Archive | October 2021

Converge – a masterly, moody, creative collaboration by four Scottish landscape artists at the Dundas Street Gallery.  

Gill Knight, Fee Dickson Reid, Sarah Anderson, Kirstin Heggie (clockwise from top left)

Converge: ‘to come together and unite in a common interest.’

Sarah Anderson, Kirstin Heggie, Gill Knight and Fee Dickson Reid share a passion for capturing of Scotland’s natural beauty from the Lowlands to the Outer Hebrides in their own distinctive, dramatic mode, mood and manner.

Sarah Anderson grew up in Galloway surrounded by countryside and coastline: My inspiration is derived from the Scottish landscape to reflect the dramatic effects of weather … and envelop the viewer in the prevailing atmosphere.

Paintings based on a recent summer holiday to Isle of Harris are expressed with a vividly, exuberant colour palette in majestic panoramic scenes.   

With the dark, thundery clouds, Approaching Rain, Scarista is mesmerising with its expanse of inky blueness, a glimmer of sun shining on the beach where the sand meets the lapping waves and the sea touches the sky.

Approaching Rain, Scarista, Sarah Anderson

This is akin to a Rothko-esque abstract in its bold geometric blocks of colour: the slither of turquoise water is renowned on this west coast and on summer days the white sand beaches evoke a tropical island. 

Likewise, Scotland meets the Caribbean in The Colours of Harris in a more representative scene of the striated layers of sand, sea with flecks of surf, distant hills and flurry of clouds. The stylised structure of the composition is stunning with an expressive use of shape, light and movement.

Colours of Harris, Sarah Anderson

“Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings.” – Henri Matisse

With an element of Van Gogh’s impressionistic ‘Pine Trees against an Evening Sky,’ the delicate patterning and halo of gold in Glentress Forest Light draws the viewer into the scene as the eye follows the winding path through the winter trees bathed in dappled sunlight.

Glentress Forest Light, Sarah Anderson

Kirstin Heggie also specialises in semi-abstract landscapes, ‘building up many layers of texture and colour, adding and subtracting paint using brushes, twigs and offcuts of wood. It is often a messy process!’ 

This method of collage painting is most effective in Tonnan Mara, (from the Gaelic: surging waves of the sea), a most atmospheric composition with thick, criss-crossing crusts of paint reflecting the elemental force of the treacherous waves and pitch black sky.

Tonnan Mara, Kirstin Heggie

A calmer seascape in Pure Morning captured with delicate minimalism in soft shades of white, azur and grey streaks, with an almost invisible divide between sea and sky. Pure indeed in the subtle, smooth blend of blue-green tones and texture.

Pure Morning, Kirstin Heggie

Against a rust-red crimson valley, a copse of three Skinny Trees stand out in the barren, sun-scorched landscape – almost desert like with a feeling of strong heat.  There’s a hidden narrative here on place and time which creates a most enigmatic and melancholic image, like a painterly poem.

Skinny Trees, Kirstin Heggie

Working in oils, acrylic and mixed media, Gill Knight describes her abstract and semi-abstract work as “dark, moody, atmospheric and emotional.”

Capturing the season with an impressionistic flourish, Autumn Tide features a wild swirl of threatening rain cloud brightened with a flash of sun on the water.  With the focus on the sky, the smudged brushstrokes and cool colour palette of grey and blue, depict the luminous effect of shifting weather.

Autumn Tide, Gill Knight

The same masterly technique is shown in Autumn Sky, the amazing contrast of light and shade with glistening shards of red and yellow – perhaps rocks and seaweed – on the shore.

October Sky, Gill Knight

To thole the winter’s sleety dribble, An cranreuch cauld!’

Robert Burns

This line from ‘To a Mouse’ comes to mind when viewing Rain at Newhaven, such a drenching downpour in a dark night with hopefully no lost sailors out at sea due to the lighthouse guiding boats back to harbour.

Rain at Newhaven, Gill Knight

The storm has passed over in Solace to depict a languid moment of peace and solitude – no wonder standing on a beach looking out into an almost natural ‘emptiness’, is so good for the soul.

Solace, Gill Knight

Fee Dickson Reid first studied architecture before concentrating as an artist from 2009. Based in East Lothian, the subjects here range from boat yards and harbours to craggy rocks and beach scenes.

‘Sea, sky, sand is what I am drawn to paint big atmospheric pieces filled with light and often a sense of peace.  The sea is a huge part of my life and my work. I live by it, I swim in it no matter what the season, and I paint it. It’s very much my muse’. 

Fee Dickson Reid

Dramatic views from around North Berwick are prominent such as Lamb from West Bay – a simple line drawing yet with such detail, the curved sweep of the shoreline stretches out to the rocky islet on the horizon.

Lamb from West Bay, Fee Dickson Reid

Here too is the bird sanctuary of the Bass Rock, its iconic pudding shape looming out of the night sky, so finely delineated as monochrome sketch.  Her artistic technique is based on a blend of charcoal, ink, gesso, water and white pencil on Fabriano paper to create tone and texture. 

