This Saturday sees the opening at the Orkney Museum, Tankerness House, of the exhibition “The Life and Times of Orkney Artist Jim Baikie”.
February 28 would have been Jim’s 80th birthday and this exhibition celebrates one of the most successful artists in Orkney.
His work as a comic book artist is world famous, but the quiet and unassuming man never flaunted the fact. In a typically Orcadian manner, he attended comic book conventions, where he was regarded as one of the best artists, then returned home to get on with his work.
But there is so much more to the man than being an artist, as the exhibition explores. He was also a pop star with a band who supported The Kinks. He played in bands in London, rubbing shoulders with the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and his jamming buddy, Ritchie Blackmore, who went on to form the legendary rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow.
He even jammed at a party with Cream bassist and vocalist, Jack Bruce. A visit from Screaming Lord Sutch, who wanted him to go to Germany with him as a bass player (on the advice of Ritchie Blackmore) made Jim think again about a career in rock music.
His first passion was always art, and comic book art was his favourite genre. He declined Lord Sutch’s offer and after a few years returned to his beloved Orkney. Here he continued drawing for TV comics before working for 2000 AD sci-fi comic. He was then head-hunted by the American giants, DC Comics and Marvel Comics.
Sadly, Jim suffered with Parkinson’s Disease for over 25 years and passed away on December 29, 2017. Despite the diagnosis he continued drawing, painting and writing original sci-fi stories for many years.
This celebration of his life and art is different from other recent exhibitions, as it contains his life story, original artwork and artefacts relating to him. It also features many Orkney related pieces, rather than just sci-fi heroes like Judge Dredd and Batman.
Local characters from the 19th century hang alongside paintings showing the story of St Magnus, wartime Hoy and illustrations from books, like “The Bard of Ballarat” and “Willick o’ Pirliebraes”.
Jim’s wife, Wendy, said: “I am delighted that the Orkney Museum is having an exhibition of my late husband Jim’s work. The fact that a young boy from the small Orkney island of Hoy should become world famous in his chosen field of comic book illustration is an achievement in itself, but there were many other aspects to Jim’s life.
“This exhibition gives an insight into his early life in Hoy, as well, as his time in the RAF and the excitement of being in the London music scene during the ‘swinging sixties’. I think it is a true reflection of the times he lived in and I hope it will interest the folk who see it.”
“The Life and Times of Orcadian Artist Jim Baikie” runs from February 8-29. The Orkney Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10:30-12:30, 13:30-17:00. Admission is free.