October 15th, 2012 Doug
A’tween thinkin’ an dae’in, an expression I have borrowed from my late friend and collaborator, Harvey Holton. We’re talking about the notebook and research time between the original idea and it’s fruition as a work of art.
The majority of my studio time at the moment seems to be working in this area, the often long and painstaking process of developing and questioning your ideas. Through collecting and researching possible subject matter, the ideas either continue on to become finished art works, or are consigned to the back burner for another day when your knowledge or experience will allow you to do the idea justice.
One such project I am working on at the moment is a collaboration with film maker Alastair Cook, and poet Andrew Philip, based on the MacAdam character from Andrew’s forthcoming collection ‘The North End Of The Possible’.
Below are some of my recent notebook pages featuring possible ideas that will be used as part of Alastair’s film, and accompany recordings of the poet reading his own words.This is my ‘thinkin’ and dae’in’, working with all my experience to bring a visual realisation that will hopefully communicate the mood of Andrew’s words.
Watch out over the next few weeks for further posts on The Net Mender with further ideas and images based on the MacAdam poems.
’Like a stone skimming a flat loch’
’until his unlikely feet send him…’
‘ no boat, no miracle hand in sight’
‘ Towards the deep…’
‘ but as his last het wheeze is rising
‘a murmur in the water above him becomes the unlikely beak and wings of a Gannet.
September 5th, 2011 Doug
I have posted a few more images from my recent cathedral visits, this time from Salisbury.
Follow this link to my Facebook artist’s page to view these and other photographic distractions.
August 30th, 2011 Doug
While I am working on researching and collecting my new projects, I spend a lot of time in the studio reading and drawing in my sketchbooks without producing any finished works to post on the website.
As part of my research work I regularly collect photographic reference material. But often when working on this, I will shoot some photographs just for the fun of creating a series of images on a theme.
Here are a collection of sculpture images collected in the beautiful surroundings of Winchester Cathedral.
Click on this link to see the full series on my Facebook artist’s page.
August 20th, 2011 Doug
As part of collecting and researching my work, I often have to get out and about to find and draw/photograph specific subject matter. For part of a current collaboration project I am working on. I visited the beautiful and inspiring venue of Kew Gardens in London.
Anyone wishing to use plants and flowers in any aspect of their work should at some point visit this fantastic resource. The wealth of material available here is mind-boggling, from the plant collections in the various houses, to the stunning botanical art on show at the Shirley Sherwood Collection. A real treat is a visit to the Marianne North Gallery, an incredible display of eight hundred and forty eight paintings produced by the Victorian botanical artist over a fourteen year period in the later half of the 19th century. The collection, housed in its own custom built gallery is a must for anyone who loves the mildly eccentric and elaborate world of the ever-curious Victorians.
As well as collecting materials for my art work, I can’t resist the opportunity to just enjoy working with the camera, especially in great venues such as Kew. I feel that as well as hopefully getting some interesting shots, it helps develop your ability to see more clearly what is around you, practicing the art of paying attention. I’ve posted a few of the photographs from Kew here, and I hope you enjoy them!
May 15th, 2011 Doug
As part of the inaugural ARTournament festival, being held over the weekend of 16th-19th August 2012 in Gloucester, I have been invited to create a series of twelve assemblages called the ‘Pocket Museums’.
The assemblages, which will feature images and tales of the historic city of Gloucester and the surrounding area of the Severn, will be exhibited at a selection of city centre venues , including the Folk Museum pictured above, and will form a small art trail for the public to follow.
Each of these art works will be a small ‘pocket’ sized exhibit, and will be sited in a suitable venue for the theme of the piece. I have always enjoyed making small, more intimate pieces of work such as the ‘Pocket Noost’ pictured below, and they have always proved popular with my audiences both at exhibitions and on the website. It sets me a challenge as an artist to create work which will have to fit in well with the atmosphere of the chosen venue.
Over the next few months I will be making research and collecting trips to Gloucester and its surrounding area, getting a feel for the venues to be used, and building up a resource of ideas and images to feed into the Pocket Museums. Watch out on the blog for future posts on the works and other aspects for the ARTournament event.
February 12th, 2011 Doug
A small collection of whale bones
One of my favorite pastimes, particularly when I’m back on the west coast of Scotland is walking the beaches, searching for interesting objects and fragments of driftwood that can be carved and included in art works. Over the years I have created many objects from wood and various flotsam found on our coastline, from the Poem Boats carved from reclaimed 150 year old timbers of Stornoway Harbour pier, to the assorted beach trinkets collected from an islands bays in Souvenir Of Cumbrae.
Souvenir of Cumbrae
As part of a new sequence of work I am creating, I have enlisted the help of various friends in far flung island locations to help collect pieces of driftwood which will be carved into the objects for the new assemblages. One of these friends is Kim Chater, an American textile artist and illustrator who currently lives on New Island, on the west side of the Falkland Islands group. The beaches around Kim’s home island are full of a wide assortment of materials which have been washed up by the wind and tides, ranging from trees and wood from South America, to a wide assortment of cetacean and other marine mammal bones.
