I hope this finds you safe and well. There has been some more summery weather on the west coast these past few days and I am enjoying starting to see the fruits of my recent labours in the slowly developing "garden". It's like painting a picture, I've come to realise - putting colours and textures together, to create something pleasing to the eye. Of course the garden "picture" does not stay the same, as the seasons come and go, so the gardener must be continually trimming and tweaking, looking, adjusting and adjusting again. It is a continuous work in progress.
Artist Support Pledge
Since the Covid-19 lockdown, many artists and makers have been looking for different ways to keep going; exhibitions have been cancelled, gift shops and other outlets such as cafes, restaurants and galleries are closed. A UK based artist, Matthew Burrows, had the idea of setting up the Artist Support Pledge, on Instagram, for artists to support other artists during this difficult time. The concept is simple - an artist posts images of their work, costing no more than £200 each, on Instagram, using the hashtag #artistsupportpledge. Buyers contact the artist directly. When an artist reaches £1000 of sales, they pledge to buy £200-worth of other artists' work. I have recently joined this pledge, and am posting artwork daily on Instagram. Only the items listed there are included in the pledge - I'll be adding more items as time goes on. It seems like a good way of us all supporting each other - of course, you don't have to be an artist to buy works included in the pledge! Some of the artworks I've listed so far are shown above.
Many of you already know that as well as painting, I love taking photographs. I know lots of folk have been missing visiting their favourite places in Scotland in recent times, so I've been busy updating my website to include a photography page, showing a selection from my portfolio. This links to another website (Photo4me) where you can buy canvases, prints etc. of my work.
There's 10% off just now, on all items - just use the code kindness2020 at checkout.
If you're finding it tricky to get hold of greetings cards just now, I've expanded my card collections - there are now 15 different collections, each with 5 different cards. Hopefully there's something for everyone - shown above are -
As always, thank you so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated. I am hopeful that there may be some opportunities to share my work in real life before the summer is over.
In the meantime, stay safe and well.
all the best
Abigail had only one fault. Being right. Charles had always said so, back in the old days. Days before he died so suddenly, keeling over in the churchyard during that dreadful funeral. Elspeth; that was the woman’s name. Fairfax, or Fairweather, something like that. Grand sort of name for the mousy, waiflike creature with long fair hair who lived at the shabby cottage at the far end of the village. How she’d come to live there, no-one really knew.
Idleness is a sin, as Abigail knows only too well, gazing out at the snow swirling onto the patio and the neat lawn beyond. Jolted back to the present by the harsh ringing of the telephone, she goes through to the hall to answer it. Knowing it will be her son, Simon, she simply says “Hello”. Looking at the black and white graduation photograph of him on the hall table, she listens for a long time, saying nothing. “Mum; Mum, are you still there?”
“No Simon, I’m somewhere else entirely.”
“Oh come on, Mum, it’s not that bad, is it? Poor Dad didn’t even have a chance to get to know her.”
“Quite right, too, she should never have been born.”
“Really, Mum, I can’t speak to you about this any more right now; I’ll call back later when you’re in a more reasonable mood.” Simon hung up; Abigail dropped onto the chair by the phone, sat picking absently at a pulled piece of grey wool in her cardigan sleeve. Trust Charles to have gone and done something stupid and then left them to pick up the pieces. Unbelievable, that’s what it was, that her husband of forty years could have had a daughter that none of them had any idea about. Vile thoughts ran through her mind, of revenge and justice and things turning out for the best. What a pity Elspeth had been allergic to peanuts and that she had had no idea about it when she invited her for afternoon tea that day when Charles had been away on business. Extremely unfortunate, too, that Charles’ pre-existing heart condition and the fact that he’d run out of his medication, had meant that he’d dropped dead at his bastard daughter’s funeral.
Zealously, Abigail set to work polishing the silver cutlery and laying out cups and saucers for bridge club later on that afternoon.
