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Jolomo, artist to the stars, unveils new exhibition at Tolquhon Gallery this weekend

The legendary artist known as Jolomo will not be packing away his brushes for a while.
The legendary artist known as Jolomo will not be packing away his brushes for a while.

It has been a very long time since John Lowrie Morrison copied the pictures on chocolate boxes which his mother brought back to her Maryhill home from her workplace in Glasgow.

And an ocean of water has passed under the bridge since he met his wife Maureen while doing a student job in the studio of a local carpet factory.

Yet, despite decades of teaching and travelling round Scotland, marvelling at resplendent landscapes and wild rugged scenery, patience has proved a virtue for the artist who is now commonly called Jolomo.

Jolomo will unveil a new exhibition of artworks at the Tolquhon Gallery on May 1.

He has never relinquished his passion for portraying the often mystical and mesmerising qualities of Scotland’s rugged coastline and his striking works have attracted the attention of many A-list figures, including pop stars Sting, Madonna and Simon Le Bon, actress Sophia Loren and chef Rick Stein.

And now, the best-selling Scottish maestro is preparing to unveil more than 40 new paintings, created during lockdown at his Argyll home, in a typically vivid solo exhibition at a north-east art gallery from May 1.

A painter for the people, if not some critics

Even those with little interest in art should be able to recognise a Jolomo landscape with its distinctive heightened colour and richly textured oil paint.

But the 73-year-old’s career has been a testament to the virtues of patience and perseverance and blazing an idiosyncratic style.

Some critics might remain sniffy about Jolomo’s work, but his popularity throughout the world has earned acclaim which has transcended any lukewarm reviews.

Jolomo’s new exhibition of paintings opens at the Tolquhon Gallery in Tarves on May 1.

In any case, this fellow is the very antithesis of an overnight success.

After all, Jolomo taught art for more than 20 years at Lochgilphead High School and only became a full-time artist in 1996 when he was in his late 40s.

It was a bold move, a giant step into the unknown, but during the last quarter of a century, he has poured his heart and soul into his myriad enterprises, working at a furious and frenetic pace even as commissions and plaudits have arrived in equal measure.

He was awarded an honorary degree by Abertay University in 2009, was the recipient of an OBE in 2011 for his services to art and charity in Scotland and has constantly championed young artists, both in Scotland and further afield, by launching the Jolomo Award in 2007.

It is the UK’s largest privately-funded arts award with a £25,000 prize for the winner; a sum which can transform the fortunes of talented prodigies.

A brush with Cliff Richard changed his life

A passion for art has been in his blood since the early days.

Jolomo’s family roots may lie in the Outer Hebrides, but there were many experiences which nurtured him while he was growing up in the west of Scotland.

“Winter Storm at Ardnamurchan” is one of Jolomo’s striking new works.

As a teenager, he was an aficionado of his compatriot, the artist Joan Eardley, who produced many stunning works in the coastal village of Catterline, but died of cancer far too young at just 42 in 1963.

Then, even while Beatlemania was devouring everything in its wake, and as he was studying at Glasgow School of Art, the youngster who had attended Sunday school as a child was transfixed by a powerful religious experience when he visited the Tron Church to watch Cliff Richard.

He recalled: “Suddenly, your eyes are opened and you realise, gosh, this is the way I should live for the rest of my life.”

And that’s exactly what he has done.

Alex Salmond laid down the gauntlet to Jolomo.

The artist first exhibited at Tolquhon Gallery near Tarves, in 1998, which was his maiden show in the north-east of Scotland.

Joan Ross, who owns the gallery with her husband, Danny, said: “He was little known at the time, but it was clear even then that there was something special about his work, that it made a strong connection with people. He is a hugely energetic painter. He celebrates the Scottish landscape, never tiring of expressing its beauty, and his work always lifts the spirits.

“You cannot ignore a Jolomo canvas. It is always rich, bright and beautiful.”

Pop legend Madonna is among the many fans of Jolomo’s work.

While his work most often features the west coast of Scotland, he was challenged in 2007 by Alex Salmond, who was at that time First Minister, to try his hand at painting the north-east.

He went on to produce an extensive body of work inspired by the Buchan coast which was exhibited at Duff House in 2014.

He has never been motivated by money

Although he has gathered a coterie of high-profile admirers, Jolomo is firmly against the idea of his cultural output being solely reserved for the rich.

On the contrary, he has spoken vehemently about his desire to bring the fruits of his creative energy to as large an audience as possible.

He said: “Nurses, teachers, lorry drivers, all sorts of folk buy my work and many of them have never bought paintings before.

“That means far more to me than Madonna buying them.

“If you start putting prices at £50,000, that takes it into a totally different bracket.

Sting is among the pop and rock legends who have fallen in love with Jolomo’s works.

“I want to paint pictures which anyone can afford and if that means earning less money, then I don’t really care. That is not what it’s all about.”

New exhibition highlights passion for storms.

The Tolquhon Gallery will open its doors to visitors again on Saturday with From Kintyre to the Isles, a show of 45 new paintings.

Jolomo’s best-selling Scottish landscapes in high-key colour have turned this into a high-profile venture for the popular venue, and those hoping to attend on the opening day have been advised to book a slot in advance.

The artist has been in prolific mood throughout lockdown in his Argyll studio and confirmed that being relatively free of distractions had offered him space to explore new directions in his work, including his love of stormy weather.

He said: “Painting the light is really important to me, but recently I’ve started painting what the weather does to the light.

“On a stormy day, you can see the weather moving across the sky and the colours can be incredible.

“Big Storm at Todhead Light” features an Aberdeenshire setting from Jolomo.

“A stormy day is always more interesting to paint than a sunny day. People often say to me: ‘It’s a lovely day today, you will be wanting to get outside with your easel.’ But, actually, I prefer stormy weather.

“The weather changes the colour and the light giving you colours like green, pink and magenta. A lot of the paintings in this exhibition are stormy ones.”

He admitted that he has been rained on more than a few times while sketching and painting. “I have been caught in a few storms, and I love it. Because being out in the weather makes you feel more alive.”

The exhibition, which runs until May 29, includes an evocative painting of the Todhead Lighthouse, south of Stonehaven, which pays homage to a storm Jolomo witnessed when he took a trip to see the lighthouse many years ago.

He said: “It was during the winter and the sky suddenly blackened with a massive storm, although the sun was still there in the middle of it.

“The colours were great – with the green and pink in the sky. I have a photographic memory and I can remember it exactly. Thinking back on it, I really wanted to get these colours down.”

Gallery is thrilled to be opening its doors again

Joan Ross added: “We could not think of a better show with which to re-open. Digital images are no substitute for seeing paintings in reality, especially with such an artist like John, who revels in colour and thickly applied oils.

“People tend to have a visceral reaction to John’s work and it is wonderful to be able to witness the joy his paintings bring.

Jolomo has said that much of his new work has been inspired by storms.

“We are thrilled to be able to open our doors again and welcome people back into the gallery – we can’t wait.”

Jolomo is in his love with his vocation and he has access to the broadest canvas from which to derive inspiration. As he has said, there is no reason for him to think about packing away his brushes for a while.

Visitors on May 1 are being asked to make an appointment by contacting the gallery on 01651 842343 or by emailing

Further information can be found at