Top and above - The Colliers, New Island
In a conversation I had with Kim, she referred to these pieces of flotsam and jetsam as ’sea travelers’, and I have adopted this as the title for a sequence of work I am going to create using the collected driftwood. I am planning on developing a series of carved assemblages featuring famous sea travelers from the natural world, species such as Whales, Salmon, Shearwaters, Eels etc, and particularly those species such as the Arctic Tern, which travels annually between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.
Tangles of wood and weed
I’ll be continuing to collect and carve materials over the next few months, and looking forward to the arrival of interesting parcels bringing new materials from the distant island locations of the Atlantic. So far I have driftwood carving materials I have collected from the Outer Hebrides, and the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland, as well as a selection collected from the Falkland islands in the far south by Kim. I’m hoping to gain some assistance from some of my Icelandic friends in the north, as well as trying to develop contacts in the Scandinavian islands of the Arctic Circle.
Mortar and pestle rocks
I would like to give heartfelt thanks to Kim Chater and family for their friendship and beach combing skills on the Falkland Islands, and also to the wildlife illustrator Jane Smith, for her assistance in transporting some of the sea travelers over the vast distance of the Atlantic Ocean.
Rosie and the Protector
To see some of Kim’s textile design work go to Sea Cliff Felts Facebook page, and click ‘like’.
For Jane Smith’s blog Wildlife Art, follow this link.
And to see more of the fascinating features of New Island, visit their website here.
All photographs reproduced by kind permission of Kim Chater
December 24th, 2010 Doug
At this time of long dark winter days, the notes made in the sketchbooks throughout the year are at their most valuable, and not only the most recent books but images and ideas collected over years of traveling and researching. And the variety and quality of these notes are often of interest to visitors to exhibitions or my studio.
When taking part in residencies, such as this years visit to the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, I often have my sketchbooks available for interested parties to view. Many people reading the sketchbooks are surprised at the quality and level of detail (or lack of) in some of the pages. There is often a misconception that artists notebooks are full of highly detailed ‘polished’ drawings, when often the opposite is the case. So much of the most important information is in the form of personal shorthand, both in words and pictures.
First sketchbook notes for Sounds
In the studio at the moment I am working on a new triptych, Sounds, a collaboration piece with Norman Bissell. The work is inspired by Norman’s poem of the same name, from his book Slate, Sea, and Sky.
it’s hard to tell
the sound of the wind
from the sound of the waves
or the sound of the waves
from the sound of the rain
or the sound of the wind
and the waves and the rain
from the sound of my breath
The poem is a fabulous wealth of ideas for me, the lines evoking strong moods and images of the sea, and stirring many personal memories and experiences of the Atlantic coast of Scotland. When I first started working with the poem, I wanted to find the best way to create a piece of art that would compliment Norman’s poem. I carried the poem around with me in my small Moleskine notebook and read it daily. I had a rough idea what I wanted to do with the image and made some initial ’shorthand’ notes (image above).
The notes were an attempt to create a visual dialogue for the motifs of the poem, merging the elements of the wind, waves, and rain. The translation of abstract thoughts into actual, while maintaining the original concept in the best way possible, has always been an important aspect of my work. Objectifying anything that comes from the imagination requires a clear understanding of what you are trying to communicate to your audience. With this piece I have the additional problem of maintaining the original quality and clarity of Norman’s poem.
Sketchbook working drawings for Sounds triptych
Through a series of working drawings I have developed a triptych format for the work, with the three pieces following the poem; wind and waves, waves and rain, and all three together. Each piece, though made to be viewed separately, will have compositional devices and movement that will link them together and work when seen as the triptych. I’ve drawn upon my experiences and knowledge of Scotland’s southern Atlantic coast and its dramatic weather and scenery to create the work.
Field study for Sounds - skell winds on the Atlantic coast
Watch for posts during January for images of the finished work. Norman Bissell will be giving a talk on creative collaborations at the Pier Art Centre in Orkney, entitled “Atlantic Poetics: Of The islands I Speak” on the 28th and 29th of January, 2011.
Sounds feature in Norman Bissell’s book Slate, Sea, and Sky, published by Luath Press.
Click on this link to read more about the book.
Sounds is reproduced by kind permission of Norman Bissell
October 26th, 2010 Doug
A view of the many display cases of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University
For a long period, I had a strange aversion to spending any time in art galleries. Of course, as a student, museums and galleries were an invaluable resource for learning your craft, helping you find your own language and direction in art. For me, many productive hours were spent in the National Galleries in Edinburgh, the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow and the numerous municipal city collections throughout Scotland.
Then for many years, the order was for time spent in the field, drawing, researching and collecting images and ideas to feed the work. Hours sketching coastal scenes, or often, just time spent watching the changing nature and colour of the landscape replaced the need for the galleries. I remember taking part in a radio interview with my friend and collaborator, the poet Valerie Gillies, and she described her practice at the time as being ‘just a pair of walking boots and a notebook’. After the foundations being laid in the student gallery visits, this time was the strengthening of the structure of your artistic language and skills, understanding and developing the themes and direction of your future work.