Big Black Bass, Fee Dickson Reid

Colour is also vanquished in Black and White Beach to produce such an evocative mood through lapping waves and flurry of clouds with such a sense of movement. 

Black and White Beach, Fee Dickson Reid

As we enjoy the golden days of Autumn, the ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,’ here’s a sunny splatter of seasonal colour in A Garden of Birch, in fruity shades of tangerine, orange, lime green and plum around this rural scene.

A Garden of Birch, Fee Dickson Reid

This creative collaboration is a masterly showcase of how the Scottish land and seashore can be conveyed with such a variety of expression from natural representation to the abstract purity of colour and light.


Dundas Street Gallery

6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

27 October to 1st November

Open daily 10am – 6pm.  Monday 1st 10am – 4pm.


Lost Worlds: an exhibition by Sarah Knox: a tranquil journey around Scottish gardens, glens, islands and the seashore with illuminating, poetic vision.

During the surreal experience of lockdown, Sarah Knox was determined to keep artistically creative, sketching outdoors around Edinbugh at the Royal Botanic and Malleny Gardens, Arthur’s Seat, the Firth of Forth and finally, this summer, a trip to the Highlands and Islands.

Following the pioneering approach of the French Impressionists, Sarah specialises in painting en plein-air to observe the changing light and weather. 

Sarah Knox enjoying sketching a beach scene in the salt sea air

When I’m outside with a sketchbook balanced on my lap and the materials at my feet, I relax and produce magical and fluid images of the landscape. My theme of ‘Lost Worlds’ emerged because of my reduced boundaries during lockdown.

When painting is going well it feels like I am flying.”

Sarah Knox

The light-filled Studio gallery at Dawyck Botanic Garden is the ideal space to show her Scottish landscapes. A miniature painting quickly caught the eye – In the Fold of a Green Hill, its undulating layers of meadow, river and heather-clad hill all bathed in the dying light of dusk. The blended shades of emerald, azur, tobacco, coral pink with a snowy streak of white is so atmospheric. 

In the Fold of a Green Hill, Sarah Knox

Over the past year, Sarah often visited her neighbour’s garden to sketch and captured this glimmering, golden scene, Sanctuary. Beneath the bare skeletal tree, the empty chair indicates the absence of someone who was sitting there, their ghostly silhouette lingering in the shadows.

Sanctuary, Sarah Knox

The broad panoramic scene in Light Washes over the Distance immerses the viewer close up into the landscape near Ullapool. Here is the rugged terrain of stones, sandy shore, tufts of grass as we follow the curve of the river towards the isolated trees and misty mountains under the glower of a murky sky.    

Light Washes over the Distance, Sarah Knox

With free-flowing, calligraphic style, Distant Colonsay is a sketchy abstract in sage green and grey to depict the fluidity of waves, island shore and rain clouds. This soft shimmer of a seascape is like a lyrical Haiku, the minimalist Japanese verses which traditionally evoke the natural world.

Distant Colonsay, Sarah Knox

Taking centre stage in the gallery is a majestic viewpoint, On the Rim of the World which features a lake fringed by a forest of trees and jagged peaks beyond. This frozen land of snow and ice, reminiscent of Norwegian fjords or Glacier valley, South Patagonia, is now melting in global-warming watery drips. The location is not given – it is up to the viewer to suggest where this may be or is it a fantasy, lost world of the imagination.

On the Rim of the World, Sarah Knox

After an invigorating stroll around Dawyck Garden, then view a few illustrations of the wild woodland in the gallery: Forest Shadow, Dawyck is a vivid, vivacious splash of a watercolour where the fine details of leaves and branches shine through. 

In contrast, the dappled texture and botanical green tones in Poet, Dawyck create the artistic effect of a tapestry woven in wool. 

In July this year, Sarah was able to head off to Loch Broom, a welcome escape from the city and lockdown – here is the artist in action outdoors (with midges galore), painting the aptly titled, There You Feel Free. You can see how her thick brushstrokes create a layered luminosity across sky and water with impressionistic effect.     

Sarah Knox painting, en plein air, ‘There You Feel Free’

Sarah Knox is fascinated by the liminal sense of space, time and place in her art, the boundary between reality and memory. While these landscapes are painted outdoors, back in her studio Sarah may experiment further to enhance the dramatic mood, pattern of light and natural colours as observed on location.    

These are just a few highlights of this showcase of magical, masterly landscapes so do visit Dawyck Garden for a painterly journey around tranquil gardens, glens, islands and seashore illuminated with such expressive, poetic vision.

Dawyck Botanic Garden*

Stobo, near Peebles EH45 9JU

Lost Worlds – an exhibition by Sarah Knox. 

On view in the Studio gallery to 30th November, 2021.

