Monday, 27 December 2010

Fidra Light House

This is Fidra light house and island in acryrilic. I did another painting of Fidra earlier this year. Click here if you would like to compare the two pieces

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Snow and that

Heavy, when used as an adjective often indicates that you are talking about a weighty subject or even a big person. In East Lothian heavy now means SNOW… lots and lots of it. When you have as much snow as we are getting you start to differentiate between light showers and heavy showers or even prolonged periods of heavy or indeed light snow. The snow in East Lothian has mostly been heavy and has either been the prolonged period or showery variety. There has also been the occasional light shower, just to fill in between heavy snow, a bit like a snack between main meals. All of this means that there are abundant beautiful scenes in the town and countryside to photograph. I have been doing just that with my new Cannon digital camera.

Harvey and I have been trudging through the snow and ice for weeks but the cold and atrocious conditions do not bother him at all. At some points the snow has been up above his shoulders. He just bounds over and through it and has a great time. He has also developed a habit of snorkelling under the snow and coming up with snow covered, icy bristles. Having a lot of fur helps of course.

As we have been walking through the ice and snow, I have noticed signs that the good people of East Lothian are becoming adapted to this weather. Last Sunday for instance, the snow ploughs were out and the paths were being cleared before the snow had even stopped. In the office, we are talking about what it will be like when we return to above 0 degrees freezing conditions… it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

Harvey told me that he would like to send you a Christmas message and here it is.


Friday, 17 December 2010

A view of North Berwick

Before the current ice age set in to Scotland, which must be about three weeks ago, I was travelling around East Lothian and drawing and painting places of interest. There is a lot to choose from!
This watercolour of the Celtic Cross and the west beach at North Berwick is quite  close to the seabird centre which I sketch-painted and put on the blog a few weeks ago. North Berwick is very attractive and the area where I painted this  scene t nestles between the east and west beaches. You can see the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law from there. It's a favourite place to have an ice cream and look at the view.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Jug, geranium and mirror

Painting with acrylics is a lot different to watercolour. Everyone tells me that watercolour is more difficult... but I don't think so. Then again I've got a lot to learn about both of them. Anyway, here is my first attempt at an acrylic painting. There will be more to come!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Glow Plugs

It’s not such a good thing when your car breaks down, but if it’s going to happen you want it to get fixed quickly. This is my usual attitude but not this time because the snow came down and I couldn't use it anyway.
 For those of you who have a diesel car, you may or may not know that they are fitted with magical devices called glow plugs. Glow plugs are not like spark plugs in the sense they create a spark. They are used to create heat in a diesel engine. To understand why there is a need for a glow plug you need to understand the workings of a diesel engine. The diesel engine, named for its inventor Rudolf Diesel in 1892, is a type of internal combustion engine that uses compression to create the combustion of the fuel. The compression of any gas raises its temperature. The air is pulled into the cylinder at a much higher compression rate than spark induced combustion engines. At the end of the compression stroke of the cylinder, diesel fuel is injected into the chamber. The contact with the air (which through compression is around 1300 to 1600 degrees) causes the fuel to combust and pushes the piston down. In cold weather diesel engines can be difficult to start. The cold cylinder block and cylinder head draw out the heat in the cylinder during the compression stroke. This prevents ignition. This is where a glow plug comes into play. When starting a diesel engine you do not crank the key all the way the first time. The key is just to right before ignition to start the glow plugs. This is called glowing or pre heating. An indicator panel will light up with (wait to start) on the display until the glow plugs have sufficiently heated the cylinder. When the temperature is high enough the (wait to start) light will go off and the (start) light will come on. At this point you can start the vehicle. If you stop the vehicle for a short time and turn the key you
 will usually get the (start) light as there is enough ambient heat from the previous running.

Glow Plugs

The glow plug resembles a spark plug in size and shape. They come in two types, quick-start pencil elements and slower pencil elements. It is a pencil-shaped piece with a heating element at the tip. They are housing with a screw in thread with the pencil element pushed in. When electricity is applied to the glow plug, it takes on the characteristics of its name and glows bright orange and put out a large amount of heat. The element is designed for a 12 volt current. A quick start pencil element can reach a temperature of 1625 degrees while a slow pencil element can attain a temperature of nearly 2000 degrees after 30 seconds. Quick start glow plugs are usually used in passenger vehicles while slow glow plugs are for more industrial type vehicles like semis and delivery trucks. This heat is focused on the cylinders and the engine block surrounding the cylinders. This heat keeps the block from suffering from thermal diffusion, meaning the block's heat won't dissipate. There are internal sensors that let the relay to the "wait to start" when to go off. In some vehicles it is a time frame that is reached like 10 to 20 seconds then the glow plugs will turn off and you can start the ignition. To meet emissions rating some vehicles leave the glow plugs on for as much as 180 seconds to properly burn the starting fuel. Combustion efficiency is greatly reduced when the engine is cold. A glow plug is made from such metals as platinum and iridium because of these metals, resistance to oxidation and heat.

