Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Geysers and Glaciers and Bears, oh my...

So, first things first, if you're still coming to visit my blog then thanks very much as it has been a while since my last post.

Close up of paint texture and colour

We've just come back from 6 days in Iceland for our anniversary (10 years together, 5 years married!). It was absolutely the best anniversary trip we've ever had (apart from the year we went to New York as that was our wedding day as well as our anniversary so nothing will ever top that!)

As usual Brodie sees the camera and thinks it's for her, she's such a wee poser!

The bear reference in the title refers to my polar bear painting. I finished him just before we went and it seemed appropriate as he is of course an inhabitant (albeit endangered) of the arctic north. We didn't see any actual bears during our trip unless you count this guy:

polar bear+iceland+NicseARTh

You might recall I've entered paintings into the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year competition for the last two years without success of being shortlisted but hope springs eternal so I plan to enter my polar bear into the competition for 2016.

Close up of polar bear

The good news is that the overriding comments from the judges following this year's competition were (and I quote) "a desire to see artists move away from the purely photographic, to compositions showing originality and genuine creativity". So it's good news for me and artists like me who put their own spin on the subject rather than create photorealism. 

Polar Bear+Wildlife art+Northern Lights+NicseARTh

Fingers crossed that might work in my favour this year but I guess I'll have to wait and see. I won't hold my breath but it would be nice to at least get shortlisted. My only concern is that you can only submit one photo of your painting and this is ridiculously hard to photograph so that it shows the texture and colour in the bear. Hey ho, I can but try. 

Close up of texture of paint

As for the geysers and glaciers, we managed to pack a lot into our time in Iceland, seeing and doing all the things that we had hoped to be able to see and do. We arrived on Tuesday evening with time for a drive around the town to get our bearings.

Wednesday was our first full day and we spent the morning wandering around Reykjavik old town, which was lovely. I like snow globes and always try to bring one back from our anniversary trips when possible and so I thought one with polar bears on it was pretty appropriate this year!

polar bear+snow globe

Icelandic food isn't particularly vegan-friendly so lunch on the first three days was giant bowls of chips (not the healthiest of fare but literally everything else on the menu was made of animal!) On day four we discovered a supermarket that sold vegan cheese and smoked mock meat slices so we were able to make our own lunches which was perfect as we were out and about on road trips those days and didn't need to stop for yet more chips!

They weren't all for me, honest!

In the afternoon we went whale watching off the coast of Grindavik, about an hour away from Reykjavik. We were advised to put on the red 'floatation suits' the tour provided and I'm so glad we did - standing around on the deck of a boat for three hours in the north Atlantic is, as you'd imagine, bitterly cold!!

We did see a lone humpback whale who toyed with us for the whole three hours - they can dive for up to 55 minutes at a time and this one certainly seemed to stay down as long as he possibly could! He surfaced a few times and showed us his fin and fluke as he immediately dived back down! Still, he's a wild animal diving for food so it's just your luck if they're feeling acrobatic or not and this one wasn't on this particular day!

Reykjavik old town+Iceland+NicseARTh

On the Wednesday evening we got back from whale watching, went for a Chinese meal (always handy for vegan food!)and then headed out of Reykjavik a little way to get away from the light pollution as we'd been told it was likely that the northern lights would put in an appearance. Did they ever! 

This is my new favourite photo ever!

We've been lucky enough to see them a few times since we moved to the far north of Scotland but this was something else. We stood and watched them dance all over the sky for over two hours! They were incredibly bright and really dazzling. It got to the point where I was so cold and tired that I actually wanted them to stop just so I could go to bed because there was no way we could leave as long as they were putting on such an amazing show!

On Thursday we went to the Blue Lagoon.  It was starting to snow a little which added to the bizarre idea of swanning around in a bathing suit outside in the bitter cold in a deliciously warm pool. It was really quite otherworldly as the steam rose and people disappeared and reappeared all around us. I'm not quite convinced of the therapeutic or beautifying qualities of the thermal water and silica mud as I ended up quite red and blotchy afterwards and it's not a friend to your hair! Still, it was a wonderfully weird experience that you have to do if you're ever in Iceland.

We drove around Grindavik and the area near the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon and met some of the local wild horses. They're so furry and pretty friendly although apparently it's a sign of aggression when they show their teeth like this so maybe he was fed up with S taking his photo!

On Friday we drove part of the Golden Circle. Not all the roads are paved, some are very loose gravel that play havoc with your windscreens so we stayed on the paved road which still meant we could take in the most famous landmarks which were the Thingvellir National Park, the Strokkur Geyser and Gullfoss Waterfall.  It was a cold, snowy grey day this time which I think added to the atmosphere and wonder of these stunning natural phenomena. It got colder as the day went on which is why my face disappeared more and more behind my scarf and hood!