Open: 10am- 5pm (October) 10am-4pm (November)

Highly recommended is a visit to the very welcoming Dawyck Café for breakfast, coffee, lunch, Afternoon tea, scones & cakes

*Located in the hills of the Scottish Borders, Dawyck Botanic Garden is renowned for its seasonal displays of rhododendrons, blue poppies and golden Autumn colours. With a continental climate of warm dry summers followed by cold, snowy winters, there are plants from Europe, China, Nepal, Japan and North America. 

For more information and directions:

Waterfall, Sarah Knox

Figurative: the human form captured up close and personal by ten contrasting artists at the Heriot Gallery, Edinburgh

The definition of Figurative Art generally reflects the shape of things, objects, places and perceptions; creating a likeness, a realistic representation but can also embrace abstraction and distorted images. This wide- ranging showcase at the Heriot Gallery covers portraiture and figurative studies inspired by varied artistic styles from classical Baroque to modernist Photorealism.

Soon after graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone, Saul Robertson was voted Young Artist of the Year by the Royal College of Art and in 2005 he won second prize at the B.P Portrait award. His painting ‘Journeys’ has recently been selected for the Scottish Portrait Fine Art Awards, 2021.

The Rainbow comes and goes, Saul Robertson

Solitary figures in a city or rural environment is very much the theme of his work here. The meticulous detail in The Rainbow Comes and Goes requires careful observation; this figurative landscape appears to be a break for a picnic on a road trip by vintage VW campervan, with sandy soil and dry grass of a remote, hot, desert landscape. Although we cannot see the face of the woman in the yellow dress, she seems to be looking wistfully out to sea. Robertson has captured a most meditative and melancholic scene like a Kodak snapshot moment, a memory of a distant time and place.

While Madame Pommery was the entrepreneurial 19th century brand leader of the champagne house, Rory Macdonald introduces us to Madame de Chardonnay in her lavish blue-ribboned white crinoline gown. This is such a theatrical, witty portrait – despite the fact that she holds an oversized, decorative glass of chardonnay, her expression is far from cheerful. Rather like Mona Lisa, she has a serious, thoughtfully perceptive gaze.

Madame de Chardonnay, Rory Macdonald

After studying Art History at St Andrews, Rory’s innovative approach is inspired by Renaissance and Baroque traditions (Velazquez, van Dyck, Giordano) to create a contemporary, often comical narrative. Also enjoying a tipple or two, Old Soak is a classic portrait of a bearded gentleman, proudly dressed in a ruff and red silk gown, standing incongruously in a tumbler of wine. The quality of light glinting on glass and rich fabrics illustrate his perfectionist style as a young ‘Old Master’.

Old Soak, Rory Macdonald

In contrast, Peter Hallam captures a manner and mood of his subjects with a surrealist style. Here is a colourful line up of smart young men – racing driver, songwriter, androgynous fashionista and, very timely due to Bond mania, a Secret Agent. In his brown velvet jacket, tie, neat hair and piercing blue eyes (a la Daniel Craig), he appears suave and sophisticated.  

The Secret Agent, Peter Hallam

Apparently, Hallam’s portraits are often based on real people, transformed into quirky fictional caricatures yet balanced with a lively sense of humanity and charming humour.

Cherylene Dyer also has an artistic narrative through characters, choosing actors and dancers as her models, in order to express emotion and a dramatic ambience.  Her series, The World changed while I was sleeping’ are playful images of a girl wearing a tall crown made out of newspaper, but there’s a hidden message about disorientation as if lost in a fantasy dream world.

Duality, Cherylene Dyer

In Duality, we see a double image of a woman, one with eyes closed in a summer frock, the other is a back view, half undressed but the shadows of two figures perhaps reflect her dual, public and private faces. This is a poignant illustration of Dyer’s fascination with how we deal with social media, selfie images and the daily exposure of our identity.

In similar vein, Jane Gardiner has made a close study of the Venice Carnival where guests embrace the art of masquerade to hide one’s true self. Through period costumes, wigs and jewellery, people can adopt, and hide behind, a different glamorous personality. Titles such as The Bruised Heart, which suggests the end of an affair, shows an elegant woman, all dressed up for a party.

Light as Air, Jane Gardiner

Light as Air is another evocative portrait to depict the Carnival atmosphere through this attractive lady, beautifully made up, rouged cheeks, a lace eye mask and glittering ear-rings. She clearly wants to make an entrance and catch the eye of a secret admirer.

Steven Higginson is renowned for portraits painted in a hyper-realist style, selected for the SPA each year from 2017 to 2121.  He likes to experiment with the use of light and shade in a domestic environment such as the quiet study of a woman in The Last Light, with such delicate detail of sun-dappled skin, hair and wool sweater.   On display too is a stunning self-portrait, The Awakening  (BP Portrait Awards, 2019), with exquisite, photographic accuracy. You can detect the strong sunlight in his watery eyes and the brilliantly composed pattern of lines created by the window blind across his face, echoed in the shadow behind.

Awakening, Steven Higginson

Like Rory Macdonald, Higginson too is inspired by the meticulous artwork of the Old Masters, transferring the traditional representation of a likeness to modern day life and society.

