I was born in Aberdeen and went to Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen in the late ‘70s to study painting. For years after that I was a community artist and theatre designer, then arts manager and producer. In 2003 my wife Carla and I started The Creative Retreat – accommodation and studios in Gardenstown, where we offer unique tutored art holidays and an exceptional space for artists to get away and make work. I also started spending much more time making art myself. I teach visual arts skills at The Creative Retreat and give lessons and demonstrations for groups elsewhere. I continue to paint, exhibit and try to create more opportunities for people to encounter the arts by working with local festivals and community organisations. I currently have a number of private pupils and will consider commissions.
A visitor in my studio the other day saw the source material I had lying around – sketches and photos – that I use to make pictures. They commented on how small, how lacking in detail, atmosphere and colour they all were, in comparison to the finished artworks. It made me realise exactly how much comes from inside me, from an internal library of visual knowledge that I have built up over the last 10 years. That’s how long I’ve been living and working on the Banffshire Coast (Pennan to Cullen), soaking in the intense visual richness I see every day. Of course that means that much of the time I’m working from memory, from the casual walks on Sunday along the beach and being in Gardenstown year-round watching the light changing from minute to minute.
But the realisation that memory is key to my work also made sense because I have been working from found images, old photographs of life along the coast that are the visual remnants of a people’s memories. I have no names or dates for these people, but in the image I see some relationship or background story that I want to draw from. I am in a sense inventing and enriching the visual memory behind that specific moment – perhaps a hundred years ago, where a picture was posed – that I decide was at dusk or just before a storm, soaked in the colours I see every day.
I’m a fairly traditional visual artist in that I’m trying to make images that make sense in their own terms, inside the frame. I think of the process is similar to being a poet or songwriter. And if people see a poetry in the best of my work then I’m happy.