Common Problems and Fixes

The main enemy of a glow plug is wear and tear. It is possible to start a diesel engine while the glow plugs are still glowing, but this is harmful to the plug. The heat of combustion added to the glow plug's own heat from being electrified can cause the plugs to overheat. This overheating causes the glow plug to lose some of its already limited lifespan. Since glow plugs are inexpensive it is a good idea to change them out every year or every six months or 60,000 miles in colder climates as worn out plugs do not deliver the needed heat to your engine and makes it more difficult to start.

My new glow plugs are now installed and the Berlingo is dancing through the snow in style

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Lennoxlove Book Festival

I Spent a fair bit of time at the Lennoxlove Book Festival last week end. Unlike last year I had an inside job and the car parking was left to someone else. On this occasion my job was to help out at the events in the Chapel. So I reported to my boss Gavin, a young man of at least eighteen years and over the two days I helped to move furniture, usher people, read out the health and safety announcement and listen to about six talks from various interesting authors. For some people this may sound like too many authors, but for me it was enthralling. Having tried my hand at a bit of writing I am intrigued to hear authors talking about their work and giving insights into how they wrote their book and what inspired them.

Judy Steel started the ball rolling for me at 12 noon on Saturday. Her talk and her book are filled with stories from her life, both before and after she met David Steel. She told us of her links to South Africa and of her years of involvement with politics. Judy had lead an interesting life and she recounted how she witnessed the fall of the Callaghan government by one vote and the birth of the Scottish Parliament. She gave insights into David Steel’s brave private members bill and the introduction of the 1967 abortion act. But for her politics is about the local connections more than the Westminster scene. Judy is talented in the arts and drama, but did not have time to tell us many stories from that part of her life. My abiding memory of her talk is her account of how she stepped down from the ballot to be selected as an MSP, so that her husband and daughter could go forward as nominees for the constituency place with her backing.

Tom Pow gave an entertaining talk about the death of many villages in Europe. He has travelled across Russia, Eastern Europe, France and Spain and has brought back photos, stories, poems and a point of view which gets us to look at Europe as a continent which will loose a significant percentage of it’s population while other areas of the world grow. The talk was set up as an interactive event with objects and pieces of art being passed around the audience. I enjoyed Tom’s enthusiastic presentation and it clear why he is a successful poet and story teller.

In the afternoon James Macaulay spoke about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His newly published book is packed with information about this famous architect and artist. I have visited the Glasgow School of Art which Mackintosh designed and I have seen other examples of his architecture. Macaulay described Mackintosh as an important figure in the development of Scottish culture. This is hard to argue with that when you look at the influence that he and his group of fellow artists have had on fashion, jewellery and design in the past and still in the present. I felt that Macaulay did not give sufficient weight to Mackintosh as an artist. I have been inspired by the watercolours he produced towards the end of his life when he was living in France. These works of art are a testament to his creative genius.

On Sunday the rain was still pouring down, but this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of people who attended the book festival. At 12 noon I and a large number of small children were entertained by the writer and illustrator (Corine V Davies and El Ashfield) who showed us that Ralph is not a Vampire/Superhero, but of course most people think that he is.

Roy McGregor owns and runs the Gullane Art Gallery, he is also a poet and he has produced a book about the artist Jack Morrocco. Roy brought along several fine examples of Jack’s work. It ranges from superb landscapes set in the South of France through portraiture and life painting to some thought provoking abstract work. Roy told us about the influence of Jacks family, including his famous uncle Alberto, which influenced Jack as he matured as an artist. Roy showed us examples of his early work from the age of seven and took us through to the present day. I found it interesting to discover that Jack is a skilled photographer and uses this skill to record scenes that he later paints in his studio. He takes a lot of notes at the scene and plans his painting meticulously. He then produces the painting quickly. Jack’s still life paintings capture glass and silver with a remarkable clarity.

