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 January 2011


I'll have to get out more. Up-Helly-A' and the coincidental Burns Night passed by last Tuesday without any participation by me whatsoever, although the Tait Gallery is now on the collecting sheet for the former. My sister Angela, who is normally resident at Bethesda, North Wales, informs me that the 25th January is also the date of Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen, a kind of Valentine's day for the Welsh. Whatever the occasion, I can't be bothered to attend it nowadays. Sad, isn't it?

Sitting has always been one of my favourite pastimes. I just park myself, preferably near a window with a view, and switch off, allowing myself to be transported to wherever my flights of fancy might take me. And there I remain until the unwelcome intrusion of a phone call, a knock at the door or a work deadline encroaches upon my reverie. To tell the truth, terra firma is not such a fearful place for me as it used to be (would that it was the same for everyone). A year into my self-employment, around the end of 2005, I reckon I was over £10,000 in debt, and with no real idea how I was going to get this paid off. Now I've managed to work myself clear of three-quarters of that sum, and I hope to be rid of it completely by the close of 2011.

During the 1990s and into the "noughties", a recurring nightmare used to invade my hours of slumber. It varied as to its "geographical" location, but the theme was always the same. I was always among a crowd of people, I was always trying to accomplish some task or other, and I was always failing miserably. Frequently the location was a grotesquely enlarged version of the Vadill Compounds during the construction phase of the Sullom Voe Terminal, among the mud, sheds, workshops and portakabin offices of this period and area. It was dark, and I was trying to find someone, which I never did, of course. Sometimes it was a flat, which may have started as a similar one to that in which I now type these lines, but in my dream it took on much larger proportions, with loads of interconnecting rooms. I was the official tenant, I was trying to rid myself of the crowds of people who seemed to have taken up residence in it, and no-one was taking a blind bit of notice of me! Walking up B Avenue, again at the oil terminal, towards the flares, with crowds of people walking down, was another theme. I think I was looking for a lift somewhere (it made sense in the dream!). Those and many others were disturbing, and they made little sense to me at the time. I was always glad when blessed consciousness returned, and, grim though reality may have been, it was not as bad as the dream from which I had just awoken.

Something has changed - I haven't had these dreams for years now. The strange scenes which now play themselves out in my unconscious hours and mind, while equally grotesque, are not at all unpleasant. Have sweet dreams this week!


Last week I promised that I'd have two more completed paintings to show you today. I almost succeeded, but the second one still has a couple of details to complete, so I've had to hold it over until I've done those.
Meantime, here is the "Dougals", a seine-netter which worked out of Eyemouth in the 1950s, approaching her home port after another trip. This work was a commission, and if anyone out there in the blogosphere would like a painting of a favourite boat or scene, I would be delighted to do the work. My contact details are on my website, which also features many of my previous artworks, as well as a Gallery Shop, where original paintings, giclee prints and greeting cards are available to purchase.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


A bit later than promised, here is the latest commissioned painting. It features two historical Shetland fishing boats, the steam drifter "Thule Rock" and the motorised (and substantially rebuilt) fifie lugger "Reaper".
The "Thule Rock" was built at Stromness, Orkney in 1917, the only steam drifter to have been built there. At some point, probably in the 1930s, she was sold from Shetland to Lowestoft, being renamed "Lord Howard" (LT212). She was requisitioned by the Admiralty on the outbreak of the second world war, and was lost at Dunkirk in 1940. I have no record as to loss of life.
The "Reaper" is still afloat today as a completely restored fifie sailing lugger, which is how she began her career in 1901. Built at Sandhaven , she sailed out of nearby Fraserburgh until 1908, when she was bought by Shetland owners. At some point, she was converted into a motor vessel, as many of this type of boat were, and in the late 1930s, she underwent an even more extensive refit. Her stem was lengthened, an extra board was fitted around the gunwale, a new wheelhouse casing added, and there may have been other alterations too, for instance in the engine room (I'm not sure about this). She fished successfully until the 1950s, when she was bought by the islands council and used as a cargo vessel until around 1970. Eventually she was bought by the Anstruther Fisheries Museum, and restored to her original hull and rig, under which she sails as a training vessel.
I am at an advanced stage with two more paintings, and I hope to have one or both of these ready for next week's post. Enjoy your week!


