Thursday, 18 December 2014

Where it all began. A Cornish Landscape.

I can’t believe we’re at the end of 2014 already. This seems like the quickest year on record but what a year it’s been.

Fowey+Cornwall+Impressionism+Acrylic+Vibrant+Nicola McLean
'Where it all began' - impasto acrylic on canvas 30cm x 20cm

In January I did my Reiki 2nd Degree which saw me qualify as a reiki practitioner should I decide I want to go down that route (I don’t; I'm happy enough using it on myself and my animals and sending distant reiki to friends and family further away).

In March we sadly said goodbye to our 14 year old rescue cat, Purdey, and then in May we added to our furry family with Lily (the world’s most affectionate cat) and again in June with Skye (the world’s most energetic and sweet natured Springer Spaniel) - a hazard of volunteering at an animal shelter is the increased likelihood of adopting cute critters in need of a home!

Close up of big, juicy plabs of paint!

I've spent more time this year casting my virtual net wider and my paintings are now available on several on-line galleries including bGallery, Artists and Illustrators and Scotland’s Artists as well as via on-line directory Shop Scotland and, of course, my own website, and next year I want to work towards getting more of my art into actual galleries as well as virtual ones – that’s the plan anyway.

In August I got the fantastic news that I won the GreatArt Postcard Challenge competition and in September I took an amazing painting holiday in Cornwall with contemporary colourist Ashley Hanson as part of the prize.

The painting illustrating today’s post is one of the paintings I completed during the week of the painting holiday – it’s a view of Fowey looking across the water from Polruan.

This is what it originally looked like:

Photo Credit: Denise Hanson

I wasn't that happy with it at the time as I was still struggling to let go of my need to have things look realistic. However, after I returned from the painting holiday I let what Ashley taught us sink in and just started trying to loosen up and paint more intuitively rather than slavishly trying to replicate exactly what I saw. 

As a result I've become a bit of a colour fiend. A lot of what I learnt on the painting holiday clearly resonated with me and it helped that, even before I won the prize, I’d been feeling the need to move my art on in a different, less rigid, direction and so, I decided to rework this Cornish landscape (which other than the little red and white lighthouse could easily pass for a scene in the far north of Scotland) and took out an entire landmass to give a better sense of space. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out and I hope that Ashley will take pride in knowing that his workshop really did set me on a new colourful path artistically. 

Close up of texture of ocean

If you read my last post you'll know I've been using song lyrics for titles recently but this one I decided to call 'Where it all began' as I see the painting holiday as the start of my journey into a more vibrant and impressionistic way of painting.

The last few months have seen me produce the work I am happiest with so far. I've been lucky enough to have had several pet portrait commissions which has kept me with a toe dipped in the realism waters while I've also been able to cut loose with colour and texture on several landscapes, a few of which have already sold or are currently in exhibitions both locally at Caithness Horizons and further down the Scottish west coast in Dornie on the Kyle of Lochalsh at The Schoolhouse Gallery.

Yes, it’s definitely been the year that has seen me evolve the most artistically and I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way and for all the people who have encouraged me, supported me and purchased my paintings.

I've been a sporadic visitor to Paint Party Friday this year but I do try to pop by and visit some of the good friends I've made in the on-line art community when I can. As I'm now officially finished with my Christmas commissions and can take a little bit of a painting holiday (although I won’t really as painting isn't really work, is it?!) I'll be linking up this week and will spend some time catching up with what everyone else is up to over the festive period.

Polruan+Fowey+Cornwall+Impressionism+Landscape+Nicola McLean
'Where it all began' 

By the way, a good friend of mine, suggested I add an option to purchase my art here on my blog so the button below is just there should you find yourself with an overwhelming urge to have a piece of colourful Cornwall up on your wall!

*Update - I had to remove the 'buy now' button as I'm very happy to report that this piece has now been sold!

Thank you, as always, for taking the time visit my blog and I wish everyone a very peaceful Christmas and a New Year full of colour and light.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

(It may be raining but) There's a rainbow above you. A Seascape.