James Douglas Hamilton returned to his childhood home of Lennoxlove to present a thoroughly entertaining account of his time as a MP, MSP and now Peer of the Realm, taken from his book After you Prime Minister. James has a wealth of stories about his aristocratic family’s experiences during the Second World War. This included the surrender of the deputy to Hilter, Hess, who flew over to Scotland and gave himself up in a failed attempt to broker a deal with the British government. James was a member of the cabinet in Margaret Thatcher’s government and that is where the title of the book comes from. He tells the tale of how he stood up to the formidable lady over the placement of an order of arms parts and lived to carry on in government.

Alastair Moffat is a founder of the Lennoxlove festival and a well know author and presenter. His book A Faded Map is a delight to people interested in the history of Scotland way back in antiquity. He gave an informative and entertaining talk about the kingdoms which held sway in the land now called Scotland and how these were influenced by the landscape.

The speakers in the Chapel may not have been the headliners of the event but each one was thoroughly entertaining in their own right.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

North Berwick Seabird Centre

I spent some time at North Berwick today. Had a nice walk along the East Beach with Harvey and then retreated from the rain into the cafe at the sea-bird centre. They do a good corriander and carrot soup. My intention was to sketch-paint a view of the Centre, but when I got out it was still raining so I went up to dear old Tesco's. I was there to redeem a 5p/ ltr off ticket at the the petrol station. While I was there I decided to redeem another little present for the wonderful retail outlet and took my £1.15 off nescafe 100gm coffee. There was no sign of the coffee, so I asked the happy , smily staff how I could use my voucher.
'Sorry, but we don't have the 300 gm, Nescafe coffee.'
'Oh, but you gave me a voucher with money off the last time I was in here.'
'We don't stock it in this store.'
'So you gave me a voucher, but you don't store the coffee.'
'That's right it's company policy not to stock 200gm Nescafe.'
'But you have lots of other 300gm coffee.'
'I know but thats what they say at headquarters.'
'Do I have to go to headquarters to get the coffee?'
'The thing is we don't keep 300 gm Nescafe in small stores like this.'
'Well, why do you give out vouchers then?'
'Company rules, you could try Haddington.'
'Thanks very much.'

The good news is that it had stopped raing by the time I got out of the shining example of retail heaven and I was able to do the skech drawing after all.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Inspirational Van Gogh

Two Poplars by Vincent Van Gogh

Having some time off work with labyrinthitis has given me an opportunity to do some reading. I have nearly finished Hans Bronkhorst’s book on Vincent Van Gogh. It is a really good insight into this complex man. The book has numerous examples of his work and the author gives a knowledgeable insight into Van Gogh’s life and paintings. He puts Vincent’s life into the context of the time he lived in and the influences that shaped the way he did art. Van Gogh was a man ahead of his time but he was also of his time. Bronkhurst tells us of the influences behind some of the great works. The part the Impressionists played, the painters who inspired him and the friends he made  as well as the use of colour theory are good examples of this. He also gives a vivid description of Van Gogh’s troubled life, his difficult personality and the people who were close to him. I find his paintings and technique inspirational.

The fact that I haven’t been able to do any running lately worked in my favour today. I went along to the start of the Goat’s Gallop annual race and was surprised to see a large turn out. Considering the Siberian weather it was very impressive. For once I did not miss the rain and penetrating cold and gave the runners a hearty cheer as they ascended into the mist of the Lammermuirs.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A very strange day!

Woke up this morning and thought I was on a fair ground ride. I turned over and the whole room span around and around. I was looking at it but it didn't stop for what seemed a long time. So I got up and found that if I bent down or stretched up I lost my balance! So I popped in to see the doc and he has diagnosed labarynthitis which means I am going to be more scatty than usual for a few days.
I knew I would have to wait to see the doc so I took my sketch pad to fill in the time.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

My Uncle Ray was born 86 years ago today, on 9 November, 1924.

Uncle Ray was close to his mother Olive Harris, who the family called Mam. I remember her as a white haired, gentle old lady who loved to play cards... my grandma. Raymond's father and my grandfather was called Amos and he had two older brothers, Sidney, and John (my dad) and a younger brother Theo.

