~ Experiences, Projects & Jottings of Painter Jan Clizer, Specialist Painter of Scottish & Celtic Music Subject Matter ~

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Woolgathering on Kerrera

The Inner Hebridean isle of Kerrera is the setting for this high key 'off-the-brushed path' painting. Visited in '04, it's off my endless 'to paint' list at last! Accessible only by boat, the peace of the place struck me the minute we stepped off the dock. Waiting to be ferried from the landing to Ardentrive Farm Hostel on the island's north end allowed a wee recconnoiter of the area and an entertaining chat with a visiting sailor, his sailboat 'Dark Island' brought north for the summer. It was obvious not many souls frequented the island, and as my son observed, it was clear he was tiring of conversing with his dog!!

The incongruity of these two hairy locals catching some shade made us laugh, and I'm glad to have had a chance to work them up in paint, recalling the fun of that day.

Relaxation in Ironwork

To unbend (or is that unwind....?) from all the detail, this spike from an ironwork fence in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis said “Paint me….(hmmm, is the odourless thinner I use really lower in toxins…..? ” The simple grace of the metalwork is accentuated by the weathering of numerous layers of paint – each leaves it’s own colour impression on the texture of the worked metal…..an absolutely gorgeous mix of colours……! I had to fight the temptation for realism all the way, consciously working to be loose with both the brush and paint. A very pleasant challenge bringing back a summer Sunday (one travels not on Sundays in the Hebrides) exploring Stornoway’s streets and harbor, enjoying at once the salt air and smell of lovely gardens full of flowers in the sun.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pennan's Off the Easel!

It’s 10 days till Christmas, the time of year when we traditionally run ourselves ragged pursuing cultural dictates of overspending, overindulging, overextending. Years of buying into the ‘program’ have taught me well: when holidays rear their demanding heads, do what feels best: paint, play music & socialize! Everything will still be there in January, right where I left it!

The very early spring scene of Pennan, ‘High Shore’ is completed, although rather more realistic than I’d like. The stark white exteriors of Scottish buildings are a challenge to render ‘artistic!’ Practice…..squinting…..more practice…..

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bow & Brush Bridges to Scotland

A fine evening spent sitting in with local Celtic band Turning Tide has topped off a good day. It’s amazing how the music can both energize and soothe me simultaneously. I sorely miss the outstanding sessions and my friends in Stonehaven and Aberdeen, but Mel, Mo, Char and Dave are a deeply appreciated support in Coeur d’Alene and it’s a privilege to play with them. Music has been a great stabilizer in my life, providing focus, solace and entertainment for a lonely, isolated child. It’s been literally a lifesaving outlet ever since I began attempting to master an instrument. Although playing has been an integral part of life for many years, I’d not realized what a tangible barometer of my own mental well-being it is……and when a part of my daily schedule, the painting creativity is in turn stimulated like none other ... creativity fueling creativity.....interesting.....long may it continue!

The Brig O’ Dee is today’s contemplation on winter in Aberdeen - overcast, the air clear and cold, trees bare of leaves, and the grass ever-green and thriving. The history of the Bridge is long and colourful – I’ve walked it many times on foot alongside the present- day thundering traffic through all kinds of weather. Images of being wiped off the narrow walkway by an overextended vehicular appendage still loom large in memory. Not to mention the near-out-of-body experiences halfway across when a mini cooper full of young loons swoops by as they yell at the top of their lungs to make you jump, and then laugh hysterically, all eyes glued on you to see if you take leave of your senses completely and jump into the river.....
Possibly the 21st century equivalent to an early Scots peasant minding his/her own business just trying to cross in or out of the city in a peaceful manner amid carts and carriages! I left out the distracting metal framework of the cars and lorries to focus on the lovely colours of the ancient bridgework. A graceful scene, this,on solid ground, out of reach of the busy motorway, any time of year.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coffee in the Fog

The ‘dark days of Decembre’ are certainly here in North Idaho. Thick fog today….. reminds me of the Haar creeping silently in from offshore along Scotland’s coastline. No hint of sea sounds or smells up here though, on the hill just above Coeur d’alene proper, just a couple ghostly deer munching on the front lawn, and the parade of big bronze-feathered wild turkeys making their daily tour round of the neighborhood.

