The Yellowbird Gallery

Jon Thompson and Lesley Murdoch

At NorthLink Ferries, we’ve long been admirers of the artwork of Jon Thompson and Lesley Murdoch, who reside in the north west corner of Orkney, near the Brough of Birsay, and who run the fantastic Yellowbird Gallery. We asked if they would be happy to answer some questions about themselves, the Gallery and their work.

Q. Jon, can you tell us a bit about Lesley and your backgrounds and how you both came to be artists?
A. Both of us came from craft backgrounds. Lesley is trained in ceramics and I spent most of my time in wood, making furniture, wooden spoons and different things and then wooden birds. These days we are more artists than we are crafters.

“We came to Orkney for a four day recce and we just fell in love with this corner like a lot of people do. It’s been perfect for us. Both of us are inspired by nature in all its glory – its parallels, reflections, bird life and landscapes.”

Q. What drew you to Orkney?
A. Back in the 80s somebody said to me, “Head north young man!” and I managed to persuade Lesley to come with me!

The Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. Can you tell us a bit about the Yellowbird Gallery and its location?
A. We are a small gallery specialising in contemporary art, in particular bird art and Orkney landscapes, situated in the North West corner of the Orkney mainland near the Broch of Birsay.

The Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. Was there a particular reason you chose to stay in Birsay?
A. We came up for a four day recce and we just fell in love with this corner like a lot of people do. It’s been perfect for us.

The Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. Where and when do you work?
A. We work most days, juggling between carving / painting and running the gallery.

Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. What inspires you?
A. I think for both of us it has to be nature in all its glory – its parallels, reflections, bird life and landscapes.

Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. What mediums do you work in and which is your favourite?
A. For me it has to be wood, with drawing and painting a close second, with Lesley she is really enjoying painting acrylic on large canvasses.

The Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. What’s the nicest reaction you’ve had upon customers seeing your work?
A. A couple bought a large canvas of ours and returned to say that it did not suit their living room. So they changed their living room!

The Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. Where can customers buy your art from?
A. Mostly from the gallery but also from our website http://www.yellowbirdgallery.org/

Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. We understand that you enjoy taking your holidays in Shetland – what draws you there?
A. Shetland is a little getaway for us – we love the wildness and the coastline, the beaches and the architecture, especially the architecture; the colourful wooden houses, Mareel, the museum – it’s all so lovely.

The Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. Why do you think the Orkney and Shetland Islands are a popular destination for creative people?
A. Can’t speak for everybody, but for us great reasons to stay here are the birdlife, big skies, pace of life and Amazon!

Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Q. What advice would you give to artists visiting Orkney and Shetland?
A. Bring your brushes!

Yellowbird Gallery, Orkney

Jon and Lesley welcome visitors to the Yellowbird Gallery in Birsay, which is open most days. For more information please visit http://www.yellowbirdgallery.org/

Magnus DixonBy Magnus Dixon
Orkney and Shetland enthusiast, family man, loves walks, likes animals, terrible at sports, dire taste in music, enjoys films and audiobooks, eats a little too much for his own good.

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