Doodles in the margin from an artist living and working in the Scottish Borders.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Black and White

Some ongoing film noir work. Partly an exercise, partly for enjoyment, partly because I like fast dames and men in hats.

Murder My Sweet, 1944.

Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity, 1944.

Monday, 29 September 2014


It's going to be our first exhibition as the new (hosts? runners? managers? I refuse to say 'curators') of the Coldstream Gallery, and we're very excited by the artists and work we've got lined up to show.

I designed the new publicity material. The aim was to design something that people would want to keep. I don't know if it's that, but I like it.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Insanity Klaus

Klaus Kinski, as Aguirre, in Werner Herzog's film 'Aguirre, Wrath of God' an everyday tale of megalomania, incest and a raft full of monkeys.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Another painting

Frosty sunrise from the train north of Berwick. Oil on canvas, 90 cm x 90cm: Hester provides a sense of scale. Photobombed by my own cat.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Swiss Army Bot.

Swiss Army Bot. For all eventualities. View larger here.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Far to Go?

You know what those long car journeys can be like.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


All the Lovely Colours of Rust

And It's Still Warm First Thing in the Morning

Brighter Later

Mist, Heather

Four new, more abstract, square canvases. 

The interesting textured finish on the rust one I achieved by putting it in the oven in order to try and dry off the painted edges, only it was far too hot and the paint bubbled. I got it out before it was 'dry' to the point of needing to be extinguished, but I quite liked what happened as a result even if it was completely accidental and fairly idiotic. Don't dry oil paintings in the oven. For one thing, it smells.

All four paintings will be exhibited in the Cross Keys Hotel, Kelso as part of 'Absent Friends,' a sort of little sibling to the Art @ Ancrum weekend, which is happening Saturday 3rd to Monday 5th of May. Lots of talent on view there as always, so make some time to go and have a look.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Sea Monster

Sea Monster, Gulf of Thailand. My last small piece of Admiralty chart.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Go On, Give Us a Hug.

"…Then I heard him call softly, “All right, sir,” and went on pulling out the great bag, in complete darkness. It hung for an instant on the edge of the hole, then slipped forward on to my chest, and put its arms round my neck .

‘… I was conscious of a most horrible smell of mould, and of a cold kind of face pressed against my own, and moving slowly over it, and of several — I don’t know how many — legs or arms or tentacles or something clinging to my body. I screamed out, Brown says, like a beast…’”
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, M.R. James, 1904.

I've been wanting to draw the 'Jamesian wallop' moment of The Treasure of Abbot Thomas for a long time, but I couldn't work out how to compose it. It's set down a well and I didn't know where to 'stand' in order to illustrate something that was happening to two protagonists facing each other, in the dark, inside a tube. 

I'm quite pleased with what I eventually worked out; not least that you can see Somerton's face, and you can't quite see what it is that is embracing him.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Friday, 7 March 2014

PUNS: In Space No One Can Hear You Groan

James Howard, aka The Mooks, runs 'Draw' events on Tumblr every so often. The last two were DrawCoenBrothers and DrawLynch. This one is DrawVader, and while I don't have much interest in Star Wars beyond thinking it an entertaining flick, I am happy to piggyback cynically on other people's enthusiasm in a tawdry and craven attempt to draw attention to my work.

So: hey everyone! It's Darthtagnan! 

I thought a more foppish Vader would permit himself at least a little dark purple.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Saturday, 1 March 2014


A dandy fox flaunts the threads.


Film sketchbooks; The Big Lebowski and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Let There Be Light (On The Cheap)

A lightbox is one of the most useful things you can have; in my case it saves a lot of time blu-tacking paper to windows and it means I don't have to stop working when it gets dark outside.

I made myself a small one with a piece of glass from a clip frame, which was okay but it had three distinct disadvantages: it was glass and I never really liked leaning on it; the light source was a single point and very poor to work with; and it was no good for working at A3 size. So, by 'okay' I mean 'useless.'

