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, 26 September 2010


Shetlanders are very fond of a bit of free entertainment, and it arrived this week in the form of "Stunts 'R' Us", a quasi-scientific terrorist group otherwise known as Greenpeace. Members of this noble organisation gratuitously attached themselves to one of the anchor chains of the oil-drilling ship "Stena Carron", which had been lying north of Lerwick harbour for the previous couple of weeks while preparations for a forthcoming drilling operation west of these islands were made.

While the television, and, for all I know, the newspaper media (I never read the daily papers), gave the action of the "activists" the oxygen of publicity on which they thrive, for a couple of days at least, the islanders appear to have been less than sympathetic to their cause. The locally-based internet forums have been inundated with proposals as to how to respond to this unwelcome intrusion into the lawful daily business of the oil-drilling vessel. Suggestions included the employment of guns, harpoons and torpedoes, and the idea of dropping the anchor at regular intervals was also mooted. Personally, I thought winching up the anchor from time to time would keep the uninvited guests honest and regular.

In the end, nothing much came of the stunt. The rig operators obtained an injunction against the "activists", and both parties to this incident seem to have gone elsewhere - at least the drilling ship and the Stunts 'R' Us mother ship, "Esperanza" have disappeared from my Ship AIS map of the islands. Best of luck and safe operations to the former, and good riddance to the latter!

While islanders are as concerned as anyone about the risks involved in offshore oil exploration and recovery, it is the undemocratic modus operandi and arrogance of the protest group which gets up Shetland noses. Like other people around the world, we all watched in horror as events unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding shorelines earlier this year. We had our own incident about seventeen years ago, when the fully-laden tanker "Braer" was wrecked on the Garths Ness rocks. Accidents can and will happen in the best-regulated households, so what do you do? Cease all of man's endeavours which involve an element of risk?

(Incidentally, the "Braer" incident was unconnected with any oil operations around Shetland. It happened because Shetland lay on the north side of the Fair Isle channel, through which the tanker, on her way from Mongstad in Norway to America, was about to pass, when she lost power in worsening weather conditions. The rest, as they say, is history, and the event has been fully documented in Jonathan Wills and Karen Warner's book "Innocent Passage", to which scholarly volume I have little of value to add.)

The consequences of oil exploration operations going wrong are undoubtedly grave. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in Siberia, where huge areas of land have been destroyed by Russia's land-based oil extraction blunders. The scariest story of the week, for me, has been the news that Russia has laid claims to huge areas of the Arctic Ocean, with intent to exploit the enormous oil reserves which lie beneath it. If there is a country with a poor record on accident prevention in the oil industry, it is surely Russia. I could suggest this as a more likely source of an oily Armageddon, and a more appropriate venue for a Greenpeace campaign, but I doubt if they will take up this challenge and, even if they do, their protests would fall on even deafer ears than those of the Shetland Islanders.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that the weather should turn equinoctial, given that the autumn equinox takes place tomorrow. It has been blowing a gale during the latter half of this week, and I have been watching fishing boats, many of them Norwegian, scurrying for the shelter which Lerwick harbour affords. As the meteorological conditions become unsettled, I have been feeling strangely ill at ease this week, and I am at a loss as to adequately explain why.

I have had yet another effusive email of thanks from a grateful customer (to add to the many), and progress has been maintained on the other works, apart from the big picture, which I feel has been doomed from its delayed start due to damaged canvases being delivered to me. I now feel thoroughly discouraged with the project, and dread entering the side-studio where it sits broodingly on its easel. I feel like taking a four-inch brush, loading it with the most fluorescently inappropriate hue I can find among my paint-tubes, and vigorously obliterating the image before me on the canvas. What cathartic fun that would be! Never mind that I've spent four months creating that image and, a month ago, I was very happy with it. My client is dissatisfied, and I am not far away from returning his deposit to him, along with a letter telling him where he can put his patronage. As things stand, I am dabbing away at the painting, making little alterations here and there, for no good reason, and I know not, and care less, where the project is going.

