November 25th, 2014 – Another day.

This is now the closing moments of 2014, November 25th, and I look back on the year from a rain-soaked window in South Glasgow, with that cold grey light of a November Tuesday morning making me feel shivery.  I started the year with one promise for myself in mind, this year was not to be as damn hard as the last or at least come out of it with some radical changes.

January was good, I was pretty tired but had spent a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas & was feeling positive after the surprise trip to the Basque Country in December. I had in mind a plan for the year and launched straight into it.

A house exhibition in March of Sumi Ink drawings. Working on pine branches and some leafy tree impressions. I put together around 7 works for this produced over Jan/Feb.


The exhibit was really fun, and a bit odd opening up my house for the purposes of an exhibition, but it went well. I was really charged with the creative buzz from the ink drawings. In the final 2 weeks before the show, I also stumbled into producing a set of waterfall paintings. That really changed everything and more than the ink drawings I think shaped the year to come. Although I have some plans in mind still to investigate further Sumi Ink painting.

waterfall painting

At this stage, there were 7 waterfalls and I have since added a few more to the collection. The brush technique used in these paintings was a follow-on from 2013’s blossom paintings. Wet paint, highly buffed in a very quick brush process. Worked over several times till the areas took shape. At the end of producing these 7 waterfalls, my arms were over-strained & I had to not paint for a few weeks.

April was spent in front of a computer organizing the Art Exhibition “Art On The Hill” which was to be held during the Southside Fringe Festival. It was a full-on operation and I am not quite sure how I got through that one. But it all came together and the show opened in May. 100 artists. Around 470 artworks. Bang.


During June I was mentally & physically exhausted. Nothing got done, in July also. After the total full output of everything I had to put that show together, I was totally shattered. I was rather disappointed in the end I had hoped to secure the venue and continue with a studio gallery project but it fell through. I was also a bit unsatisfied with the show’s results, I wanted to do more, could I of done more? It was in no way a failure, we took in several grand for the artists with 0% commission. I did what I intended. But I guess I had set myself this unreachable bar, maybe I guess I had to, so it forced me to keep going beyond a certain level otherwise I would have given up at so many stages.  It’s odd but even in success, I found it hard to get past that.

August I got phoned up by a restoration studio that needed extra hands, it could not have come at a better time. So a solid 2 months of paid work was welcome. The weather was beautiful, and the commonwealth games and the build-up to the year’s big event of the Referendum. It was nice getting back into proper leading-up church windows after several years out of it.

I won’t really go into the Referendum. It was a crushing disappointment. I kind of knew there was no way in the first place the establishment would actually allow it to happen regardless of how the vote went. Not a chance in hell. I was completely disgusted by the tactics used in the final stages. It was low. And as I became more immersed in it and began following more people on Twitter I became more aware of things going on that deeply disturbed me.

I kind of wish I never knew, once you have seen inside the box how can you close it and forget that it’s there? So in October, I was really bummed out.

better together

So I’m not sure where I am with that. I kind of feel I can’t invest any more rage at it, I just don’t have the strength to push into it, and it’s kind of hard to paint trees and waterfalls and peaceful things keeping your creative mind in a certain place when its all horror and the darkest of gloom everywhere around you.

I’m glad the momentum has not lowered, if anything my FB feed is even more charged with political chat. Sadly I am also aware of the many who are just glad it’s over and can go back to normal and it’s totally not a problem when the government shreds all the expenses data.  I can however look back on those final moments when the energy in Glasgow was off the charts. It was wildly exciting.


I was even interviewed by a French journalist, I invited her round to the house and we sat out on the roof for a few beers and spoke about the changes for a couple of hours. A stark contrast to the results of her efforts to speak to someone from the No side. But there you go eh? In November I had a meeting with a new company called Art Retail Network, who have set up an Artist to Gallery link-up system. They have hired me as an Artist engagement and it has been my job for the last month to recruit artists for the site, given my position in the Glasgow Art community, the big show, and my FB group which now has 1000 members I’m well placed to do that.

It’s long been my attitude that the gallery world was deeply flawed, I was going to have nothing to do with it and put my efforts into bypassing to directly reach the people I want to see and buy my art. That’s been trialed through street trading, markets, fairs, house exhibits, solo shows, and group shows, trying to build a following. Trying to share as much as possible everything I am working on, the techniques the progression, the journey. Since my time in Glasgow that has become a process of working with other artists that hold the same feelings as myself, together maybe we can find that which we seek.

