Monday, 17 November 2014

Tulli - a pet portrait

Rottweiler/Labrador cross+Pet Portrait+Acrylic+Mini Canvas+Nicola McLean

Back in April I took part in an art swap called Pay It Forward that I heard about through my friend, Marji

Marji is an encaustic artist and I received a lovely intricate piece of art from her quite some time ago.

I hadn't been too sure what I would send her back but then fate unfortunately intervened. Marji had a dog, Tulli, a beautiful rottweiler/labrador cross. She was old and unwell and back in May Marji had to make the heartbreaking decision to help her cross the rainbow bridge because she was in a lot of pain and, as anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to a furry family member knows, there comes a time when you have to do what's best for them no matter how much your heart is breaking. I asked Marji if she would mind if I painted a portrait of Tulli as my gift to her in the Pay it Forward swap.

Although the reason for painting this was sad, it has been one of my favourite portraits to paint. Tulli was such a beautiful dog and I love her little Billy Idol-esque curled lip, which Marji said was a quirky little expression that was typically her. 

I have already shown the portrait to Marji and I'm honoured to say that it brought tears to her eyes - not that I'm in the habit of making my friends cry but it's a huge compliment to an artist to evoke emotion in that way and I'm so pleased to have been able to capture Tulli's essence in the portrait.

The original Tulli - photo by Marji

This will be my only blog post this week because I'm very excited to report that Steve and I are off to London this weekend to take in a show and celebrate our anniversary (9 years together, 4 years married!) which is actually tomorrow, 18th November. My sister has very kindly offered to dog and cat sit and essentially swap houses with us - we get her house and all the excitement of the big smoke and she gets our house, three dogs and a cat and my teal green Hunter wellies!!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Nature's Neon Lights...A Scottish Landscape

aurora borealis+northern lights+impressionism+expressionism+vibrant+landscape+nicola mclean
'Nature's Neon Lights' - acrylic on canvas (7.5cm x 7.5cm)

Well, it's been a busy week here at Craggis Cottage. I'm delighted to report that 'Far Out', the painting in my last post sold via my Facebook page the same day I posted it. I'm very grateful that that's the second time that's happened recently and I've also sold 20 greetings cards after they were spotted on Facebook so I guess I have to admit it isn't all bad as far as social media goes! 

aurora borealis+northern lights+impressionism+expressionism+vibrant+landscape+nicola mclean

Most of the landscapes I've done so far have been small - mostly 5x5 inches - the same box canvasses I use for my pet portraits. I do like that size and prefer the thick box canvas to the thinner ones as I think they look better when hung without being framed.  I've got a stack of thinner stretched canvasses though, which I need to use so I've been working on one of those this week. I thought it was finished but, looking at photos of it now, I see a couple of areas I want to change a little so I won't be posting it today after all. Isn't it funny how you can spot things in a photo of a painting that you didn't notice when looking at the painting itself? I know I've mentioned that before but I find it a really helpful way to see what I need to change and I was pleased to notice another artist on the Portrait Artist of the Year TV show doing exactly the same thing when she was painting a portrait live on the show last week!

Anyway, as I couldn't very well write an art blog post without any art, and, as it's now the time of year when S disappears off at night to deserted beaches with his camera equipment as soon as his aurora app beeps to alert him to a possible northern light show, here's another teeny tiny landscape inspired one of the great photos he took earlier this year.

aurora borealis+northern lights+impressionism+expressionism+vibrant+landscape+nicola mclean

I'll be linking up with Paint Party Friday to catch up with what everyone else has been up to this week. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Far out - a Scottish Landscape

Sandwood Bay+Scottish Far North+Seascape+Vibrant+Colour+Acrylic+Nicola McLean
'Far Out' - acrylic on canvas 5x5 inch inspired by Sandwood Bay, Scotland

I've just finished another pet portrait commission but I can't show it yet as it's a surprise birthday present for later this month so in the meantime, here's another vibrant Scottish landscape.

I used to only ever work on one piece at a time thinking it was best to get one finished before starting the next in case I ended up with a heap of never quite completed works in progress, but I've discovered it's far more enjoyable to work on at least two if not three or four pieces at the same time.

For one thing, it stops you from going on to auto pilot and, as in the case of my pet portraits, when there is a lot of small detail that take many painting sessions to build up layer upon layer, it also stops the process becoming tedious - you wouldn't want to always eat the same food for dinner, do the same kind of exercise or read the same book over and over, no matter how much you loved it, so I guess it's a similar sort of thing - I get to mix up small, fine details with tiny paint brushes on one canvas with big blobs of paint practically flung from a palette knife at another canvas. Different types of mark making keep it fresh and interesting for me and it's also a great way to make use of excess paint on my palette that I might otherwise have wasted (I only recently realised I could cover unused acrylic paint with cling film to keep it from drying out overnight so needless to say a lot of paint had been going to waste in Craggis Cottage!)

