Inspiration on display in Larbert Delta’s latest show

'A fresh of breath air' exhbition at Delta Studios, Larbert''Picture: Michael Gillen
'A fresh of breath air' exhbition at Delta Studios, Larbert''Picture: Michael Gillen

For April showers read downpour, and with the rain only adding to the bleakness of the industrial estate, it seemed like the last place you might want to be on a Friday evening at the end of a very long week.

But step inside Delta Studios and you are immediately captured by something intangible but which fills every part of the building: something that gives a desire to explore and find out more about what makes this place tick.

It’s less than half an hour till the private unveiling of the 12th annual exhibition, this year entitled ‘A fresh of breath air’, and there is a hive of activity as the hanging of the work from 64 professional and amateur artists is completed.

Delta Studios is the brainchild of Craig McKechnie, who is currently dealing with the minor hiccup of a need to find corkscrews – a glass of wine is obligatory at every exhibition opening – but that problem is quickly overcome and it is on to the more important task of putting the final touches to the displays.

The upstairs gallery space is huge and once inside you could be looking at a gallery anywhere – Edinburgh, London, New York or Rome, not Lochlands Industrial Estate in Larbert. But that’s where we are and this is the work of members of the Studio 5 art classes, an eclectic mix of people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities, but all with a desire to be creative.

“We don’t have any labels in the classes,” explained Craig. “A person coming along could be a brain surgeon or they could have long-term health problems, but nothing about them is important other than their desire to come here and make art.

“We look on it as being part of one big artistic family where people can explore their ideas at their own pace and we provide the surroundings they need.”

A graduate of Glasgow School of Art, Craig realised there was a need for such a facility after hosting an exhibition of his work in his home studio – and over 2000 people visited.

Delta Studios was initially sponsored by Alistair Campbell, a local business man who believed that this unique facility could make a significant contribution to its users and the community.

And his intuition was correct as the number of people coming along to the classes continues to grow. As well as Studio 5 for adults there are classes which welcome around 100 youngsters aged five to 18 years.

Craig added: “It’s different from what they might experience from art at school. We keep the magic in, making it exciting for them which is what art is all about.”

“If people don’t turn up to classes at college or art school, no-one would care. But if it happened here, we would wither and die. We really believe in people – it is primal, they are at the heart of everything we do.”

One of the most inspiring amateur artists is Tony Porter, who has been coming to Delta for several years and, despite his progressive debilitating health issues, continues to produce eye-catching and stimulating artwork.

The 54-year-old former Zeneca process worker from Grangemouth was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over a decade ago. As his condition deteriorated, he had to give up work and, rather than sit in the house “and vegetate watching daytime TV” he looked for an interest.

He said: “I was attending Dundas Resource Centre and Craig came in to do a six-week course. I’d got an O Grade in art and used to enjoy painting so took up the opportunity to come here.”

Initially able to hold a paintbrush in his hands, as the condition progressed his hands became more twisted and he was forced to hold the brush in his mouth.

However, thanks to modern technology he is able to create his artwork using a small silver dot which is embedded on his glasses and is linked up to a computer.

Tony added: “It certainly stems the boredom and gives me an interest. I come here when I can and do as much as I’m able. It’s great and I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

Another poignant story surrounds the work of the late George Proffit (82) of Larbert. He regularly attended and exhibited at Delta until ill-health stopped him. His final piece of art before his death last October was a painting of a magical Disneyesque castle.

However, he made Ashleigh Grant (22), who has been attending Delta for five years, promise to finish off his work.

She said: “He wanted me to put people in the painting and it took me ages to put lots of Disney characters on it. But I’d promised him before he died so I was determined to finish it.”

Asked what she got out of the Delta experience, Ashleigh, of Dunipace, said: “I just love all of it.”

Carolyn Galloway (69), of Falkirk, started attending the studios only six months ago following the death of her husband. Her previous experience of art had been taking a correspondence course, but she enjoys the opportunity to meet with other people who all have the same enthusiasm.

She said: “It’s fantastic therapy and I can’t believe that my work is hanging in an exhibition.”

Mum-of-two Anna Ohar-Krawiec (35) came to Scotland from Poland 10 years ago and only discovered Delta at the end of last year. However, she already has two impressive pieces of artwork on display – floor to ceiling sheets of colourful acrylic.

She said: “I love coming along and getting inspiration from other people. Craig is a great teacher and points me in the right direction while showing me new techniques to incorporate into my work.”

As she goes off to look at her fellow students’ work, a quick glance around the gallery shows it is already filling up with people all eager to see the 2014 exhibition now the wraps are off and who knows, perhaps be inspired to become part of the Delta family.