This is a short story I wrote a number of years ago. It is from my first collection of short stories and has been broadcast on Two Lochs radio in their Westwords programme.
Afternoons in the Brown household were generally given over to drawing spaceships. Barry tended to do intricate scale diagrams of complicated designs. Charlie’s efforts were usually brightly coloured, with birds and animals added for decorative effect. Daphne worked diligently, doing complex calculations concerning power outputs, thruster positions and light year estimations. Every evening, the three siblings would compare notes, pinning their efforts onto a board and pointing out special features. Finishing a spaceship drawing was something none of them had ever achieved. George, their father and inspiration, was long dead. He had been a technician at the local spaceship factory and harboured desires of going to Mars one day.
“If only we could get someone to build one of these, to see if it worked!” Daphne said one winter’s evening, her mouth full of tea and bourbon biscuit.
“Just let me make some phone calls,” said Barry, brushing custard cream crumbs from his Arran jumper.
“Knit one, we could knit one!” shouted Charlie, waving his arms around, a jammie dodger in each hand. Lovingly, his siblings smiled at him and then at each other.
“Maybe, Charlie, maybe,” Daphne said, gently.
“No, really, I saw a pattern in last month’s “Novelty Knitting for Novices”. Only snag is how many balls of wool we’d need; I think it was two and a half million of blue and one and a half million of white.”
“Perhaps we should see how Barry gets on with his phone calls,” said Daphne quietly, watching Barry pick up the phone and dial.
“Question for you. Richard, on the funding front. Spaceship project; some fabulous designers have a terrific plan. Time to get up to date and move into new sectors, eh?”
Until that moment, neither Daphne nor Charlie had any inkling that Barry was on nodding terms with Sir Richard. Very soon after, the call concluded and Barry was grinning from ear to ear.
“We’ve got a deal; he fell for it hook line and sinker! Extra income from our pension payouts next month will make up the balance.”
“You’re a genius, Barry!” cried Daphne and Charlie.
“Zog, here we come!” shouted the three grey-haired siblings, waving slices of Victoria sponge in celebration.
I hope this finds you safe and well and finding ways to get through these strange times.
Recent work created during lockdown
It took me a while to get back to painting after the lockdown was put in place on 23rd March. Out for a walk one day, I noticed the remnants of a foxglove - see above, on the left - at the front of my garden (I use the term very loosely, I am gradually taming small parts of it). I brought it into the studio, laid it flat on the table, and began. So started a series of these works - mostly remnants of last year's growth, as there were few signs of spring at that point. More recently, bracken fronds have started to appear, and my daffodils have bloomed, so spring greens have made an appearance in my work. All the works - 15 to date - are on large (A2, 40 x 60cm approx) paper - most are life size, some a bit larger. You can view them all here on my website.
see more flora...
I am very fortunate to be able to have some of my daily walks along the beach. There is always something to see, a shell, or a pair of them, a sea potato, or an interesting pebble. Very often, some of these treasures come home in my sandy pockets. I have a growing collection of shells - cockles, mussels, scallops, razorshells. It just makes sense, to me, to paint them. These works are generally larger than life-size (often abut ten times larger!), as I prefer to work on a large scale. A few examples are shown above - razor, scallop and tellin shells. There are more (11 in all, so far) on my website.
see more seashore artworks...
New! Greetings cards collections now available
I've put together 12 collections of greetings cards - mainly existing designs, but also some new ones in there too - each set has five different cards in it, all with one theme. I'm hoping this will make it simpler (and more economical) for those of you who are finding it difficult to get hold of cards just now. They can be popped in the post to you, or delivered, contact-free, if you live in the Gairloch area.
Thank you so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
If you have any queries or special requests, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
very best wishes
view card collections...