Angela Reilly won third prize at the BP Portrait Award for a self-portrait in 2006, and her work was also selected for the prestigious Ruth Borchard Prize, 2021.  In the summer exhibition at the Heriot Gallery, she presented several exemplary paintings of the female nude to expose bare skin, flesh and bodily imperfections in intimate detail.

Wrap, Angela Reilly

Here, in Wrap, Reilly’s artistic lens captures a close up of a woman’s thigh and long, slender legs, the left wrapped around the right to reveal the sole of her foot. The blank background, painted in a shade of soft buttermilk, gives the effect of the figure floating in mid air. There is extraordinary photographic quality in the texture and tone of smooth skin, blue veins, toes and nails.

The focus of Homage with a girl perched on a stool, shows the naturalistic posture of bent legs, knees touching and clutching her arm around her waist, as if giving herself a warm, comforting hug.

As a modern master of portraiture, the profile study of a Boy depicts the fine facial features, his eyes slightly dazzled in sunlight and shimmering shadow with such clarity. 

Boy, Angela Reilly

This Figurative exhibition also features colourful illustrations of forgotten heroes by Stuart Moir who is inspired by classical Flemish art, Gill Walton, whose Pandemic-themed figures reflect religious icons and Ruaridh Crighton, who distorts portraits with bold abstract vision.


8 October to 6 November, 2021

Heriot Gallery, 20a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm. Sat, 10am-4pm.

For more information on the artists and view images see the website:

Portrait 1, Ruaridh Crighton

‘The Padre was a Hooker’ by Stephen A. Blakey: the dedicated life of an Army Chaplain told with heart-warming compassion and gentle humour. 

Born in the same house where the Scottish poet Robert Burns died, little did Stephen Blakey know the significance of this connection and that 30 years later he would be transporting a haggis from Hong Kong to Nepal for a Burns’ supper with a troop of Gurkha soldiers. 

Guided by the commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” it may seem a contradiction in terms that a committed Christian would choose a career in the Armed forces but Holy men and priests have accompanied soldiers into action over many centuries. A Royal Warrant of 1796 decreed that provision should be made for the religious duties in the army. A contingent of sixty chaplains was recruited for the Crimean war, twelve of whom died.  At the start of Great War, there were 117 Padres but by 1918 the number had risen to nearly 3,500. 

“The Padres, what decent fellows they were, as we knelt in the fields or farmyards on a Sunday to listen to them speak.”

A soldier serving during World War 1.

Live with the men, go everywhere they go, share their risks and they will listen to you.’

Wise advice by Reverend Hardy to Reverend Studdert-Kennedy, aka ‘Woodbine Willie,’ the renowned World War 1 Padre who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Ypres.

‘For God and Country’ was a dramatised American Army film (1943) following Catholic, Jewish and Protestant Chaplains from training school to the battlefield, (Ronald Reagan as Father Michael O’Keefe), to explain how religion is required for motivation and mental healing factors in wartime.

This brief historical background clearly illustrates the vital importance of the role of the chaplain, ‘to raise morale in difficult and hazardous conditions,’ which continues in our modern age.

 “ You should join the Navy as a chaplain,” Blakey’s friend John suggested during his final year at New College, training to be a minister with the Church of Scotland. “You would make a good bish’. 

Short for Bishop, this is the nickname for chaplains in the Navy, while the Army uses the affectionate term, Padre, Spanish for Father.  In 1977, there were a large number of theology graduates all seeking a place for their first year probation.  Not particularly enamoured with restricted life at sea, he applied successfully to join the British Army and, aged 24, was the youngest chaplain ever commissioned. The first posting was at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh with an intense training programme at Sandhurst. “Seven weeks that would change my life.” 

This was the start of a forty year career as the longest serving chaplain in the British Army, moving around five Scottish Regiments at home and overseas, in war and peace, in church and on the rugby pitch. Hence the witty title of this Memoir.

The focus for Church of Scotland chaplains is to care for the spiritual and moral welfare of Scottish soldiers and their families.  This is Reverend  Blakey’s account of his dedicated life serving in Northern Ireland, Belize, Italy, Brunei, the Balkans and the First Gulf War, et al. experiencing many a dangerous posting to the front line of defence.

As a non-combatant officer, Blakey still had to undergo essential training for health and safety, such as Nuclear Biological Chemical, having to wear a gas mask for 24 hours. A rough, tough, exhausting exercise. 

Commanding Officer’s Warrior in action, Operation Desert Storm

In August 1990 after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, Saddam Hussein declared Kuwait the 19th province of Iraq and very soon the Royal Scots first battalion in Germany was to be deployed  to the British armoured division in Saudi Arabia.  The Unit moved to Scotland for intense training, running to build up physical fitness and sweating it out in the sauna to prepare for the desert heat.

“The men were going to war. They were not all expected to make it home” was Stephen’s sobering thought as they set off on the mission, Operation Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait.

