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 December 2010


I learnt this startling news from my diary today, namely that the 26th December is not Boxing Day when it falls on a Sunday. Even more startling is the fact that I've gone through 63 Christmastides without being aware of this.

Well, I've just had my first warm-up of my share in the turkey "carry-out" from the family meal at Whiteness yesterday. There's still enough left for me to make a rice concoction with for tomorrow's lunch too. Even better was my sister Mary's sticky toffee pudding, the second (and sadly the last!) helping of which I warmed under the grill today. Megayum!

In anticipation of the jollification ahead, I got my artwork as up-to-date as I could, before setting off to Brugarth on Friday morning to spend Christmas Eve and Day with mother. The two commissions which I have scheduled for completion before the end of January are now well under way, with skies completed and the other features outlined. I hope to get more work done on one of these tomorrow. My advertising bills have now been paid, and the bank accounts are still in the black (just), despite the disaster of the Thursday Toll Clock stalls, which yielded only half of what I'd hoped for, mostly due to adverse weather conditions. Better luck next year, I hope! With things as nearly under control as they ever get chez the Tait Gallery, I set off to take up my duties as general assistant and kitchen porter at Brugarth, which, like the rest of Shetland, is under a foot of snow.

Mother had a late night on Christmas Eve. We had heard that my niece Elanor was playing in a recording by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, which was being shown on BBC1 Scotland around midnight, so the home help was excused duty at Mum's that evening, and Mary was on hand to perform the bedtime routine instead. Mary's daughter Caroline was taping the programme in case Mum DIDN'T fancy staying up, so the gaps were covered. In the end she did stay up, and the three of us watched an excellent concert of classical-based Christmas music, just the kind which we have enjoyed singing together in choirs over the years, only this time accompanied by an orchestra!

The BBC have provided us with a feast of good Christmas choral music over the past week or so. I've enjoyed all of it, whether presented as a historical documentary, a service or a recital. Simon Russell Beale and Howard Goodall have both done excellent programmes and, together with the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings on Christmas Eve, and another wonderful programme from Winchester yesterday, I know that my mother has really felt a seasonal atmosphere these last few days, something she has felt was lacking in previous years. Beeb, take a bow! I know that there are probably pressures from the secular, anti-religious and other lobbies (God help us!) to cut down on the Christian output, but there are at least three people who are very happy with what they have seen and heard this festive season.

Christmas was about the coldest morning I have ever experienced. I was up at 7.30am, before the central heating had started to thaw the kitchen out, and I despaired of it being warm enough to allow mother to occupy it. I felt like starting a fire in the place - sadly it's supposed to be centrally heated! It did warm up a bit before mother got up, fortunately, and Mary and I set about preparing a feast for the same company which sat around the same table at the same time last year. And we had another jolly good time too!

By the time we had finished clearing up afterwards, darkness had fallen over the snow, and I took the opportunity of a lift back to Lerwick with Mary's son-in-law David Thomson. He was at the wheel of his father's Range Rover, which he had borrowed for its Arctic terrain capabilities. On the way in to town, the snow was sparkling in the headlight beams, as if some mighty hand had scattered multi-coloured glitter over it, a phenomenon which I can't recall seeing before - perhaps my eyes have never previously been tuned to the spectacle! Thus ended a kind of magical Christmas Day. Even though my back was sore, and I felt knackered at the end of it, I could still appreciate that it had been a special occasion, and I hope the others felt it too - I know mother did!

Now the thaw has set in - the wind has picked up to a fresh south-easterly, and it has clouded over. No doubt it will rain tonight, and, by tomorrow morning, a lot of the snow will have gone - for now! My brother arrives in Shetland for a very short break on Tuesday morning's boat. There are rumours of another feast, this time of reestit mutton soup, on Wednesday evening, and no doubt I'll be on sink duty for that too. I wouldn't have it otherwise!

For those of you who are having them, I hope your Hogmanay celebrations go well next Friday night into Saturday! A guid new year tae ane and a' - when it comes!

Sunday, 19 December 2010


As I intimated as a possibility in my last post (sound the bugles!), my final pre-Christmas stall of 2010 at the Toll Clock Centre was snowed off on Thursday, which was also, with predictably immaculate timing, the day the blizzards struck. I spent a slightly more productive day in the comparative warmth of my studio, working on commissioned works mostly. I now have three of these to occupy me, with another possibly in the offing, and, while none of these will make my fortune, they are interesting jobs to do.

Two of the new commissions are of historic Shetland fishing boats, one of the paintings featuring two of these, the other only one. Both pictures have been ordered by descendants of the owners of the vessels to be depicted. One of these boats was lost at sea as a result of an engine-room fire, another going to her watery grave, some years after being sold by her Shetland owners, while on admiralty duties during the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940. I'm not sure what happened to the third boat. She probably ended her days aground, as many of her contemporaries did, in one of the many Shetland inlets or "voes", being left to rot, having become obsolete with the advancement of fishing boat design and propulsion. I will do my best, as always, to bring them to colourful life again on canvas - they still make nice subjects for seascape paintings!

The third commission, which I may have mentioned in a previous post, is of a slightly later fishing vessel which was completed at Macduff in 1940, and which spent the 1950s fishing out of Eyemouth. I'll be painting her coming into her home port from the fishing grounds.

While the commissions pay the bills, I'm very conscious of the passage of time, as it careers towards my next scheduled exhibition at Catterline in November/December of 2011. Many things will have to be organised before then, such as Northlink ferry journeys, accommodation for myself and my driver, publicity material and grants to cover part of the cost of the above. I just hope I can muster at least one willing (and fit!) helper to assist with the hanging when that time comes. Oh, and somewhere along the line I'll need to do some paintings for it too!