It's not often I find myself drawn to proceedings on the Review Show, which is the slot on BBC2 which follows Newsnight, round about 11pm on a Friday. Indeed the only reason it was on in my studio was that I had been working on my computer and had neglected to switch over or off when Newsnight had finished. This programme normally takes the form of a discussion between four critics on some of the week's events in the arts world, and it is normally chaired by a TV broadcasting luminary such as Kirsty Wark or Martha Carney.

The voluble but largely inconsequential effervescence of this noble gathering of blabbermouths, along with the apparently unlimited funds available to certain "art" collectors, forms a large tract of the territory in which the chancers and charlatans among "art" producers live, move and have their being. However, on this occasion, the panel consisted of three comedians including Rhona Cameron and another (male) from the Glasgow region, the third being English (I didn't notice from which area). The fourth member of the panel was a professor, who looked completely bemused by the company and situation in which he found himself.

Under discussion were Peter Hall's production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which had opened I know not where, as I hadn't been paying attention at the stage at which this had been announced, and the latest offering of offal (in one case literally!) at some gallery or other, possibly the Tate Modern. Now, as the male Glasgow comic hadn't either seen the production of Twelfth Night or read the bard's tragicomedy, and the other comedians' understanding of the production was limited, this had all the makings of an excellent impromptu modern comedy programme, and it didn't disappoint. The male Glasgow comedian's comment on the gallery exhibition, which included a glass case containing fly-infested offal (sic!), was "I just like looking at things!" How refreshingly honest!

Shortly after the start of the programme, poor Martha Carney suffered a temporary blockage of her respiritory system ("she shokkit' on a spittle!", as we say in Shetland!), and spent some time coughing and trying to restore order to her oesophagus and the programme. The professor was clearly wishing he was somewhere else, and I had lost all interest in what I had been doing on the computer. I hope Martha has since recovered.

Bravo, BBC! I have seldom enjoyed a programme more than this fine spontaneous example of live television, which was much better than the pathetic rubbish which passes as comedy nowadays. I want more soon!

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's series about the price of fish was excellent - at least the only programme I managed to watch was. He told it as he saw it, from the point of view of someone who knows his food, and added some pretty clever stuff to his presentation. The idea about carrying out the discarding of species of fish (which the lunatic regulation imposed by the EU has declared to be necessary), close to the windward coast near Hastings, and giving it away for nowt to anyone who wanted some, was superb in its audacity, concept and execution.

His trip aboard the demersal trawler "Seagull" also showed very clearly the injustice and idiocy of just what British skippers are are required to do to conform to the rules imposed by Brussels. I hope that many people saw the tragic dumping of more than 20 boxes of prime cod for every haul the boat took on board, just because some ill-informed body of scientists have declared that these fish are a figment of fishermens' imaginations.

The ball is now firmly in the court of the EU. Any betting on what the response of this august body will be? Will they take the advice of ill-informed "scientists" and one-track minded "conservationists" who care not a whit about the survival of a fishing industry and the communities who depend on them? Will they believe the evidence of their own eyes, as presented by Hugh F W, and grant fishermen the leeway they need to end the silly discard system? This will mean that fishermen will need to spend less time at sea to make a trip profitable, this in turn relieveing pressure on stocks. Or will they come up with more insanity, like another vessel decommissioning scheme, thereby needlessly further threatening the viability of another traditional industry? Judging by the past record of the EU, I'm not holding my breath.

However, if the EU comes up with more negativity towards our fishermen, I hope that the three elements of the industry (catchers, processors and enforcers) get together to dump the EU regulations over the side, and start operating their own system. Time for a sensible and effective approach to the fish stocks conservation issue.

