This Saturday (8th February 2020) sees the opening of the exhibition “The Life and Times of Orkney Artist Jim Baikie” at the Orkney Museum at Tankerness House, running until the end of the month.
28th February would have been Jim’s 80th birthday and this exhibition celebrates one of the most successful artists in Orkney.
Jim’s 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 2000AD. He was then head-hunted by the US publishing giants, DC Comics and Marvel Comics.
Sadly, Jim suffered with Parkinson’s Disease for over 25 years and passed away on 29th December 2017., his passing honoured by many in the comics community, including Alan Moore. Despite the diagnosis he continued drawing, painting and writing original sci-fi stories for many years.
He is still fondly remembered: last November, in 2000AD prog 2157, Jim Baikie cameoed as Theodore Mundanus, beautifully illustrated by Stewart Moore in “Defoe”, written by Pat Mills.
“Many years ago (about 30), Stewart sat at our kitchen table while Dad explained the warping of space-time,” recalls his daughter Ellen Pesci, “by pinching the tablecloth to represent space-time, and using two gravy stains to represent distant locations. It’s all linked…trust me!”
The Museum’s celebration of Jim’s 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”.
“I am delighted that the Orkney Museum is having an exhibition of my late husband Jim’s work,” said Jim’s wife, Wendy. “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 8th – 29th February 2020. The Orkney Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.30 – 12.30, 13.30 – 5.00pm. Admission is free. More information about Orkney Museum here online | Orkney Islands Council is also on Facebook
• Comics and Graphic Novels with art by Jim Baikie available on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)