Well, now it has turned full circle!
The art galleries and museums are once more a valuable and important resource for me as an artist. But these days, the focus of my visits to collections is quite different. Rather than the emphasis being solely on the drawing and painting studies of art school days, my visits are to a very eclectic range of collections. Over the last few weeks, I’ve visited an interesting variety of galleries and museums and have been bowled over by the beautiful objects and artifacts on display.
The photographs above are from one of my favourite ‘recharge’ spots, the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. For anyone who hasn’t visited this fabulous collection, it is home to the University of Oxford’s anthropological collection, and is a fantastic treasure trove of objects from all around the world. It has been a rich source of images and ideas for me for many years and I always look forward to visiting. In stark contrast to todays interactive and sanitised museums with perfect lighting, the Pitt Rivers, with its dark cluttered display cases and mysterious drawers to explore is heaven to the curious artist such as myself. It reminds me of the old junk shops I used to visit around Dundee as a child with my Dad, not knowing what fantastic or strange object you were going to come upon in the next box!
Hopefully these recent research and exploration trips to probably my favourite museum will inspire some new ideas in my work.
For more information on the Pitt Rivers Museum, click on this link.
May 26th, 2010 Doug
Working study of Minotaur for Nuclear Submarines collaboration
As part of my current studio work, I’m developing collaboration projects with several poets. One of these collaborations,
which will be on show during my residency at the Scottish Poetry Library, is with Edinburgh poet Rob A. Mackenzie.
Working study detail for Nuclear Submarines collaboration, from the poem by Rob A. Mackenzie
One day they will surely betray me.
For now, they seem content to drowse
resolutely without wit or purpose
like autistic sharks balooning
through seaweed, rock and sand
of fish cities deep in blackout.
While I’m trying to trust, one breaks
the Gareloch’s surface and fixes
its stunned gaze on the mirrored sky.
Things are as they should be -
the clouds, the flotsam, the stranger
peering from the shore with my face.
The second it drops, I no longer exist.
It has no memory, no plans.
The water rises, the sky falls,
and I am as blue is to the fish.\
Many thanks to Rob for permission to post his poem. Rob’s book ‘The Opposite of Cabbage’
is available from www.saltpublishing.com, or from any good bookseller.
Rob A, Mackenzie also writes for Magma Poetry Online
March 29th, 2010 Doug
Work-in-progress notes for my forthcoming collaborations exhibition at The Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh
Koors Saat An Snaa
Twa days effir
he waaks amung
da waashin lyns a’dryin fysh
hingin ootsyd hoosis
laek kut-oot strings
da baerns makk
wie fowldit paepir
an a paer a’sjiers.
Siks munt laetir,
ati’da hert a’Jol,
wie da snaa apo da aert
da unjin ati’da pikkil drum
willa med da maachikk happin
an a saat tung’ll mynd apo
dat lang simmir nyght
da katsh wis taen.
Foula sketch for ‘Pocket Noost’
One of the biggest influences on my work as many people would know is literature, and more specifically poetry, and through my work I have had the opportunity and good fortune to work with some excellent poets. For a long time I’ve wanted to produce an exhibition based around collaborations and work influenced by literature ,and this May I finally have the opportunity to do so with an exhibition at the Scottish Poetry Library, in Edinburgh.
I am working on an exhibition of assemblages and drawings, influenced by the work of various poets including Andrew Philip, Donald S. Murray, Jen Hadfield, Valerie Gillies, Robert Alan Jamieson, Norman Bissell, Peter Urpeth, Christine De Luca, Kevin MacNeil and Rob A. Mackenzie. There will also be a selection of images from a project I am developing, based on Alexander Barclay’s translation of Sebastian Brandt’s ‘Das Narrenschiff’ (The Ship of Fools), originally published in 1494 and translated by Barclay in 1874.
Being given the opportunity to exhibit in the Scottish Poetry Library is also a great privilege for me. During the 80’s and the 90’s I was a regular visitor to the old library in Tweeddale Court, just off the Royal Mile, and was lucky enough to have several pieces of my work featured in Lines Review thanks to the SPL’s founder, Tessa Ransford. I’m thrilled to have the chance to show my work in the fantastic surroundings of the new library building.
Amongst work featured will be several new works, including a sequence of small theatre-like assemblages entitled ‘Horizontals’, based on five one-line poems by Andrew Philip (below), and two boxes inspired by Robert Alan Jamieson’s pieces ‘Koors Saat an Snaa’ (above) and ‘Ta Kompis’.
crammed horizons crowned with crows
the earth’s limit the sky’s shore the sea’s march
sleek white singers of the skyline whistling reels
only the roaring silence of the clouds
are ye dancin? the wind asks the swell
Over the next few weeks I’ll post some more of the poems along with sketchbook images of the art work. The exhibition will run from the 8th of May to the 14th of June 2010, with the normal SPL opening times applying.
Poems by kind permission of Robert Alan Jamieson and Andrew Philip
Photographs by kind permission of Murdo MacDonald