A good day for many things; for yours truly a chance to dig into the paints and muck about in the grays of an Aberdonian winter day, study over the details of operating a big Epson printer who has come to take up residence in my studio area, practice fiddle, and partake of a favourite indulgence, a cup of strong, black cafetiere-brewed coffee. Cafetieres are wonderful inventions, simple, lightweight, easy to clean, requiring only hot water & good quality grounds to produce a superior sensory experience (half the joy of good coffee is the smell, you know!). I am amazingly fortunate in visiting a nation of tea drinkers that my friends all include cafetieres ― usually in at least two sizes ― in their kitchen paraphernalia. This particular tool for brewing the perfect cup lives at a must-visit charismatic establishment, John Briggs’ Persian Carpet Shop on Allardice Street in Stonehaven. The sea view out the window was tempting, but the bright colours of the oilcloth table cover and produce won out!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Painting Experience

One of the joys of paint is being able to create a "masterpiece" on any size substrate. I like to vary canvas sizes & dimensions with each painting - makes for challenges in the framing department, but who wants to think that far ahead???! This is a 'wee shottie' at Eilean Donan Castle on Loch Duich in the Highlands - the absolute power one wields in being able to shrink a monstrous, stately heap o'stane (stone) to a mere 4"x5" canvas!

Making one's way across the castle's stone bridge bent double to stay upright in gale force winds tips the scales in the power department. A light smattering of visitors crazy enough to attempt the bridge made for a pleasant, uncrowded opportunity to explore and contemplate life in the Highlands through the centuries. The steady buffetting of the October winds against and around metres-thick stone provided background sound adding immeasurably to the experience. How can all this be conveyed in a tiny scrap of canvas and a few gobs of paint? It can't, as far as I know, but through this and every other attempt, I learn to appreciate more and more the creative efforts of myself and others.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Words & Weathers in the Highlands

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Weather. I believe it to be one of the hottest topics for conversation since the world began. In our family, speaking of the weather is equivalent to asking after your health, & saying ‘I’m glad to see you,’ all in one go. I imagine this far-reaching method of indirect communication must originate from life in a harsh environment, where every syllable counted, the excess lost to the wind. Wind brings variety in weather, and there was no shortage on both counts on Skye and surrounds in October! “
Loch Duich from Kintail Hotel” sums it up for me – incredibly wild, changeable skies, full of colour and mesmerizing cloud formations, above autumn land and waterscapes to make a painter sigh with pleasure (that or go mad attempting to discern where to begin !). We enjoyed this view from the warmth of the hotel bar, sipping strong coffees and chuckling over the informative announcement by the barkeep that the “truffles & coffee” advertised on the entryway slate were not served till teatime, as the pigs had not yet returned from a successful rootle in the hinterlands that day…! I’ll never again look at a chocolate truffle quite the same way!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

City Fathers, or is That 'Mithers?'

Leave it to a painter (me) to title a painting of two old familiars in Aberdeen’s town centre “City Fathers”……I’ve just learned that the Kirk of St Nicholas is termed the “Mither Kirk” of the city………oy! Havn’t found anything on the incredibly twisted & gnarled ancient tree in the kirkyard as of this writing to give it feminine tendencies – if anyone does, well…..aye, I might want to know!! Ah well…..both fascinate me, and the strong contrast of the living thing, dark with damp bark and contorted in it’s complex growing pattern and the stark stone structure reaching up with gothic fingers to a blustery sky were an inspiration and challenge to paint. I didn’t manage to take time out to visit them this trip, as a variety of interesting things vied for my attention, including one of the Belmont Theatre’s offerings,“Stone of Destiny,” An entertaining way to absorb a bit of 20th Century Scots history!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blogging, Guilt & Touring Scotland

For those of us born with an excessive sense of responsibility in life, I've concluded blogs were created as a special kind of torture! Yet something else to compete with precious time for living a creative life.....ah well, think more cohesively, type faster, & get on with it!!

Just returned from 20 action-packed days in the north of Scotland, it's been a great 'shot in the arm' for inspiration & good spirits. I'm now ready to dig in & finish that big Pennan harbourscape that's been getting the best of me, and pursue my pet project: market & exhibit my work in Scotland in a series of 3 exhibitions to help support TMSA, the Traditional Music & Song Association of Scotland in their work preserving and nurturing Scottish musical culture. More on that shortly.