And thank you, Hugh, for bringing the issue to the notice of a wider public, who, for donkey's years, have been fed a potent diet of the misleading propaganda from the conservation pressure groups. I bet the good burghers of Hastings (and/or their cats!) enjoyed their fish too!

Sunday, 9 January 2011


Last week, things got gradually back to normal after the festive season. Even the weather seemed to return to its damp dull usual for a Shetland winter, at least until Thursday, when the snow returned to plague us once more.

My work is not greatly affected by either festivities or weather, except in so far as light is concerned. Progress has been slow and steady on both my commissions, and I hope to have at least one of these ready to illustrate next week's contribution to this blog. I even got a little done on the Gourdon Harbour stock work which, however, is still a long way from completion.

I attended an appointment with the optician on Wednesday afternoon. My eyesight is very important to me, as you may well imagine, and I was alarmed, one evening just before Christmas, when my eyes refused to refocus straight away when I averted them from the Radio Times crossword, on which I had been concentrating, to a more distant object. This gave me a fright, and precipitated the making of the appointment. Meanwhile, I mentioned the problem to my sister Thelma, who is a church organist. Apparently she suffers the same condition, which can make things awkward when she has to play off sheet music and keep an eye on other things happening around her at the same time. The optician was reassuring, giving me a good eye test and finding nothing wrong with my deadlights that can't be attributable to the march of time.

My next appointment will have to be with a hairdresser, but I am reluctant to have my scalp denuded in this cold weather. Many of my fellow-Shetlanders are currently cultivating fine sets of long hair and whiskers for the forthcoming fire festivals. However, I'm not involved in any of them so, devoid of that excuse for hirsuteness, I'll just have to bite the cliched bullet, get shorn and buy a beanie! Yuk! Have a nice week!


I try to keep a record, in the hastily scribbled pages of my diary, of the weather in Shetland each day. It's not a detailed scholarly affair, such as might be kept by an amateur meteorologist, with temperatures, rainfall amounts, wind strengths and hours of sunshine. It's just a rough sketch (to put it in artist's terms) of the conditions prevalent at the time of writing. A typical entry might read:

"Mostly cloudy, fresh NW wind, showers, drier in afternoon with wind decreasing."

However, I really struggled with Friday, when my weather report took up half a page, thus:

"Fresh NW wind with snow showers, after fairly heavy overnight snow with drifting. The wind dropped by daylight, and snow started falling gently, laying down another few inches. Around late morning, the wind was light to moderate E, veering round to SW by midday, with heavy snow turning to sleet and rain, wind near gale force. Wind gradually decreasing during afternoon, with sleet showers turning back into snow after dark. Wind light, then, around mid-evening, the wind picked up strong from the S and the snow turned back to rain."

As the snow fell on Friday morning, I set off with Ertie Burgess in his 4x4 fanbuster to collect a prescription at Scalloway surgery for my mother, and from thence to Whiteness, travelling on the main roads only (gave the Tingwall valley route a miss), in conditions best described as "passable with care". Of course, some of the drivers were overdoing the "care" bit, causing following motorists to brake and skid in the deep slushy mess. We arrived at Whiteness safely, and took the Brugarth brae, which had a foot covering of snow for most of its length, at the second attempt. We were obviously the first vehicle to attempt the feat that day.

Now, as I write this in Lerwick, the snow has been thawing slowly for two days, but I can see the white stuff is still lying deep in places in the hills. I won't be sorry to see the last of it, but I fear it will not be for a couple of months yet - at least.


Oh, and today's entry? "Bright at times, strong NW wind with sleet showers."

Sunday, 2 January 2011


I have heard tell of a custom, which used to be practised in some parts of these islands, by which people did a little, on New Year's Day, of everything which they intended to do more extensively during the coming year. What this was supposed to achieve is unclear, except perhaps as a statement of intent, but I like to subscribe to this idea, partly because it's good to see traditions upheld, and partly because it gets a bit of work done anyway.

