Friday, 23 June 2017

Road less traveled...another moment on the Mother Road



Shamrock, Texas+Route 66+Road Trip+Amercia+American Landscape+Acrylic painting+Nicola McLean
'Road less traveled' - acrylic on canvas 30cm x 40cm

So, I'm back working on my 'moments on the Mother Road' series. I'm still not doing them in any discernible order - certainly if I was to do the road trip in the same order as I'm doing these paintings then I'd be all over the place! So far, I've gone from California right back to Chicago and now I've jumped to Texas. 

Close up you can see the headlights of cars on the interstate

I don't suppose it matters what order I paint them in, I'm really just going by what scene appeals to me at the time and I had another canvas which I'd already put acrylic modelling paste on which just happened to lend itself perfectly to the rough, cracked road surface of this scene which S captured on camera at sunset just outside of Shamrock, Texas.

Credit - S McLean
the original photo of Route 66 just outside Shamrock, Texas

This was an early section of Route 66 and was made of segmented concrete. The guide book which I read as we drove the route described how your tyres make a wonderful 'thump ka-thump, ka-thump' noise as you drive over the joins in the concrete and we were delighted to discover they really do.


I mentioned before that during our trip we listened to local radio stations along the way, made a list of all the songs we heard a lot on the road and then created a playlist when we got back home - music is so evocative of a time and place and every time we hear those songs now they take us right back to Route 66.

Shamrock Texas+acrylic painting+landscape art+Route 66+Interstate+American Road trip+Nicola McLean

Why am I telling you this? Well, I wanted to give each painting a title inspired by the songs we listened to, either the title of the song or a lyric from it. I have already used this title for a painting I did a few years ago but because it was the name of a song from our trip (by Lauren Alaina) and because it seemed really appropriate given that this highway has been superseded by the interstate (which you can see off to the right in the horizon in my painting)I decided to use it again (and I've used the American spelling just to keep it country!)


Next up I'm crossing the border into New Mexico to try my hand at one of my favourite photos from the trip, the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari.


Credit: S McLean

I'm using a larger canvas for this one - 30 x 20 inches which fits perfectly on the new A2 desk easel I treated myself to last week!



My shiny new desk easel!

I've have just started by using acrylic spray paints to loosely colour the background.  I'm going back to Ireland for a week on Monday so I won't get any more done on it until I get back but I'm really looking forward to this one and the challenge of painting that iconic neon sign!





Thanks for popping by, I know I'm a bit sporadic with my blogging these days.  I've noticed that a lot of people who used to blog regularly no longer do - do you think that perhaps Instagram and other social media sites are replacing art blogging? I know it's certainly easier to just post a quick photo on Instagram than write and edit a blog post every week although every time I think I'll stop blogging I feel compelled to keep it going a while longer - it's been nearly 7 years since I started my blog so it seems a shame to stop even if it is a little less well tended to than it used to be!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Hell's bells...a contemporary still life and landscape painting

Hell's bells+river rocks+scotch whisky+Bell's whisky+contemporary art+Nicola McLean artist
'Hell's bells' - acrylic on canvas 30 x 40cm

When is a still life not a still life? When it's also got a little bit of a landscape in it. I'm not really sure what category this one falls into as it's the first time I've stretched out the scene to include the land around the close up of the river rocks that I normally just paint. I really enjoyed the challenge of this one though and trying to create a softer, slightly blurred effect for the background while making sure the focus was on the foreground.

Hell's bells+river rocks+scotch whisky+Bell's whisky+contemporary art+Nicola McLean artist


Hell's bells is a phrase used to express anger or surprise as in 'Hell's bells, why can't people take their rubbish off the beach with them!!' a slightly gentler version of something I might have uttered once or twice recently as the tourist season ramps up and our beaches once again become dumping grounds for those that apparently love the great outdoors while simultaneously having zero respect for nature by dropping all their rubbish at their arses. 

