Sunday, 22 May 2016

Between the lines...a zebra


zebra painting+surrealism+crescent moon+Art By Nicola McLean +Animal art
'Between the lines' - acrylic on canvas 24 x 30cm (9.5 x 11.5 inches)

The zebra's stripes represent a blending and balancing of opposites, the yin and yang, illusion and reality - the white on black or black on white indicates that what you see is not always what you get so sometimes you need to read between the lines. 

zebra+animal art+wildlife art+surrealism+zebra eye+acrylic painting+Nicola McLean



zebra+animal art+wildlife art+surrealism+zebra eye+acrylic painting+Nicola McLean+crescent moon


The funny thing is I didn't look up what the zebra symbolises until after I had painted this - it just happened to tie in perfectly with my surreal space zebra!

zebra+animal art+wildlife art+surrealism+zebra eye+acrylic painting+Nicola McLean


zebra+animal art+wildlife art+surrealism+zebra eye+acrylic painting+Nicola McLean

zebra+animal art+wildlife art+surrealism+zebra eye+acrylic painting+Nicola McLean
Available on my website

This may be the shortest blog post ever. I have nothing to report. Life is good, quiet and full of ideas that may at some point make it on to canvas. Thanks for popping by - your lovely comments remind me I'm not just whistling in the wind!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Spirit Animals - the turtle


sea turtle+surrealism+space+cosmic+vibrant+animal art+Nicola McLean
Spirit animal - turtle

Do you know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? I was never really sure but, in looking into the meaning of the turtle/tortoise spirit animal, I found out - a tortoise lives on land and a turtle lives in water (at least most of the time). That's the simplified jist of it anyway, although I’m sure Sir David Attenborough would be able to give you a much more detailed and fascinating picture, but when it comes to spirit animal meanings they seem to both represent pretty much the same thing.

Firstly, they represent peace, which could be finding peace of mind or peace in your environment. The turtle is considered to be the peace-maker in some Native American traditions (Although mine looks a little cross - perhaps at all the humans who refuse to just live peacefully!)


spirit animal art+turtle+close up+Nicola McLean+Artist


They are also a symbol of the earth. The American continent is referred to as Turtle Island in Native American folklore and it's said that the turtle carried the weight of the land of that continent on her back. In Hindu and Chinese cultures she's shown carrying Mother Earth and holding the world in balance.




If you remember Aesop's fables you might remember the story of the tortoise and the hare and how slow and steady won the race? That’s what turtle also represents, teaching us to stick at our chosen path in life with determination and to stay strong despite obstacles and distractions (useful to remember when it seems that things aren’t moving forward as quickly as you would like). I’d definitely rather be the tortoise as there is more joy in the journey than rushing to be the first to reach the destination.

turtle flipper+Art by Nicola McLean+Animal Art


The turtle spirit animal also represents longevity because of the fact that turtles and tortoises can have very long lives so, if you have turtle as your spirit animal, although it might take you longer than most to make your mark or reach your goal, when you do the results tend to be long-lasting and solid.

Initially I was going to paint a tortoise with its shell as the earth but then I thought that I’d used that symbolism a little too much recently what with Skye’s ball and the Dandelion clock so instead I thought about painting a sea turtle and then I found this stunning photograph by Linda Willason on PaintMy Photo which was perfect for what I had in mind. 

Credit: Linda Willason

In other news, Dove Watch has been successful this week as I managed to be at the dining room table when Mrs Dove was feeding her hatchling and was lucky enough to sneak a couple of photos through the window!




I thought at first there was just the one baby but today I discovered that she actually has two. They were born a week ago so in about another two weeks they should be ready to fledge. It's all very lovely to be so close to nature like this - it's like having our very own nature documentary unfolding outside the window!



In other arty news, I recently applied to a fairly new online art gallery called Fine Art Seen and am delighted that I've been accepted to sell my art there. I would still like to find a bricks and mortar gallery at some point but for now it's good to get into a few different online galleries.  I was also approached by another new one called Opius back in February and finally got round to uploading some of my paintings to their website as well.  It does take a little longer for the admin in uploading work to several places but it will hopefully mean my paintings will be seen by a wider audience than would ever see them in my little corner of Scotland.