Sandwood Bay+Impressionism+Vibrant Acrylics+Nicola McLean
'Far Out' - 5x5 inch box canvas - ready to hang

Anyway, this is my interpretation of one of our favourite places along the far north coast. I've mentioned it before and I've painted it before - Sandwood Bay, the most remote beach in the UK. I came up with the title in part because of the sunset is a little trippy and surreal and in part because Sandwood Bay is so far out quite literally - a 4.5 mile walk from where you park the car, to be exact!

We last went there about a year ago - unfortunately we couldn't go this year as we can't walk Skye that far until she's over a year old so It'll be next summer probably before we get back there but it'll be worth the wait as it's probably the most beautiful and unspoilt beach along this coast and there's plenty of stiff competition for that title!

Do you have a favourite spot where you live or somewhere you visited and would like to return to? For me it's always by the coast no matter where in the world I go - the sea both scares and fascinates me - nature at it's most wild and impressive I think and always a source of inspiration especially when coupled with dramatic skies!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

There's something in the air...a seascape

Scottish+Seascape+Vibrant acrylic+abstract+impressionism+Nicola McLean
'There's something in the air' - acrylic on canvas 5x5 inch

So, summer ended a while ago up here and autumn is rapidly giving way to winter. I’m torn over whether I love or loathe this time of year.

On the one hand, the things I love are: 
  • A roaring fire (this year we’ll have a wood burning stove so no more smoke blowing back down the chimney when the wind changes direction!)
  • Jumpers and fleecy pyjamas - I love cosy clothes. (I also love the idea of floaty maxi dresses and flip flops but even in summer the chance of getting to wear them up here is as remote as the village we live in!)
  • It's practically a requirement to drink mulled wine and spiced cider.
  • The sunsets and sunrises seem even more spectacular than they are in the summer and the sun sets so early and hangs so low in the sky that we have a wonderful view of it setting from the kitchen and sun room windows.
  • The idea of crisp autumn mornings with the leaves still clinging to the trees or carpeting the paths in a blaze of earthy golds and reds. 
  • Blowing the dust off the Christmas CDs (metaphorically speaking, that is, as they're all on the iPod) on 1 December, listening to all the cheesy classics while decorating the Christmas tree and drinking mulled wine (did I mention that I love mulled wine?!)
  • Watching Polar Express on Christmas Eve which we’ve done every year since 2005, while drinking mulled wine (hmm, there’s a bit of a theme here)
  • The clear nights with a gazillion stars and the chance to see the northern lights from our village beach.

'There's something in the air' - acrylic on canvas 5x5 inch

On the other hand I don’t care so much for:
  • The reality of wet, muddy autumn days with barely a red or gold leaf to be seen. Instead there are brown mulchy leaves cleverly disguising the dog poop that other folk don’t bother to pick up!
  • The need for waterproof trousers and jackets 9 out of 10 times that we walk the dogs. Although, in fairness, that could happen just as easily in the summer up here as the winter and if it’s a really rainy morning, S will put the westies back into bed with me (they think they’re made of spun sugar and will melt if they get wet) and he walks Skye (the springer spaniel who doesn’t even notice the rain because she’s too busy lying in puddles anyway!)
  • Walking the dogs in the dark wearing high visibility vests and head torches. Granted this only happens on the two mornings a week that I work in town when we have to get up at 6am to walk them before work, but now that it's dark by 4.30pm we've no choice but to walk them in the dark in the evenings now too (unless S takes Skye on her own and the westies stay home with me - see point above!).
  • The fact that I really feel the cold so on the days when I’m at home painting, not wanting to have the central heating blasting all day long so instead channelling the Michelin Man/Pilsbury Doughboy with all the many layers of clothes I wear and the hot water bottles down my jumper.
  • The fact that there is so little day light that I get less painting time (although my daylight lamp is the best thing ever for extending painting time on dark Scottish days) 

Well, it seems that there are more things I love than not and those invigorating walks on the beach every day (in daylight hours) do mean I get some fabulous Instagram photos of dramatic skies and the moody Atlantic ocean which serve as inspiration for paintings! Here's the original grainy photo which inspired the painting in this post- I just coloured it happy!

What do you love and loathe about the winter months?

I'll be linking to Paint Party Friday (I'm just a bit early in posting is all!) Thanks to Kristin and Eva who host every week so we can all hang out together!


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