When he was young, probably in 1936, Uncle Ray spent some time at Corley Open air school. Between 1932- 35 he attended St, Mark’s Junior School, Coventry. From 1935 he attended Wheatley Street Senior Boys’ School, Coventry. From 1937 to 1938 he attended John Gulson Senior Boys’ School. also in Coventry. In addition Uncle Ray attended a junior evening course in art and another in technical studies. Some of the cartoons and drawings he left behind show that he was a skilled artist.
Uncle Ray joined the R.A.F. and became a flight engineer. At the time he was living with his family at 8 East Parade, Barnoldswick, Lancashire, where the family had moved from Coventry. He also had a girlfriend - Phyllis who lived at 7 Lower West Avenue, Barnoldswick.
Between January and October 1943 Uncle Ray sent letters to his family and particularly his mother nearly every day. He died, aged 19 in a flying accident in Lancashire and is buried in London Road Cemetery, Coventry. We are very lucky to have many of his letters were saved by his family. They provide a portal into another time and show how the every day things in life were just as important then as they are now.

Over the coming weeks I will be posting Uncle Ray's letters on a blog called Sgt. Raymond Albert Harris. The letters are a portal into the past. They show how the ordinary things in life were as important then as they are now.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Oil Pastels

I have been planning to try out some drawing with oil pastels for some time. Today I had a little spare time and gave it a go. I like the way they feel and there is no mucking around with preparation. The drawings are rough and ready and taken directly from the subject in a short space of time.

Cyclamen in a bowl

Pat reading the Sunday Papers
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Saturday, 6 November 2010

Headlight running

Harvey and I went along to the HELP running club on Wednesday night and joined in with the headlight run. This was successful on at least two levels:
• My achillies tendon stood up to it, even though I haven’t run for a few weeks, although it was not put under a great strain.
• Harvey took to night running as though he had been doing it all his life.

Headlight running has taken off at HELP this year. After years of moaning about running around the Haddington winter route, we runners have finally snapped and you can find a bunch of headlight attired runners in the scaring passing motorists in darkest recesses around the countryside of East Lothian. I have done it twice this year and also went headlight running several times the winter before last. It is exhilarating and as long as the headlight is strong and working properly, there is no reason why you can’t have an excellent work out.
To start off with Harvey gave me a look, which might have said ‘ What the heck are we doing.’ But pretty soon, he was hauling away on the lead and keeping pace with the other guys.
We took off from the Augbiny Centre and across the footbridge into the fields and along to Burns’ well. About half way through the run, Harvey and I went our own way over the Titanic bridge and up through Clerkington estate and away through to the Pencaitland road. After that we headed back to the river and followed it along it’s bank next to the weir and along to  the West Haugh and back through St. Mary’s church and Neilson park. At the end we were tired but happy.

Yesterday Harvey went on his first doggy day care at West Barnes, but i'll let him tell you all about that later.

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Monday, 1 November 2010

Pradelles en val

Last week I braved the strikes and spent just under four days in South West France. Rob Mulholland, a fellow cyclist and a proper artist and I flew from Prestwick to Carcassonne on Mr. O’Leary’s bargain basement flights. Rob hails from Glasgae and a fellow Wegie picked us up at the airport and took us the to the medieval village of Pradelles en val. The village is about thirty minutes from Carcassonne in a wine growing area set between the Montagne Noir and the Pyrenees. At this time of year the vines are an amazing mixture of green, yellow, brown and red. These colours contrast to the back drop of the villages with their ancient brown stone and the wild country beyond the arable fields which harbour truck loads of boar. We were there during the hunting season and ‘truckloads’ isn’t just a fancy phrase.

The idea of the trip was to get in a spot of cycling, maybe some drawing and shut down the maison chez Rob for the winter. The house is wonderful, having been made up from a wine making ‘Cave’ and some other buildings. It’s a bit like the Tardis, with two stairs and rooms all over the place. There is a tremendous garden which backs onto an eighteen century church, built around the time of the French Revolution. The houses and Chateau are ancient and quite a few of them are falling down.

We were invited into one of them and low and behold, there were another two Wegies living there.

Le Jardine - Chez Rob

The highlight of the trip for me was the cycle to LaGrasse. We were lucky to get some nice sun, but the wind was just like the one I had left behind in Scotland, only colder. It was worth the effort, LaGrasse is a really beautiful small town with amazing bridges, buildings and a wonderful Abbey. It also boasts a boulangerie with pattiseries to die for. The cycle back was along a river gorge, with some beautiful views and incredible river sculpted cliffs.