Well, that's all my news. Wishing you a lovely weekend. I'm home alone as S is away to Glasgow so I'll mostly be painting and catching up on Grey's Anatomy!

spirit animal art+art by nicola mclean+turtle+sea turtle+Surrealism

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The birds and the bees...


bluetit+bird art+animal art+miniature art+Nicola McLean
Blue tit in acrylic on canvas 12.5 x 12.5cm (5x5 inches)

While I was working on the painting I posted last week of the two highland cows I decided to take a break from all the many layers of cow hair and do a quick little painting on a mini canvas. There are some lovely reference photos of various little birds, all taken by Gary Jones on Paint My Photo, so thought I'd start with a wee blue tit. 

art by nicola mclean+blue tit+close up+acrylic paint


I fancied I'd rattle out a quick, loose impressionistic painting in a couple of hours (you know, like folk who take part in those 'a painting a day' groups). Wrong. Turns out I'm not that good at 'quick' paintings. I like texture and layers too much, it seems. Perhaps I found it difficult to be loose with my brush strokes because this is such a small painting - the bird is practically life size and, as you know, they're only little so it required tiny brushes and tiny brush strokes. Whatever the reason, it ended up taking me two and a bit days to finish! At least now I know what to expect when I come to do any of the other birds - they won't be done in a day.

art by nicola mclean+blue tit+close up+acrylic paint
To put the size into context

In other news, we finally found out which bee paintings have been shortlisted for the Great British Bee Count project run by Friends of the Earth in collaboration with Artfinder. The top secret celebrity turned out to be Jo Woods (ex wife of Ronnie Woods of Rolling Stone fame) who is now an interior designer and environmentalist, apparently. She was tasked with curating the exhibition which it also turns out is in a tiny room in MyHotel Chelsea. The tininess of the room meant that she could only choose 18 paintings out of over 300. The enormousness (and not enormity apparently - I checked Google as I wasn't sure if enormousness was even a word!) of the task resulted in her final decision being delayed and then delayed a bit more and then delayed a while longer. She finally made her choices and we were told a couple of days ago. Mine was not one of those chosen. Hey Ho.


#GreatBritishBeeCount #FriendsoftheEarth #ArtfinderBees Nicola McLean
Available to purchase from my Artfinder shop

Here are the paintings which where chosen if you'd like to have a look. The rest of us will be blasting social media on 19 May with our bee paintings and the hashtags #GreatBritishBeeCount #ArtfinderBees to help raise awareness of the event. If my bee sells I'll donate a percentage to Friends of the Earth and I think that many of the other artists plan to do the same so although it's disappointing that the exhibition turned out to be so small hopefully it will all still help to raise awareness on the plight of the bees which is what it's all about. 


art by nicola mclean+blue tit+close up+acrylic paint
Available from my website

In other news, if you've been a long time visitor to my blog you might remember Phillip and then Pedro, the pheasants who became familiar figures in our garden and surrounding fields, until they succumbed to either the bullet or the road. Well, there's a new kid in town.

Meet Prong, so called because of the strange protuberance sticking out (like a prong) just above his beak.  

Prong the pheasant

We're not sure if this is a deformity or not but we've never seen any other male pheasants with anything like it.  He isn't yet coming up to us for bird seed like Phillip and Pedro did, but he was marching confidently round our garden the other day and is a regular in the fields at the back of our cottage so hopefully he'll stick around and stay out of the way of the shoots and traffic for a while yet.


One of the wee satellite dish doves!

In other bird related news,  last year a pair of collared doves attempted to make a nest at the back of our satellite dish but abandoned it a few twigs in. They came back this year and went ahead and built one, and very precariously placed it is too as you can see from the photo above! Lucky for us the satellite dish is conveniently just outside our dining room window so we can see their comings and goings and yesterday I'm pretty sure their egg hatched! I caught a tiny peek of a teeny little baby but mostly the mum (or dad as they share duties) seems to be keeping it warm under their bodies. Hopefully we'll get to see more as it grows.