Hell's bells+river rocks+scotch whisky+Bell's whisky+contemporary art+Nicola McLean artist


Anyway, as you can no doubt tell, litter on our beaches normally makes me spitting mad but on this occasion it also inspired a painting.  I saw the lid of the Bell's whisky bottle at the edge of the river going down to Sandside beach and decided to strategically place it for a reference photo opportunity.

Hell's bells+river rocks+scotch whisky+Bell's whisky+contemporary art+Nicola McLean artist


This is the resulting painting which as I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to finish in time to add it to the other paintings I've submitted to the Mission Hall Gallery which is opening its doors to the public on 1 June. We're having a small private viewing on Saturday 3 June and then an official opening in a few weeks time once the new gallery owners get all their bits and bobs in order. 



They are hoping to attract the very people I mostly whinge about - the tourists who drive past our cottage like bats out of hell (there's a bit of a hellish theme here this week) and who leave their rubbish around the beaches or chuck it out of their car windows instead of just keeping it in the fricking car until they get to a public bin - WHY DO PEOPLE DO THAT!!!  

Anyway, I am sure that like everything else, it's only a small minority of tourists who have that little respect for the places they are visiting and that mostly they are here to enjoy the beautiful scenery and tranquil laid back way of life and perhaps even stop at an art gallery along the way and take home a colourful reminder of their time up here!😉

Here are the five paintings waiting for bubble wrap before I took them to the gallery. The one with the marbles sold a couple of weeks ago and has already gone to its forever home so I decided to include the beachscape as it's of the beach in the village where the gallery is located.

river rock paintings+contemporary still life+vibrant art+Mission Hall Gallery Melvich+Nicola McLean


Anyway, it was quite good having a deadline to work to as it certainly put paid to my usual procrastination apart from when my art shed was literally too hot to work in last Friday and so I'd no choice but to sit in the garden instead, listening to the soothing sounds of bird song and motorbike engines as they raced by one after the other!


Monday, 29 May 2017

Fetch...a contemporary still life


contemporary still life art+river rocks+tennis ball+fetch+Nicola McLean artist
'Fetch' - acrylic on canvas 20 x 20cm

I mentioned in my last post a couple of weeks ago that I've been invited to exhibit with a newly opening local gallery and wanted to create some new work to submit that would go along with my other river rock paintings.

contemporary still life art+river rocks+tennis ball+fetch+Nicola McLean artist


This is one that I'd taken the reference photo for a while back, one day when the dogs were chasing their ball on the beach - until they lost interest approximately 1 minute and 37 seconds in and ran off to sniff seaweed instead so that I ended up carrying the ball the rest of the walk. I set it down at the river rocks thinking it would make a good composition as all the previous painting in this series have had one random object in them - my wellies, a feather & marbles.

contemporary still life art+river rocks+tennis ball+fetch+Nicola McLean artist


I had coincidentally ordered a new tube of lemon yellow paint around the same time as I was painting this and hadn't realised that it was actually fluorescent as I wouldn't have ordered it.  However, it turned out to be quite serendipitous as it was exactly the right colour for the tennis ball! The computer screen doesn't show it to the full effect but it really is very bright!


contemporary still life art+river rocks+tennis ball+fetch+Nicola McLean artist


As soon as I finished this one last week, I started a slightly larger one which I'd also already taken the reference photo for and I spent the last week trying not to bake in my art shed (which turns into an oven at the first sign of the sun) as we experienced a few very, very lovely days. I managed to get that one finished yesterday and thankfully because acrylic dries so quickly, I got it varnished and bubble wrapped up with the rest of the paintings and off to the gallery for it opening on 1 June. 

A little size perspective

If you'd like to see that painting and find out what inspired it, then please sign up to receive notifications of my new blog posts or just check back in a day or two as I plan to play blog post catch up and write another post all about it!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Sink...a surreal space painting

So events have conspired to keep me from starting number three in the 'Moments on the Mother Road' series, but in a good way.

