Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cooking up feathered friends

If I'd given it the slightest thought I might have realised plucking a robin at the kitchen table while the mushrooms and garlic were frying gently on the stove could perhaps be difficult to explain should my eldrely neighbour come calling.

"Sorry to disturb but....... there was an obvious pause while she stood in the doorway trying to make sense of the image before her, while I searched desperately for a responce to the inevitable question. Therese had become used to wandering into my kitchen and finding all manner of things but plucking robins never.

"You won't get much of a feed of that", I could tell I was expected to back with something equally witty.

"Its alright the other two dozen are already in the oven, terrible fiddle but this the last one", I kept a straight face.

"You're not serious?"

"Yes they were doing a spcial offer at Huelgoat Intermarche."


"No of course not" the look of relief was only fleeting "I found it in the greenhouse not a mark on it".

"So why are you plucking it?" a reasonable question in the circumstances.

"I'm making feather bird pictures".

"And what might feather bird picures be?" I could see where this was going so got up from the table and turned off the gas I would not be eating just yet.

"Oh no don't stop you'reabout to eat" she said puting on a concerned frown still not convinced that I wouldn't still fry the dead robin when her back was turned. Therese new full well that all artists were strange which was a good enough reason to excuse their often odd behaviour.

"Its no trouble and anyway I'd like to show someone, you know just to get a reaction". I'd found Therese a remarkabley astute judge of what the general public would tolerate. Therese followed me through into the front room slopping in her slippers on the slate slab floor and then up the steep open-treat stairs to my studio. Even at 76 she mae light of the stairs they others found difficult to climb, she knew them of old as a young girl then later as mistress of the house.

I opened the yew wood armoire door and took out the leather covered book that had hung around for years on the "could be useful" shelf and opened it to the first page. There it was in all it's glory, a peculiar specimen with impossibly flamboyant tail and massive red crest but a bird none the less.

"Well thats a rum looking bird if ever I saw one", Therese's responce was just as I had expected and I turned to the second page.

"Ah now thats more like a pheasant isn't it?" True I had used some pheasant feathers in that one but I'd also used mallard wings and a kookaburra tail feathers. I could see Therese was struggling, trying to work out what she was suppose to make of my latest creation. As we moved throught the next four images she began to relax and at last found the fun but also the beauty in what I had been working on. This was definitely not serious art.

Last week I opened the back door to find a jam jar wih a headless bluetit in it, a present from Therese, thught it might be useful.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Au bout du monde

Back from Western Australia having spent several weeks doing design work on a 1905 Arts and Crafts house I find the shock of returning from temperatures in the 30's has been lessened with anend of March heat-wave. I have four short weeks of gardening and painting before heading north again to Scotland. I will be taking a few more paintings with me to a Campbeltown gallery with new works of The Mull of Kintyre. The Mull has since childhood been a magical place for me, being out there at the end of the world and yet Ireland is only 12 miles away. From here it will be onward and upward as far as Lewis where I'll be continuing work on the bunkhouse at Tolsta mixed with some more painting at "une autre bout du monde".

My informative childhood years were spent on Kildalloig Estate outside Campbeltown and were markd by what I now look upon as an idyllic post war period. Days were spent roaming free along Kildalloig foreshore knowing every knot of rocks between the slithering squelchy seaweed, every dip and fold of the horizon far across on Arran and every bend in the branches of my favourite climbing trees was as if everything that surrounded me was simply an extension of my own body: From the hills that climbed steeply up behind the old walled garden through the thick bluebell beech woods and beyond across a fragrant land, where the hill-sheep grazed tight the meagre grass. Higher still where soft low cloud often covered the very top of Ben Ghuilean, there where the brilliant yellow scented gorse gives way to the random patchwork of purple heather and fresh green bracken. All this was mine to roam over, the flat fertile fields running along the coast road where we tilled the soil, tedded the grain, singled the swedes and raked the green appearing ground. The constant soaring cliffs of Davaar Island squatting toad like in heavy swell, a vast plug restricting and sheltering the mouth of Campbeltown harbour. Ours was the crunching pebbled foreshore from out beyond the point, the seaweed bearded rocks that border the coast road from the Dhorlin to the babbling cascades of New Orleans glen and beyond the brooding bulk and wrinkled slopes of Achinhoan Head.
My memories are those stimulated by the vivid visual images that coloured my early years on the Mull of Kintyre and that at the age of four I filled my very first sketch book. In 1961 at the age of eight I left the Mull without explanation or understanding, feet first and flat out in the back of our Vauxhall estate while still recovering from pneumonia.