'There's a rainbow above you' - acrylic on canvas 30cm x 40cm

This is a painting I started quite a few weeks ago. It was one of those ones where I took two brush strokes forward and four back. I'd get an effect or a colour I liked then instead of leaving it well alone I'd add just one more brush stroke or just a little more texture and all of a sudden I'd overworked it and lost the bit that I'd  liked. I'd get the sky the way I wanted then fiddle around with the sea. Then the sea would be just right and I'd mess around with the sky again. And so on. Believe me there were many incarnations of this painting before I reached this final version but I won't bore you with showing you each one. 

Close up

Anyway, I figured it was my 'try it and see' piece so I'd have a little go at it every day in between other paintings and eventually I got it where I wanted it and actually listened to the little art policeman in my head who told me to put the brush down and step away from the canvas.  

A lot of the texture is by happy accident but each time I do something that gets a result I like I store it away in my head hoping I'll be able to recreate it the next time. As well as layering paint on with palette knives and then scraping it off again, I've also started using a dry brush technique which I quite like for giving movement to the stormy skies.

Close up

This is on one of the thin canvases that I don't really like so much but that I need to use up anyway. It's 30cm x 40cm so a bit bigger than my usual canvases and is now hanging on the wall of the Schoolhouse Gallery as part of the Colour exhibition which runs through to January. 

Mary from the Schoolhouse left me a lovely phone message to say she'd received my paintings and that they were even better and more vibrant in real life that the photos conveyed which was such a lovely thing to hear. Hopefully someone visiting the Schoolhouse during the Colour Exhibition will feel the same way and feel the need to add some colour to their home with one of my paintings.  

Close up

As for the title - I don't expect anyone will have noticed but the last few landscapes I've painted have had lines from songs as their titles. I knew, as soon as I decided to paint this from an instagram photo I'd taken one day, what the title would be. 

I often wonder how some artists come up with titles for their art. I've used puns or at least tried to come up with something witty or smart. Then for a while I employed a complete lack of imagination and simply called them what they were (e.g. Sunset at Sandside, Stormy Strathy etc.) 

'There's a rainbow above me'

Then one night S and I sat up to the early hours of the morning trying to out sing each other on the XBox game 'Lips' and I happened to sing a Pretenders song 'Don't get me wrong'. Never having really listened to the Pretenders much before I realised as I belted it out (badly) that I loved this song and the lyrics in particular. I remember thinking at the time that some of the lines would be great titles for paintings. In fact that's where 'There's something in the air' came from. So, since then I've used lines from songs I love that happen to fit the mood or feel of the painting. I'm not sure if that is some sort of plagiarism and I do hope not - hopefully the songwriter. were they ever to discover a painting with a line from their song as the title, would instead be flattered that their lyrics had struck an artistic chord with me! 

I'd love to know where you come up with the titles for your artwork - what inspires it and do you have the title in mind as soon as you start the painting? 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Emma. A pet portrait.

It's been a while since I posted any pet portraits. This is one I was commissioned to do in October for a birthday present in November so, as it's been received I think it's now okay to blog about it. 

King Charles spaniel+pet portrait+acrylic+Nicola McLean
'Emma' - acrylic on box canvas 5x5 inch

Emma is a gorgeous little King Charles Spaniel who lives in Florida and who has been suffering from health problems for a while. Hopefully after some serious surgery she is now on the mend. 

King Charles Spaniel+Pet Portrait+Nicola McLean
The real Emma.
I've just finished another pet portrait, this time for a Christmas gift and started on the last one I'll be doing this side of Christmas. I've still got a few to do in the New Year but as they aren't gifts, there isn't an immediate rush on them so once I finish the next one, I plan to start a piece to enter into next year's Wildlife Artist of the Year competition. I've got an idea of what I want to do but whether I can translate that from thought to canvas remains to be seen!

Box canvas+gallery wrapped canvas+pet portrait+King Charles Spaniel

In other news, I noticed on Facebook a couple of days ago that a gallery called the Schoolhouse Dornie is holding an exhibition called Colour.  It already started before I found out about it but I messaged them asking if it might be a yearly thing as I was too late for this one.