The Cite in Carcassonne is a UNESCO heritage site with fortified battlements all around. As in LaGrasse, there are lots of windy streets with artisans working at the back of galleries. The atmosphere is truly medieval and reminded me of Kate Mosse’s story ‘The Labyrinth,’ which tells the tales of the Cathars and religious wars of the fourteenth century

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Poldrate Mill, Haddington

Poldrate Mill was built on the site of the mediaeval Kirk Mill. The present buildings are largely 18th Century and include the mill itself reconstructed in 1842, the granary, maltings and a range of workers' houses to the rear. Their conversion for use by the Lamp of Lothian Trust began in 1968, and the 19th century iron wheel and some of the machinery have been preserved on the site.
Milling operations ceased in 1965, but what remains is the only one of Haddington's three mills, which still displays much of its traditional form. The Mill is located at the southern boundary of Haddington on the River Tyne and provides an important community facility, providing arts, crafts and youth club facilities run and owned by the Lamp of Lothian Trust.

Monday, 18 October 2010

'The Complete Maus'

The Complete Maus’ (a winner of the Pulitzer Prize,) is an extraordinary graphic novel written by Art Spiegelman. It depicts the horrors of the holocaust in an imaginative story which also explores the difficulties that can occur in family relationships. The sub-plot of Art’s relationship with his father gives the story a strong grip on the human dimension of this horrific tale. The story starts in Poland and follows the history of a family of wealthy Jews from the early 1930’s until the end of the second world war. The harsh reality of life for Jews under the Nazi’s is illustrated and all the horror of  concentration camps is unveiled for us to see. Such an awful story may not seem to be a good fit for a comic book format, but the depiction of Jews as mice, Germans as cats and Poles as pigs works very well.  It is a story of one man’s tenacity in clinging on to life in the midst of death and it is clear that this experience shaped the rest of his life.
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Friday, 15 October 2010

‘The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest’

Finished the third book of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, and thank the Lord for that. As with the other two books, I found ‘The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest’ difficult to put down. This led to some late nights as I continued to plough through the story. Anyway, now I have got my life back, I can give a subjective comment on the story.

As thrillers go, this is another good ‘un. We once again follow the life of Lisbeth Salander as she overcomes all manner of problems. One of the things that makes her into an irresistible character is her unique sense of what is right. She does not compromise on her principles even when they lead her into trouble. At the start of this story, she is struggling to survive in a hospital after having a bullet removed from her brain. She makes friends with her doctor and recovers, only to be taken to prison and from there to face a law court. This time her lawyer is her best friend. She always beats the odds due to her intelligence and quick reflexes. I have particularly enjoyed the scenes where she takes on macho men and makes mince meat of them. This occurs in the dénouement of this story in a very surprising way.

So what now? I’m looking forward to films two and three.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tynepark Renga

Tynepark Resource Centre, Haddington, is a day centre for people recovering from Mental Health problems. The centre offers a selection of activities, which people can join. There is a large ex-Manse with a lot of space in it and a newer annexe with a high tech drama room and a bright activity room where art, crafts, cooking and other activities take place.
This year an open day was organised to coincide with the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. The programme of activities included, Shiatsu exercises, massage, a relaxation session, drama, music and poetry.
One of the morning sessions was devoted to a form of Japanese poetry called a Renga. This sort of poem has the following characteristics:
• It is usually written by more than one person, there can be as many as you want.
• The process of writing the poem is as important as the poem which results at the end.
• It can be written in one session.
• The number of verses or stanzas can vary. The ‘Kasen’ renga is popular and uses 36 stanzas.
• Each verse should be inspired in some way by the one that has gone before it. However, it should not be too obvious a link. The subject matter should leap from one stanza to the next.
• Verses are in the present tense, but avoid using ‘I’ or ‘we.’
• Verses are very direct and use as few words as possible to create a vivid image. The verses don’t speak directly of feelings but the image conveys the emotions and feelings of the poet.
• The leader writes the first stanza and this is called the ‘hokku’.
• Each stanza alternates between three and two lines.

Seven people took part in writing the Renga and the feedback at the end was that people enjoyed the session which promoted a sense of sharing

Here is the TYNEPARK RENGA  written by Ray, Harry, Duncan, Andrew, Rick, Karen and Anne.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oban in the sunshine!

