Can I tell you about my journey to the art pursuit, and subsequent diminution of worries and pressures I was under at the time.
I had never ever considered taking up painting. I didn’t think for a minute I would be able to draw anything, far less paint it. I don’t remember ever drawing or painting anything when I was young and at school. I attended Noblehill Primary, Dumfries, and Dumfries Academy, both prestigious schools and the various staff members worked real hard at trying to find out what made me tick, and injecting some knowledge into me. I have truly no recollections of ever lifting a paintbrush in anger. Maybe I did, but it is a while ago now and a few, nay, many of my brain cells have retired since then.
So, fast forward about forty years and I am in a caravan site where I have purchased a caravan, having just been ‘retired’ from my prestige job in ‘Strathclyde Police Serious Fraud Squad’ and was recovering from a major spine operation. I thought a caravan, away from the ‘rat race’, would be a good place to convalesce. I wasn’t in a good place at the time – I don’t mean the caravan site wasn’t a good place, I’m talking more about where my head was. Actually it was still on my shoulders but it probably thought it was somewhere else!
Anyway, I was walking through the site one day, trying to get some fresh air and clear my head a bit so that I could find some good thoughts, when a miracle happened. Well it probably wasn’t a miracle cause I met someone, and he didn’t have wings or a beard!
What happened was that I came across this little caravan sitting on the side of the roadway through the site and, not that I was doing my ‘peeping Tom’ act, or anything, but I happened to glance through the front window as I passed, and noticed a chap standing there. He was facing away from me or I might have been worried. No, he was standing at an easel, painting. I’d never seen an artist at work before so I blatantly stared through the window watching this chap. I can’t really explain what went through my mind but I felt so much at ease as I watched this chap produce a lovely colourful scene on the canvas – I can’t explain how it made me feel but it was a feeling I hadn’t felt for a long time, and it was a good one.
Well, I think the guy got so fed up being stared at while he was working that he invited me in for a coffee. Bob his name was and he came from Kilmarnock but had been thirty years in America and was staying in one of the caravans until such times as the purchase of his house in nearby Ballantrae was finalised. Bob had been painting most of his life and was renting this small van to use as a studio. He and his wife lived in a larger caravan elsewhere on the site.
After that first meet I was a regular visitor to Bobs studio , and, through time, Bob got me involved in the art of painting. He loaned me a few tubes of paint, some brushes and a couple of small blank canvases. With a bit of direction from Bob I eventually turned out a painting which I was quite pleased with. More to the point, Bob was pleased with it.
To say that I was painting at Bobs studio every day of that two week visit to the caravan site would not be an understatement. I was hooked, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I don’t know how to explain it but being involved in something that made me think, and something I was enjoying, was helping me to forget my troubles. Painting was helping me feel much better, relaxed, whatever, and was easing my tensions much better than any medication had ever been.
During the rest of the summer of 95’, when I had first met Bob, I was never away from his studio when I visited the caravan site for weekend breaks / holidays. Ray, my wife, said that it was worse than being a golf widow!
However, I was right into painting at the end of that summer and wanted to keep on going out-with the caravan season.
During the winter of 95’/96’ I enrolled in a night class course - ‘Basic Oil Painting’ it was called. I had tried various mediums in Bobs studio but really liked painting in oils. I had learned a lot from Bob but I wanted to be taught by a professional and as the course was being held in the renowned ‘Glasgow School of Art’ I felt it would be a good place to meet a professional artist. ‘Glasgow School of Art’ is no longer with us, having been burned to the ground a couple of years ago – for the second time! I am sure it will be rebuilt again very soon
Following being tutored at the Art School that winter I carried on painting at home until the spring of 96’ when the caravan site opened and I could get back into Bobs studio. I painted a lot that year and when the next winter arrived I enrolled in another course at the ‘Glasgow School of Art’. This time it was a course on Portrait painting, which I loved.
I’m afraid I didn’t really follow up with what I had learned about painting portraits but carried on painting in oils. My favourite painting subjects were Landscapes, Seascapes and Sunsets. You couldn’t get a better venue for a Seascape, or a Sunset, than at the caravan site. The site was right on the edge of the coast, with the sun in the evening going down over ‘Ailsa Craig’, or ‘Paddy’s Milestone’ as it is otherwise known as, or later in the year, over the Mull of Kintyre. Absolutely fabulous painting material.
From 1996 I painted right through to 2007 joining a local Cambuslang, Glasgow Art Club in one of the church halls where we had a ‘tutor’ who kept us right. We arranged the occasional Art Exhibition there, and where I sometimes managed to sell a painting or three. In those days we were asking for £30 to £50 for a painting, not the hundreds of pounds that’s asked nowadays.
During 2007 I moved to Banchory but still carried on with my painting. We sold the caravan as we couldn’t make the five hour journey very often. Occasionally I enrolled in a winter and / or spring art course which is held twice a year in the art room in Banchory Academy. That is, until a couple of years ago when I found myself out every night of the week through one thing or another that I was involved in – I still keep my hand in doing paintings, though not as much as I used to do. That is going to change very soon once I finish preparing my new studio area in the spare room, or in my office. I’m not sure where I’ve having it yet.
I would urge anyone to start painting. If you feel that you wouldn’t be very good at it remind yourself that you don’t have to be as good as those you admire as artists. It’s good to have artists to learn from and be inspired by. But, remember that they started out just the same as you. The main thing with them, and it could be with you, is that they did pick up that brush! The more you paint the more your style will evolve and confidence in your own abilities will become second nature.
As I said at the beginning, and it is worth repeating ‘At times like this, it is hugely important to stay busy. The stimulus of drawing and painting allows us to momentarily forget about the immediate reality, and provides us with a much-needed mental rest which lowers stress and generates relaxation and happy feelings’
Stay safe everyone.
Stan Thomson Editor, ‘The Ronnecht’
Banchory East Church
A journal of the life of the East Church through the personal memories and opinions of our members.
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