Anyway the upshot was that I was invited to submit some work anyway as it runs right through to January so I have 4 landscapes winging their way to the Kyle of Lochalsh today.  The idea was that the pieces were to be no larger than 20cm x 20cm so I'm sending some of the little landscapes I did earlier in the year. One of my recently completed pieces is 30 x 40cm and I'd sent an image of that before I knew the size limits so  I was chuffed when I was asked to send it anyway to join part of a larger exhibition in their main gallery as she loved the vibrancy of it! I haven't posted that one yet but if I've piqued your curiosity then please do pop back next week to see what it looks like!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Still rock and roll. Duncansby Stacks, the Northern Lights & Shop Scotland.

Duncansby Stacks+Northern Lights+Scottish Landscape+Impressionism+Nicola McLean
'Still rock and roll' - acrylic on box canvas 5x5
Available to purchase from Caithness Horizons
This is the landscape I put into the Caithness Horizons Christmas Exhibition in place of the one that sold just before the exhibition started. The location is a very well known and easily recognisable one if you're familiar with the far north coast of Scotland. It's Duncansby Stacks part of Duncansby Head which is the true farthest northerly point of the UK and not John O'Groats which somehow has that reputation (perhaps John O'Groats is easier to get to by bicycle?)

I pretty much made this painting up based on some photos S had taken when we first visited Duncansby Stacks in March 2012 (little knowing at the time that less than a year later we'd have moved here lock, stock and westies!) I just made my Duncansby a little more colourful and added the northern lights because isn't that the very wonder of artistic licence!

Scottish Landscape+Impressionism+Duncansby Stacks+Northern Lights+Nicola McLean

In other news this week, I'm excited to report that I'm now a member of Shop Scotland, a wonderful directory of artists and crafters located all around Scotland. I've added their button to my blog so please feel free to have a browse around - there are some fabulous delights to discover from designers, local artisan foods, artists, crafters and handmade beauty products. If you're from Scotland and want to shop locally then it's a great place to discover something new and original and if you're from anywhere else and want to discover something new and original which just happens to be produced/created in Scotland then it's also well worth a visit!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Time between the tides. An Orkney Island seascape

So in my last post, I mentioned that I had given two of my mini landscapes a rainbow coloured do over. 

This is the second one:

Orkney Islands+Landscape+Vibrant+Colourist+Impressionism+Nicola McLean
'Time between the tides' - acrylic on box canvas 5x5 inch

This is how it started out earlier this year:

Mark 1 - impasto

Then I went over it with the sponger dabber:

Mark 2 - sponge texture

Then I had at it with all the colours of the rainbow and removed the land mass in the background altogether!

vibrant+acrylic+impressionism+Scottish landscape+Nicola McLean
As it looks now

I took all four paintings to the gallery on Thursday then I discovered that a lovely lady in England wanted to buy 'Into the blue' so I got busy at the weekend finishing another landscape and I'm going in to the gallery today to swap it over - first time I've ever sold a painting before the exhibition opened which I'm delighted about!

I'm still working on pet portraits but as they're all Christmas presents I won't be able to show them until after Christmas (even though I'm fairly certain neither recipient reads my blog or even knows of its existence!)

Thanks again to everyone who takes the time to pop by, it is appreciated. Wishing everyone a very good week.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Sure as Sunrise. A seascape.

Scottish+impressionism+vibrant+acrylic+seascape+sunrise+Nicola McLean
'Sure as sunrise' - impasto acrylic on box canvas 5x5 inches

So this week, it's been all about the bright, bout the bright, no drizzle (can't get that song out of my head!). 

I'd mentioned that I was submitting some art to the Caithness Horizons Christmas Exhibition which is on from Tuesday 2 December right through until the first week in January.

well, I had some little landscapes I did earlier in the year and I had planned to take two of them and my more recent ones (Into the blue and There's something in the air) but even though I'd already reworked both of the older pieces once before, when I put them beside my more recent pieces they just seemed so dull. So, as part of my ongoing artistic evolution towards the bright side, I took a risk and decided to rework both pieces again using a more vibrant palette.