I plan to go out to my mother's on the morning of Christmas Eve, as I usually do, and should be there until sometime late on Christmas day. I'll be trying to make myself useful, helping to deal with the turkey, and acting as kitchen porter on the day. Mother has admitted that, at 94, she doesn't feel up to making her usual butter-scotch trifle for sweet, which is disappointing, but Mary has volunteered her sticky toffee pudding, which will be a worthy substitute. I'll probably attempt some snow clearance, although the brae was under about a foot of the white stuff for most of its length on Friday, more has fallen since, and more is forecast during the coming week. Ertie's 4x4 fanbuster only made it to the top at the third attempt on Friday, the snow lying on a base of black ice.

It's all a bit grim, but beautiful in its own way. While I hate this wintry weather, it does provide some spectacular skies to admire and artistically appreciate. Since childhood, I have always noticed the intensity of the purple and orange of cumulus snow-cloud, particularly in the afternoons around sunset. Have a happy, peaceful and colourful Christmas!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


I turned 13 years of age in 1961, when the Aberdeen trawler "Burwood" was completed by Mitchison's yard at Gateshead. Here she is heading north-east out of her home port, with Girdleness lighthouse on her starboard quarter.
This is the first "stock" work I have completed for some months, and its intended destination is the next exhibition at Catterline at the end of 2011 - unless someone buys her online first, from
It's not been a great 9 days chez the Tait Gallery, since my last posting here, and the prospects for the rest of this week aren't good either. It's a beautiful sunny day in Shetland, and the snow has all but disappeared from the hillsides, where it had formed deep drifts last Wednesday evening and night. But the forecasters are all predicting a blizzard on Thursday, which is my next (and last for this year) scheduled stall day at the Toll Clock centre. If the weather is bad, I won't even bother to turn up. Last Thursday's non-event was also badly snow-affected, the roads having been blocked by snow the night before, and the thaw set in that evening, too late to do me any good. And now the snow is arriving just in time to write off my last chance to make a few bob with my cards and prints this year. One has to be philosophical about these things. I guess I was just unlucky. You win some, you lose some, and all the rest of the appropriate homespun truisms.
In view of the fact that most of you don't like to see grown men crying, I will spare you any more moans on this occasion. Have a nice week, as you prepare the bird for Christmas, and a merry festive season to all you single men too. LOL!
I hope to be in a better frame of mind (and humour) for my next post, hopefully on Sunday. Byee!

Sunday, 5 December 2010


While Shetland has not suffered the same volume of snowfall which has been making people's lives a misery on the Scottish mainland, it has been a few feet deep in places, and it was enough to cause problems for the gallant SIC snow-plough/gritter crews. It was also enough to deter people from visiting the Toll Clock Centre, where I sat in my thermals at my stall on Thursday. My takings for the day did sneak into three figures, but not as much as I would have expected for the 2nd of December. There just weren't many people about, although I did meet a few old friends.

One such old chum was my fellow painter Liam O'Neill, down from Unst for a quick shopping trip. I have known him since my art college days, and I had the pleasure of his company for part of the morning. We talked about our art, our ailments and old times, and it was good to see him looking so well. My thanks must also go to Neil Robertson, who brought me a very welcome cup of coffee, and to my sister Mary, who gave up part of her lunch break to look after the stall while I took a much-needed pit-stop. She sold the first print of the day too!

I've received another commission this week, and I've been doing a bit of online research in connection with this. It is for a painting of an Eyemouth-based fishing boat, and views of the mouth of this busy harbour, to use for information on the background, would be gratefully received. My customer is furnishing me with a photograph of the boat itself, the "Dougals" (BK247). I've been working on another order too, a painting of two old Shetland fishing boats, which means that, in the limited daylight hours available to me just now, the stock/exhibition works have been taking a back seat again.

We mustered another shovel-party for the road up to mother's house on Monday. I'm ashamed to say that this time I never had a shovel in my hand, most of the spadework being done by my nephew, his wife, son and father, also joined by a neighbour and my sister Mary, while my sister Thelma and I attended to catering matters indoors. The labourers dined on bannocks filled with salt beef and tongue, washed down by copious quantities of tea. The snow had not been as deep as I had feared - nothing like as deep as when the first such party was mustered in early February. This time, Graham Robinson had no trouble ascending the Brugarth brae in his minibus, which bore my mother safely back to the warmth of her own home, after her fortnight's break at the Wastview Care Centre in Walls.

I visited her again on Friday, when I paid my "normal" call on her with her pension and shopping from the Whiteness shop, as well as her medication from the Scalloway surgery. My driver was Ertie Burgess, who recently took delivery of his formidable new 4x4 taxi which I have begun referring to as the fanbuster. "Fan" is the Shetland dialect word for a deep snowdrift, and I was surprised to see one, about two feet deep on the left-hand side, at the top of the Brugarth brae when we arrived on Friday morning. It never even slowed the vehicle down - it burst through the snow as if it wasn't there!

The worst of the snow seems to be over, for the time being at least. The Met Office are forecasting wintry showers and icy roads for the coming week, and the temperature is certainly not going to be high, but no heavy falls of the white stuff are being predicted for here. I'm very glad about that. I hope, wherever you are, you keep safe this week.


It's a beautiful morning in Lerwick, and I couldn't resist taking this photograph from my flat (studio) window. It depicts the snow-covered berg of Hoofield, about ten miles away, showing over the nesses of Trebister and Sound, with some of the houses of West Sletts Park, Lerwick in the foreground. The snow has thawed in the lower areas over the last couple of days, but it's still lying thick higher up.
The photo might be a little out of focus, but it demonstrates why I like my little Pentax camera, why I'm never short of inspiration (although the word is rather a lofty one) and also why I'm an artist!