Alice Neel documentary

“I always felt in a sense that I didn’t have the right to paint because I had two sons and I had so many things I should be doing..”

An intriguing documentary to ponder on International Women’s Day. The painter Alex Katz described her as ‘an angry housewife’, which is ironic given that she was not married at the time and her house was a studio! Thought provoking. I feel grateful that we’re able to make our choices somewhat more easily in these times. Alice Neel and her children paid a heavy price, yet I doubt she could have made any other choice.

Documentary on Alice Neel viewable on BBC Iplayer Here

Damasus rose 3 (in progress)

In progress (Damascus 3)

More work on Damascus 3 today.

Also, Happy International Women’s Day! Here’s an excerpt from the excellent report by Art Finder (I’ve sold a few pieces there myself)  which highlights the inequality of income and influence between women and men in the arts …

“There are many industries where women
are paid less than men for the same work.
The current gender pay gap in the UK is
13.9%1 and in the US it’s 20%2. But one of
the reasons this campaign feels so necessary
is that the differences in the high-end
art world are not to the tune of 10% or

Just one out of the top 100 lots sold at
auction in 2015 was a work by a woman. In
2004, when MoMA opened its new building,
with a reinstallation of the permanent
collection spanning the years 1880 to
1970, of the 410 works on display in the
fourth- and fifth-floor galleries, only 16
works (that’s 4%) were by women. By April
2015, still only 7% of the works on display were by women.”

Have a look at the full report on the link below, where you can also pledge your support to the campaign (no money asked!) …



The rose of all the world

Painting in progress. Damascus Rose 3

Painting in progress. Damascus Rose 3. 36×36 inches on wood panel

Above – painting in progress, this is the third and last in the Damascus Rose series. Tomorrow when this blue base is dry I’ll be painting hundreds of roses rising into the sky, viewed slightly from above probably.

I’ve been musing on the symbology of flowers today, the many flowers that have been attached or appropriated to causes. I’m thinking for example of the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘little white rose’:

The rose of all the world is not for me

I want for my part

Only the little white rose of Scotland

That smells sharp and sweet – and breaks the heart

The little white rose was first adopted by Jacobites during the ’45 rebellion. A few years ago, former First Minister Alex Salmond suggested it might be a rose ‘for all Scotland’ – appropriating it as a symbol for anyone who lives in Scotland whatever their background or beliefs.

I began the Damascus series of paintings when I heard that the Damascus rose was no longer in production, due to the war in Syria, so for me this became a way to explore a difficult subject that I couldn’t claim to understand on a personal level, only as an observer, albeit a fellow human witnessing the suffering of ordinary people in Syria through my computer screen.

The rose seemed an appropriate symbol for me to explore; it often features in Middle Eastern poetry as a symbol of love, it has done for centuries and up to the present, as in this moving poem by Kurdish poet Bejan Matur, called ‘Peaceful morning’ …

A time before time
A morning of peace
Of roses
And fountains.
A welcoming
Of the creatures
Of the latecomer
Rescued from the hand of sleep
In the dappled dawn.
So arms
Moved away from a statue’s body
And found a human.
What belonged
Far more than words
Was love.

'Damascus Rose 1'. Acrylic on 36x36" wood panel

‘Damascus Rose 1’. Acrylic on 36×36″ wood panel

The rose of Damascus is the linking theme in my three works; first the rose of Middle Eastern visual art, in designs we’re familiar with, on tiles and mosques, adopted into western designs too. I painted these conventionally across the wood panel, then scraped this back to ‘age’ it, then pretty impulsively scrawled over this the deep blue and red roses on the left, graffiti-like, perhaps to suggest a kind of protest, or survival of love and creativity amidst cruelty (several lovingly designed sacred mosques were blown up during attacks on Aleppo and Damascus, citizens almost immediately began to rebuild, just as Bosnians did with the Mostar bridge, decades ago).

The second painting has an underlay of rose madder (or alazarin crimson) the predominant p1140203blue-toned rose-red I used for the previous painting. I blocked out the pattern (based on a map of Damascus from above) in tape, then covered the painting in thick bitumen-like black mixed with salt. When the tape was pulled off the rose tones were revealed – intended as a sort of glow underlying destruction. (some of the most ancient streets in Damascus proved the best cover for residents under attack, as these streets were so narrow and deep).






The third painting is taking shape, so I’m not quite sure how it will look, or exactly why I’ve chosen to paint roses rising into the sky, perhaps it evokes the idea of survival, even after death and destruction.