Oban was at it’s best last week-end. There was an Indian summer on the West Coast and Pat and I were lucky enough to take full advantage of it. The unseasonably good weather meant that it was t-shirts all the way. There one or two things that immediately impressed me about the Oban area. The sea and the islands which surround the Bay were top amongst these. Large Cal- Mac ferries sailed by the bedroom window at regular intervals, taking customers to the string of West Coast Islands that make it the doorway to the Isles. The seafood dishes were another delight and as one of the many French visitors sitting in the out door café said ‘C’est delicieuse.’
The highlights of the week end were:
• A seafood dinner, in the ‘Coast,’ restaurant.
• A trip to seal island to watch the pooches sunning themselves on the rocks.

Boats in Crinan BasinImage via Wikipedia

• A trip to Kilmartin, south of Oban, which boasts more prehistoric sites of interest than almost anywhere else in Europe
• A trip alongside the Crinan Canal to the sea loch (no 15) This must be a canal junkie’s dream
• Crinan Hotel had an exhibition of the art of Frances MacDonald (Ryan.) I have to admit that I had not come across her before, even though she is well know and successful. She produces wonderful acrylic paintings of the local beaches and mountains, as well as paintings of horse racing and many other subjects. All of them completed with a Pallete knife. There is great texture and life in her paintings.
• Another gem I found in the tourist information was a book by Mairi Hedderwick called ‘An Eye on the Hebrides.’ It is an illustrated account of a trip she took around the Hebridean Islands in 1981. Her sketches and descriptions of the places she visited are wonderful.

I had some spare time to sketch a famous landmark, next to Oban harbour
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Wednesday, 6 October 2010


I bought some willow charcoal recently and I've been experiementing. I love the texture you can get and the tones that can be made by smudging.

Here's a good tip - Tesco value Hairspray is a cheap fixative and it works well.

Zoe thinks that I have made her a bit scary in this one. It's all to do with proportions. In my life drawing classes, I am finding out  that I tend to draw on the big side. The rather slim male model who we used at the class on Monday turned out to big and muscular in my non-representational drawing. I had not checked enough comparisons between head, neck and torso when drawing, which was why he got to be so big. It all come s down to practice, practice... practice.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Fidra from YellowcraigsImage via Wikipedia
I’m two weeks into my acrylic class and one week into my Life Drawing class… phew! It’s all very different from watercolour painting. For a start, we stand to paint, using easels. That’s something I haven’t done before and it takes a bit of getting used to. The same is true of using acrylic paint. We have been using it straight, and not (as is possible,) like watercolour. So it is like starting over again and I am making lots of mistakes. A lot of people have said to me that using watercolour is difficult, but I don’t agree. It the only paint I have used up to now, so for me it much more natural.

The Life Drawing classes have got a lot of potential. Our teacher, Esther Cohen, is enthusiastic, with a sense of humour and knows her stuff! The class is a sell out with sixteen of us crushed into a room. I am learning the basics, using non-representational drawing of line, shape and proportion.
Both lessons are on Monday – a good way to start the week.
Today, Harvey and I went for a great walk along the coast from Yellowcraig towards Gullane. I tried to light a bonfire, but the grass and wood was too wet. On the way back I did a sketch of Fidra and South Dog, (this is some of it.)

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Friday, 24 September 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Lisbeth Salander continues her battle against the world in the second story of the trilogy. The story contains the powerful themes used in the first book. There are several realistic characters for the reader to identify with. Lisbeth is the main character. She is clever, violent to people who deserve it and has a strong set of rules for life. In this story we learn more about her background and wonder at how she has managed to survive. The story contains elements of the cold war, sex trafficking and hacking. There are intriguing relationships and Lisbeth is left in a life threatening situation. All in all a very good read, which I found difficult to put down

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Action Medical Research – Cross Border 100 mile bike ride

When I heard about the Cross Border 100, I was intrigued. Action Medical Research descibe it as a brand new ride with a difference, offering a choice of starting points, one in Scotland and the other in England. The Cross Border Scotland stared in Haddington and a fantastic new 100-mile circular ride offered some of the best cycling terrain through the challenging Border region including some truly lung busting climbs. At the half way point you cross the border and meet with fellow riders who have started their 100-mile challenge in Alnwick, Northumberland. Further information on the site described the ride as 'Grade 7 hilly route with some testing climbs, training required!'
The group of four local people who had planned to take this on whittled down to Frank and me. We started the ride, late and in pouring rain. By the time we got to Gifford my rather flimsy rain jacked had soacked through, but I didn’t notice this because the hills above Gifford into the Lammermuirs took up all my attention. But I did notice that East Lothian Council have been busy in the hills and the roads are newly tar-macked. We cycled up through the switch back hills and on to the crossroads and headed for Longformackus. This is when I realised that the back up team were doing a splendid job. There were two motorbikes on the road and an ambulance with paramedics, plus a bike repair van. Each turning was well signed and there were other helpful signs such as ‘Pot Holes’ or ‘Single File.’ The other major attraction was the feeding stations and lunch stop, which were first class and very welcome and .

