Doodles in the margin from an artist living and working in the Scottish Borders.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Music on Monday: Band Substance

Whenever my friend Colin and I would get together and I was drinking more than I do these days, it was inevitable that two things would happen; a lot of red wine would get consumed, and at about two in the morning the Band's 'Last Waltz' DVD would come out. So this song in particular has a lot of very good, if a bit hazy, memories for me and gives me a particularly warm feeling, as it was Colin who introduced me to The Band in the first place.

Judged on its own merits, though, this is a 24 carat piece of bespoke hand-tooled teak-oiled magnificence in its own limited edition presentation case. The Weight is one of Robbie Robertson's finest compositions, and in this version the Staples' contribution runs through it like a vein of ore. It still puts the hairs up on the back of my neck.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Fair to Moderate, and the Return of H*3.

Post St.Abbs Fair analysis.

It was the hardcore wool crowd, and it was quite quiet all day, but it did afford some interesting analysis of what went and what didn't. Again, the Catnip cards proved the most popular, and I took the long hours of idleness as opportunity to doodle out a couple of new ones. The new square canvasses got a lot of interest too, and the reproduction cards of them sold, so I think I'm right in believing that there's something to follow there.

Met and chatted with lots of interesting people, both stallholders and browsers, and got a couple of good leads for future fairs and possible collective exhibitions. And I paid for my half of the table and had a bit of cash in the pocket at the end of it.

Oh aye, and to those who passed through, laughed at the cards for free and didn't buy one, that's virtually shoplifting.

And thanks above all to Lyndsay, a.k.a. the Border Tart who staged a tactical Malteser run when the stallholders were flagging and said kind things about my work and is therefore a Good Person.

As a result, I'm following the hankering I had for rusty letters and cracking on again with another such study from Eyemouth harbour; H*3 is back up on the easel and awaiting the on-clagging of paint. Can't wait.

Friday, 25 February 2011

It's a Sign

I made a sign for my half of the table for fairs, seeing as Laura has a large eye-catching sign and I don't. Well, I still don't, but it is a sign.

I spent a lot of time mulling over the font and came to the conclusion I'd really like it to be Gill Sans, same as on my website. I couldn't really just paint it successfully, I thought, but as I was staring at the piece of driftplank it occurred to me that it would look good if the letters were cut into the wood. I pricked out the outline of the letters, and scratched a guideline. I was going to use a chisel to cut but used my linocut burin set instead, as the u-shaped graver proved more controllable. I painted the letters in with acrylic. I think it looks quite smart, considering it's hacked out of a plank.

Public Flogging

First fair of the year on Saturday, the Woolfest at St. Abbs. I shall be there selling some original paintings, photograph prints and cards, and generally taking up space on Laura's table with my gimcrack homemade display units. It was very worthwhile last year, so fingers crossed that the good people of the Borders turn out with their wallets again.

I've added two new cards to the Catnip range (there are four now, so it's a 'range.') The habits and behaviour of cats.

Monday, 21 February 2011


Two more squarescapes. There is another one but it looks pretty revolting, I don't think it photographed very well.

Friday, 18 February 2011


Fiona and Alan, pencil on paper.

I got a commission to do a portrait for a Valentine's Day gift, which I can post now it's been safely delivered and given. The photograph I worked from was a front-on flash photograph, and so the facial features were very evenly lit, which was tricky. I found that using the usual 2B pencil made shadows look unfortunately like a beard, so I changed to 2 and 4H which gave a much lighter mark.

The phrase "aaaaaaahhh, wouldjalookit them" has become something of a household catch phrase and arose from a pissed Irish bloke in The Muppet Inn (that's what I said, yes) in Wisbech. It was hard not to go into a pub called the Muppet Inn, but less hard to leave it. I bought Laura a pint of cider, which apparently Irish Bloke took as a symbol of my long-term fidelity and moved him greatly.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Red Square

Red Fields

Green Coast
Green Sunstreak; all oil on canvas, 8" x 8".
I bought a bagload of cheap square canvases (and, boy, do I mean cheap) in order to try out a new sort of style that had been tickling away at the back of my mind for a while. I think I've had a step forward. Trying to get a sense of light, wind, rain, space, air and place.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Little Brownish Jug.

Water Jug, oil on canvas, 9" x 12".

I did the background quickly and very loosely, and concentrated on the light passing through the glass and the water, which is a phenomenon I never get tired of. It's lovely. This was based on a photograph taken on a camera phone when we were invited round to some friends' to eat. They had spotlights in the ceiling and placed the jug right underneath one so that it was full of light.

Monday, 7 February 2011


Pencil study of succulents and cacti, Giardino dei Semplice, Florence, 15cm x 15cm.

I started this study before I launched into the comic strip competition entry. I had something of a breakthrough in my painting technique recently, too, of which hopefully more later, very impressionistic, almost semi-abstract - which is very exciting, but I was really happy to get back to the glasses-off microscopic pencil-stroke stuff. It's got me a portrait commission, too, which I've done and sent a scan to the client for approval.

I've already spent the money. I bought a second-hand Campagnolo chainset on eBay from a bloke in France. Absurdly pleased to have "Campag" on my bike. (I can say "Campag" now, although I'll try really hard not to be such a twat.) And of that, too, more later.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Brian #5: Questionable Content

'Brian' being used in schools as part of personal & social education lessons, yesterday. She's probably his form tutor.

Questions. There are, you learn, two sorts - open and closed. And then there are questions so open that tumbleweed, litter and huge flocks of birds blow through them.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Borderline Behaviour

10 steps to create a text with black borderline and overlay it on an image, using GIMP 2.6.

I learned how to do this over the weekend, so I'm going to share while it's still fresh in my mind.

I wanted to overlay a word on a panel, and wanted white text with a black border. Importantly, the background image had to be seen behind the letters of the overlaid text.

Step 1.

Open the image onto which you want to put the text.

Step 2.

Create a new, blank image. (Tip:I haven't, but if you make this a grey background, it will help when you turn the text to white in Step 4.)

Step 3.

Using the 'Text' tool, create a text box, choose the font style (this is DigitalStrip Bold) and enter the word. For arbitrary and puerile reasons I'm going to put 'Arsebiscuits!' onto this image.

Step 4.

Change the colour of the font to white using the text colour function. If you've made the background to grey then the text won't 'disappear.'

Step 5.

Click on 'Path From Text,'

then select the 'Edit' drop-down menu. From here scroll down and select 'Stroke Path.'

Step 6.

This will open an options box. In this case I'm using plain, solid colour, and reducing the line thickness to 3.0 pixels. Once this is done, click 'Stroke.'

This can take a while, so don't panic if it appears that nothing is happening. Your text will eventually appear with the border around it.

Step 7.

Using the 'Rectangle Select' tool, outline the newly-bordered text. Right click 'Copy.'

(It's important not to merge this text layer down before selecting and copying; the above steps mean you'll create and copy the text with a transparent background.)

Step 8.
Return to the original image. Right click 'Paste.' The text, with transparent background appears on the picture.

Step 9.

At the moment it's too small and in the wrong place. There are good tools on GIMP to shift things around; Scale, Shear, Rotate and Move (highlighted in green) mean you can resize, reshape and move text like this around until you're happy.

In this case, I'm scaling the text layer; use the box 'handles' to drag it and re-shape it; once you're happy click on the 'Scale.'

Step 10.

Once the text is the right shape and in the right place, it needs to be 'fixed' to the drawing beneath. In the 'Layers' drop-down menu, click 'Anchor Layer' and that's it, done.

(And I was listening to the transfer day madness unfolding, in case you were wondering.)


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