If the men can’t go to church, then the church must go to the men.Unknown Padre

The challenge for Stephen Blakey was conducting a Christian service in a Muslim country including serving wine at Communion, both against the law. But they persevered as The Royal Scots maintained the tradition of Church Muster and everyone attended not just for corporate worship but “a shared sense of unity.” 

Padre Stephen Blakey leading a church service in the desert

 The Daily Mail reported on one of these services in a most moving description – the Padre standing at a makeshift altar of a trestle table covered in a tartan cloth and white linen with a simple wooden cross. Whatever their religious belief or creed, ‘in times of war, men who would not step inside a church need to find inner strength and comfort. And that is what is happening among the Royal Scots.”

A photograph of Corporal Brash shows him kneeling in the sand, dressed in desert combats with head bowed, a prayer book in his hand. It’s the juxtaposition of a rifle at a Christian service which is so chilling, a moment of peace during a time of enemy conflict.

Corporal ‘Basil’ Brash with prayer book and rifle

‘The MOD does not employ chaplains to make soldiers into better Christians but to help care for them so that they will contribute to the challenges of military life including killing the enemy.’

In the desert, the Padre’s key role was all about offering comfort, guidance and a listening ear to share worries about “life and death, hopes and fears.”  In this tight knit community, as a young man himself, Stephen it would seem, was not so much a Father figure but a brother or friend in time of need.

As well as sufficient food rations, he had to ensure a regular supply of cigarettes, chocolate, batteries, electric razors and radios – not always an easy task. The Jocks were a romantic lot it seems and requested flowers and Valentine cards to send home to wives and girlfriends.  Hogmanay 1990 was a teetotal affair with Irn Bru and shortbread but no whisky although there was a rumour that bottles of Communion port were secretly pilfered.

In the darkness before dawn, the Siberian cold made you gasp. Padre Blakey had wrapped a black and white checked shemagh round his neck, handing out prayer books. Standing beyond, Royal Scots HQ staff of 200 men, silhouetted in an orange glow from the fiery sun that was rising to replace the sight of the ugly angry flashes from the artillery. This was to be the last religious gathering.” Richard Kay

Prayers at sunrise on the eve of battle in Iraq

Following the service, Lt Col, Iain Johnstone addressed the troops to prepare them in no uncertain terms of the major challenge at the start of the ground war. His message was about killing, short, sharp and to the point. “We were due to move north and form up with the rest of the Brigade ready for the move into Iraq and whatever lay ahead.”

And so back to the title of the book. Stephen had played rugby since the age of eleven, captain of the school team and then at St, Andrew’s University and Edinburgh University.  Sports every Wednesday afternoon was an important part of military routine. When based at Fort George, Inverness, the team from Kings Own Scottish Borderers were up against the Royal Highland Fusiliers with the Padre as hooker, which developed into a fierce battle of a different kind. He became a Rugby officer and hooked for several regiments over his Army career.

KOSB celebrating a victory over Vanderbilt University, USA in 1980.

Here too are personal stories about his childhood, moving around Scotland in his younger days before settling in St. Andrews.  As an Infantry Battalion Padre, he was mainly based in the Married Quarters with his wife Christine and a growing family of four children. Being posted around the world from Inverness to Hong Kong was all part of the job – “Over 16 years of regular army service, we had nine homes and six international moves.”

This regular disruption involved trying to arrange seamless school education and therefore many Officer’s children go to boarding school from the age of eight. When based in Germany, a soldier’s wife worked as an assistant in the Nursery, “learning the bairns their ABCs.”  Realising that correct English grammar would not be taught here, they immediately enrolled their daughter at a local kindergarten where she thrived and learnt to speak German fluently.

Commuting to work was never an easy bus ride but a dizzying flurry of helicopter trips to see soldiers on observational watch from clifftop towers between Belize and Guatamala or visiting troops on guard at the Irish Border during the Troubles. The unnerving experience too during the Cold War crossing Checkpoint Charlie between East and West Berlin“which sat like an island in the middle of a hostile Communist sea.”

While based here, learning the basic language was a struggle for the Padre –at school he had studied Russian which was helpful later on, knowing the Cyrillic alphabet when travelling in Serbia.  Most soldiers learnt essential German phrases, ‘Noch Schwei bier bitte (another two beers please).’

There’s also the crazy, colourful adventure with a Haggis as mentioned above.  When Blakey was based in Hong Kong, his military parish covered Brunei, Korea and Nepal. As he prepared for a trip to Nepal in January 1983, a telegram arrived: ‘Ref. Visit by Padre next week. Request he brings haggis. Stop.”

The Scots Guard’s chef made a haggis which he duly packed in his luggage for a flight via Kathmandu to Dharan and fortunately it was not confiscated going through airport customs.! Wearing the uniform of an Army officer no doubt did help. With pipers and poetry for entertainment, a very successful Burns’ supper was held for the Gurkha soldiers with a dram or two of imported whisky.

Time to relax socially was essential, after long hours of military duty and exercises. There’s an hilarious anecdote about leisurely, liquid lunches at the Officer’s Mess on occasional Friday afternoons: “the port decanter would circle, the banter would flow and we would all enjoy the ambience and humour.”  

