The interesting thing about looking and writing about art is that I am constantly challenging myself and my perceptions. I don't have any sort of moral or academic high ground on which to base my views or opinions apart from the fact I am looking. A lot. To be honest, if I don't like something, I tend to move on and not to write about it. I like to think I tell the story of art and artists on these pages rather than foisting my own cobbled-together views on readers. You can, of course, be the judge of that.

In the 13 years I've been writing about art for The Herald, my children have grown into young adults with vociferous opinions of their own. When they were very young, I used to drag them to exhibitions all the time and their observations cut through any pretensions and made me laugh out loud (#lol).

A few years ago, my son declared loudly in the echoey environs of Edinburgh's Inverleith House that an installation by Karla Black in a window was "nothing more than a collection of plastic bags".

Last Saturday, when my 16-year-old daughter was looking at the work of John Byrne at 80 at Glasgow Print Studio (GPS), she casually observed that a monotype called Untitled (Hand I) with watercolour and drawing in ink and pencil "would probably have been marked down" if she had submitted it in her Higher Art portfolio because it didn't fit the prescribed criteria and would be "too cartoony". "I like it though", she said breezily before moving on.

The work in question shows the palm of a big hand with fingers spread wide; its crooked pinkie twisting off to the side like Gourock. There's an alarmed looking cartoonish face on the palm of this hand, which has a tattooed plinth for a neck. To the left, an accusatory hand with a pointed finger emerges from a suit cuff, complete with cufflinks. So far, so John Byrne.

John Byrne at 80 and Dear John, A Thirty Year Portrait by photographer, David Eustace, are the first exhibitions out of the GPS starting blocks post-lockdown. And what a welcome return it is.

John Byrne at 80 is a retrospective exhibition of around 70 original prints (including several mixed media works) by celebrated Scottish playwright, writer and artist and all round lad o'pairts, John Byrne, who turned 80 earlier this year. The works have all been produced at Glasgow Print Studio since the early 1990s and include a selection of new screen prints which have been hand-coloured by Byrne at the studio earlier this year.

Byrne's association with the studio goes back to 1976, but this body of work moves effortlessly through various styles; from his revisited "Patrick" period (harking back to the 1960s when following a lack of success with London galleries, Byrne produced a series of paintings under the guise of "Patrick"), to Slab Boys, Teddy Boys, on to Cubist style works, Braque-like prints and the endearing Donald the Cat.

Naturally, Byrne takes centre stage, and his familiar crazy hair, beakish features, dandyesque moustache and hollow eyes are writ large on many walls, via a range of chameleon-like self portraits and double portraits. At every turn, he experiments with the gamut of printmaking styles; etching, monotypes, mezzotint, screen prints, lithographs.

With a nod to his recent big birthday, the weight of years has settled heavily on his shoulders and "past historic" is a recurring theme. One of my favourite pieces in the show is a screen print with watercolour called Momento Mori. In this, Byrne stares askance at himself from a vivid orange backdrop. His head and shoulders – with the trademark long neck – are supported by skeleton-like scaffolding dancing what seems to be a merry jig.

Having been starved of "real live art" in the last few months, to see this up close sent shivers up my spine. For all sorts of reasons.

Byrne always seems to find a way of making whatever medium he chooses to work in all his own. A series of three tiny mezzotint self-portraits made in 2010 are pared-down, delicate and velvety soft, while the much larger Nova Scotia, a screen print with mixed media is rumbustious and energetic.

As if there weren't enough John Byrne portraits in the John Byrne exhibition, the smaller David Eustace exhibition takes a quieter walk through the last three decades of Byrne's life.

Former prison officer, Eustace, whose photographs have appeared everywhere from Vogue to Tatler to The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, captures Byrne's mischief and his humanity.

As my esteemed colleague, Keith Bruce, once observed, it's hard to take a bad picture of Byrne, a man who redefines the word dandy, Without denigrating Eustace's work in any way, I'd concur. There's a cracking shot which shows Byrne's watercolours spilling into a desk beside a battered old leather folio-style case. Sitting on top of the case is a strip of passport-style pictures of Byrne in a tartan jacket.

Eustace first photographed Byrne in 1989 and he has become not just his friend but his most revisited subject. Dear John, A Thirty Year Portrait, comprises of 13 photographic portraits of Byrne, one of which was specially commissioned by GPS for this exhibition. This work is available to purchase as a stand-alone piece, while the other twelve are only available as part of the limited edition portfolio (priced at £7,200).

For a bigger picture of a towering figure on the Scottish arts scene, head to Glasgow Print Studio now. You won't be disappointed,

John Byrne at 80 & Dear John, A Thirty Year Portrait, Glasgow Print Studio, Trongate 103, Glasgow, G1 5HD, 0141 552 0704,, Tuesday – Friday 11am – 5pm. Until October 30. Free (Enter through King Street entrance. No need to book but masks must be work)

Critic's Choice

From old "biddies", to birds, boats, belted Galloway cattle and beyond, painter, Gordon Wilson returns time after time to a series of motifs. It is through this highly personal landscape, that Wilson, an ebullient character in "real life", charts and navigates the world around him. Floods and plagues included…

At the start of 2020, with a year of deadlines ahead – including working towards a major solo show with the Annan Gallery in Glasgow – Wilson's studio in Milngavie was badly flooded. The future looked grim when we all moved into lockdown in March, but Wilson managed to relocate to a bigger studio. There he found the space to think big and to paint bigger.

He has now painted around 40 new works for this show, including some of his biggest works to date.

The biggest painting, Splendid Isolation, with the splendid price of £7,500, sold on the opening day of the exhibition last Saturday. It forms the centrepiece of Being Gordon Wilson and its narrative is based around a puffer (Wilson loves a puffer) with one of his old raincoated "biddies" at the bow, a seagull sitting atop her head. The puffer is called Isolation.

In another painting, called Biddy Beatification, another old biddy is descending heavenwards from what could be a cityscape. The toes on her sensible shoes are turned in and her shopping bags in either hand are helping her rise up. Poignantly, there's a halo-like glow around her head-scarved head.

Both are prime examples of Wilson's ability to create joyous, yet tender scenes without descending into whimsy. This goes for his landscapes and still lifes too. His paintings are beautifully realised without being shouty and over-obvious.

It's no wonder that Wilson's work connects to people across the board.

Being Gordon Wilson, Annan Gallery, 164 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, G3 6LL, 0141 332 0028,, Tuesday – Sunday. Until September 27.

Don't Miss

Audrey Grant's semi-abstract figures could be everyone, anyone and no-one. Often inspired by poetry, literature and philosophy, her growing reputation was recently recognised in a major exhibition with the National Galleries of Scotland at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. In this latest exhibition Grant brings together the notions of Arcadia and Desire (Eros the god of love or Eros the Bittersweet) exploring, as she writes "the longing for that which we seek but can never truly find. It is this longing, this desire, that interests me and which motivates our searching in life and in the creative act."

Audrey Grant: Paradise, Panter & Hall, 11-12 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU, 020 7399 9999,, Monday – Friday, 10am-5pm. Until September 25