Returning to MacDiarmid’s Little White Rose, it was written (I think) in the 1920’s, when MacDiarmid was a supporter of Scottish Independence, but things have changed radically in Scotland since then; the area of Edinburgh I grew up in, Leith (where I live now, having lived all over the UK and occasionally abroad) is still often the first port of call for new immigrants – it’s affordable and central, predominantly working class with a long history of newcomers and settlers. When I was growing up here I witnessed an amount of racism against the Chinese and South Asian communities (the WW2 generation will no doubt remember racism against the first generations of the Italian community to arrive in Leith and Portobello further along the coast).

I’ve watched Leith change for the better over the years though, most radically as a result of the inclusive and democratic approach of the contemporary movement for Scottish independence, not just the approach led by the SNP but also among grass roots groups, for example ‘Scots Asians for Yes‘ ‘Women for Independence‘, Scots English for Yes‘, and broad groups or organisations such as Common Weal and the artist-led National Collective.

We look outwards now. So while the little white rose is dear to my heart,  we are all connected. To end this post – a poem by The 12th century Muslim Andalucian poet Muhyyeddin Ibn Arabi who wrote these lines before he died in 1240:

My heart has become capable of every form: it is a
pasture for gazelles and a convent for
Christian monks,
And a temple for idols, and the pilgrim’s Ka’ba, and
the tables of the Tora and the
book of the Koran.
I follow the religion of Love, whichever way his camels take.

Exhibition – Canalscapes and the Severn

'Severn 3'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 3’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel

The canalscapes of Gloucestershire and the River Severn series will be on their way down to the Lime Tree Gallery in Bristol next week, then they’ll make a decision on how and when they’ll will be shown.

The Limetree is an excellent gallery, thriving in these tricky times with a busy programme within the gallery, involvement in art fairs throughout the UK and regular visits around the country to research the contemporary painting scene. They focus quite often on Scottish landscape painting or art, so it’s maybe unusual to show work by a Scottish artist of the Gloucestershire area. Hopefully at some point down the line they’ll consider some larger works, either of the Hebrides (which I’ll be painting until the end of 2017 with two series) or more of the Severn – the feeling of space (and what I found to be an odd combination of danger and tranquility) would be well suited to a larger canvas or wood panel.

I did a quick poll among Facebook friends of their favourites, so here’s the series in order of favourite first! …

'Severn 3'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 3’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel

'Severn 1'. Acrylic on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 1’. Acrylic on 14×11″ wood panel















'Canalscapes 3'. Acrylic on 14x11" wood panel

‘Canalscapes 3’. Acrylic on 14×11″ wood panel









'Canalscapes 5'. Acrylic on 14x12" wood panel

‘Canalscapes 5’. Acrylic on 14×12″ wood panel

'Canalscapes 1'. Acrylic on 14x11" wood panel

‘Canalscapes 1’. Acrylic on 14×11″ wood panel







'Canalscapes 2'. Acrylic on 14x11" wood panel

‘Canalscapes 2’. Acrylic on 14×11″ wood panel
















'Canalscapes 6'. Mixed media on 11x12" wood panel

‘Canalscapes 6’. Mixed media on 11×12″ wood panel









'Canalscapes 4 '. Acrylic on 14x11" wood panel

‘Canalscapes 4 ‘. Acrylic on 14×11″ wood panel







'Severn 2'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 2’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel

'Severn 4'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 4’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel


Hebrides Prints for sale

'Leaving Ullapool 2'. Mixed media on 5x5" wood

‘Leaving Ullapool 2’. Mixed media on 5×5″ wood

In May this year I’ll be returning to Harris on the outer Hebrides for a brief trip and to 20160920_093106inspire a new series of paintings for this year’s summer exhibition (Whitespace Gallery, Howe St Edinburgh, 30th June to 30th July). I’ll be staying in the yurt, where I painted the Harris sea loch paintings below in September last year. I’m looking forward to seeing how the colours have changed in early summer.

There are 10×10 inch and 20×20 inch limited edition prints available of the following, each in editions of 25, signed and numbered. (All originals have sold). Email me at for details:



Canalscapes and Severn (in progress) 6

'Severn 4'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 4’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel

'Severn 2'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 2’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel

'Severn 3'. Mixed media on 14x11" wood panel

‘Severn 3’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel

Today’s painting of the Severn – a bit more abstract. Also more work on Severn 2 and 3, which seems to suit a more abstract approach. The views in real life are very simple in a way – huge skies, long bands of land in subtle colours, but it’s the feeling of distance and atmosphere that’s hard to capture in a painting so I’m experimenting with atmospheric effects with scattered pigment and salt, rather than the usual graduated fading into distance which can look predictable or tedious, since we’re so used to seeing that in paintings. In ‘Severn 4’ I’ve scraped back to the wood which has a nice sand tone.