So yesterday I did a bit of work on one of my commissioned paintings, and a little writing, as well as some work on the computer. I cooked (chicken), did a (very) little cleaning, and a bit of admin, in that I took down the 2010 calendar and year planner, replacing them with the new versions with all the necessary carry-forwards of symbols (sad, eh?). It also had the first appointment of the new year - with the optician on Wednesday. A certain well-known credit card company had sent me a calendar which has a rather useful-looking system of admin contained therein. These systems are only as useful as the person operating them, though, so it remains to be seen just how effective this one turns out to be.

There were some omissions from from my a-little-bit-of-everything routine of yesterday. I didn't pick up my guitar, which spends month after month gathering dust on my sofa. There seemed to be so little time for practice during 2010, and an awful lot of this is necessary in order to achieve any proficiency as a musician. A damaged left-hand pinkie, broken in an accident at work in 1978 and never re-set, is a handicap! I have reams of classical guitar music manuscript lying unplayed in a cupboard, a situation which I recognise as unsatisfactory, and I would like to do something about this in 2011. The trouble is that I have to spend so much time on the various elements of being self-employed as a visual artist, that at the end of a day's work at the easel and the computer (where I have to strive to keep my website reasonably attractive to surfers and search engines), all my desire to become a Segovia, Williams or Bream has strangely dissipated. In this, as with many other things, I must do better!

All the best, to you and yours, for 2011. May all your plans come to fruition!


The snow, which was beginning to thaw at the time of my last post to this blog last Sunday afternoon, had virtually disappeared by Tuesday. The ground, which had been under a foot of the white stuff, displayed not a trace of it after 36 hours of wind and rain. However I see, from the Met Office website, that winter is set to return to the islands by Thursday. Let's hope that it's only a temporary reappearance.

I've been working, when light conditions allowed, on the two presently easeled (I work flat on the smaller paintings, so the easel is figurative) commissioned works, and I have even managed a couple of hours on the "stock" work of Gourdon harbour. I received encouragement in the post, in the form of a Christmas card from previous customers in Canada, who exhorted me to "keep up the blog!". It's good to know that people read these posts, even when I feel I have little of interest to relate in them. My grateful thanks to Kim and John from Toronto - for everything!

My brother made one of his flying visits to the islands of his birth last week. In accordance with what seems to have become a tradition, we honoured him by laying on a tattie soup event at Brugarth, Whiteness, for Wednesday tea-time. In the afternoon I took up my usual station at the sink, peeling and dicing copious quantities of carrots, swede and potatoes for the soup, which was to have been made on "reestit mutton". Sadly, what had been supplied to us had seen none of the cure ingredients which would have distinguished it as "reestit" from the "piece o' saat mutton", which is how my mother described it. These ingredients, which many curers keep a close secret and vary according to the manufacturer's tradition, go into the saline solution in which the meat spends a day or two prior to being hung up to dry until it is as hard as rock. Accordingly, Wednesday's soup was a little disappointing flavour-wise. We made a better-tasting potful with two bits of fresh boiling beef last year.

My brother arrived on Tuesday morning's ferry and left with the same vessel on Thursday evening. On Friday I paid my last visit of 2010 to Brugarth, where I found my mother well, having enjoyed her festive season so far, with lots of visits from her burgeoning family. In addition to the usual cooking, washing-up, shopping and multifarious small jobs I help her with, I took the bulbs (which I had planted back in October, and which have all responded to the treatment from my horticulturally inept hands by miraculously sprouting shoots) from the dark place underneath the workshop bench to the front porch. As my mother says; "hit's aye somethin' growwin'!". Even the tulips, which I had planted outside in the front border, are showing signs of life.

I returned to Lerwick in the late afternoon, unpacked my provisions from the Whiteness shop, filled my meter with cards from the same source, checked postal and electronic mail, and settled down for an evening in front of the box. I didn't intend to go out again until Monday afternoon at least, and I had resolved to be in bed by the time the chimes sounded at midnight (changed days for me!) and I was just dropping off when the fireworks gave me a rude awakening. Bye-bye, 2010!