I have started another two "stock" works (subject-matter yet to be decided) and continued work on my commissioned Cornish river-mouth scene. I have got all my greeting cards bagged up into "assorted" fours, single-themed fives, and a few singles. I have discovered that my new display units fit neatly into my two large holdalls, which is good news for when I'm carting all the stuff from and to the stall at the Toll Clock Centre (these will be starting again in November).

It has been a week for strange email messages about Taits (most of them polite!) from around the globe. One was from a woman of Tait ancestry who runs a beautiful guesthouse in the countryside of the Burgundy region in France. She complimented me on my work, and expressed her desire to trace her Shetland roots. She got in touch with me, as I am a Shetland Tait with a website and seemed a good contact to start with. Her grandmother, Grace Tait, was from Brae, so I forwarded the message to Dr Ian Tait, of Shetland Museum and Archives, who is also from that part of the islands. I also replied to her in helpful and appreciative terms.

Apparently there is, or was, a prolific landscape/seascape artist knocking about America somewhere, who signed his paintings "TAIT". This week I received an email from a lady in Austin, Texas, who is the second American to contact me with regard to this artist. I have had to tell her that I haven't the foggiest who this dauber is. "It wisna me", has been the main thrust of my replies to such enquiries, along with apologies for my inability to help. Anyone out there in the blogosphere know anything about him/her?

September is a big month for birthdays among the members of my family, with that of my brother, two of my sisters and my late father's all falling within that month. My sister Mary (not one of the September lot!) invited me to go with her, after she had finished work, down to Sandwick churchyard to lay a bunch of flowers on our father's grave, on what would have been his 99th birthday, on Friday. The wind was practically blowing us off balance as we performed this little task, after which I took some photographs of the scene. I emailed these to Mary afterwards, so that she could print them off to show mother next time she visited her. She (mother) goes in to the respite care centre for a much-needed holiday on Monday. She gives us a few anxious moments, but looked positively robust when I visited her earlier on Friday. She never ceases to amaze and perplex us!

And now the wind has dropped, the sun is shining, and it's a beautiful, if rather chilly, afternoon here in Lerwick. I've promised myself to do a bit of cleaning after I've posted this, but don't hold your breath! Have a nice week.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


The humpback whale, which put my islands of birth and domicile on the TV news programmes on Thursday, and was responsible for the first part of this post's very questionable title, disppeared as mysteriously as it had arrived, apparently taking with it the string of lobster creels in which it had earlier become entangled. Whether the animal had gone eastwards to freedom, or downwards to its death from exhaustion and drowning is still uncertain - one hopes the former outcome obtained.

It's changed times since my father (1911-1996) was a youngster. In those days of poverty and hardship, and before a universal electricity supply became the plumbed-in norm, such an event as an entangled whale would have been regarded as Christmas come early in the adjacent community. No part of the beast would have been wasted, it's various constituents being used for food, heating and lighting, and even its ribs being used as "rollers" for hauling boats up over stony or gravel beaches. For most of my life, the family boat was manually hauled or winched up over greased whalebone "linns", probably acquired from a similar beaching of old, or the now long defunct (and famously foul-smelling) factory at Olna, Brae.

Moving on, as seamlessly as I can manage (and with more than a whiff of Shakespeare in the air) from the foul to the fair, I can now address the subject of this week's artwork progress, which has been good. I've completed two works, begun another, and I can now display a work from which the burden of secrecy (which frequently attends presentation paintings) has now been lifted, and which I completed about a month ago. It features an aerial view of the cruise ship "Seabourn Legend".

The first painting to be completed this week is a snow scene of Baltasound Voe, and is to be the Christmas raffle prize for the local branch of a national charity. It will also be the cover illustration for their seasonal greeting cards. Being the crafty sod that I am, I did some negotiation with the charity's organiser, and gained permission (in view of the fact that I am not only not charging a penny for the painting, but also paying for the scanning of it by a local graphics firm), to produce giclee prints of it to sell for my own business. The other completed picture is another cloak and dagger presentation job, which won't be on public view until sometime in November.

