One of the first things that strikes the viewer is the lack of presence of people in the paintings and if there are people then they are merely sketched - there is no detail or even colour, just an outline of a person. This was not an inability to draw or represent people but an indication that his main concern was to record architecture and views rather than human beings or animals. The painting The Round House, near Eyemouth (1956) has, at its centre, a bush-like object. Many years ago this was in fact a grazing cart horse but Gourdie felt that this detracted from the building and surrounding woodland and changed the poor horse into a piece of bushy vegetation!
The actual style of painting varied considerably too. Thus the view of Banff from the Academy is quite light in the application of colour over a very clear preparatory ink sketching, while the views of, for example, Prinlaws Flax Mill (Leslie) - 1951, Charlotte Street (1954), Links Street (1954), Heggie’s Wynd (1952), - Kirkcaldy - and Falkland Palace (1957) are vivid both in terms of the blue spectrum but at the same time stylistically quite dense and perhaps almost over-coloured.
The most commonly used medium was watercolour but some paintings used wax crayon and pastels (and sometimes even a soap mix). Examples of this multi-media approach - which are difficult to replicate satisfactorily - are the paintings of Coxstool, West Wemyss (1949) and The Green Tree Tavern, Burntisland (April 1950).
This site concentrates on the artwork but Tom Gourdie’s reputation is primarily that of calligrapher. A founding member of the Society of Italic Handwriting and a student of Irene Wellington in the 1930s, thus following on directly from Edward Johnston, he developed a passion for calligraphy and the importance of teaching fluent and legible handwriting. Indeed the illustrative work of the artist became less and less important and ceased almost completely after 1973 when Gourdie took early retirement from art teaching at Kirkcaldy High School to concentrate on writing about, and lecturing on, the teaching of good handwriting.
Most examples of his writing are embodied in the many books he wrote on the subject, starting with “Italic Handwriting” in 1955. There are not many decorative self-standing manuscripts but offered for sale are all of the Shakespeare Sonnets, The Lord’s Prayer (in French), and a magnificent circular Royal Family Genealogical Table dating from 1960.