Monday, 25 August 2014

A bowl of jelly babies and some runaway sheep

When I was in London at the start of the month, my sister saw a painting at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibition that she really liked but that was already sold, so I offered to paint something similar for her as a gift. The painting in question was a simple little canvas of some licorice allsorts - not my usual subject matter.

I had in mind to do my own version on one of my mini canvasses so suggested doing two and asked her what other sweets she'd like. The answer was jelly babies and so here is my very first non-animal, non-landscape acrylic mini canvas.

Bowl of Jelly Babies+Acrylic+Nicola McLean
'Bowl of Babies' - Acrylic on mini canvas 5x5"

I didn't want to just paint the sweets on their own as that was too similar to the other painting so I decided to add a bit of interest by putting them into a glass bowl.

Bowl of Jelly Babies+acrylic++Nicola McLean

I've sketched out the bowl of licorice allsorts and will get started on that next.  I've really enjoyed painting this - it's so different from anything I've ever painted before - perhaps I'll do a whole sweetie series! Got to try to find some vegan-friendly jelly sweets though as S had to eat these once I'd finished with them. 

I didn't actually paint them from life, sitting on the table in front of me - I took a load of photos and worked from those instead - perhaps that defeats the purpose of still life paintings but the angle I wanted to paint them from would have meant me kneeling on the floor in front of the table!

Jelly Babies+Glass Bowl+Reflections+Acrylic+Nicola McLean

In other news, today I was sitting in the sun room having my lunch when two sheep walked past the window. Fair enough, we live right beside farmer's fields so there are sheep there a lot of the time.  But...these sheep weren't in the field - they were in our garden. More precisely, they were in a part of our garden that is secured by a gate at one end with and another gate at the other end with fences, bushes and a dry stone wall all the way around so how they got in is anyone's guess!

Mother and daughter a bit bemused as to how they got here!

I wasn't sure what to do and couldn't find the farmer's telephone number so I called the Scottish SPCA where I volunteer each week. They asked me for the number on the sheep's ear tag and from that where able to find out that they came from the estate across the road from our cottage.

After I managed to get them into the side garden to munch on the grass

I managed to 'shoo' them into a different part of our garden with grass in it so they could at least have something to eat and a while later two shepherds from the estate turned up to take them away.  At that point I felt really guilty as I wished I could've helped them in their bid to escape their unfortunate fate but instead I was handing them back over to their 'captors'. They managed to bundle the ewe back into their truck but her lamb ran off, jumped over our front garden wall onto the road and disappeared. She'll be missing her mum but will no doubt have been tracked down by now. I did ask the shepherd could I keep her if she turned up in my garden again - he laughed and said if I had a big enough freezer to which I indignantly replied 'Well, I'll not be eating her, I'll keep her as a pet'.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Nature's Palette - Scottish Landscape in impasto acrylics

sunset+scottish highland landscape+acrylic impasto+nicola mclean
'Nature's Palette' - acrylic impasto on mini canvas (5 x 4 inches)

This is another mini landscape that I started a little while ago and just added some finishing touches to, today. As always, I have S to thank for the gorgeous photos he takes that I then use as a reference. This was taken at Sandside Head which isn't far from our cottage.

Ah, sunsets. I vaguely remember them as, this week, it seems that winter has hi-jacked summer and poor autumn hasn't even had a look in! I've had to don hat, gloves, scarf, ear muffs and waterproof jacket to walk the dogs on the beach that mere weeks ago I walked on barefoot in short sleeves. I'm sure August used to still be a summer month!

Click to Purchase

In other news, I've actually been working on something totally different this week - different from anything I've painted so far because it is neither an animal nor a landscape! It's a little set of two paintings and I should hopefully be finished the first one at the weekend so once I've shown it to the person it's intended for, I'll be able to post it here and Facebook (not that it seems to matter as Facebook's weird algorithms ensure that very few folk actually see anything on pages that aren't making them money in the form of ad revenue!)Has anyone else noticed that the more 'likes' their page gets, the less people seem to interact with your posts? The more Facebook changes the more I'm tempted to just ditch it altogether but I'm too nosy and I like trawling through all the guff that clogs up my newsfeed to find posts from actual friends to see what they're up to!

This is my little PC companion (as in 'personal computer' not 'political correctness') Lily is the most affectionate cat ever and wants nothing more than to sit on your knee - all day if you'd let her! It makes typing a little more challenging but I love her snuggly warmth on my lap as I tap away at the keyboard!

Lily+tuxedo cat
Lily the PC cat
I'll be linking up with Paint Party Friday this week and catching up with new art from some of the regulars and newbies at the Party.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Marwick Sunset and a London Catch up

'Marwick Sunset' - impasto landscape 6 x 4 inches
This is another in the miniature impasto landscapes that I've been doing on the upcycled canvasses.  This is a view from Marwick on Orkney - another of S's wonderful reference photos.

