Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Converse with the cosmos...

converse with the cosmos+surreal art+sneakers in space+Nicola McLean

First things first, yesterday was my 6th blogaversary. I only remembered thanks to Facebook and its memory prompts because I'd mentioned it last year on my 5th blogaversary. This is the 434th time I've posted to my blog which over the last six years has changed from PointyPix to NicseARTh and now to Art by Nicola McLean which it will remain. Over those years, I've moved from stippled ink to watercolours to acrylic and gouache and extended my choice of subject matter from pet portraits and animal art to include landscapes and still life using pointillism, realism, impressionism, expressionism, abstraction and surrealism! I'm so glad that I started blogging as it has definitely helped to motivate me to keep painting and to keep trying new things and, if nothing else, it's a great way to look back and see how far my art has evolved - I don't think anyone can accuse me of finding my niche and just sticking to it!

converse with the cosmos+surreal art+acrylic painting+sneakers+Nicola McLean

Now, when it comes to humour, I'm a huge fan of observational comedians, like Dara O'Briain, for example.  I'm really not a fan of one liner pun style humour like that of Milton Jones. I mean, it could be argued that it's clever word play but it just doesn't make me laugh the way a brilliantly told anecdote can. That said, I am fond of pun-type word play when it comes to the titles of my paintings because I like that it can be interpreted in more than one way (just not in the double entendre 'oh er missus' style of the Carry On films of the 60s and 70s!) 

converse with the cosmos+sneakers+surrealism+acrylic painting+Nicola McLean

Anyway, an example of what I mean is the title of my latest painting. Sometimes, I know instantly what I want to call a painting (Like with 'On thin ice' for the polar bear which worked literally and as a reference to how endangered they are.) Other times, I'll mull it over as I'm working on the painting and usually something will occur to me by the time it's finished (or else I'll find an appropriate song lyric). 

converse with the cosmos+sneaker+trainers+space+surreal art+Nicola McLean

For this one, I'd had the idea to paint a pair of sneakers for my space junk series and was taking photos of a pair I had (which weren't Converse) when it occurred to me that if I used actual Converse sneakers then I could call the painting 'Converse with the cosmos' (as opposed to 'Sneakers in space'!)and it would, indeed, work on more than one level especially given so many of my art ideas pop into my head during meditations (which is when I do converse with the cosmos!). (I spend way too much time alone in my own head, clearly).

converse with the cosmos+sneaker+trainers+space+surreal art+Nicola McLean

So, knowing my sister has several pairs of Converse, while I was in London with her last month, I took a heap of photos of her pink pair and then floated them off into the cosmos.

converse with the cosmos+sneaker+trainers+space+surreal art+Nicola McLean

In other news, I've been invited to take part in a local event at the end of July called Caithness Creative Festival which takes place over two days. So, I'm just trying to decide which paintings to put into that. 

surrealism+converse with the cosmos+surreal art+polar bear+on thin ice+Nicola McLean

I'm not sure whether to play it safe with landscapes because folk up here do seem to like landscapes, or dare to be different with my space junk paintings because so many other artists up here also do landscapes. Maybe I'll mix and match!

art shed+art studio+recycled pallets+Nicola McLean

At the weekend we ventured out in Campy McCampervan and I was delighted to stumble across art most unexpectedly in the absolute middle of nowhere! We went for a walk along a dirt path by a little tumbledown cottage and found these very unexpected (and rather strange but really well executed) works of art!

Just to put into context how remote this little ruin actually is! 

Clearly a dedicated graffiti artist who travels everywhere with their spray paints because you just never know when you'll find a wall in the middle of nowhere that could become a work of art!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Driven to abstraction...

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean
'Mood #1' - acrylic on canvas 50.5cm x 40.5cm x 1.5cm

Have you ever heard of Schrödinger's cat? The link can explain it better than I can but the idea was that a (theoretical)cat was put in a box with poison being released at random and according to quantum mechanics because we can't see into the box to determine if the cat is alive or dead then the cat is both alive and dead at the same time (which obviously isn't possible and was what Schrödinger was trying to show with his theoretical cat experiment).  

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean

Well, at the moment, thanks to Brexit (the outcome of which you'll know about unless you've been living under a rock for the last few days!) I find myself in a similar position to the cat only rather than being simultaneously alive and dead, thanks to the fact that I have dual nationality (both Irish and British) I find that I am currently simultaneously a citizen of the EU and not a citizen of the EU. A rather bizarre situation. 

