Sunday, 16 July 2017

New greetings cards available.

Four designs - mix and match, choose your favourites
- 14x14cm, 330gsm card, includes white envelope small enough for Royal Mail Letter.
- blank inside for any occasion. Short artwork description on reverse of each card.

4 cards = £6
8 cards = £12
12 cards = £15
20 cards = £25

+ UK postage & packaging £2 per order

Pay by cash, cheque, online transfer, PayPal. We aim to post cards within two weeks of your order.

** Click here to let us know how many of each card you wish to order **

Crossing the Atlantic on honeymoon we watched whales and dolphins almost every day. 
I was with my watercolours in the lookout when this humpback appeared, rising gently 
three or four times before flicking its tail to the vertical and diving from sight. 
- July 2016, Queen Mary 2, New York to Southampton.

Guillemots are found nesting on narrow ledges in colonies all around Scotland's coasts. 
They, along with their relatives the puffin and the razorbill, are one of many seabird 
families threatened by dwindling fish stocks and increased coastal storms.

On the beach below my mum's caravan crows search for shellfish. 
They grab a shell, flap upwards with it then drop it onto rocks, trying to get at the treasure within. 
It usually takes several attempts before the shell cracks.

At this spot on the Aberdeenshire coast I see peregrines almost every time I visit. 
This adult lay in the shade of a cliff overhang as I sketched. A peregrine falcon performing 
its vertical hunting dive or 'stoop' can reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour!

** Click here to let us know how many of each card you wish to order **

Friday, 9 June 2017

Flanders Moss NNR - outdoor art exhibition June 2017

Emperor moth at Flanders Moss, watercolour, pencil, ink, 29x40.5cm

Flanders Moss is one of the biggest and best lowland raised bogs in Scotland. It lies a little west of Stirling, saved for nature thanks to the Scottish Wildlife Trust in 1973 and now under the management of Scottish Natural Heritage as a National Nature Reserve. More about the history of conserving the Moss - here.

I've read about Flanders Moss in Jim Crumley's books but first visited a month ago when I was treated along with chauffeurs Blaise and Nick to a tour with Reserve Manager David Pickett. I first met DP when he was Reserve Manager on the Isle of May and was always really interested and supportive of the art we produced there.

Earlier this year I was invited me to create two works for an outdoor exhibition on the Moss as part of Forth Valley Art Beat, 10-18 June 2017. When I lived in Linlithgow this was my local open studio event so it's really nice to have my work back in Forth Valley this year. (Now I'm in Burntisland I take part in Central Fife Open Studios instead - 2nd & 3rd Sepember 2017. )

Flanders Moss whinchat, ink, 29x40.5cm

The Moss

Within half an hour of stepping onto the reserve we were looking down at my first ever adder, wound through the grasses.

We didn't see Green Hairstreak butterflies but we stood where they probably would have been had the weather been better. We saw osprey, whinchat, stonechat, cuckoo...

In the moth traps were Fox Moth, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Peppered Moth, Light Knot Grass, Scalloped Hazel, Hebrew Character, Pale Prominent, Emperor... Identified, logged, released.

As we walked the kilometer circle of boardwalk at the end of our trip lots of Common lizards were basking on the boards. Some scampered as we approached, some didn't move at all.


Open Studio event, 10th - 18th June 2017

Visit Flanders Moss 10th - 18th June inclusive to see the artworks as part of Forth Valley Art Beat. Full details here. Both weekends of the event Wardens will be on-site in the afternoons to tell you more about the Moss.

And keep your eyes open for those lizards!



Fox moth

Pale Prominent moth

Lesser Swallow Prominent moth
Emperor moth underside

Emperor moth

Common lizard

Common lizard

View from the tower


The artists

Friday, 19 May 2017

Scotland by Rail - Dalry Station Garden - hare unveiling and River Garnock walk

Dalry Station Garden Open Day including unveiling of three fantastical white hares, staring skywards. Afterwards cake and folk music in the Greenbank Inn then a couple of hours exploring a mile or so downstream along the River Garnock.