Surreal art+universal plug+cosmos+sink+Nicola McLean
'Sink' - acrylic on canvas 40 x 50cm

Paintings completed since my last post: One

This painting harks back to my 'space junk' series of random objects in space. I painted the background to this one way last summer using acrylic modelling paste to get lots of texture and then spray paints for the night sky in which I painted a black hole. Then it just sat there in my art shed until last week when it seemed to jump out at me (not literally, that would be weird) and stare at me accusingly for my neglectful behaviour towards it. And so, I felt compelled to finish it after all.

Surreal art+universal plug+cosmos+sink+Nicola McLean

I already knew what I was going to paint on it. I already had the reference photo printed out and waiting in my stuffed full reference photo folder. Back when we redecorated our bathroom last year and bought a new plug for the sink, I thought about how an item is referred to as 'universal' when one size fits all and so when I saw the phrase 'universal plug' this is the image that popped into my head.

Surreal art+universal plug+cosmos+sink+Nicola McLean

Bricks and Mortar Galleries: One

In a rather exciting turn of events, I received an email last week from a couple who have just bought an old historic building which used to be a mission hall and had more recently been used as a studio by the artist whose house they also bought which happens to be right beside the track down to the beach I often walk the dogs on, in Melvich, the next village from ours. 

They are in the middle of renovating the building and turning it into an art gallery and had been doing some research on local artists. I was one of the artists they contacted to see if I would be interested in having them represent me up here. 

I went to meet with them on Friday and they showed me round the mission hall and told me what their plans are. They hope to tie in with the increase in tourism thanks to the North Coast 500 and will initially open from June through to the end of September. 

Surreal art+universal plug+cosmos+sink+Nicola McLean

Now the North Coast 500 is something I am honestly not keen on and which I had a little Instagram rant about recently due to the annoyingly inaccurate comparison to Route 66 and the increase in motorbikes zooming past our cottage at ridiculous speeds on the narrow country roads which are in really bad condition and aren't being maintained. 

Still, whether I like it or not the North Coast 500 is a fact of life up here now so I'd be stupid to cut my nose off to spite my face and while I don't for one second imagine that any of the boy racers doing the route as quickly as they can without stopping or even slowing down to enjoy the beauty of the place, will ever be buying one of my paintings, that doesn't mean that those tourists who do come here to enjoy the slower pace of life won't be interested in stopping to while away some time in a local art gallery and perhaps decide to take a small piece of colourful art home as a memento.


surreal art+surrealism+sink+plug hole+universal plug+nicola mclean

Anyway they plan to represent four or five local artists and the work on sale there will be exclusive to that gallery with the opening taking place on 1 June. With that in mind, I've set the Route 66 series aside for now as I'd like to complete a couple more of my 'signs of life' river rocks paintings and submit those to the gallery.

surreal art+surrealism+sink+plug hole+universal plug+nicola mclean


Time lapse videos: One

So, not wanting my Christmas present from S of the GoPro camera to have been a one trick pony, I decided to give it another outing in the art shed.  I discovered that if I use the video setting rather than the time lapse setting it takes up far less room on the memory card and it's easier to edit together at the end to make a time lapse video. I quite like just doing time lapse clips of just little snippets of a painting rather than filming the whole thing (which I found rather invasive to be honest) so here's a wee snippet of 'Sink'.




New work surface: one

My art shed was a year old in April and the work surface which had been painted with wood paint in cream was looking very paint spattered and grubby so I decided to cover it with some colourful sticky vinyl to spruce it up and make it wipe clean. I'm very happy with how it looks although I ran out with just a little bit to go so have had to order another roll to finish it off!



Sunny days: three followed immediately by the haar 
(sea mist that is the bane of summer in Caithness)

I went out to my art shed last Monday and the dogs sat themselves on the decked porch so I sat down with them for a minute.  Four hours later I was still there when I discovered it was actually really warm (relatively speaking for Scotland!) and then the postie delivered my magazine subscription so I took that as a sign that I should just sit in the sun and read all afternoon. I didn't feel guilty because we get so few sunny days that I knew I had to make the most of it!



That's all my news for now. Thanks, as always for taking the time to pop by.

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