Rodney Jamieson - aka Cheggs - was brought up in Sandwick, a village by the sea on the outskirts of Stornoway. Cheggs’ dad was a Shetlander and sea swimmer. He was steeped in the natural world and taught his son all he knew. On Sunday mornings, Cheggs and his father would go to the shore and sail paper boats. This can be seen in the paper boats sailing on the bottom left of the painting. His Dad passed away just few days before I started Cheggs’ painting and this image somehow seemed like a fitting tribute.
Always into sports, Cheggs used to be in and out of the Acres Boys Club and the sports centre. Cheggs was pals with Kenny (who is also featured in the exhibition) and the pair grew up on their BMX bikes in the castle grounds.
After school Cheggs studied community education at Dundee where he met Andy Jackson. As they got to know each other on their kayaking and paragliding adventures, Andy would grow to have a major influence on Cheggs. On one regular trip home from college Cheggs went on his first surf trip. That freezing November day will forever be remembered in Lewis surf lore for its madness, when Cheggs, Kenny and Fraser (also featured in the exhibition) took to the waves of Tolsta with only one board and a single wetsuit between them which was borrowed from Ian Burgess.
In 1995 Cheggs went travelling around the world with Andy Jackson and friend called Fozzy. Amongst the many countries they visited, they went to Nepal and climbed to Annapurna basecamp. Hidden underneath the sky in the painting, there are lines which zig zag to a pinnacle and down again, showing the ascent and descent to basecamp. Cheggs and Andy lived together in Fort William in the late 1990s paragliding there and also in France. Tragically Andy died at the age of 32 in 2004 from an infection he caught in Nepal. His influence is symbolised in the pink parachute shape and lines which arch over the top of the painting. Cheggs and friends still hold an annual get together in Andy’s memory.
Through all this, Cheggs continued to surf, travelling to many places locally and across the world. A particularly memorable trip was when he went to Indonesia where he met a local taxi driver who knew only two other Scotsmen – Ross and Scott, who were both surfing friends of Cheggs from Lewis. When Cheggs discovered he’d forgotten his towel the taxi driver offered to go and get him one and returned with a little kids towel covered in Disney characters. You can see the Disney characters in the sky of the painting pointing to the universal nature of surfing.
Cheggs returned to Lewis full time in 2001. After a few years working for the local careers service as a key worker, he branched out on his own and started his own fulltime surf business. He is married to Kirstie who is a dance teacher and they have two young boys who both love the outdoors. I’ve painted Cheggs at Barvas beach with his favourite break called ‘Bus Stops’ in the background. Bus Stops was first surfed by Ian Burgess (who lent Cheggs that wetsuit all those years before) along with Ian Lawson and John McAvoy who gave the break its name.