The trip held many wonderful things for me, & a major highlight was a week of adventure exploring the Black Isle and out to the coast to Plockton, & around Skye with my entertaining companion, fellow painter & musician Ian Logan of Cults. Not nearly enough actual creating was accomplished as it WAS October with it's turbulent weather, but the breathtaking scenery, entertaining local citizenry, & interesting places made up in spades for lack of painting production! I did manage a few quick doodles here & there, & Ian actually got full drawings laid out for later watercolour paintings.

It was impossible to re-connect with all I'd hoped to see & speak with, in an effort to catch up with their interesting, busy lives since last I've been by...frustrating, yet deeply rewarding in what was accomplished. Already have a list going for a return trip.....blog or no blog.....!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Venue in CDA

August, the month that should be renamed ACTIVITY, is drawing to a close. Just finished is a commisson for Keith Shannon of Harrison Dock Builders, translating
an idea of floathomes along the St. Joe river into an actual full-colour painting complete with flower-pots and moored watercraft gracing the structures. Hope it communicates his idea with clarity – dealing with intangibles such as ‘ideas’………the term dicey comes to mind!

I am thrilled to announce that my work is now available in Coeur d’Alene through All Things Irish, a lovely specialty shop offering an extensive selection of Irish goods and gifts right downtown at 315 E Sherman. Ilene and Craig have expanded to include a Scottish section also, and a number of my original works are displayed, in addition to my Fine Art cards and ‘boutique’ sized limited edition reproductions.
Established nearly ten years ago, All Things Irish has received awards for ‘best gift shop’ several years running from an Inland Empire survey. The ambiance and the staff make browsing among the displays a great experience in itself, and well worth taking the time for an uplifting visit to the Celtic countries, right here in Coeur d’Alene!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Art on the Street 2009

The morning after…….is there such a thing as ‘hangover’ from an arts & crafts fair? Always feel a bit odd the 1st day after a show, maybe from the high concentration of good connections, laughs & fun all infused in a 3-day period! Art on the Street has grown incredibly & the opportunity to participate was a great gift for me. Still one of the best ways to gamble I’ve ever come across, erecting, filling and manning a booth is quite an undertaking, but rewarding just the same, in so many ways. Friends I don’t normally see stop in for quick hugs & updates, fellow artists drop by with good wishes & personal insights on the fairs & biz, customers & browsers chat & give their uplifting reactions to my work…..it’s all just FUN! The yearly piping school at North Idaho College had just concluded, & Spokane’s annual Highland Games took place on Saturday, so a sprinkling of Celtophiles, pipers and Scots enthusiasts added to the already enjoyable mix of visitors and conversations. All in all, a GREAT fair, and a lovely weekend!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Summer Art Fair

It’s art fair time in Coeur d’Alene…..and THIS year the weather’s going to be perfect – I can feel it in my bones! A double-booth at Art on the Street and a heavy summer thunderstorm several years ago made me resolve NEVER to do an outdoor show again….never is obviously too long a time! I’ll be showing originals, cards & limited editions in a booth in front of Bella Rose (between 2nd&3rd on Sherman) this coming weekend, & there will be NO sign of inclement weather!!

I do anticipate a bit of heat, but standing among paintings containing chill salt water & gray Scottish skies will help to offset that melting feeling one gets at summer art fairs! ‘Dunnottar Castle from the Sea’ will hang within easy glance to provide ‘cool’ at a moment’s notice! Dunnottar is, so far, my favourite castle. A bit over a mile south of Stonehaven on the NE coast, it is most fun to approach by the footpath from town, walking alongside fields of waving grain (absolutely gorgeous just before harvest time) and on the edge of long, rough cliffs dropping down to the beach below. It’s a goal to paint plein air here, but it’s going to have to be on a chilly day – the stench from seabird guano on hot days is frightful!

Access to the castle is by steep cliffside stairs dropping to near-beach level. Once through the ticket gate, it’s an amazing world of stonework, human history and survival.
I could spend days wandering the grounds, learning of life as it must have been, for those who had, and for those who had aught. I’ve been fortunate to view the castle from the water side, sailing & mackerel fishing – makes quite an impression as to inaccessibility even today! More on Dunnottar Castle: Dunnottar

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Calling Scotland........

