Wise Guys and Luminate 10

8 March 2022

2022 sees Luminate’s 10th anniversary, and we will be marking this important milestone in different ways across the year. As part of our celebrations we have invited 10 people and organisations involved in creative ageing to write a series of guest blogs sharing their insights.

Late last year we were excited to commission the Wise Guys, a group of older printmakers at Highland Print Studio in Inverness, to create a limited edition print that reflects the essence of Luminate in our anniversary year.  


We are thrilled with the print they created, (pictured here) and are delighted that they also agreed to write our first anniversary blog sharing the story of the Wise Guys and of the beautiful image they created for us. 


The print will be shared and gifted in different ways as part of our anniversary celebrations. 

Wise Guys

By Alison McMenemy from Highland Print Studio   

Wise Guys came about after a discussion with Stephen Palmer from Creative Scotland, who mentioned that research showed that older men did not engage with creative activity. We discussed whether printmaking, with its emphasis on tools, equipment and processes might be a road into engagement. 

So, Highland Print Studio decided to test the theory. We fundraised, came up with a snappy title and got the message out that we were on the hunt for older men to join our weekly printmaking classes. The one stipulation was that this was for men who were new to the visual arts; this was an opportunity for those who had never dreamt of being ‘arty’. 

Ten years later, having exhibited at the Scottish Parliament and internationally; been on the radio and telly; drank a lot of coffee and scoffed a mountain of biscuits; oh and done a bit of printmaking, Wise Guys are still darkening our door. They are a wonderful, valuable addition to our studio community and we exploit their electrical and woodworking skills shamelessly. 

The initial planning drew input from everyone to decide how the final print would look.

Luminate 10 print

By John McNaught from Highland Print Studio 

When Anne (Luminate’s director) suggested the Wise Guys create a print to commemorate 10 years of Luminate’s work, the difficult part is always coming up with an idea. Terry, Derek and Richard, three of the hardcore Wise Guys, got together and discussed how to go about it. Trying to avoid all the implications of design by committee, they still managed loads of arguments as they wrestled with how to celebrate 10 years of Luminate activities and achievements. A device to tie everything together was agreed – a beam of light cutting diagonally across the image, just like a super trouper.  

Derek had been working in the screen room with paper cut shapes and he started the ball rolling with three strong background colours and shapes. As they used the primaries of red, then blue, then yellow, we had a very bright start. Where the yellow overlapped the blue and red, green and orange were created.  

Although colourful, at this stage the print looked quite flat. The details that were going to add life came from all sorts of different sources. Richard produced linocuts of knitting, music and for the beam of light a couple dancing. One of Terry’s linocut prints of a guitar was also used, and Terry got to work with a nib pen hand writing words which suggested creative activities for the older person. Despite his advancing years, it seems that Terry had never used a nib pen, and there was much discussion – if not abuse, about the big blobs of ink that were included with every word.  

To plan the design everything was photographed or scanned, including the first three printed colours. Then using Photoshop on the computer, we were able to bring everything together as individual components. We could move them around, re-size, colour, and even make them transparent. It was a great way to come up with the final layout. It also allowed us to then isolate each component, or layer, and print them on the large format inkjet printer on to transparent film. These ‘transparencies’ or ‘separations’ were then photo – exposed onto the screens, becoming stencils for hand printing. 

Now that everything was in place, we could concentrate on mixing the colours, and getting the level of transparency just right in each ink. Our Photoshop image was now on an iPad, so it could be beside the ink mixing as a guide. Terry’s blob-like text was next to be printed in a translucent grey brown, then the instruments and dancers- these were in blends of blue into purple and green into blue. Watching the intrepid three print made me feel like there was a missing episode of Still Game that featured a print studio – arguing and swearing in a way that only Scots can… 

After the purple 10 was printed – another item of much debate – there were two subtle beams printed, like shafts of stage light across the image. And then it was done. 

Until the numbers were counted. Anne had asked for a print edition of 50. It turned out there were a few losses.  So back to it, going again and again until the magic number was reached. The amount of times I heard Alison reply… “No”… to the question “Will this one not do?!”. To Derek, Terry and Richard, she had become a terrifying presence in the room. 

But the print is lovely and hopefully a fitting tribute to Luminate from the Wise Guys.  

Adjusting all the elements and creating the individual screens for printing took time and care

Luminate turns to the Wise Guys

By Richard Castro   

Luminate is ‘Scotland’s creative ageing organisation’. But this year it acknowledged it was ageing itself and Anne, its director, got on to Alison, director of Highland Print Studio, to put forward the idea that the ‘ageing artists’, better known as ‘The Wise Guys’ might create a print to mark Luminate’s 10th anniversary. Well now – there was a thought. 

Alison created Wise Guys in 2011/12 when funding became available specifically to attract men aged 50+ who’d ‘never done art before’. There was a second intake about six years ago while funding continued but nowadays there’s about seven WGs fully paid up members of the studio and still loving being creative in printmaking and photography. 

When Anne came calling to commission her print however, only three WGs said ‘haud me back’! Terry, Derek and Richard contributed ideas to John, studio manager, and the print took shape. 

The techniques used were to be lino cut and screen printing. The three musketeers contributed the various images for the print and John was on hand to help and guide us. The colours were vibrant and the print built up in layers run by run in which teamwork played a big part. Laughs were many as were disappointments for it’s not easy to get every detail correct on every run – we are older, retired men after all with at least one of us nearer 80 than 70! But persistence and determination paid off and the job was finally finished to the satisfaction of everyone and we hope that the recipients of the 50 prints are as pleased with them as we were with their creation.