This post look at an artist whose work demonstrates the elegant simplicity that can be achieved with a brush and ink, Donald Urquhart.
Born in Dumfries in 1963, drag queen turned draughtsman, Donald Urquhart first gained public attention as the man behind the 90s high camp cabaret night The Beautiful Bend, but is now better known for his distinctive cartoon-like black ink drawings.
“Despite being black and white, Donald Urquhart’s bittersweet, droll, cartoon-like drawings are souvenirs of a colourful past. Comforting and disconcerting in equal measure, their elegant line and graphic finesse makes them immediately appealing, even though they sometimes dish out hardcore one-liners like seasoned cabaret artistes or twisted greetings cards.”
– Frieze Magazine
Taken from our publication “Artists in print: 21 Years of Collaboration” that accompanied the exhibition of the same name celebrating our then Master Printmaker, Michael Waight and the work created with him Donald speaks of his experience:
“Simplicity is complex; my drawing ‘Sleekit’ is a study of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll who reportedly became a vociferous nymphomaniac after falling forty feet down a lift shaft. Her scandalous life has been the subject of a famous court case as well as an opera, ‘Powder Her Face’.
Working with Mike, I was impressed by his exacting method: his mastery of the alchemy of steeping metal plates in precisely concocted acids; applying correct pressure to the levers of the press; dampening papers to the right degree; focusing on time – all the while seeming as casual as Fanny Craddock whisking up a meringue. Perhaps that analogy does not sit well, but we know that all great chefs are scientists in disguise. I draw with a very fine brush and ink, and while many applaud my elegant line there isn’t much elegance in my cursing, bent uncomfortably over a page, my thumb and forefinger numb and white.
I find the creative process a rough ride and only a pleasure when I am completely satisfied with the end result. The same goes for making home made soup and tattie scones. Why go through all that mess and bother when it is easier to get shop-bought? Why do I do everything by hand when I could achieve similar results using a computer? My grandfather was a stone mason. He died before I was born. I have found myself contemplating his work and marveling that this is the work of a human hand. Mike’s prints and etchings show none of his effort and that is their beauty. Our time together was filled with laughter and was a serious pleasure. This, for me, resonates in the seemingly simple results.”
Speaking to Ben Miller at Culture 24, Donald had this to remark about the alphabet:
“No doubt Lorraine Kelly will be scunnered that she lost out,” he rues. “Billy Connolly didn’t even make it. As the alphabet evolved I realised what a low-brow bunch I was assembling. Our cultural identity is often as garish and lurid as bright tartans and blaring bagpipes.” In the end, he says, the line-up was “no place for Greyfriars Bobby, John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots. In a vague attempt at balance I tried to incorporate equal numbers of men and women, and this is why lovely Molly Weir appears in place of the more predictable W is for whisky.”
All these prints formed part of his exhibtion “Big Jessie” that ran at The Brunswick Hotel, Glasgow in 2012. Donald’s familiar script can be seen in the price list that we managed to find for it.
There are other Donald Urquharts, and many other Donalds; this one has been long differentiated by the sobriquet “That Donald”.
We have a few of the works we printed available from our online store – https://peacock-visual-arts.myshopify.com/collections/all/urquhart-donald