Previous Dalry blogs one (Lynn Glen) and two (Blair Estate) for other local walks and more about my mural involvement with Dalry Station.

Dalry Station Garden Group - website.


Station Garden hares

Funded by Dalry Parish Boundary Trust and North Ayrshire Council three beautiful white station hares were commissioned from artist Wayne Darnell. After the unveiling we were treated to hare cakes and bakes in the Greenbank Inn and folk songs and stories from James Dippie and John Hodgart.

unveiling the hares

hawthorn and compost

micro pond - try one of these in your garden, easy and quick and one of the best things for nature

new planter thanks to Dalry Burns Club

more speeches in the Greenbank Inn

James and John


River Garnock walk,

A short and sometimes uncertain walk with lots of bird and plantlife to stop for. 

I walked from the town downstream on the west side of the River Garnock until a little beyond a high-fenced auction ground on the other side of the water. Turned around at a point where I discovered snipe. Frightened them off before I spotted them unfortunately, as is almost always the case. Have you ever seen snipe holes though? Look at the photos...

Retraced my steps as far as the auction ground bridge, crossed the bridge over the river and through a gate in the high fence. From there it's close alongside the fence until a more substantial track winds you back towards the town with railway on the right and river on the left. 

After a while you're nearly at houses when there's a footbridge over the river on your left - don't take it, turn right and walk with field on either side until you emerge at the station.

starting the walk, River Garnock on the left, Dalry houses behind me

Dalry's Maes Howe?

looking back to Dalry, Garnock on the right

butterbur -


wind farm -

orange water outlet and auctions cross the water. They could do with some hedgerow

snipe holes! All over the muddy ground here where they'd been probing for insects

more snipe holes

where I flushed the group of snipe

now returning to Dalry, looking back along the auction ground fence

woodland then river on my left, railway on right

Dalry in the distance

fields on either side, Dalry station ahead

my Garnock River walk - the red-ringed, white-arrowed bit


How to get there

Trains to Dalry take half an hour from Glasgow Central and run half-hourly Mon-Sat, hourly on Sundays.

'Ayrshire, Inverclyde & Stranraer Timetable' and 'Buy Tickets' option on ScotRail website.

Thanks to ScotRail for enabling my Scotland by Rail work.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Scotland by Rail - Dundee, Balgay Hill & Cemetery

crossing the Tay

I get up to Dundee about once a year, visiting Gallery Q or my friend Martin or both. Martin and I were at secondary school together and he's a painter too. We exhibit in some of the same exhibitions and galleries and not often enough we go sketching together. Last time we sketched at the top of Dundee Law but it was cold up there and we retreated quickly to a pub. This time the weather was lovely and we had a long ramble followed by a bit more sketching. Then a pub.

I've been reading a lot of Jim Crumley. You should too. Try Nature's Architect for up-to-the-minute species reintroduction discussion and in-depth beaver ecology understanding and inspiration; Try Encounters in the Wild series for short, personal, beautifully published accounts of individual species - Badger, Skylark, Barn Owl, Fox, Hare, Swan. Try the The Nature of Autumn for Jim's newest book and the motivation for this my latest trip to Dundee.

Jim is from Dundee, grew up there in the 1950's and 60's. In his books he often mentions his Dundee childhood on the edge of Balgay Hill and cemetery with views to the River Tay, autumn geese overhead, spring skylarks song-flighting from surrounding fields. Although the skylark fields are long built over, Balgay Hill is still a place of nature. I'd just finished reading about Balgay in The Nature of Autumn and decided to pay it a visit.

Travel was by train from my home in Burntisland, changing at Kirkcaldy. Total journey time a little over an hour. If you want to read about the route try this Dundee blog post from 2014.

looking west from the Tay Bridge

The area around Dundee station has been a building site for a good few years. Since I was last there a new station entrance has sprung up, not yet complete, and the dark hulking body of the ship-like V&A Dundee, also not yet complete.