I painted the Pennan callbox today! A small thing, I know, but to many of us, Scots or no, it’s a callbox of some significance!

Pennan was a sleepy village and well kept Scottish secret until writer Bill Forsyth wrote and directed 1983 film Local Hero starring Burt Lancaster, Fulton Mackay, Denis Lawson, Peter Reigert, Rikki Fulton, Jenny Seagrove and Jennifer Black. Lovely theme music is by one of my fav’s, Mark Knopfler (remember Princess Bride?) Local Hero told the story of an oil tycoon with a penchant for astronomy who sends a representative to Pennan to buy up property for an oil refinery. The usual ‘big money talks’ scenario doesn’t work with ALL the locals, specifically a curmudgeonly character living on the beach, & plans, minds & hearts are altered as the spell of the village & it’s stunning surroundings does it’s work. The ’08 Glasgow Film Festival held a special screening marking Local Hero’s 25th anniversary.

Details of Pennan lent much character to the film, particularly the traditional red BT call box which Mac the rep used each night to phone oil baron Happer with his report. The Pennan Inn, one of the smallest bars in Scotland, was also a highlight! There was no workable phone box before the film was shot. Pennan’s first box was a movable prop placed to appear nearer the pier! Visitors, movie buffs and locals campaigned successfully to BT to install a genuine functional red call box. It is the most called box in Scotland. BT have traced these back to tourists phoning a relative and asking them to ring back! Now a listed building, the box sports paint specially designed for oil rigs, providing protection for metal work from the harsh North Sea and winds.

That said, maybe I can get on with the painting – a 4’ landscape of the village – a bit of a challenge for one who revels in myopic studies of rust…hmmm…..wonder what the callbox would look like if they hadn’t used that industrial strength paint…….???

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Studying Rust

Rusty metalwork is to me like candy to a toddler – just can’t get enough! The COLOURS!! Especially near salt water – it seems to add a particularly kaleidoscopic quality to the array of colour found in rust & decaying metal. I’d like to do an entire series on rusted objects, which, hmm, seems to surreptitiously be materializing…..rusted boat hulls & parts, rusty locks, eroded doorknockers….! Technorati Profile

This ‘gorgeous’ padlock & hasp secures a yellow-painted door on the High Street in Montrose, a seacoast town full of history and interesting wee shops. The light is often diffused & softened in Scotland, no matter the time of day, so strong contrasts of darks & lights using shadow is not as much of an issue as in clearer atmospheres. This offers the enjoyable challenge of speaking through subtlety, creating depth with an emphasis on value & warm/cool colour contrasts. Fun!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reunion Painter-Style

Funny how you put hours into a painting, focusing, observing, unfocusing, choosing colours, losing patience, beginning again – hoping to sell the finished product, hoping it doesn’t sell because you LIKE it, then actually MISSING it once it’s out of the studio! Was in my fav of CDA’s coffeeshops yesterday, Bella Rose between 2nd & Sherman, who kindly host a large wall of my work, and looking at the paintings was like getting reacquainted with old friends!! Think I’m losing the plot!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Celtic Music Festival Blues

It’s Folk Festival time in Stonehaven next weekend – I imagine most of the usual charismatic suspects plus a whole lot of new faces will be attending, with wee sessions going on ‘roon’ the toon’ and harbourside…. the eyes water as I think of the fun I’ve had trying to keep up with hard-driving tunes and jam-packed time schedules, so as not to miss a performance or chance to sit in on a ‘crackin’ session!’ Am very thankful for help staying focused on the positive in a wee monthly gig downtown at Art Spirit entertaining Artwalk attendees – a brilliant opportunity for exposure for my work and to share some of my favourite tunes.

Music-oriented as I am, I’ve done a small series of paintings celebrating Celtic music, my long-suffering fiddle being the subject! It’s a Sanctus Serafini copy, ca. 1823 (I know, by rights I should’ve painted a fiddle made by a Scots luthier, but had none handy here in Idaho!) By appearance it’s either been well-loved, or had rather a hard life depending on one’s viewpoint, having undergone some extensive reparations. Plays a fine tune, though, depending on the player(!), & is a treasured companion.