The day before yesterday
I met an old friend on the street
we embraced, kissed on both cheeks,
held each other longer than was
Yesterday, I went to the supermarket
stocked up on what was required
respired, relieved, thankful to behold
full shelves and smiling people
standing close and chatting
not steering clear
two trolley lengths away
at all times
Yesterday, I took the dog to the park
threw his ball, watched the children
on the swings and roundabout
playing tig and tag, holding hands
watched a mother wipe a snotty toddler nose -
I didn’t flinch or move away
Today I drove out, out into the countryside
as far as I felt like going
and took the dog for a second walk
in the woods, because I could
Tomorrow, I shall book a two night stay,
for three months’ hence
in a favourite place
a treat, a retreat, a getaway
a stay away - a place where
I may well encounter strangers
in the bar - make new friends, perhaps,
sit close together, conversing
The day after tomorrow, I’m going to the cinema
with a friend.
We’ll eat out beforehand,
nowhere fancy, just out – we’ll
raise a glass to friendship
Tomorrow, I’ll make up the beds
in the spare room, for my friends
coming to visit
The day after that,
I won’t feel annoyed when the
football comes on the telly
I’ll be glad for all the fans
out there, enjoying their Saturday
Next week, I’ll play music with my friends
at one of their houses
enjoy a glass of wine,
company, convivial conversation
The week after that, I’ll join the writers’ monthly
enjoy a glass of wine,
company, convivial conversation
Today, I shook hands with
someone new I met on the beach.
Today, I did not feel afraid.
This is a poem I wrote for last month's writers' group meeting; the theme was 2021.
This is another of my "alphabet" stories. The first one is still here. I'll be posting a series of stories here regularly in the coming weeks and months. This one has been recorded for broadcast on local radio and is in my first collection of stories - "A Short Collection of Small Stories". Enjoy.
Absently, George stirred two spoonfuls of sugar into his solitary mug of coffee on the draining board below the kitchen window. Breadcrumbs lay in a random scatter across the stained grey work surface around the bread bin and the air had a faint tinge of burnt toast mixed with bacon fat. Coming towards the house along the narrow lane, beyond the low beech hedge at the bottom of the garden, he spied a familiar blue car. Damn Lydia for coming to visit just now; why couldn’t she call before she turned up? Everyone else seemed to understand that he needed to be on his own at the moment; why couldn’t she take the hint and stay away, leave him alone?
“Frosty morning, isn’t it, George?”
Greetings with Lydia were always of the stating-the-bleeding-obvious kind. Huffing on the back doorstep as he took in the sharp, clean January air, George attempted to be civil.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you till later, at the meeting in the village hall, Lydia.”
“Just as well I popped round then, isn’t it; the meeting’s been cancelled, so I thought I’d bring you some courgette soup and see if you needed anything.”
“Kind of you, but I’m fine, really.”
“Look, I know it’s none of my business, but -”
“My sentiments exactly, it is none of your business. Now, if you don’t mind, thank you for the soup, but I’m really rather busy.”
“Oh, I see, well if that’s what you want; but George, are you really alright?”
“Peace and quiet, that’s all I want; peace and quiet and to be left alone by busybodies who think they know what’s best for me.”
Quite unexpectedly, Lydia began to weep; copiously and messily, still poised on the doorstep. Reluctantly, George took her gently by the elbow and led her in to sit at the worn old kitchen table. Still sobbing, but quietly now, Lydia tried to explain. That everyone in the village had known and loved Penny; obviously not in the same way as George had, but that they had all missed her terribly these past six months and wanted him to know that. Useless, that’s what they all felt, and many of them had stopped coming to visit because he had made it clear that they were not welcome. Visibly shaken, George stood again to put the kettle on, find some digestive biscuits and gather his thoughts.
“Widower, that’s what I am now; such a horrible word, such a horrible thing to be,” he though, his gaze fixed on the crows gathering in the treetops at the end of the lane.
“Xylophone lessons, that’s what I’m going to take up; there’s a new class starting at the hall next Tuesday evening,” Lydia blew her nose noisily on a square of kitchen towel from the roll that George had thrust in front of her.