I finished this a few weeks ago so thought I'd post it now as I was away visiting my sister in London last week I didn't get much in the way of art done.  

I had a fantastic week in London.  My sister had booked tickets to see the Royal Academy of Art's 2014 exhibition which was very diverse and caused much gaping of jaws as we made our way round the various paintings, prints and sculptures. Definitely something there for all tastes, I'd say and some that I suspect the artist was having a laugh with the viewer and the art establishment testing the waters to see just how easily a fool and his money really are parted!

Me and my sister, Audrey.

In front of Big Ben

Covent Garden

The London Eye

We also went to see a play called Invincible which was a really good black comedy and the Book of Mormon in the West End - a musical written by the creators of South Park so not for the easily offended! Needless to say I absolutely loved it! 

At Southbank

Piccadilly Circus
With my lovely friend, Eva. 

It was really lovely to have a great week catching up with my sister and I also managed a very long overdue catch up with my old friend, Eva, who I hadn't seen since 2006!  We met for dinner and drinks and both our meals ended up going cold as we spent so much time blethering we forgot to eat!

The weather was fabulous the whole week and I still got my dose of daily dogs walks as my sister walks the very lovely Monty (a cockerpoo) through a clever website called Borrow My Doggy where folk who don't have time to look after a dog of their own can walk other folks' dogs. He's adorable and is also one of my next pet portrait commissions!

Monty the Cockerpoo

At St.James's Park
I left London at 12.30 on Saturday and reached Glasgow at 10.15pm where the lovely S met me and we drove on through the night to finally make it back to Craggis Cottage after 4am this morning - a bit of an epic journey but the coach from Glasgow to London return was only £21.50 (I couldn't get a taxi from my house to the nearest town 12 miles away for that!!) so I made sure my Kindle was well charged and just read and dozed all the way!

My own batteries have been fully recharged and I'm looking forward to getting my paints out again tomorrow full of inspiration from my week in the Big Smoke!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The making of Scrappy and a Pet Portrait Giveaway

Pet Portrait+Dog+Lurcher+Acrylic+Box Canvas+Nicola McLean
'Scrappy' - acrylic on box canvas 5 x 5 inches

I’m really quite excited about today’s post for a number of reasons. But let’s start at the beginning. This is Scrappy, the lurcher. Scrappy’s person won the bid for a £50 gift voucher that I offered as a prize in the 3rd of the Lurcher/Greyhound charity auctions that I donated artwork to earlier this year. She decided to put the £50 towards a commissioned portrait of her dogs. 

Having had a look at the different style of portraits that I do she liked the miniature canvas in acrylic so opted to have two separate portraits done because as well as Scrappy, there is of course, Scooby. Unlike his namesake, this Scooby is not a fan of being photographed so is proving a little more challenging to get a good reference photo of. In the meantime, I got to work on Scrappy’s portrait.

At the early stages
My multi-talented husband, S, creates time lapse videos using the amazing photos he gets of sunset and northern lights and I often thought it would be a good idea to get a timelapse video of a painting from start to finish. The thing is, other than point and press, I don’t know much about the technical side of cameras so that is where S proved to be the best husband ever. He set his camera up on a tripod beside me (we discovered after watching the first bit back that we needed to move it to my right side as I’m left handed and my hand was getting in the way of the camera!). 

S set it to take a photo every 3 seconds and gave me a little remote control thingie so if I needed to stop for any reason (bathroom breaks, letting the dogs out, getting a cuppa etc) then I just needed to hit the button on the remote and then start it again when I was ready.

I spent about 8 hours on the portrait and S then spent a further 3 odd hours stitching together all the frames, creating the title and descriptions and putting it all together with music that fit the timing. He managed to squeeze it all down to about 5 minutes.

I’m pretty chuffed with it - I think it turned out well for a first attempt and I'll know better where to place the camera next time. 

Dog+Lurcher+Pet Portrait+Nicola

The third piece of news is that I recently created a new website specifically for animal art and pet portraits called To celebrate my website launch I'm having a give-away - a custom portrait like this one of Scrappy on 5 x 5 acrylic. Postage within the UK will also be free. 

So, how do you win? Just click on the link below - hopefully I've set it up right! Entry is open until 31 August 2014 so please share the love and let your animal loving friends and family know so they can enter too! The winner will be picked a random  and I'll announce who it is here and on my Facebook page so do pop back!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*edited-I'm linking to Paint Party Friday today but I'm also about to start a mega 690 mile Road trip from Reay to London so I may not get a chance to visit folk until later in the week!

Also for some reason YouTube has compressed my video so it looks a little squashed which is annoying!
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