African and ocean inspirations for artist Pam

How does a struggling artist transport a four-feet square painting to its destination using just a Mini?
This was the situation Pam Carter found herself in when she had to take an early commission from Maryhill, Glasgow to Lanarkshire.
Unable to afford professional transport, Pam strapped the painting as securely as possible to the roof of her Mini and set off along the motorway. All seemed well until the wind suddenly lifted the painting and hurled it on to the central reservation!
Although disastrous at the time, this experience is a reminder of how much Pam and her work have changed. And change is very much on Pam’s mind this year, as this is her 25th year of exhibiting at An Talla Dearg Gallery, Isle Ornsay on Skye - 25 years of growth, development and artistic adventure.
Pam’s early awakening to landscape art, for which she is now noted, came at around age 10. “It was in Africa, where I spent the first 13 years of my life. I watched a man painting and that made me observe, for the first time, the landscape,” she reveals. “As I watched him paint it, I saw the patchwork fields and the mountains come alive on paper. What he chose to include in his painting just made sense to me.”
After moving to Glasgow, Pam was accepted into the Glasgow School of Art. “We were painting a lot of statues, busts, architecture, still lives and life drawings,” she said. “But it was later, at an outpost in Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, that I discovered the cliffs and the sea. This was my first introduction to painting in the Scottish landscape
and the results were quite grey and misty with flashes of colour!”
Pam’s approach to landscape underwent another transformation when she spent two years in the Seychelles in the early 1980’s.
“I was amazed by the bright light, the wonderful turquoise waters, the creamy beaches, the big shadows of leaves on the sand...” she reminisces.
“It had a completely different feel to what I was used to. When I returned to Scotland to lecture at various art colleges, I wanted to recapture that Seychelles feel in my art but I was confused as to how.” The answer came in the form of one of Pam’s students from the Uists. “I was exhibiting in Skye and I asked her, if I got the ferry over, would she show me around? She took me to secluded beaches and I saw beautiful landscapes with amazing, ever- changing light. I was just blown away. That was my very first introduction to Uist and, from then on, I decided I would go every year to a different Scottish island.”
An island with which Pam was already familiar was Skye, where she had been invited to run her exhibition at An Talla Dearg by the acclaimed sculptor Laurence Broderick and by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig founder, Sir Iain Noble.
Pam describes her very first Skye exhibition, saying: “I was supposed to be at the Gallery itself, but there had been a fire in the offices so my exhibition was moved to the church up the road. It didn’t have very good light and I couldn’t put anything on the walls. I remember piling up a table and chairs onto another table so I could see out of the windows to paint.”
At the same time, Pam also had to advertise her exhibition. “There were no signs up, so I got a bit of cardboard and white paint and tried to write “Exhibition”, but I misjudged it and there was only room for “EXHIB...” and the “...ITION” had to go underneath!” she laughs. “Sometimes I waved it at cars, but the people who came in were mostly hitchhikers and cyclists. If it hadn’t been for the support of Sir Iain Noble and his wife, Lucilla, I may not have returned. Sir Iain was a great patron of the arts and they were very supportive. By the second year, I returned properly armed! The gallery committee at Hotel Eilean Iarmain, who organise the exhibitions, even arranged for a young piper
to pipe in the guests.” Unfortunately, the same piper, Dr Iain MacKinnon, is unavailable for Pam’s
jubilee exhibition, but she will be organising another talented young piper! “I never would have thought I would be fortunate enough to be here and run my exhibition for 25 years,” she says. “This year will be very special and I have a number of exciting things planned.” To find out what you can expect from Pam’s jubilee exhibition, you can visit her website and blog for updates.
Pam is issuing a warm invitation to Skye residents who have not yet attended the exhibition. “I am featuring a number of paintings from the north of Skye, so it would be lovely if islanders would visit from there,” she says. Those who do attend will see the Scottish islands brought to life in Pam’s paintings. Her distinctive style captures skies streaked with dramatic shades of red; rich, golden sands of Hebridean beaches, or charming images of rural life, complete with machair flowers and single track roads.
Pam Carter’s jubilee anniversary commemorates, not just 25 years of exhibiting, but the evolution of a very special artist. It opens with a private viewing on Saturday July 9th at An Talla Dearg, Isle Ornsay, Isle of Skye, IV43 8QR and runs to August 23, being open 10am-6pm Monday to Friday and 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. For more jubilee news, visit Pam’s website.

All the way from Montana, Rich Hall heads for Portree

Step away from the mobile phone.  Put away the tablet.  The wonderfully acerbic comedian Rich Hall is about to come on stage for an already-sold-out performance in Portree, and he would like your undivided attention.

