Having battled ill health for years, and having survived both a liver transplant in 1988 and a heart attack in Glasgow in 2005, Bellany is now preparing for two major new shows.
John Bellany at 70 for the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh, which opens on August 13, will be followed the major retrospective, A Passion for Life, at the National Galleries of Scotland in November.
Bellany, who is currently in poor health, told The Herald he is recovering from a deep and dark depression that has lasted six years, and various painful ailments including shingles.
However, he said he is he still full of "optimism for the future", fuelled by the love of his wife Helen, his three children and eight grandchildren.
The show at the Open Eye Gallery will show many works from the 1990s, as well as newer works as recent as 2007, and he said he still paints every day.
Currently living in Tuscany, Italy, Bellany said: "I never thought in a million years I would make it to 70. It's as big as a surprise to me as to everyone else. But I still feel inside like I am 25. It's unbelievable, with all these health problems. It is a miracle and I am amazed. But I have hope and optimism and that keeps me on the right track."
Known for often dark and nightmarish paintings, as well as works inspired by his fishing village background – he was born in Port Seton in 1942 – Bellany has recently been inspired by Chinese, Mexican and Italian landscapes as well as his personal demons.
He still rises at 6.30am to paint and, after a siesta, paints watercolours until late in the day, he said, although his nights are often disturbed by livid nightmares and visions.
He said: "I have never stopped working, even through my transplant and to this day. I work all the time, it has kept me going.
"I have been through some colossal pain, and a six-year period of deep, deep depression which I think I am just coming out of, it has been the worst hell and something I cannot seem to shake off. It's been absolutely horrible.
"My immune system has gone completely so I have nothing against any germs or illnesses.
"But I have had an absolutely incredible 30 years of life since the transplant.
"My wife Helen has been extraordinary, she has kept me alive. Without her I would be dead, there is no doubt about it. There's no way to stop the pain, you just have to keep it at bay."
"Bellany at 70" includes works in oil, on canvas and in watercolour, inspired by Port Seton and Eyemouth, Mexico and Italy.
The larger retrospective at the National Galleries will cover, in oils, watercolours, drawings and prints, all the key periods of his career, including the large-scale paintings of fisherfolk and their boats that Bellany hung on the railings outside the Royal Scottish Academy the mid-1960s, the nightmarish works inspired by his visit to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the 1970s, and the acclaimed drawings and watercolours from the time of his liver transplant.
He joked that he hopes to "beat" his great artistic hero, Pablo Picasso, who died at the age of 93. "I hope I can make it back to Edinburgh, it all depends on my health," he said. "Although I talk about my health, but in terms of the good times and the joy I have had, I have been a spoiled brat. I believe I love life, and if you love life, optimism will never go away," he said.
"I love Edinburgh so much, because it is where it all began for me, studying there at the School of Art. I shall have to see how it goes."
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