Willie Rodger: Wee Prints

The Academicians’ Gallery

Free entry


We are very pleased to present an exhibition of over 100 printed works by one of Scotland’s best-loved artists, Willie Rodger RSA.


Born in Kirkintilloch in 1930, Willie Rodger studied Graphics and Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art from 1948 – 1953. He received a rigorous education from a course that, at the time, only accepted the most skilled draughtsmen. By graduation, Rodger had already sold two prints to the V&A in London and then followed them, to a job working in the advertising sector. However, he eventually became disillusioned with the cut & thrust of the commercial world and an opportunity to change careers and return to Scotland came about with a teaching vacancy at Lenzie Academy, then as Principal Teacher of Art at Clydebank High School – a post he held until early retirement in 1987.


Willie was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1989 and awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Stirling in 1999.   


This exhibition at The Academicians’ Gallery is comprised mostly of prints, with a small selection of works in other media.  Many of the prints are taken from Rodger’s “Wee” series, first seen at an 1990 exhibition entitled “The Wee Picture Show”.  Inspired by the maxim It’s no whit ye hae; it’s whit ye dae wi’ whit ye hae, Rodger based the characters on people he had observed and, using himself as model, he created a whole community.  Many of these people, places and actions will be well kent to us, perhaps partially explaining the enduring popularity of these prints.

Speaking about the work, the artist comments:  “The prints may seem like a spontaneous, first time thing but in fact I go through hundreds of versions and sheets of paper editing, editing till I get it right.  But I enjoy the discipline of lino, the simplicity. It’s a clean-cut medium. You have to think clearly before cutting. One slip and it’s ruined. There’s no pussyfooting around.”


Cordelia Oliver (The Guardian’s Arts Correpsondent for many decades) noted the identifying features of a Rodger print as “its sharp edged, clean cut blend of boldness and delicacy, austerity and wit, and the notably economic use of a medium which he clearly came to understand in all its limitations as well as in its richly evocative possibilities.”


And some praise for the artist from Clare Henry, chief art critic for The Herald from 1980-2000: “He is a superb draughtsman. This master of the understatement and economy of line draws as only a true professional can:  fluently, passionately, endlessly.”