“You should come along, it might be fun.”
“Zither, that’s what I used to play, you know; got an old one in the attic, maybe I’ll get it down and see if I can still get a tune out of it” he said as he poured two mugs of tea, the long-lost shadow of a smile nudging at the edge of his mouth.
I don't need to to tell you we are facing difficult times just now. I hope this finds you and your loved ones well and adapting to whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
In my last newsletter, I was sharing news of being part of Poolewe Tuesday Market, stocking some of my products in Cabinet at the lovely An Talla Solais Gallery in Ullapool and an exhibition of my paintings at Inverewe Garden. You can see the paintings I planned to exhibit (and more), in the gallery pages of my website. More recently, I had provided cards and sketchbooks to the shop at Gairloch Museum. None of these things is happening now, for obvious reasons.
Sketchbooks and linoprinting
One of the upsides of being creative is that I never seem to find it hard to find something to do. Recently, I've been doing more linoprinting. I like the fact that I can get quite quick results. I keep things simple, which helps. Most of the printing has been of marine themed designs onto sketchbooks - gorgeous colours from Pink Pig - resulting in customised items, all with a unique, hand printed design on them. There are two sizes - little 4x4 inch ones, with good quality cartridge paper, and A5 size ones, with heavy duty watercolour paper. Yes, they're available to purchase on my website.
I'm planning to share some more of my short stories here on my blog in the coming weeks; there's no point them sitting in a drawer for ever! I'll be posting the ones from my two self-published short story collections; some of them have been broadcast on the fabulous Two Lochs Radio station already, and some more will hopefully be shared on air there in the future.
In the meantime, as always, my artwork, photography and a wide range of products are available via :
I highly recommend doing something creative during these trying times - draw, paint, write, play music. Plant seeds, and look forward to watching them grow. That's what I was doing yesterday. Or learn a language - I discovered the wonderful App, Duolingo and have been learning a bit of Gaelic, as well as brushing up on my French and German and getting going with Spanish. It's a great way to learn, very encouraging and good fun. Or make soup. Making soup is one of my go-to things when it all gets a bit too much. It feels like a time for recalibration, in so many ways.
Wishing you all the very best - thank you for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
See my Pebbles on the Beach Facebook page for regular posts and updates.
I have been very fortunate to find a writers' group to join in my new location. They have been very welcoming and I already feel very at home with them all. It's such a pleasure to share writings with others who write, and to hear everyone's contributions at our monthly meetings. It is often only when you read a piece out loud that you find the stumbling blocks - literally tripping over words and so finding out that they are probably not in the best order after all. There is always something to learn, things that can be done better.
As a result of joining the writers' group, I've recently had the great pleasure of being invited to record some of my short stories for the wonderful local radio station - Two Lochs Radio. A couple of these have been broadcast in the half hour programme, Westwords, which is broadcast on the first Wednesday of the month (at 9pm), and then repeated on the first Sunday (at 8pm). There are short stories, poems and longer pieces, all by local writers, delightfully interspersed by little snippets of appropriate music. One of my longer short stories is to be included in the next programme, on Wednesday 4th March (and then again on Sunday 8th March). If you are not in the local area, you can listen online, via the Two Lochs Radio website.
In the meantime, I thought I would share one of the stories which was broadcast for the first time at the start of this month, "Beyond the Begonias". It is also available in print in my first self-published volume of short stories, "A Short Collection of Small Stories". For anyone who is interested, it is one of my "alphabet" stories, where each sentence starts with the consecutive letter of the alphabet (and the story thus consists of 26 sentences). A little leeway is allowed when it comes to the letter "X"!
Beyond the Begonias - short story
After the rain stopped, she started planting again. Blood red begonias in big terracotta pots. Celia’s favourite flowers; she scooped handfuls of compost from the bag beside her, pressed the plants in firmly, watered them carefully. Digging her hands into the warm brown peatiness, she felt something akin to relief. Even breathing had been hard, recently. Forever looking over her shoulder, watching her back, thinking carefully before she spoke.