Dundee station

HMS Discovery de-masted, V&A behind

V&A and Tay Road Bridge

I started my walk westwards along the Dundee waterfront, headed towards and then under the Tay (rail) Bridge where three mallards paddled. Tide was low and four seals pretended to be bananas out on a sand bank. On another temporary island were gulls (common, herring, black-headed) and a preening cormorant. Down at the river edge a curlew waded the temporarily revealed mud. Take time to read boards about the Tay Bridge Disaster and the verses of William McGonagall. Also the sad tale of a humpback whale which visited Dundee in 1893. Jim has a book about that too - The Winter Whale, Birlinn, 2008.

Soon after passing under the Tay Bridge turn right across road then playing fields (a hundred or more starlings were foraging the grass here) and across the Dundee-Perth railway line via this footbridge.

The bridge leads Magdalen Green where I recognised the colourful cast-iron bandstand, a century and a quarter old, from one of my favourite of Martin's paintings.

Martin Hill - Bandstand, Magdalen Green, oil on board, 45x57.5cm

From Magdalen Green the entrance to Balgay Hill at Victoria Park is less than a mile away bearing north-west. I went first to Martin's studio, a good big white space in the depths of an old church, full of stuff to look at, as studios should be. We discussed work then gathered sketching stuff and headed to Balgay.

The Hill and cemetery are two side by side lowly rounded hills, all part of the same maturely wooded Balgay landscape. The sites are spanned at the hip by an elegant Victorian cast-iron bridge, matching Martin's bandstand from earlier.

The sun was out and birdlife was in full voice. Three or more great spotted woodpeckers were particularly obvious by their song, high in the trees around us as we walked up the hill to the Observatory summit. The drumming of bill on wood is unmistakable to the ear but as often with woodpeckers I could catch only glimpses. This drumming is the bird's song, used to mark and defend territories, heard most often in the spring.

Once, staying in an organic pink watermill in Little Salkeld, Cumbria, I heard a great spot performing its drumming on the metal-capped tip of a railway telegraph pole. The rhythm was absolutely familiar but the sound was alien and took some moments to place, so much stronger and sharper than the normal drumming on wood. It rang out from the railway cutting, up through the wooded slope where we walked, down across the valley of the River Eden.

Wildlife was great down in that area. I once found a dipper nest spot under a railway bridge on a tributary of the Eden, watched the adults bringing meat for their young, heard the chicks frantically squeal as their meals arrived, glimpsed their downy heads and scrawny necks. At the mill nuthatches were often on the kitchen window feeders, red squirrels too.

Back to Balgay, where there are also apparently red squirrels. We didn't see any but Martin will be tasked to let me know if he ever does. After a few hours of exploring and sketching we were leaving the hill when a jay surprised me as I went off-path on the heathy eastern slope.

We ended with half an hour in a cosy book-themed pub before I left to catch my train.

Balgay Hill, woodpeckers drumming

from Balgay looking west

 Balgay cemetery, pen in sketchbook

from Balgay looking north

 Balgay cemetery, pen in sketchbook

in the George Orwell pub, pen in sketchbook


Martin's paintings

See more of Martin's work on his website and by following him on Twitter:

If you'd like to see pieces for real try the Sutton Gallery in Edinburgh, Billcliffe Gallery in Glasgow and Gallery Q in Dundee:

Contact Martin to ask about any artworks, possible workshops, demos, talks, etc.

Many thanks for permission to show Bandstand, Magdalen and these Balgay oils:

Martin Hill

Martin Hill

Martin Hill

Martin Hill

Martin Hill


Friends of Balgay

Lots of info here -


How to get there

Trains to Dundee leave:

- Edinburgh and Aberdeen every half hour, journey time c.1 hour 10 mins
- Glasgow every hour, journey time c.1 hour 20 mins
- Perth every hour, journey time approx 25 mins

Timetable - Glasgow/Edinburgh/Perth/Aberdeen - Dundee

Very many thanks to ScotRail for supporting my Scotland by Rail work.