Getting it right

Landscape Remembered, 2010, James Morrison, oil on board
James Morrison, at age 82, seems to break most of the conventional rules for plein airpainting. His work is huge, painted on paper boards, and the paint is so thin that I had to check to be certain it was, indeed, painted in oil.
Having never been to Scotland, I am no judge of whether he is true to the landscape, but his work is romantic and monumental and it speaks to me. In some passages it soars with almost negligent disregard for the paint, in others, the detail is overwhelming. It reminds me most of calligraphy in that the open space is as important as the line itself. And of course his draftsmanship and perspective in the glowering clouds is superb.
Half Demolished Tenements, 1964, James Morrison, oil on canvas
My friend Martha Vail recently sent me a book of his work, Land and Landscape: the Painting of James Morrison. I find his perambulations through the decades of his career to be most heartening. He did monochromatic studies of a blackened Glasgow; he did exquisite studies of beeches in the style of Andrew Wyeth; he experimented with op-art and abstract-expressionism.
Perhaps if I live to 82, I’ll get it right, too.
“For any serious artist it is the next work which is the most important and complacency is the negation of creativity,” wrote Guy Peploe, the Scottish Gallery’s director. “So it is for Jim Morrison at eighty. He is lucky, even blessed, with the energy, vitality and curiosity that are creativity’s handmaidens and in this new body of work we can see new departures as he looks again at his favourite landscapes in all seasons and moods.”
Summer Fields, Balgove, 1987, James Morrison, oil on gesso board
Born in Glasgow in 1932, James Morrison studied at the Glasgow School of Art. In 1957, he founded the Glasgow Group of artists with Anda Paterson and James Spence. He is an Academician of the Royal Scottish Academy and a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour. He taught at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee for 22 years before retiring in 1987 to paint full-time.
I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.