The Padre would never, it is clearly apparent, let anyone down. When he was due to preach at a Remembrance Sunday service one year in Glasgow, he was then instructed to go to the Festival of Remembrance the night before at the Albert Hall, London which would be attended by the Queen. So afterwards, he drove all the way back through the night to Glasgow in order to get to the Church on time.

This poignant, page-turning autobiography captures the highs and lows of the peripatetic travels of an Army Chaplain blending stories of terrifying ordeals and humorous escapades. Moreover, as he was so often far away from his own family, it reflects his genuine kindness, compassion and commitment for the pastoral welfare of the soldiers.  

Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Iain Johnstone, Major Norman Soutar and Major John Potter and officers of the 1st Battalion The Royal Scots

It is heart-warming to know that his service to God, Queen and country, the Padre was very much appreciated as expressed in a letter of thanks on behalf of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots.

You are so thoughtful and caring towards every single one of us and our families… a great support. You are about the most popular man in the Gulf. We are all grateful. Thank you.”

“The Padre was a Hooker” by Stephen A. Blakey

Published by Austin Macauley

Available from Amazon and all good bookshops

Hardback ISBN-13 : ‎ 978-1788230803

Paperback SBN-13‏: ‎ 978-1788230780

The Padre washing up after Communion service under the heat of desert sun

The Scottish Portrait Awards 2021 – another captivating collection of intimate, emotional portraits and photographs of friends and family

The Scottish Portrait Awards are open to anyone over 16 years born, living or studying in Scotland. This is the fifth year of the annual competition managed by volunteers on behalf of the Scottish Arts Trust.  It is funded through the generous financial support of donors with prize money totalling more than £11,000 for the SPA in Fine Art and the Richard Coward SPA in Photography.  

This is just a personal overview picking some of my favourites from the sixty portraits  selected by the judges for the shortlists across the two categories.  The Young Fine Artist awards for Fine Art and Photography are for those aged 16 – 25 and this year there was a large number of outstanding submissions.

Phil Robinson, Brian Reading

Brian Reading is a charming sketch by Phil Robinson of his father-in-law, based on early photographs and memories: “I started drawing in this scribble style to try and capture people’s likeness quickly and to keep my mark-making fluid and my lines dynamic in different inks.”  This tranquil study of a reader lost in a literary world, raised hand on the face, and the eyes expresses such deep concentration and contentment.   

Paul Elder, A Conversation with Self

Paula Elder has had no formal art training so that A Conversation with Self shows such natural talent and confidence to express her likeness with such clarity and visible emotion in her eyes reflecting her feelings of sadness during the pandemic lockdown. Her aim in portraiture is to capture a depth of personality and character.   

Artificial Silk Girl by Minnie Scott is inspired by Irmgard Keun’s novel about a would-be movie star in 1920s Berlin, a poignant exploration of the doomed pursuit of fame and glamour.

The sitter is Virgilia, with her rouged, clownish cheeks, black kohl eyes and feathered hat, depicting a lady who clearly embraces a hedonistic, bohemian nightlife at the cabaret.  

Minnie Scott, Artificial Silk Girl

Kirsty Penny is a second year art student in Leeds and Beetroot is a portrait of her father painted during the first coronavirus lockdown. “For my family, dinner time became the best part of the day.”  He looks rather perplexed, staring at the artist and viewer, as if to say, don’t interrupt me when I am eating.  The fact that he has two forks on the plate and a large bottle of beetroot (presumably his favourite), adds a humorous touch.

Kirsty Penny, Beetroot

Mark Roscoe spends a good deal of time on commissions but was keen to paint his three children.  This is a delightful “snapshot” of them playing happily, the two older kids with broad smiles while the baby looks rather perplexed. There’s extraordinary, realistic detail in the striped clothes, logo sweatshirt, patterned carpet and colourful toys.

Mark Roscoe, Portrait of my Children

Saul Robertson admits that Journeys is the most ambitious portrait he has attempted: “Much of my portraiture focuses on my family, the passing of time and the changes wrought”. This seems to depict three generations – grandparents, mother and two girls sit in pensive mood with a quirky collection of items, a pear, mug, toy and mobile phone like a Still Life.

Saul Robertson, Journeys

Richard Coward (1946 – 2014) enjoyed a fifty year career as an artist across photography, printmaking, paintings, film and creative writing.  “He had the talent, the sensitivity, the touch; there was a special something about his pictures; that is the sensation I had whenever I saw Richard’s work” – C J Fitzjames, artist and friend.

Richard Coward, Self Portrait

The Richard Coward SPA in Photography was established in his memory by his widow Siobhán.  

Matt Sillars is based in the Highlands and Lewis is from a series on local musicians in small pubs and cafes. The relaxed manner of the three men is most engaging, pint of beer in hand or studying their phones.  The rather shabby bar environment with blackboard, wooden table and chairs is not exactly comfy or cosy, but no doubt the live music creates a warm buzzing atmosphere.  