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean
detail shot

Anyway, I wouldn't mention the whole debacle of a referendum in my art blog were it not for the fact that it sort of triggered my latest painting.

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean

Let me explain.  Recently I've been thinking about abstract art. While I've dabbled in the past with abstract realism with some of my small landscapes, it's no secret that I have never really understood non-representational abstract art and was a bit skeptical when artists gave a load of blobs and paint marks some profoundly deep meaning. So, on Friday I set out to prove that anyone could paint an abstract and pretend it had meaning. But when I tried to just randomly throw colours and shapes onto the canvas, I just couldn't get it to work (which didn't make sense to me because my whole theory was that it didn't have to 'work' it just had to be random). 

Detail shot

I seemed to have the equivalent of writer's block because at least when you're painting an actual object even if you are doing it in an impressionistic style you at least know what it is you are describing with your paintbrush. But, no matter how I tried, I just couldn't seem to paint 'nothing'. And then it dawned on me. Even non-representational abstract art really did have to have meaning - at least for me - to make it work. 

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean

So, I started over and decided to focus on how I was feeling (despondent but determined to be optimistic) and tried to 'paint' those emotions. It was amazing to me how the painting (while still essentially completely abstract mark making) seemed to come together and instead of just randomly adding colour I used specific colours and marks to paint how I felt. It was a revelation and I am very happy to say that I stand corrected on my previous thoughts on abstract art.

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean
detail shot

That doesn't mean I'll only be paintings abstracts in future - I like representational art too much but I am certain that I will paint more abstracts even if only to describe my mood at the time, perhaps in between the other paintings I'm working on. 

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean
detail shot

So, it seems that every cloud has a silver lining and the result of the EU referendum, whilst not the outcome I had hoped for, did help me discover another way to be creative - art therapy, if you like!

non-representational abstract+mood painting+abstract art+Nicola McLean
Available on Artfinder

In other news, I'm delighted to have been invited to take part in the Strathpeffer Art Fair again this year. Last year, we were in Iceland at the time of the exhibition so I was a bit distracted prior to submitting paintings and just posted off some older smaller pieces I happened to have. This year as we won't be long back from our Route 66 trip we won't be going away for our anniversary in November but will be able to take a local road trip in Campy McCampervan to drop off some paintings in person this time.

non-representational abstract art+colourful art+contemporary modern art+Nicola McLean
The usual photo putting the size into context

And, just to find some humour in today's crazy world - I saw this on Facebook and it made me laugh (it may help if you know he is a Northern Irish character in an English soap opera). Apparently the number of applications for Irish passports has gone through the roof since Brexit! Glad I've had mine since my twenties!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Hold it together...kilt pins and campervans

Hold it together+Surrealism+Scottish Art+Kilt Pin+Starry Skies+Nicola McLean
'Hold it together' - acrylic on box canvas 5x5 inches (12.5 x 12.5cm) 

So, kilt pins. They're designed to protect a Scotsman's modesty, being worn on the lower right hand side of the apron of a kilt to weigh it down at the front so it doesn't blow open in the wind and give everyone an eyeful (of course that doesn't prevent the back of the kilt from blowing up as I discovered when I googled kilt pins and found plenty of entertaining photos of full moons in Scotland!

Hold it together+Surrealism+Scottish Art+Kilt Pin+Starry Skies+Nicola McLean

This is another in the series of surreal space junk paintings. I was planning to paint a safety pin (and I still might) but thought it would be fun to give it a Scottish twist this time with a kilt pin instead.  Of course, this is a very basic bog standard kilt pin and they're often more ornate but this worked better for what I wanted.

Hold it together+Surrealism+Scottish Art+Kilt Pin+Starry Skies+Nicola McLean

I also learnt how kilt pins came into being and I'm sure you're dying to know so let me tell you. Queen Victoria is reputed to have taken pity on a young soldier who, on a very windy day, was afraid that he might give the Queen a view of Scotland that she hadn't bargained on, so she gave him her own brooch to pin to his kilt apron to hold it in place. She then decreed that all military kilts should have a means of fastening the apron down and so the kilt pin was born. 

