income." These lofty words were hunted down by a writer in desperate need of a quotation from a famous person to spice up what would otherwise be another humdrum chapter in the dull journal of a struggling Shetland seascape artist. The words were penned by Samuel Butler in 1912, probably part of a dissertation on a completely different subject from the one I'm tackling now. Most artists, unless they are in the VERY successful earnings bracket, will probably live beyond their means most of the time. Another quoteworthy person (I forget who) once said words to the effect that an amateur artist has another job to support him, while a professional artist has a wife to support him. I have neither, so where does that leave me? Answers on a blank signed cheque, please!

As regards my artwork, progress (to return to Butler's theme!) has been steady, for what it's worth. I promised you a report on the Jackson's Studio Academy easel, which I have been able to "test-drive", following the delivery, a week past Monday, of an intact canvas from the supplier I mentioned in my last post on the subject. I have to tell you that it is an excellent easel, it having withstood all my enthusiastic brush-hammerings without retreating an inch before me. I can see a wonderful relationship developing between it and me.

I recently finished my elaborate commissioned painting of Lerwick's South End, and this work is now in for framing. I should have picked it up on Friday, but I was engaged in work elsewhere that day, so uniting this work with its prospective owner will have to wait until later this week. I am fairly confident that they will be pleased with it.

As well as the larger work (a seascape) on the easel, which will be occupying a fair amount of my time over the next couple of months, I have made good headway with the "stock" work of Lerwick's Hay's Dock, which I hope to have here to show you in a week's time. I have taken delivery of a consignment of postcards (from Vistaprint), featuring my oil paintings, the main purpose of which is to augment my stock for sale at my stall on Saturday 19th June at the Toll Clock Centre here in Lerwick. This coincides with the Hamefarin 2010, which was my original reason for choosing this date. Of course, I forgot that it also coincides with all the midsummer events at the Victoria Pier, so it may not be such a good idea after all - I'll have to see how things work out.

Frantic forward motion was also achieved at my mother's house on Friday, when my sister Mary and I tackled the overgrown front garden (which has been badly neglected these last two years), with a roll of black bags, a borrowed trailer and hand tools. I'm going out there again tomorrow to make further progress on this task, as we only have the use of the trailer until midweek. I hope the weather stays agreeable, as it has these last few days.

Under the "progress" heading, I must also mention my niece Elizabeth Tait (who is my brother Peter Arthur's peerie lass!). She gained her Ph.D in politics, in particularly brilliant fashion, from the University of Aberdeen a couple of weeks ago, and we're all so proud of her. Add to this another niece who is enjoying her current position of leader of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, and I feel I am being well overtaken on the progress stakes, and very happy to be so! I believe my nephew Kenneth is making good progress on his university course too. They're all achieving what their wastrel uncle failed to do all these years ago!

One thing on which I have no progress to report whatsoever is the website upgrade, which appears to have been firmly stalled in neutral these last two months. I hope to resume efforts on this soon (I am in much need of it), but I am reluctant to give dates, as previous undertakings came to naught.

So, progress, which, in the words of Chesterton, is "simply a comparative", is also merely "the exchange of one nuisance for another", according to Havelock Ellis. "Who is he?" I hear you ask. Apparently, he was an early sexologist! "Art is long, and time is fleeting," said Longfellow. I couldn't agree more, old chap - I'll see you next week!