It's just as well I've sold a few paintings, as it's been an expensive week! I bought a couple of display units, from an internet source, for the sale of my greeting cards at the Toll Clock Centre stall, as well as sealable cellophane bags for the same cards. I also bought a pricing gun, as my manually-written price-labels look scruffy. I'm justifying this on the basis that, with due care, these products will last me for as long as I am in business. In addition to this extravagance, I have also just paid for my year's normal web-hosting, and have received another bill for the design of the new e-commerce website upgrade ( On top of this, I have had more giclee prints (paid for) produced by my usual graphics/printing firm, who are also doing the scanning of the charity painting and production of prints therefrom (still to be paid). Ouch!

I had much to ponder, therefore, as I placed myself in the capable hands of one of the staff at Jon Stone Hair last Wednesday afternoon. My head had become, in the words of my late father. "laek an aald rop fender", and I reflected that I really ought to come here more often! I suppose that I should be thankful for the fact that, unlike most of my contemporaries, I still have a full mop of hair, and it's the same delightful (and natural) shade of "mooskit" that it's always been. There's considerably less of it now than there was on Wednesday morning though! Have a nice week!

Monday, 6 September 2010


It's not often that Radio Shetland is the bearer of news that I actually feel like jumping up and down at the sound of (alas, my legs won't take the impact of such behaviour any more!), but tonight was the exception. Apparently, our lifeline ferry service is not, after all, having £1m of bits cut off it during the coming year.

Islanders were being asked for their input into what bits they'd have minded a bit less having removed, as against other bits. It was like asking turkeys which part of being slaughtered for Christmas they disliked least. Some of the more sensible, and printable, of the suggestions (for ferry cuts!) included laying one of the two ferries up during the winter months, making them both go slower to save on fuel, and replacing the passenger ships with dual-purpose freight/passenger vessels and doing away with the dedicated freight boats. Quite a few suggestions involving sex and marine travel were mooted by more forthright islanders.

Of course, we only travel at the current level of luxury thanks to the good offices of the Scottish government, who insisted that the route should go out to tender around the turn of the millennium, and were in charge of the tendering process. Up to that point, we had been grumblingly acceptive of the service provided by good old P & O Ferries. However I, for one, have become accustomed to the service which has been provided by Northlink Ferries over the past eight years or so, and I would bitterly resent having any bits of it removed whatsoever. So there!

Leave our bits alone, Scottish government - it's not our fault that there's a squeeze on! And if you're going to squeeze us, be equitable in your squeezing, and don't squeeze some places more than others.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


This morning having dawned bright and breezy, I hung a batch of shirts on the line, and they came in dry and un-seagull-decorated at lunchtime. It's been a good week really, both in terms of weather and work, with the oft-times-promised-and-never-delivered website e-commerce upgrade finally up and running, and with good progress to report on two of my artwork commissions. It also appears to have been a good week for using hyphens!

Monday, which dawned fine but clouded over with drizzle later, was one of work on the charity painting (of winter over Baltasound), during the morning, and the commission of the "St. Clair" (IV) off Girdleness lighthouse in the afternoon. In between, I concocted myself a leftover pork and rice creation (which was palatable) for lunch, and took a walk down to the shop for essential supplies. In the evening (they're beginning to draw in!) I attended to the burgeoning contents of my Outlook Express inbox, and did a few other minor tasks on the computer.

Tuesday, which was rather cloudy but calm (brilliant for midges!) was spent on the same two artworks, with the welcome interruption of a visit by my sister Thelma, with whom I had elevenses and a natter. I made myself some kedgeree for lunch, and remembered to put my bin-bag out for collection by the "essie-kert" squad. In the evening I phoned my brother, and came to the realisation that my plan for a trip to the mainland over the first weekend in October is now not going to happen. Certain things have to fall in place for this to be successful. Firstly, I must have an outside cabin on the ferry to myself. This is a selfish indulgence, I know, but I spend two of my three nights away on that boat, and I want it to be a pleasant experience. Secondly, my brother has to be available, so that we can spend the Saturday cruising the roads of the north-east of Scotland in his car, with me busy taking loads of photographs of the picturesque scenes we come across for my reference library. Thirdly, there has to be decent accommodation available for the Saturday night in Aberdeen. On this occasion, the boat is fully booked and my brother is otherwise engaged. The trip is being postponed until late March next year, just before the period covered by my Northlink Ferries discount vouchers runs out.