When we reached Duns the roads became a lot flatter. We took a circular route to Coldstream. This is where the riders from the south joined us and where the weather took a real turn for the better. Replenished by a fantastic lunch we set off again and had to take off our rain tops!. The circular route continued to Norham and then back to Duns. This marked the start of the trek back over the Lammermuirs, this time taking in Whiteadder reservoir. We were told by one of the back up staff that it was all downhill from there on, but I knew better, having ridden this route before. The last range of hills was over the B road to the Catholic monastery and Garvald. From there we travelled down to Morham and back to Haddington to a round of applause, a medal and a goody bag. It took us nine hours to do the route and I have to agree with the description of the route, it  has some fantastic scenery and some lung busting hills.

The charity helps to stop suffering in children. Every tmile ridden helps fund medical research to treat sick babies and tackle premature birth, to make life better for children with disabilities, and to target a group of rare diseases that together severely affect many forgotten children. One of the leaflets in the goodey bag described a Cycle from Lands End to John O'Groats next May, now there’s a thought!

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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Ten kilometres and a classic car

A belated club championship 10k handicap race took place last night on the railway path at Haddington. About eleven club members turned up and Paddy worked out a handicap for each of us based on races and training runs this year. It was good to see Keyliegh back again from South Africa and a big surprise to see Jimmy on the start line for the first time in many months or perhaps years. Claire was off first with other runners chasing her and each other over the following 15 minutes. The course was straight out to the 5km mark, just past Cottyburn car park and back again. I made a late decision to run to test out my fitness, after a week of a very strange allergic skin rash, which had taken its toll. I also wanted to find out how my Achilles injury was holding up. I was given a not very generous 9.30 mins slot and set off in pursuit of Ian Murphy and the new boy John. I started off at a steady pace and I could see Ian and John having a chat and ambling along in front of me. I caught them at 1km and had intended to run with them, but Ian immediately upped his pace and I followed him. We left John behind. I felt strong and was going along well for the first 5km, although I was falling progressively further behind Ian. After the turn I had problems. I could feel my Achilles hurting and the power that I had in the first half started to fall away. A procession of runners started to pass me. First it was Paddy at 6 km, then John whom we had left in the dust. He had waited until the half way mark and then really turned on the speed. Then Frank, Sandy, and Ian Carrick all zipped past me. I managed to catch Keyliegh and Claire and came in on 48.16… not a good time considering I was 23.something at the half way mark. So the allergy thingy had taken its toll and I’m left with a painful Achilles. It was good to see Jimmy performing well after his long absence. He came in first and took home the trophy. Frank was fastest on the night in 40+ minutes. It can’t be long until he gets under 40.

On a brighter note, I picked up a painting from the framers today. It is a painting of a classic car that I bought on my holiday in Cuba. I like the painting a lot because it somehow captures the spirit of classic cars. It is painted in vibrant colours with a sort of abstract background. I met and talked to the artist a couple of times. He has been painting for 20 years and has a degree from the university in Havana. I reckon that he is a very talented man. I met a few other artists during my stay and I gained the impression that it is difficult for them to make a living, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Anyway the painting was a very reasonable price and I picked up the frame in a charity shop, so I’m pleased with the purchase.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Amazed, astonished, astounded, shocked, stunned, startled, surprised, flabbergasted, dumfounded, staggered, dazed, speechless, incredulous, overwhelmed, bowled over, staggered and taken aback

Amazed, astonished, astounded, shocked, stunned, startled, surprised, flabbergasted, dumfounded, staggered, dazed, speechless, incredulous, overwhelmed, bowled over, staggered and taken aback are a few of the words and expressions which best describe some news I received on Saturday afternoon. When I got back home, Pat sat me down and said, ‘I’ve got some good news for you.’
‘You’ve won first prize in the East Linton Art Competition.’
‘Oh, aye, who’s having some fun.’
‘No, honestly, it’s true.’
‘This is a wind up.’
‘No, honestly, it’s true..'  

