Jim was born and brought up in Uddingston in the central belt of Scotland. As a child he had little connection with the sea or the coast. His childhood adventures were in the local woods at Bothwell Castle. Jim’s interest in nature, wild places and a lifelong fascination with birds of prey was sparked on a safari park school trip. Seeing an eagle for the first time, Jim snapped so many shots that he blew all his spending money on film.
From then on, Jim’s love for nature and wilderness would be a driving force in his life, particularly if it could be captured through a lens. The pattern of golden eagle feathers spreading throughout the painting reflects this passion for wild places and photography.
The journey to become a surfer started when Jim was 16. His best friend happened across a film about surfing in Thurso and a plan was hatched to take to the waves. There was one slight problem: Jim couldn’t swim. When they got to the beach, in a typical sink or swim approach, he paddled out anyway. This was typical of Jim’s determination and adrenaline seeking nature – he recognises his fears but doesn’t let them stand in his way.
This surf trip was the first of many around Scotland’s coasts and much further afield.
Although trips to Australia, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Canaries and Madeira saw new challenges and forged many friendships, his adventures at home in Scotland were just as important. Yellow features strongly in Jim’s portrait as it symbolises his passion for golden eagles but also the yellow of ‘Jimmy van’ (JV) that took him on many surf adventures around Scotland and importantly to Lewis.
In the early 1990s Jim made his first of many trips to Lewis. In 2004 when he was made redundant from his publishing job, his love of nature, surfing, big skies and wild places pointed him in one direction. He packed up JV and moved to Lewis.
For Jim, photography and film making go hand in hand with surfing. The waves, environment and lifestyle provide him with endless inspiration, allowing him to document moments, waves, people and places. This element of Jim’s story can be seen in the subtle patterns of film woven underneath the waves and through the painting. It’s also clearly evident in the amazing film that that Jim has shot and produced for the exhibition.
Given that he’s travelled to so many places in the world, I asked Jim why he chose Lewis: “The environment. It is the only place I have ever felt at home”. Jim’s favourite place to surf is ‘Inner Reef’ - where on a good day fears must be faced before anyone takes to the water.