Painting makes Secret Art Prize long list

My painting ‘Trees At Midnight’ has made the long list for The Secret Art Prize, which is run by Curious Duke Gallery in London. It’s great news, as the gallery has a slightly quirky, street-art sort of style, which I think would be an amazing environment for my work. 

As my painting has made it to the long list, it is eligible for the ‘People’s Choice Award’ and the winner will directly make it through the final selection. The rest of the final works will be selected by this year’s judges, who are Radio 1’s Trevor Nelson, artist Mark Powell, director/curator Anna Smithson, art historian Ana Bambic Kostov, director Frankie Shea and writer Anna McNay. Fingers crossed as this is a great opportunity!

Voting runs until 28th August and you can take part here.

Making my own paint

There are some wonderful paint brands out there (Michael Harding, Vasari, Williamsburg) but I’ve found the best way to get high pigment oil colour is by making it myself. 

Buying the pigments, oil, muller etc is not cheap, but neither is a tube of Michael Harding, which can set you back up to £65 for a 60ml tube. 

Both options are worth the money! Quality paint has a delicious texture, intensity of colour and it dries better. And it has so much pigment compared to the more widely available brands, so it goes a lot further.

Imagine, though, the intensity of colours you can make when your only ingredients are pigment, lindseed oil, a dash of turps and a dot of beeswax. The Prussian Blue I make is almost toxic… I’ve learned to just use a tiny dot at a time, otherwise it takes over!

This weekend, I made an Ultramarine Blue and an Ultramarine Violet. I was painting some trees and felt they needed something more electric (I’m forever referencing Matisse).

It’s so much fun, but also a great way of staying in touch with the traditional role of the painter. Before tubes, artist assistants would visit the pigment shops and make paint for their ‘masters’ using this very technique!

Ultramarine Violet pigment

Ultramarine Violet pigment, after some grinding with oil

The paint in tubes

Early stages of painting (before handmade paint)

Early stages of painting (after handmade paint)

Work available through Argyll gallery

Last weekend, I took the stunning drive to the other side of Scotland to meet Robbie, the owner of Tignabruaich Gallery in Argyll.

And what a drive! Passing great trees, through tiny villages full of stone cottages, up and then down mountains and right along the edge of Loch Lommand. And then I arrived in Tignabruaich, a very pretty seaside village on Argyll’s ‘Secret Coast’ with views of the Isle of Bute. 

It was great to chat to Robbie, who has wonderful ideas as a gallerist, in particular his idea of ‘Art. The Experience’. I took his approach to art as very similar to my own; he values the traditional but wants to challenge it. He is taking me on as one of Tignabruaich Gallery’s artists and I am looking forward to developing a relationship with the gallery, as well as the village itself. 

I’ve come home with photos for a new series about Tignabruaich, but for now the gallery have taken five of my paintings into their stock, which are all below. 

More info at

Dundee - Tignabruaich

Tignabruaich Viewpoint

Tentsmuir Forrest (Green)

Tentsmuir Forrest (Yellow)

Violet Light

Hospital Gown Billy

Oil Slump

Using Format