The images are meant to go beyond the music, to invite the viewer into a more intimate aspect of a musician’s experience, the sheer pleasure of the beauty and form of our instruments. Thus, you see the fiddle depicted in multiple perspectives and angles one wouldn’t normally see unless working with the instrument personally. I created the series in a more anal phase of my painting career, trying to get every dot of paint just in the right spot. The dark backgrounds suggest our murky past – for the most part undefined and undiscernable, yet full of everything (all colours combined makes murk!) that makes Celtic culture what it is today. Celtic knotwork, composed of several colours (cultures) and populated with many, many ‘wee blobs’ (people) is placed behind each fiddle image to represent a flexible, yet extremely strong grounding in the music and heritage of the Celtic countries.

Hieland Coos, or Just Plain Great Hairy Beasties

They’ve got to be related to wooly mammoths somewhere down the line. And the Irish strain of them at that, masses of red hair & all. I’ve rather enjoyed the company of cattle, having had the opportunity to work at length around them in my college days. Peaceful creatures for the most part – pleasant, plodding munchers turning vegetable matter into animal protein. I find Highlanders even more appealing with their thick coats, all but reminding one of teddy bears sporting horns for play. And the long shaggy fringe hiding their big, glossy dark eyes – well, aye – I know it’s got to have evolved to help fend off midgies, but it just adds to their overall fuzziness, & makes you just want to hop the fence & give a good scratch behind their ears & make friends!

This painting was inspired by a pair of great bullocks lazing on Nover Estate north of Dingwall in summer. The closer animal struck me as rather statuesque reclining in the lush grass, appearing to have taken great care to distribute his bulk evenly for balance and appearance’s sake to the benefit of passers-by (although it was on the quiet lane of a large estate). The more distant fellow reminded me of a lump. Melted butter, but red-brown. Caramelized. But a lump. Must’ve been hot out there in the sun with all that hair. I enjoyed the challenge of describing the ‘lump’ & the ‘statue,’ adjusting colours and values just enough to give the impression of a hot summer day and the Highlanders taking their ease.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not Just Any Cat

Still drying is a wee painting of Sam, one of my favourite cat pals in Scotland, formerly of a busy, kindly family who takes in stray cats and painters (!) in the tiny community of Tore on the Black Isle, Ross-shire. I’ve heard this spring he’s no more to be seen sleuthing around the big Farm House on Redcastle Estate. Living a charmed rural life of freedom and independence, he was a charmer himself, sticking like GLUE when he decided yours was the lucky lap he was going to occupy for a good cuddle! I chose to paint him in one of his most favoured spots, a kitchen chair on the Aga side of the big pine trestle table, ostensibly snoozing in the warmth, but on closer inspection keeping a weather eye out for all activity that had to do with food!

Although I’ve limited experience painting animals, it was a joy to watch him come life as the painting took shape. The placemat, which I’ve discovered to be as necessary on a Scottish table as cutlery, posed maybe more of a challenge than Sam’s fur, but I’m quite satisfied with the overall result, and the making the painting of my wee furry friend has helped to reinforce all the enjoyment I had of his companionship

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reasoning Through.......

Curious indeed is the stuff that makes humans tick. A lovely summer’s eve a week past the solstice in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Most of a week has been spent reconnecting with paint & canvas after a long dry spell, & writing for the black hole of descriptive sentences called Marketing Tools. I am so fortunate in all that I consider: great friends & family, pleasant surroundings, excellent health, absorbing interests, safe & healthy food. What more could one ask? That’s EASY……to return to Scotland! Understanding of this draw of a distant land & culture has become a non-issue – it’s of no matter why, just when!

My focus on painting Scottish subject matter exclusively began during a 2-month trip to explore and collect material for paintings in 2003. My passion for the subject matter and for painting has only deepened since. It is my sincere hope to encourage others in appreciation & learning about Scottish culture through my paintings and music.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Affirmation in the World of Celtic

Who says an artist gets to create in their chosen medium?? Today it's been research in front of the computer screen rather than the easel, but rewarding all the same. Affirmation of one's own ideas & values is a welcome find for proposal crafting & solidifying of concepts. A site of particular note to me is Saorsa Media, a fascinating compendium of information & resources in support of preserving & encouraging Highland Scots culture & Gaelic.