After a lot of persuasion I believed Pat enough to turn up at the award ceremony today to receive my prize. The winner had been selected by Ian Paterson, an art teacher from Edinburgh School of Art. He chose my painting of St. Mary’s Church, which is enveloped by menacing clouds and a blanket of snow. He asked my if I had been inspired by Van Gogh’s painting of the ‘Church at Auvers,’ which I had to admit wasn't the case The inspiration came from a very good photo taken by Harry at Tynepark. Ian said a couple of things about painting that I will keep in mind.

• Always paint from the place in the painting that inspired you. If you start somewhere else, you might loose it.

• Don’t be formulaic, it is spontaneity that creates good art.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Harvey Here #9 - 100 Not Out

I am sitting on Ray’s lap and I am very pleased with him, woof
He has written 100 blogs and that is quite a mile stone, arrf
Ray and I have had our ups and downs, but I think he looks after me well, woof, woof.
A lot of his blogs have been about art and writing and running and I like these things too, arrf, arrf
I have to say that running is the thing I liked the best, especially at Tyninghame beach, woof, arrf

He can surprise me at times. Recently he had a birthday party with a bbq in the back garden. There were loads of people there and I went around hoovering up the tasty bits that people dropped on the floor. It was a bit of a surprise seeing so many people in the garden. Someone left a tuna steak in a basket on the floor of the kitchen, so I helped myself, woof, woof.

Ray had some good news to do with his art today, but I will let him tell you about that himself, later, arrf

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

This book answers the question of what it takes to put together a good read. I have to admit that I like strong characters and in Lisbeth Salander and Carl Mikael Blomkvist the author Stieg Larsson has come up with two unlikely heroes. Lisbeth is every parents nightmare. Uncommunicative with a collection of tattoos and piercings she looks like a looser, but under the surface there is a strong woman with her own set of rules for how to deal with the world. Blomkvist has principles as well. He chases down errant financial institutions. He also gets on well with the ladies. The plot has a healthy number of twists and turns and delivers the required blood and gore you would expect when dealing with a serial killer. The reader is onside from the start, hoping against hope that the main characters will win through, even though the odds are stacked against them. And guess what… they come out on top. In describing the book, I can’t do any better than Philip Pullman of the Guardian, ‘ Several cuts above most thrillers… intelligent, complex, with a gripping plot and deeply intriguing characters.’

I may have tackled this book the wrong way around, because I watched the film first, but on reflection, seeing the film first didn’t spoil reading the book. I felt that the book gave the film more depth. Next time, I am going to read the book first even though ‘The Girl who played with Fire’ is already out as a film.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Art competition

I am taking a big step today by entering two of my paintings in the East Linton Art Competition. I have never entered an art competition before, so I am a bit nervous about the whole affair. Members of the public can view the paintings from next Sunday, 12 September’10 until 19 September. The titles of the paintings I am entering are:

St Mary’s Church, Haddington

Ellenbeich, Argyll

The way it works is that people can view the paintings and vote for the ones they like. There is some sort of award at the end for the popular paintings. If you are in the area why not pop in and take a look. You could also vote for me if you like my work. 

Monday, 6 September 2010



Friday saw Ben and me at St. Mary’s Church, Broughton Street, Edinburgh for the 20th Anniversary Reunion Concert of the Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra. Ten years ago, Ben was a member of ESJO, when it was sponsored by Lothian Regional Council. This was a good arrangement because it meant that pupils from East, Mid and West Lothian could join their big city peers to make some very good music. My job at the time was to make sure I didn’t say anything embarrassing (teenagers!) and do the taxi driving. I got to know Jim O’Malley who started the band and later Dan Hallam, who became a good friend. ESJO started off my love of jazz and it has continued ever since.

The concert on Friday was very good. It started off with the current members of ESJO with some former members and special guests, conducted by Dan and they played a super set of numbers. This young group of musicians were tight, together, loud and quiet when they needed to be. There were some stunning solo slots. The second part of the first half was taken by combo’s of ex-ESJO players who have formed groups and continued to play and we were entertained to some great original jazz. The second half comprised a performance by the ESJO professional band, made up of former members who have gone on to make a career in music. They were directed by the famous Ozzy trombone player Chris Greive. The music was of the very highest order and left us all shouting for more.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

I've been reading a very good book  called - Figure: How to Draw & Paint the Figure with Impact:  by Sharon Pinsker . Her book is about drawing people and it's also about drawing people with fashion in mind.
This is my take on a drawing from her book.

Here are a couple of my attempts to draw faces and create some depth in them.