10 years in and it’s not really working, financially, for me.  Creatively I feel I am working better than ever! So maybe I should re-evaluate my position with galleries? I will never be “someone that used to paint”. I do paint. I painted yesterday, I’ve got varnish drying right now. This is how it is, but increasingly as I get older and life changes with responsibilities I am finding it harder to stick to the plan. So I have to find a solution to making the artwork for me. I can’t give the art up.

When I met the Network guys I thought as it’s something I have been so against & I’m pretty cynical, it’s probably exactly what I should be directly involved with. And over the last 2yrs, I have become increasingly involved with working with other artists I wanted to make sure this was not a ‘scam’ or another situation of the artists getting the short end of the stick so often the case in the art world.

Satisfied with the business plan and those in charge of the ‘ARN’ I’m putting my efforts into helping shape this. So it’s been a very interesting October/November. Having real in-depth discussions with people really coming from the business world has been insightful.  Artists actually cover a lot of this stuff, although as we don’t have business training, we don’t actually know the reasons why certain things are the way they are. It’s interesting when you understand the theory behind retail a little more.

And that takes me to now, I’m writing this up with a massive roll of bubble wrap at my feet as I am about to pack everything for going up to Ullapool on the 4th.


The exhibit opens on the 5th in Ceilidh Place. My friend Jock is kindly driving down, we are loading up the car with a whole load of paintings and heading back up. I’m torn between whether I should be based back up North, here in Glasgow, or somewhere completely different. The highlands, it’s what I paint, it’s where I should be no? Would I find more people interested in my work there? It’s been on my mind a lot over the last few years. I do enjoy Glasgow, but as I am very aware I have created something of a sand timer in my mind. A clock by which I have given myself a deadline to see some results. I’m not sure that’s at all productive. But at the same time perhaps it’s entirely necessary.


So  I end the year looking back at where I started. It has been a hard year, equally tough as the last which was what I said I didn’t want. But not through lack of effort, and creatively I have produced loads of new work. The most I have done in years and in a direction I am really very pleased with.

gillies art

“Tomioka” 20×30″ Acrylic On Board

I have currently 60 paintings and at least 20 drawings stashed away. But it’s no good if I am the only person seeing them, I have to get these out and seen. The process that has been followed over the last 2 yrs of producing work and photographing and uploading on Facebook is so damaging and I have noticed other artists feeling the same way. I get so excited by work, I finish it and love it, I get it framed and rush home. I take a photo and share it. Look at what I just did! I’m charged with everything good, and the post gets seen by 34 people out of 500 followers. Flatness.

A week later I am still buzzed and loving the smell of the frame wood stain still fresh in my room. But something has been taken away. It’s just another picture, it’s old news. I don’t know how to keep that buzz and get people excited by something I am so freaking pleased with.  Facebook is not the forum for that clearly. There is no point showing someone the full completed image, that is the interest gone.

They have seen it, all.

Best explained by the image you went past last paragraph, my new painting “Tomioka”. Did you notice it? Even if you did it’s just a scroll past that can not possibly relate to how pleased I am with the work.

A 600×375 pixel 72dpi jpeg on an un-calibrated laptop screen in a scrolling Facebook news feed has quenched the viewers’ desire for art if they see it at all! ‘Like’. No, no, no.

A week later I’m still buzzing about the smell of the wood frame and the cool way the light is this morning making part of the mountain look really cool. How do take that energy and transfer that to people? Ugh! But if I abandon it all together do I have a presence in the social media world? But why try to maintain one if I feel it causes so much damage?

More confusion!!!

But hey it’s not all sadness. I did buy my first bit of Art this week. Check this out…

michelle campbell

A painting by artist & friend Michelle Campbell. I was around at her house for a flat warming and saw it stashed away, I’m looking at this painting, and it’s just so cool. I bloody want that. So I got it. Picked it up yesterday and it is huge, way bigger than I remember it being at the party….. now to move everything around in the flat to make room for it.

Really looking forward to the journey up the road. Ullapool is getting landed with the full produce of my years’ work. Let’s hope someone there is receptive to what I have created. The inks, the waterfalls, the night skies, the blossoms.

autumn leaves
gillies painting ice

Did I find my 2014 radical changes, or rather I should say did I succeed in making them? Cause as my spiritual mentor Gil says..

“since change is inevitable, we should direct the change
rather than simply continue to go through the change…” – Gil Scott-Heron

I’d say yes. The year is not over yet, and there have been a few things that indicate there is room for further action. I am by far not satisfied and there is much work to do. Giving the Art Retail Network my efforts, I would like to see my work out there. I think it’s good enough, it’s real. My whole world is creating images and this year I have put together a solid collection. If I can’t turn this around well I just don’t know.  The sand timer is there, and it’s falling quickly. 2015 is upon me.

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