Rich, one of the most magnetic stand-ups currently at work in this country, is chatting in the run-up to hugely anticipated spring tour of the UK - Rich Hall 3:10 to Humour

The American-born comedian, who was raised in North Carolina, emphasises that what he is looking forward to more than anything else on this tour is the experience of performing,  “What I love about stand-up is the immediacy of it.  Having run the gamut of TV panel shows, after a while you know how to do them and they are not so much fun anymore.

“But now I know I’m going to be on stage somewhere like Portree, and that prospect is really exciting.  For those two hours, no one is looking at their phones.  It’s a true non-media event.  Those sorts of occasions are rapidly disappearing, and that’s why I value them so much.”

A stand-up whose plainspoken, growling indignation and waspish observations have won him fans all over the world, Rich has been described as a transatlantic messenger lampooning each country he visits with his common sense comedy.

The Montana resident is renowned for his expertly crafted tirades.  His biting, yet compelling comedy has helped earn him a Perrier Award in Edinburgh and a Barry in Melbourne.  He is a coruscating presence – both on and off stage.

The stand-up, who was the inspiration for the curmudgeonly barman Moe Szyslak in The Simpsons, says he gets a kick out of touring this country.  “I may have become overly familiar with the motorway service stations of the UK, but I really like discovering new places.  It’s important to visit out of the way towns because it gives you a new perspective.”  This is his first visit to the Outer Hebrides.

One of the many aspects that distinguishes Rich’s live act is the brilliant way he can craft delightful on-the-spot songs out of the smallest items of information that he gleans from the audience. 

The comic, who won two Emmys for his work as a writer on The David Letterman Show, explains that, “I do what Americans call ‘crowd work’.  I really enjoy that because I can turn it into improvised songs, which is a big thrill for me.  I always have a guitar beside me on stage in case something happens.“

Rich continues that he does not need a lot of material to work on.  “It’s funny, the less I get from people, the more you can improvise.  Nothing is out of bounds.  I want them to tell me, ‘I’m a clerk,’ rather than, ‘I work for the council finance department and am involved in the end of year expenditure’.  As soon as I hear the word ‘clerk’, my head immediately starts formulating rhymes for it.”

The fuel that powers Rich’s act is a marvellous sense of simmering fury.  Appearing regularly on Stand Up for the Week, QI, Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the stand-up gets riled by, “The level of incompetence and amount of crap in the world.  I’m also incensed by the fact that we are all turning into button-pushing squirrels.  That has brought about a serious loss of personality in this impersonal, digitised world.”

Also a very accomplished documentary maker who has fronted six critically acclaimed BBC4 programmes focusing on US popular culture and the Wild West, the stand-up is equally angry about the by-the-yard, rote nature of so many comedians’ material these days. 

He says that, “What is exasperating is that as comedians we live by the word.  I see that very swiftly deteriorating, and I find it really scary.  There doesn’t seem to be any appreciation any more of the written and spoken word.  Everything is turning into shorthand.  When a comedian like Dylan Moran gets on stage and speaks in his own very distinctive language, that really appeals to me. 

“But nowadays a lot of performers are simply acting out the role of comedian and going through the motions.  They use a very predictable cadence of comedy – ‘here comes the punchline’.  If you close your eyes, you can hear it coming.  But in order to have a very individual way of saying things, you need to perfect that live.”

Of course, Rich is not that irate in reality – it is simply a persona he adopts for comic effect on stage. He says that: “It works because people know that I’m not really that angry.  Anyone that angry should not be doing comedy.”

Rich, who in the past was a regular on Saturday Night Live, has enjoyed particular success in this country, where his trademark downbeat style really strikes a chord.  The comedian reflects that “British audiences are always very appreciative of the spoken word.”

Finally, Rich reiterates how much he is relishing the idea of playing to British audiences once more and receiving our rapt attention.  He concludes that, “You have someone’s complete attention, which is almost impossible nowadays.  You can’t go to a sports event without someone Tweeting about it every five seconds.”

(Rick’s sold-out shows in the Hebrides are on Monday 8th February at An Lanntair, Stornoway; and then on Tuesday 9th, he’s at Aros, Portree.  His latest audio CD, “Waitin’ on a Grammy”, is available to buy on CD and download now from here!)




Interview by James Rampton




Why Chris makes films on Skye

Celebrating the Gaelic language and culture is very much at the heart of what Isle of Skye film company, Young Films, aims to do.  Owner, Christopher Young, whose previous productions include sitcom The Inbetweeners, says: "The Isle of Skye has so much history and tradition.  The Gaelic language is a key to unlock all of that.  It's a wonderful way of giving voice and expression to the authentic culture of the place."

It makes sense, then, that Young Films is the company behind Bannan - the first Gaelic drama to be made since the 1990's.  Christopher enthuses: "I wanted to create a long-running drama shot in Skye. So far, we have made 18 half-hour long episodes.  Episodes 9 - 13 are going to be aired on BBC Alba in January and we are looking to make another 15 episodes in the future.