That's all the Wildlife News from Craggis Cottage this week, thanks for popping by!


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mother Earth...a Highland cow and her wee calf


Highland Cow+Highland calf+Mother Earth+Impressionism+Northern Lights+Aurora Borealis+Scottish Art+Nicola McLean
'Mother Earth' - acrylic on canvas 76cm x 50cm (approx 30 x 20 inches)

I decided to call this painting 'Mother Earth' because cows are wonderfully nurturing and protective mothers. Although this isn't technically one of my spirit animal paintings, I decided to look up what a cow represents and strangely (as I'd already decided on the title at this point) this is what it said:

'In many cultures animal symbolism of the cow is married to the concept of Mother Earth and has been linked to the symbols of fertility, nurturing and power for centuries.' So, seems I chose well!

highland cows+Scotland+Highlands+Northern Lights+Mother Earth+Impressionism+Nicola McLean

Today is Mother's Day in Australia and the USA. I'm not sure why they observe a different date to the UK so I did a little bit of Googling and found out that the American version of Mother's Day was created by a woman called Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official American holiday in 1914. Anna Jarvis later denounced the day's commericalisation and spent her later years trying to remove it from the calendar. 

Highland cow and highland calf+Aurora Borealis+Northern Lights+Impressionism+Scottish Art+Nicola McLean

Celebrating motherhood and mothers can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome where they held festivals in honour of mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele but the most recent link is the early Christian festival of Mothering Sunday - this was once a major tradition in the UK and Europe and fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful flock would return to their 'mother church' - the church closest to their home - for a special service. Over time it became more secular (probably once big business saw a way to exploit it) and it became a day instead when people buy their mums cards, presents and flowers to remind them they are loved.

Detail shot

Why am I talking about this, you may ask? Well, this painting depicts a mother and her child and I thought it was appropriate to remember that it isn't only humans who are mothers and who have children that they love. Cows form very strong bonds with their calves but unfortunately because they are generally seen as units of production, rather than the sentient creatures they are, when it comes to dairy farming they have their calves taken away from them, often within 24 hours, so that the milk isn't 'wasted' on them when it could instead be sold to humans. 


Beef cattle, like these Highland cows, are a little bit luckier in the parenthood stakes as they get to keep their calves with them to wean naturally over a few months rather than mere days and get to enjoy the close bond they form with their calf more in the way nature intended. At least for a little while (bearing in mind that the 'highest quality beef' apparently comes from animals under 36 months). Food for thought.

Highland cow and highland calf+Aurora Borealis+Northern Lights+Impressionism+Scottish Art+Nicola McLean

Thank you to local photographer, Gavin Paul Bird, who very kindly gave me permission to paint from a beautiful photo he'd taken of this mother and her calf. I simply removed the horrible yellow tags from the calf's ears and added the northern lights!


These larger paintings are so difficult to photograph. The paint has a lovely sheen which is great but not so much when it creates a glare no matter what angle you try to snap. I've tried to show the colours as accurately as possible but none of these photos really do them justice and they seem to change with each one.

Hard at work on a beautiful sunny day!

Anyway, sorry for the post going on a bit of a vegan rant but it breaks my heart to think of how we treat these beautiful creatures and hearing a cow bellowing for her calf is one of the most hauntingly sad sounds you'll ever hear. 

highland calf+close up texture painting+Nicola McLean


Right, I'll finish on a lighter note. Normally when we're driving past a field with cows I'll say 'aw look at that wee calf' and S will inevitably say 'I could do with one of those' to which I'll roll my eyes and sigh and say 'what?' knowing full well what's coming and he'll say 'A week off'(a wee calf/week aff?! - perhaps only works when said in a Scottish accent!) Ah, the hours fly by!

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