Gordon had become impossible. Hard to believe that the inert form sitting benignly beyond the French doors had once been a loving husband. Inch by inch, he had tortured them both into a living hell. Just when she had got to the point when she knew she must leave, a different plan emerged in her head. Kneeling on her cushioned weeding mat, a voice within had spoken quite clearly. Laughable though the thought was, Celia turned it over in her mind for several days. Moving through time in a stupor of misery, she nurtured the idea from tiny seed to little seedling. Now it was firmly planted; had taken roots, put out grasping tendrils. Only the timing had to be completely right. Piggishness on Gordon’s behalf had become the norm; she simply could not tolerate it one minute longer. Quelling her doubts, which were numerous, irrational and invalid, she acted quickly.
Right after supper one evening, she summoned him to the rooftop terrace to examine a fictitious missing slate. Shoving him over the tiny balcony had been easier than she had imagined. The body landed close to the new flowerbed, dug that morning by the young gardener she had recently employed. Under the dim sulphur glow of the streetlamps that night, she dragged the corpse into the hole. Violent waves of nausea overcame her and she gave her stomach contents as a parting gift. Where he had gone, no-one would ever know. Exiled to another country, run off with that brassy woman from down the road? Yes, maybe.
Zinnia, that was the name she had been trying to recall; that would be perfect for the new bed, Celia thought with a smile.
I hope this finds you well and ready to embrace a new decade.
I have quite a few bits of news to share, so here goes....
Poolewe Tuesday Market
I'm delighted to announce that I'll be taking part in Poolewe Tuesday Market this year. It's on from 10am til 2.30pm every Tuesday from the end of March until the end of October, in Poolewe Village Hall, with a wonderful range of artists and makers and food producers selling their wares. I'll have a table there with my artwork, gift items and cards nearly every week. Details of dates will be listed on my Pebbles on the Beach Facebook page (under Events). Very much looking forward to this, hope to see you there!
An Talla Solais Members' Show in Ullapool
I was thrilled to sell a couple of "Shipping Forecast" paintings at the Members' Show at An Talla Solais in Ullapool at the end of last year. The icing on the cake was also to have my work mentioned in a glowing review of the exhibition by Ian Mackay in the newly launched (last year) "Art North" magazine. Do look out for this publication, it's full of wonderful articles and reviews - you can subscribe to it online.
Delighted to say that some of my items (cards, keyrings, mugs and coasters) will soon be stocked by the lovely "Cabinet", which is the shop in the same premises as An Talla Solais gallery on West Argyle Street, Ullapool, IV26 2UG.
Open from the end of March until the end of October. Opening times to be confirmed; open when exhibitions are open.
Thanks so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
all the best
Pebbles on the Beach has moved...
Since the summer, I have been based near Gairloch on the northwest coast of Scotland. I am happy to say that this is where you will find me for the foreseeable future. The move is opening up new opportunities, as well as giving me the chance to strengthen existing connections. I am looking forward to the next chapter.
I currently have paintings (all from The Shipping Forecast series) in two exhibitions - the "Out there in Torridon" exhibition at the Loch Torridon Community Centre Gallery, and the Members' Show at An Talla Solais in Ullapool (my first time exhibiting there, delighted to be taking part!).
Opening times :
Torridon - Mon, Wed & Friday, 11am - 3pm.
Ullapool - Open every day 11am - 1.30pm and 2-4pm, until 22 December.
I am delighted to say that I will be exhibiting at Inverewe Garden in 2020 - more news about this soon.
I'm taking part in two events in the coming weeks - firstly -
I will have a selection of my products at the fairs - shown above are Shipping Forecast calendars, mugs, coasters, small original linoprints (new designs), customised sketchbooks (watercolour paper) and small original watercolours.
As always, thank you so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
All the best,