Thingvelliir National Park+Iceland+NicseARTh
Thingvellir National Park

Strokkur Geyser+Iceland+NicseARTh
Strokkur Geyser
Gullfoss Waterfall+Iceland+NicseARTh
Gullfoss Waterfall

Saturday, was our last full day and we really, really wanted to see the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon at the south of the island. It was a good six hour drive from Reykjavik but we decided to seize the day and go for it.  I'm so glad we did as the whole (very long) day was amazing. 

En route to the Glacier Lagoon

We set off in the dark at 8am and didn't get home until 10pm but the whole route was absolutely breathtaking. We stopped at Skogafoss Waterfall and at plenty of other places en route every time we saw something stunning (which was all the time!) 

Skogafoss Waterfall

We passed lava fields with bizarre rock formations some of them completely carpeted in the softest, thickest moss. 

We drove past mountains with the remains of the glaciers creeping down between the peaks and finally, just as the sun was setting we arrived at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. We couldn't have timed it better because the ice looked breathtaking as it shimmered and sparkled in the glow of the setting sun.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

It was absolutely breathtaking
On the Sunday we didn't fly home til 9pm so we had the whole day to wander round Reykjavik. The shops didn't open until 1pm which I think S was secretly relieved about so we went to Glo a vegetarian restaurant we'd found and had the most delicious vegan raspberry and mocha slice and a soya latte while we waited for the shops to open.

S bought me a lovely silver necklace with the Icelandic Rune symbol for love, like this one:

We even managed to squeeze in a visit to the Whale Museum on Sunday evening. 

Life size models!

We flew home on Sunday night tired and feeling very grateful for such an amazing trip and with a head full of memories (and a memory card full of photographs) to provide artistic inspiration for a while to come!

Mixing with some local Trolls!

And the icing on the cake was the beautiful rainbow sapphire ring that S got me (I may have sent him the link to the Etsy shop in a not so subtle hint several months ago but fair play to him for paying attention!)

Sorry, it's been a bit of an epic post but if you've made it to the end, thank you, and I'll be linking up with Paint Party Friday this week for a long overdue catch up on what's been happening in the online art community!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Take a seat...surreal art

surreal art+deckchair in space+moonlight shadow+moon+NicseARTh
'Moonlight Shadow' -  acrylic on 4x5 inches box canvas

So, after painting the little boat floating in space a few weeks ago, I wanted to do more of these surreal little paintings and liked the idea of a stripy deckchair - perhaps subconsciously I wanted to be back somewhere warm and sunny!

surreal art+deckchair in space+moonlight shadow+moon+NicseARTh
Miniature art - Moonlight Shadow

However, rather than paint it under the sun, I stuck to my night skies theme and painted it under the moon.  As I was painting it, the song 'moonlight shadow' popped into my head and got stuck there like an ear worm so that's how this little piece got its title!

close up of deckchair and texture

It's available to purchase either directly from my blog (link in the side bar but I think you may need to be on desktop view rather than mobile phone view) or via my Artfinder shop. •update-it's just sold! Yay!

I posted it on my Instagram account when it was finished and I was delighted to receive a commission for a similarly surreal miniature canvas with an armchair in space!

surreal art+armchair in space+moon+milky way+cosmos+NicseARTh
Commission - armchair in space - acrylic on 5x5 inch canvas

I used crackle glaze underneath the paint to create that 'cracked earth' texture and then had at it with my fine art acrylic spray paints for the background and regular acrylic paints for the milky way, moon and armchair. 

surreal art+armchair in space+moon+milky way+cosmos+NicseARTh

Happy to say, the recipient is delighted with it and it has just arrived at it's new home today. Also off to its new home is 'A lot more than green' which sold thanks to the wonders of Facebook and is going to be taking up residence in Minneapolis (it's quite nice/bizarre to think that my paintings are getting to visit places that I probably will never get to in this lifetime!)

close up of chair and texture

In other news, earlier this year I was very flattered to be invited to take part in the annual Christmas art fair in Strathpeffer (down near Inverness). It is organised by Friends of the Strathpeffer Pavilion and they have an invitation only policy to keep the art fair fresh and different every year by varying the artists who exhibit each time. The handing in weekend happily coincides with our trip to Iceland so we'll be driving down that direction anyway and can drop them off en route. The fair itself is only on for four days and unfortunately because it is about a 6 hour round trip we won't be able to attend but it's lovely to have been asked to participate and fingers crossed all my art will sell so I won't have to do the drive again to collect it!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

A seagull, a boat, a Wildlife TV Presenter and why I might not blog so often...