Matt Sillars, Lewis

Having only taken photos when on holiday, when Effie Ioannou met the glamorous Aisha, she began experimenting in creative work.  The large hat is like a halo around her head, and with her hand elegantly placed over the railing, this is so well composed like a stylised Vogue fashion shot.

Effie Iaonnu, Aisha

During a gathering of women on a beach to protest after the murder of Sarah Everard by a policeman, Victoria Watson captured Liz as she took part in a ‘collective scream’ looking out to the sea. It certainly is an image of pent up anger being released into the open air by this young girl, akin to The Scream by Edvard Munch. 

Victoria Watson, Scream – Hear our Voice

In contrast, Hannah Brooks conveys a real sense of Euphoria with her portrait of Maungo, enjoying a refreshing swim in the sea at Gullane Beach, bathing in water and sunlight on a warm summer day – such a genuine feeling of joy, freedom and peace of mind.

Hannah Brooks, Euphoria

On a misty day, Tom Brodie Rose poses for his father Paul Rose on the shores of Loch Achray, the Trossachs.  It depicts the proud stance of a young Scotsman in a kilt, blending traditional heritage and contemporary lifestyle. In black and white, there’s such detail in the grasses, glistening water and shimmer of trees through the hazy light. 

Paul Rose, Tom Brodie Rose

The winners will be announced on 17th November, 2021.

The Scottish Portrait Awards Exhibition of fine art and photography is at the Scottish Arts Club, 24 Rutland Square from 30 October to 27 November, 2021; Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries from January to March 2022 and at the Glasgow Art Club in April and May 2022.

Hebrides Edge: five artists from North Uist inspired by the flowing tide and time of island life @Dundas Street Gallery

‘Place and time are intertwined in North Uist in ways that are utterly unique. On the edge of time, on the edge of a continent, on the edge of the ocean. Painters and sculptors harvest the elements creatively, a reflection of the forces of geology, of tide and storm, season and moment.’  

Ewan Allinson, Sculptor

Hebrides Edge: Sculpture and paintings at the Dundas Street Gallery

The environment of the sea very much dictates the life and work of Fergus Granville who produces fine Scottish smoked salmon and shellfish at the Hebridean Smokehouse – “the best in the world,” says Prue Leith.  

Earl Granville is also a sculptor, beachcombing to find driftwood, barbed wire, shells, skulls, bones and man-made materials washed ashore to create finely-crafted birds, busts, figures, flowers and fruit as if salvaged from the seabed.

Underwater Still Life, Fergus Granville

Here are porcelain mosaic heads, nests of pebble eggs and, as shown above, Underwater Still Life which features two tall glass bottles completely enveloped in a crustacean crust. 

The Venice Biennale 2017 exhibition ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ by Damian Hirst – a showcase of relics from a sunken ship in the Indian Ocean: giant barnacle-crusted bronze figures, rusty swords, brine-damaged gold coins and necklaces.

Sculptured figure by Damien Hirst, (Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable)

Fergus Granville should invent his own Hebridean shipwreck narrative – perhaps a 16th century Spanish Armada galleon – and sculpt his own collection of ‘ancient’, archaeological treasures.

Marnie Keltie is also influenced by the shoreline near where she lives. “It’s my attempt to express the sense of exposure experienced on the Atlantic shore and mesmerising sound of the surf.”  The natural marks and patterns she observes in rock pools and sand are wiped away in an instant by the next wave and her aim is to capture these lost traces in abstract paintings.  

Shingle II, Marnie Keltie

Shingle II is a simple yet powerful composition depicting the smooth, round and oval shapes of hard stones and pebbles in contrast to the fluid translucency of water with a magical sense of movement and rhythm. Her artwork embraces the natural beach environment quite literally as she makes pigments and inks from seaweed, rocks and charcoal made from driftwood. 

Wave power is also at the heart of the delicate, decorative paintings by Sheenagh Patience.   She searches the beaches on Berneray for tiny broken fragments of old china plates, cups and bowls washed up by the relentless flow of the tide.

Tectonic Plate 1, Sheenagh Patience

Like an actual ceramic collage, Tectonic Plate I is a stunning painting of a large platter ‘jigsaw’.  The various scraps of flowers and stripes are so realistic to show the fragile structure of pottery.  Again, an aspect of lost personal treasures, as Sheenagh describes, “Their human function as a much loved vessel or container are now a memory”.

Fiona Pearson has lived on her croft in Uist for forty years at the end of a five mile single track road, overlooking a sea loch and surrounding moors. “An empty landscape, but the space is full of movement.

In the captivating abstract landscape, Autumn Light, the wide expanse of grey sky and swirling clouds is a flurry of thick brushstrokes with a crisscross pattern to illustrate the flight path of birds.  

Autumn Light, Fiona Pearson

This flat open space is surrounded by the warm auburn and gold shades of Autumn foliage, leading the eye to the horizon over the dark, stormy moorland where it reaches the edge of the sea.  Her art reflects the mood of this poem.