A3 lightboxes can be quite expensive. Depending on type they can start at £35 and go up to about £100. Being the churlish pinchfist that I am I had a look at what I could do to make one myself.  In the end, the only thing I needed to buy was the LED strip; I already had the other materials, including the white perspex. Whether you feel it's worth the hassle to save fifty quid or so is up to you, but, for what it's worth, this is what I did.

Materials for an A3 lightbox

  • 5mm MDF board
  • Planed wood strip, 30mm x 4mm (whatever dimensions you use you'll need 1.5m of it - A3 perimeter is 143.4cm)
  • 6 small woodscrews
  • 3m LED strip (self-adhesive) with power adaptor
  • white translucent perspex sheet
  • quadrant section wooden moulding
  • EvoStick wood glue.
To save you reading any further: a diagram.

1. The simplest way to deal with the dimensions and right angles is to use the cardboard back from an A3 sketchbook as a template.

The first thing I made was the frame onto which the base board and top perspex would be fixed. I made it 3cm deep as I wanted the profile of the finished box to be quite slim. Also it's what I had in the shed. 

I glued two three-metre lengths together to give them a bit more strength, and left these to set overnight in clamps.

Then I used the template to cut them to the correct lengths for an A3 frame (long sides 42cm, short sides 29.7cm, give or take) and put a section of quadrant in the corners for reinforcement. You can clamp this all together while the glue dries but I found that they all sat together snugly enough on a flat surface while I left them overnight to set. The corner quadrants are also where the screws go to secure the base, so at the same time I put two blocks in the middle of the longer sides:

Corner quadrant and screw block.

2. Using the A3 card as template, I marked out and cut the MDF board to size. I painted the face going inside the lightbox matt white; white to help diffuse the light and matt so the LED strip would stick securely.

3. Stick the LED strip to the base board. 

(I took the photos after I'd made the lightbox but it's easier to attach the LED strip before fixing the base board to the frame.) 

A three metre LED strip fits well inside an A3 lightbox. Mine, complete with adaptor, cost just under £13 from eBay.

It has a self-adhesive backing, but as it doesn't lend itself well to tight curves, I anchored them with thin strips of duct tape. (It looks awful but it all gets hidden.) When you start sticking the LED strip down, start with the end that has the the power wires and fix it in one corner of the board, near the frame.

LED strip stuck to base board and base board screwed to frame.

You can now tell where the LED power cables go and you can cut a slot in the frame to allow them to pass through: 

Slot cut for power lead.
(I'll say this here; one thing I would change is how much of the power cable hangs out of the lightbox; it's quite vulnerable and I would now secure the jack into the frame rather than have it hanging out as you can see below:)

The power jack: the cables are secured into it by tiny screws; one wire has become detached already in ordinary use.

4. I then drilled countersunk holes in the corners and sides of the LED base board and attached it to the frame with small wood screws.

5. Now the perspex drawing surface. Again, the A3 card is the template. The perspex can be cut using a craft knife and a metal edge, or, if you're feeling rowdy and adventurous, with a jigsaw - but very slowly and carefully otherwise it chews it up and spits bits all over the place.

I fixed the perspex to the frame and baseboard with the bodger's friend, duct tape. It's aesthetically offensive, but easy, secure, and covers any sharp corners and edges left on the perspex sheet.

Corners cut and folded over.

Perspex top attached to frame.

6. In case it wasn't quite true, and to make sure it didn't slip, I put some padding on the base. I used sticky-backed draught-excluder strip, which did the job nicely. 

Foam footing strip.

 7. That's it. Plug it in. This happens:

It is not beautiful, and you wouldn't confuse it with the cabinet making of Thomas Chippendale, but it is strong, light, easy to get back into if anything goes wrong with the LEDs, and most importantly it is a successful and practical working surface.

If you can't get hold of white perspex, before I found I had a sheet I originally used ordinary clear acrylic sheet and painted one side with a couple of thin layers of white acrylic paint; this diffuses the light - not quite as well, but well enough.


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