Seagull+contemporary art+northern lights+NicseARTh
'Fly to your tomorrow' - acrylic on canvas 30 x 30cm

So I had an impromptu blogging break last week. We were travelling the five hour round trip to Inverness last Thursday afternoon to see Steve Backshall (a wildlife TV presenter) on his Wild World Tour (which by the way was amazing even if we were the only adults without kids as our excuse for being there – his wildlife shows are aimed first and foremost at kids and it was through my stepson that I first discovered him). 

Me and Mr Steve Backshall!

He leads the most fascinating life and has travelled to over 100 countries so far and interacted with (and been bitten by) numerous amazing creatures.  At the end of his presentation, he even made a point of signing everyone’s books (he writes children’s fiction and has an autobiography out) and getting photos taken and yes, we absolutely waited for our turn (well, my turn at least - S took the photo of Steve Backshall and me!)

seagull+contemporary art+acrylic+NicseARTh

Anyway, the paintings on this post, I did last week and the seagull I decided should migrate from Cornwall where I originally took his photo up to here where I placed him against the backdrop of the northern skies.

The canvas I used was actually one I had painted a Twisty Town version of our cottage on when we first moved in. I was bored with it so decided to spray paint over it and then happened upon the photo of the gull and decided he'd look quite nice perched on a rock there. I had used crackle glaze over the old painting and the texture from that has come through in parts on the new painting which somehow thankfully works!

boat+stars+surrealism+close up+contemporary art+NicseARTh
'Float amongst the stars' - Acrylic on canvas 12.5 x 12.5cm

The little boat was one I'd taken a photo of floating in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean when we were in Crete but I thought it would be fun to play with a little surrealism and have it floating amongst the stars.

boat+stars+surrealism+close up+contemporary art+NicseARTh

Both are available to purchase from my Artfinder shop and also I’m really excited because I recently submitted several pieces of art to Ohh Deer’s Pillow Fight – an annual competition they run where artists can have their work put onto cushions which are sold by Ohh Deer online – and all of them were approved and are now available to purchase for a limited time (I think up until Christmas)! You can see the other designs if you click on the link - here are this week's paintings as cushions:

Fly to your tomorrow Cushion

Float amongst the stars Cushion
As with most of the online competitions these days, the more 'likes' a particular pillow gets the more chance the artist has of winning the competition so if you wanted to pop over and give my designs some love that would be much appreciated although honestly, I'm just delighted to see them as cushions and I think I'll order a couple for myself as they'll go lovely on my sofa!! 

wooden boat+stars+starry sky+surrealism+NicseARTh

As for blogging, I've realised that I actually don't have to blog every week - sometimes, I almost feel obliged to for some reason when actually the only person putting pressure on me to blog is me. Will the world stop turning if I only blog once a month or just when I've got something to blog about? Nope. Will anyone notice if I skip a week or two - I doubt it (Well, perhaps my mum!) 

Anyway, all new art for sale is updated on my Artfinder shop and I am around on my Instagram or Facebook pages as I update them pretty much daily so if you use any of those social media sites then please do give me a follow and we can keep up to date on all things arty that way. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Lighting the way...A world record breaking attempt

Lighthouse+starry sky+spray paint+derwent graphik liners+NicseARTh
Lighting the way - acrylic spray paint and acrylic paint pens

So, I don't normally post twice in one week very often but I mentioned in my last post about the Society of All Artists and their attempt to set a world record for the largest number of original artworks exhibited under one roof.

Lighthouse+starry sky+spray paint+derwent graphik liners+NicseARTh
Reuben couldn't be less interested in being my art assistant/model!

It's open to all artists and the only stipulation is that the art must be 2.5 x 3.5 inches - the size of an Artist Trading Card (ATC).

All the paintings will be exhibited on giant display boards and become part of a permanent exhibition at SAA HQ in Newark, England.

Lighthouse+starry sky+spray paint+derwent graphik liners+NicseARTh

I wanted to have a go but I also wanted to use acrylics so I decided to see how a piece of ATC size watercolour paper would take to being spray painted. Turns out it worked pretty well!  I had my background so I just had to decide what to paint on it.  

The idea of a lighthouse came to me but the ones up here don't look like the traditional sort of lighthouse - you know the tall round tower, usually red and white. So, I visited my favourite reference photo resource, Paint My Photo, and found a painting by Terry Krysak of a lighthouse in British Columbia, Canada, which was more what I had in mind. I then used a large dollop of artistic licence as well as my Derwent Graphik Liner paint pens.
My box of Derwent Graphik Paint Liners

You can send in as many as you like but I think I'm happy to take part with just the one and it's sparked a few ideas of further paintings that I plan to do on canvas.

It doesn't say anywhere whether it is just open to UK artists so if you'd like to be part of attempting to set a world record then just pop over to the SAA's website for more info.

As this is my second post this week, if you haven't already, you can click here to see my earlier post  - the pet portrait of the winner of the Scottish SPCA fundraise


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