Hold it together+Surrealism+Scottish Art+Kilt Pin+Starry Skies+Nicola McLean 

In other news, while I was in England last week S only went and bought a campervan!! We had talked about it so I knew it was possible and then he went to see this one which is 15 years old but only has 17,000 miles on the clock and has only been owned by one man who drove it just around the island of Orkney and two older ladies who, it seems, barely used it. It isn't the iconic VW Campervan from the 60s and 70s that my inner hippie always dreamed of owning but pretty as they are, there's barely room to turn around whereas this one is like a little tardis and even has a toilet and shower!!

I'm so excited because I do love our road trips and this means we can go see lots more places in the UK and just stop and camp where we fancy. We're even talking about a trip to the South of France next summer and taking the dogs with us and in future, when there's a possibility of seeing the northern lights we can jump in the campervan and head out somewhere dark and wait for them to appear inside with the heating on and a cup of coffee rather than standing outside in the freezing cold for hours!! 

S asked me what we should call him and in light of the recent 'Boaty McBoatface' story I suggested 'Campy McCampervan' (not entirely seriously, I have to say) but somehow it stuck and S even got a sticker made up to make it official!

Campy McCampervan

So that's all my news from the north this week. Wishing you all a lovely week and thanks as always for visiting my blog. 

kilt pin+surrealism+contemporary art+modern art+scottish art+Nicola McLean
Available to purchase at 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

On reflection...a landscape

Melvich Beach+seascape+contemporary colourful vibrant art+Nicola McLean
On reflection - acrylic on canvas 50 x 20 cm 

So, I've just got back from a very lovely few days in London with my sister and Skye. I left my sister's house at 6.30 yesterday morning for a flight at 9.00 allowing myself tonnes of time in case the traffic was bad. Except I read the ticket wrong and it was actually at 9.50 so I really did give myself a lot of time. Still imagine if it had been earlier instead of later. 

Melvich Beach+seascape+contemporary+Scottish+ colourful vibrant art+Nicola McLean

Having optimistically allowed myself 55 minutes from landing in Inverness airport to get to the bus station 20 minutes away for the 12.20pm coach, I was more than relieved when the flight boarded in plenty of time. Until that is, the one person who didn't bother to board on time decided to keep us all waiting so that we took off 45 minutes late. Then the girl in the seat beside me managed to tip her glass of water all over my seat while I was sitting in it. Still, she also had a cup of coffee so it could've been worse. 

Melvich Beach+seascape+contemporary+Scottish+ colourful vibrant art+Nicola McLean

Then we finally landed at 11.50 and having already lost any hope of making it to the bus station in time it didn't seem to matter so much when I then had to wait a further 45 minutes for my suitcase to make it off the plane (despite Inverness being practically the world's smallest airport!). Still, I ended up getting a train instead which is very scenic as it passes through some beautiful countryside and coastline along the way although it does stop at every hole in the hedge and therefore takes four hours to get to Thurso instead of three for the bus (or two and a half if you just drive your own car!) The journey from London to Thurso ended up taking about 12 hours - that's halfway to Australia!

Melvich Beach+seascape+contemporary+Scottish+ colourful vibrant art+Nicola McLean

Anyway, it was worth it as I had such a lovely time and my sister, as always, spoiled me rotten and Skye slept on my bed every night which I just loved. She's settled in to city life perfectly and is utterly adored and spoiled and gets walked for miles every day around all the many parks along the Thames where my sister lives! 

Skye, Audrey and me

Skye the springer spaniel
Skye looking adorable

We went to see Anastacia play in the court yard in Hampton Court Palace - a great venue and such a powerful voice for such a tiny woman!

Anastacia at Hampton Court Palace

The view from our seats

A wee picnic in the palace grounds before the concert

Anyway, art. This is a painting I finished just before I went to London but didn't get round to taking any photos or blogging it. 

Melvich Beach+seascape+contemporary+Scottish+ colourful vibrant art+Nicola McLean

I'd just gotten some new canvasses in different sizes and this longer thinner one was perfect for this seascape. It was inspired by Melvich beach on dull, grey day when, despite how dreich it was, there was a wonderful reflection of the cliffs on the wet sand with the sky reflected in other puddles of sea water along the beach. Although nature's palette that day was really quite subdued I decided to make my interpretation much more vibrant.

Melvich Beach+seascape+contemporary+Scottish+ colourful vibrant art+Nicola McLean

Thanks as always for popping by. I'll leave you with this perfect little sign I found on a bench I'd sat on while waiting with Skye for my sister to pop into a shop in Kingston - I'd chosen the seat specifically because it faced away from the main shopping throng so the sign seemed most appropriate!


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