If not the intensified sky, hurled through with birds

and deep with winds of homecoming.’

 ​Rainer Maria Rilke

Catherine Yeatman is like the David Attenborough of the artworld, studying the seasonal migration and island habitat of seabirds up close and personal.

“I can often be found balanced on a rock somewhere with my sketch book. This past summer I have kayaked across the Minch and visited the great whirling bird worlds of St Kilda and the Shaints and pondered on the nature of passage.”

Extract from Living Wall, Catherine Yeatman

Like an animated cartoon, the mesmerising large scale work, Living Wall illustrates the population of guillemots lined up in rows across the rockface on the edge of a cliff. Each tiny bird resembles the quirky character of a penguin with their sharp beaks and black and white suits.

These five Hebridean artists share the same artistic passion, creatively inspired by the sand,  sea, sky and the flotsam and jetsam which drift ashore in the waves, complementing each other with an harmonious, soulful vision.

Hebrides Edgecontemporary art from North Uist

Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

26th September to 9th October, 2021.

Open daily 11am-6pm

More info at:

John Lowrie Morrison, O.B.E: Let’s Go Back to the Hebrides – an exuberant, expressive journey around timeless, tranquil seascapes.  

“I love the way the light affects the landscape. You don’t get the same bright colours with the same intensity anywhere else in the world.”


John Lowrie Morrison (aka Jolomo) presented his first solo show in 1976, the springboard for a very successful artistic career and today internationally renowned for his vibrant Scottish land and seascapes.  

Jolomo sketching ‘en plein air’ to capture the wild beauty of the seashore

Here is a wide selection of paintings of Hebridean beaches, shimmering islands, heather clad hills and remote cottages, emphasising the effect of light through the seasons, from dusk to dawn and shifting weather patterns.

Ardroil Beach, The Uig Sands, Isle of Lewis

In Ardroil Beach, the Uig Sands, Lewis the viewer feels that they are standing amidst the machair and scatter of tiny flowers – neatly illustrated by tiny dots – looking out over the bay, perhaps at dusk, with a mauve tint in the sky, the fading light shining on the water.

An enriching palette of crimson, coral, hot pink and pale blue with thick brushstrokes envelops a tranquil scene in Dawn breaks over Earsay, Barra, a quiet composition where the eye is drawn to the small red boat moored at anchor, centre stage. In the foreground, it’s either a carpet of Autumn leaves or glistening seaweed. 

Dawn breaks over Earsary, Isle of Barra

Dynamic streaks of plum, tangerine and mustard gold depict the swirling sweep of blustery clouds Stormy Evening Light, Eriskay, looking to South Uist featuring his famous motif – one of his iconic white-washed, red-roofed traditional, tumbledown crofts perched on the shore.

Stormy Evening Light Eriskay, looking to South Uist

Jolomo works almost exclusively in oils, applying the pigment wet-on-wet, mixing various shades to produce precise hues of colour for his own exuberant rainbow palette: “On a stormy day, you can see the weather moving across the sky and the colours can be incredible, the light giving you colours like green, pink and magenta.”

A calm summer afternoon perhaps in Struan Bay, Isle of Coll, a wide panoramic view with the shapely curve of the sandy beach looking out to the hazy horizon.   The white splashes of surf breaking over the rocks are simple, delicate flicks across the flowing tide.  

Struan Bay, Isle of Coll

Reminscent of a sun-drenched Caribbean island is the ring of bright aqua water, this shade of sea is also distinctively Hebridean.

Again, a glorious curve of soft golden sand and turquoise-tinted sea in Stormy Evening light, Luskentyre, Harris expresses a whiff of fresh salty sea air and captures the vivid colours, if not the climate, of an idyllic tropical island.

Stormy Evening Light over Luskentyre and the Hills of Harris

As well as the pretty flourish of wild flowers on the beach in Sea pinks and Spindrift, Barra, a brash, bold expressive technique evokes a mesmerising, atmospheric sense of energy, with the swirling, crashing waves creating a vivacious sense of movement as well as a blast of the bracing wind.

Seapinks and Spindrift, Isle of Barra

From the lone sheiling of the misty island, Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas;

Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland, And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.

(from The Canadian Boat Song)

With a passion for the Highlands and Islands, John Lowrie Morrison returns again and again to paint his favourite places, sketching outside to capture the timeless, wild natural beauty where the land meets the sea and the sea touches the sky.  The personal narrative behind ‘Let’s Go Back to the Hebrides’ clearly reflects an emotional, mystical mood of nostalgia and, moreover, of renewed hope.

John Lowrie Morrison, O.B.E: Let’s go back to the Hebrides

25th September to 16 October, 2021

The Torrance Gallery, 36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JN

View the gallery of images on line and for more information

Open: Mon-Fri: 11am to 6pm; Sat: 10.30am to 4pm

There are two books on the artist’s work, “The Colour of Life” and “Jolomo – Retrospective,” for sale at the gallery

Beach and Machair Flowers, Isle of Coll