Wednesday's weather was mostly fine, with light winds. It was also a big day, the one set aside for getting the final work done on the website upgrade. Igor Mournly, my web designer, arrived, as arranged, at 10am, and we set about putting the greeting cards on the product database, and getting the other elements together for a fully e-commercialised online sales system, complete with the appropriate basket and checkout functions. We hit some technical snags, of course, and, at midday, Igor set off back to his own office to get these ironed out, leaving me to make a light lunch and spend another afternoon on the two commissioned paintings. Later still, I took the painting of Johnshaven harbour to the post office for onward shipment to its new owner in Cornwall. This cost me £38.95 to send, which hurt a bit, so, to numb the pain, I had a couple of pints of the yellow stuff in the Lounge. On my return home, I discovered that Igor had been doing some good work on the website, and had made a test order of £0.01, using my online payment system in conjunction with Paypal. The thing was clearly working. I phoned him my thanks for the generosity of his payment, which will no doubt be added to the amount of his invoice later!

Thursday was bright and clear, although a little low cloud occasionally threatened during the day. I'd arranged to make a soupy lunch for my sister Mary and myself, and it now looked as if I would have a third guest in the shape of Igor, who was coming along to do the final preliminaries to going "live" with the website upgrade. All in all, it was the most chatty lunch that has taken place at the Tait Gallery for some time, with the food being also acceptable, and the website mission being accomplished too. Then my two apparently satisfied guests left, leaving me to clear up the clutter, a task which took me over half-an-hour, and do a little more artwork. I spent the evening chilling out a bit.

Friday dawned and remained bright and mostly sunny, with light south-easterly winds. I took my usual trip out to mother's, collecting her pension and pre-ordered shopping along the way. I did the usual Friday things, such as watering the greenhouse, frying mother's favourite fish lunch of whiting in batter for lunch, clearing up afterwards, making tea and coffee, and generally helping her out with things. She is keeping quite well, if you disregard her severe mobility problems (which it's difficult for her to do!). She is now into her 95th year, and just getting through a day is a bit of a struggle for her, but she has decided that she'll stick it out at her home at Brugarth, Whiteness, for another winter, provided that my sister Mary carries out her promise to stay with her if the weather gets snowy and the access road becomes problematic for the home helps. Everyone got a fright over the severity of last winter, and no-one wants another like it - ever again.
Back at my flat in the evening, I made the mistake of trying to assemble a self-assembly cardboard display unit for my greeting cards. All my efforts at self-assembly tend to self-dissemble within a very short space of time, and this project never really got off the ground. The bits just didn't seem to fit. After an hour I realised that I was unequal to this struggle, threw the parts, which were now looking decidedly grubby and furry, into the bin, and ordered a couple of ready-assembled plastic units from a display units shop on the internet. Hang the expense!

Yesterday was also bright and sunny, with a moderate south-easterly breeze. I spent the morning on the "St. Clair" painting, and the afternoon on the cloud reflections in the water of the Baltasound picture, quite a tricky operation which I nearly finished before the end of the afternoon. I didn't do a lot in the evening, except watch what was watchable on the box. For some reason I hadn't yet seen the third film in the Bourne trilogy, which turned out to be even more frenetic, violent, scowling and frankly daft than the previous two, but it was fun to watch - a bit like Young Guns meets the Wacky Races, with a touch of Rocky thrown in.

And so to today, and I am determined to get this posted. I failed last Sunday, due to the fact that I spent the morning wrapping a painting and then went for a run out west with my sister Thelma in the afternoon. (I did the same run this afternoon, but I had most of this written beforehand.) Must do better, as they say! Have a nice week.

Thursday, 2 September 2010


The new website upgrade is live! Take a look at the new products!


We didn't quite get the website upgrade ready yesterday, as there were too many things to sort out, but my web designer and I put in some good work on it. More will be done today, and I still hope to be up and running with it by the weekend. It'll be worth the wait, I promise you......