From an early age, Edinburgh-born Christopher was passionate about films.  "I made a few short films as a teenager, but then I went on to do a degree at university in Italian and French Literature," he explains.  "I kept the love of film-making going through my university days by doing a lot of acting and drama."  

Christopher's film-making career started to ignite properly when he became involved with the Edinburgh Film Festival.  "At first, it was jobs like driving vans and making tea," he admits.  "But I had the excitement of meeting people like Marshall Brickman, who was Woody Allen's scriptwriter.  There was also one day when I had to entertain scriptwriter and director Terrence Davies."  For a young man who had been obsessed with the cinema from age 14, meeting and working with celebrated film-makers was significant and inspiring.

Read more: Why Chris makes films on Skye

Future artist stranded on stack by rising tide!

Stranded on the stack!  It sounds like the alliterative title of a disaster film!  However, when renowned landscape artist, Nigel Grounds, was just eight years old, he and his family had this unnerving experience at Talisker Bay, Isle of Skye.  They walked out to the famous sea stack and Nigel, his brother and their parents climbed to the top.  The tide came in quickly, stranding the family!  

"We were stuck there for hours in quite rough weather, with the sea raging around us!" Nigel recalls.  "My brother and I were sucking sweets and my dad just fished - it was an amazing and, in retrospect, surreal experience!"

Nigel's adventures (and misadventures!) on the Hebridean islands help to inspire his paintings, allowing his experiences and perspectives to be recreated on the canvas.  Mixing Scotland's timeless inspiration with his own memories, Nigel has painted scenes from where he used to live at Plockton, holidays to Harris and Lewis and the surroundings of his current home and gallery in Sleat, Isle of Skye.  

Nigel spent his early years in St Helens, Lancashire before his family moved to Eynort, Isle of Skye.  Like his father, who enjoyed fishing and camping, Nigel was most at home out of doors.  "I was very interested in wildlife as a youngster," he says.  "I explored all the way from Coruisk to Talisker.  My first jobs were shearing sheep and hand-hauling lobster creels!"  It was around this time that Nigel's love of art developed.  Along with science, Nigel had a natural aptitude for art at school.  

However, after attending Portree High School, Nigel went on to do a course in land economy and surveying.  "I stuck at it for the first year, but I wasn't enjoying it," he admits.  "I sat down and thought about what I would really like to do."  This epiphany ultimately led to Nigel graduating from Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen with a B.A. (Hons.) in Fine Art.

However, Nigel still believes he is on a learning curve with his art, saying: "I am not afraid to experiment.  When I paint, I want to get better and better in terms of capturing that all-important sense of place."

The ever-changing landscapes provide Nigel with constant inspiration.  "There are a lot of tonal contrasts in my paintings," he says.  "I love to capture the natural drama of the landscapes.  I try to create a thing of beauty that has an emotional impact."  

A few of Nigel's favourite locations to capture are Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris, the views to Knoydart from the Isle of Skye and the islands of Eigg and Rum.  "I wouldn't say I was Mr Beach, but I enjoy painting beaches.  The contrasts are wonderful and the composition changes constantly, with tide variation, different seasons and, of course, the weather!"

In 2007, Nigel was able to relocate to Armadale, in a place where he had enough room for a gallery, a studio and living accommodation.  Visitors to the gallery will find art that transports them all around Scotland, where they will see the landscape with Nigel's unique perspective and receive a warm welcome from the artist himself!

(Article and photographs by Roz Skinner)

Macbeth - Isle Of Skye Première

Article and photographs by Roz Skinner.

The red carpet went down at the Aros Centre on October 2.  The occasion was the première of Macbeth - a film that was close to the hearts of the Isle of Skye residents.  Starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, a number of local extras were also involved in filming.  Thus, the Aros auditorium was packed, with viewers hoping to see a glimpse of either themselves or their island home!

As well as showing appreciation for a lavish film, this was also a celebration of one of the unsung stars of Macbeth - the Isle of Skye.  The moody, misty atmosphere of Skye made a perfect backdrop for famous scenes in Macbeth, such as when Banquo is slain and various dramatic battle scenes.  The other-worldly feel of the Quiraing, with its bizarre, undulating features, was a positively inspired location for Macbeth's encounters with the Three Witches.  The scenery was accompanied by faultless performances from the actors, as well as a soundtrack that perfectly captured the mood of both Scotland and the film.  

Thanks to Visit Scotland, booklets were available, giving readers a taste of history about the real Macbeth.  Entitled The Man, Myth and Legend, the booklet listed a number of areas in Scotland where filming took place and other locations that featured in the original play.  

Talisker whisky tastings were available - with one of the most popular samples being the new "Talisker Skye" whisky.  Described as the "least smoky" of the Talisker whiskies, it boasted sweet and citrus flavours - this was a beautiful way to celebrate, not just an excellent film, but the Isle of Skye, with its evocative landscapes, jagged peaks and eternal fascination.