sketch pads and Cameras...

It was back around 1981, I first applied to Art School.

There were two main reasons why I wasn't accepted.

Firstly, was my lack of entry qualifications, and secondly was my lack of paintings in my portfolio.

I just couldn't built up the quantity needed to pack a decent sized portfolio.

A substantial lack of artistic skill probably played a significant part too.

I lost interest in art for a few years after that chapter and concentrated on other art forms such as drinking heavily and perfecting my rubber man walk.

When I left home and went to explore the continent, I had no camera. What is an expedition without an official photographer? A failure? A work of fiction? What is a Scotsman's holiday to Majorca without the traditional sombrero postcard home. "Weather is here. Glad you're not". My European trip was destined to be forgotten because there were no witnesses.

I was travelling with a friend and he had brought a little camera along. His high school art teacher had commented on his artistic ability: "Great imagination. Can't draw".

He did take some great pictures though. One early evening In a tiny Belgian town called Coo, we stopped to rest on a park bench. Some kids were playing in a fountain. One of them ran home and returned with a bottle of dish cleaning detergent. He emptied it into the fountain and soon bubbles and foam were blowing all over the place. The kids were having a great time making santa beards and running through walls of bubbles. The whole village was one big happy frothy bath tub. Right in the middle of this hilarity, my friend photographed me, clad in my rags, sweaty and grimy from camping rough, and hitching. Looking very much the hobo and not showing particular interest in the soapy water that I so obviously needed.

Sadly we'd never get to see that picture as the camera was stolen a few weeks later. (Police are awaiting developments). But fortunately for posterity, I did have a pencil and a little thin red notebook. There were a few useless addresses scribbled in it but it became my sketchpad.

Soon I learned to appreciate that a bad scribble was as worthy as a bad photo. When the little book was full, I bought another and I filled that too. I seemed to have re- discovered my interest in drawing. Each new sketch pad was like a new spool. I was drawing just for fun. The scribble books soon mounted up till I was lugging several pads around. They were taking up space in my pack, in my pockets, and in my guitar case. It never occured to me to post them back to Neilston.

At this point winter kicked in and my friend, wisely, went home. I was fortunate to move into a youth hostel half way up the Semnoz Mountain in the Alps. Jeusette, the lady of the house, kindly allowed my to work to pay for some of my lodging fee. Thus my sketch pads and I spent a cozier than expected winter though the busking down in the valley was horrific.

Artistically, I've always been a doodler. It was a rare day when I completed any picture. This travelling and sketching suited me perfectly. Each town or face was an image that presented itself briefly then departed. My pictures became moments and I was content to capture those fleeting glimses on my moving background.

I never really improved much as an artist over the years. I never seem to have had that ability to see things through to a conclusion. Perhaps travelling around so much gave me an ideal excuse to never pursue a painting to its finale. I still have many of those sketches. I had no idea that it would accidently grow into a huge portfolio of pictures painted with whatever materials were cheapest or nearest. Maybe there's still hope for me getting into an art school one day. (Yea right).