It could've all gone disastrously wrong and I'd have been two pieces short for the exhibition but I'm glad to say that I was very pleased with the outcome. Hopefully folk will like them but, honestly, I'm already thinking about where I'd like to hang them in the cottage if they don't sell!

Here's how this one started:

Mark 1 - plain impasto

Then I dabbled at it with the sponge dabber thingie:

Mark 2 - had at it with a sponge dabber

Then I coloured it happy!

Scottish+Seascape+Vibrant+Acrylic+Impressionism+Nicola McLean

Have you ever re-worked (and re-worked) any of your own paintings? I like to think of it as upcycling! I think it's fortunate that I love thick impasto layers of paint as it makes it that much easier to paint over something you don't like/have gotten bored with and it also allows for some great texture.

Pop back next time if you'd like to see the transformation of the other painting.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Into the blue. A landscape.

'Into the blue' - acrylic on canvas 5x5 inch
Well, we had a fabulous weekend in London despite getting off to a bad start with a 4 hour delay caused by thick fog at Inverness airport and compounded by a bird strike (poor birds) which necessitated an engineer to come out to inspect the nose cone of the aircraft to ensure it was safe to fly. We watched him carry out his inspection which, I kid you not, involved him putting his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun looking up at the nose cone (not even on a ladder) and nodding that, yes, it was safe to fly! I'm no engineer but even I could've done that!

Anyway, by the time we arrived on the Friday it was mid afternoon so we just went into Kingston, not far from where my sister lives and did a bit of shopping. We headed into London early on Saturday and made up for lost time visiting the major sights, taking in a show (Book of Mormon which was every bit as funny as the first time I saw it), visiting the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery and eating our own body weight in Indian, Lebanese and Thai food. 

Van Gogh at the National Gallery
Westminster by night 

Trafalgar Square

Grayson Perry's exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery 

So, back to art. This is another small impressionistic landscape inspired, as so many of my paintings are, by Strathy beach. I was stuck on the title for this one so I asked S and he suggested 'Into the blue' so that's what I'll call it. 

Close up - Into the blue

Close up - Into the Blue

Close up - Into the blue
This is going into the Caithness Horizons Christmas Exhibition which starts next week and runs through until the start of January.

I've got a few different paintings on the go at the moment and now that our mini break to London is over it's time to knuckle down to getting the pet portraits completed and some more landscapes finished for upcoming exhibitions next year. 

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!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Tibby's portrait and my review in Discover Art Magazine

This week I finished the portrait that I had offered as a prize in my give-away a couple of months ago. 

calico cat+pet portrait+acrylic+Nicola McLean
Tibby - acrylic on canvas 5 x 5 inches
I was really pleased to discover the winner was a cat as it's been a while since I've painted any feline fur babies and I was honoured to be able to paint Tibby as I discovered that it would actually be a memorial portrait of a much loved cat who has sadly passed away. It was clear from our correspondence how much Tibby's person, Wendy, loved and missed her and so it seemed like fate that her's was the name picked to win the pet portrait. 

calico cat+pet portrait+Tibby+Nicola McLean
The beautiful Tibby - photo by Tibby's person

In other news, the Postcard Challenge winnters were announced in Discover Art magazine's November issue along with the review I wrote on my painting holiday with Ashley Hanson. You can read both below, if you like (& if the writing isn't too small!) or you can also subscribe free to Discover Art Magazine digital issues which means you can read it in larger font and get a heap of useful arty information at the same time!

Discover Art Magazine

Discover Art Magazine - my review of the painting holiday

Discover Art Magazine - my review of the painting holiday

Thanks, as always for popping by and I'll be back mid week with another impressionistic landscape.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Melvich Sunset. A landscape

Melvich Sunset+Scottish Abstract Landscape+vibrant acrylic+Miniature+Nicola McLean
'Melvich Sunset' - Acrylic landscape 

Ever since I went on Ashley's workshop in Cornwall I've really changed my opinion on abstract art. Well, not all of it - the non objective stuff is still a bit of a mystery to me - but certainly representational abstract work is much more appealing to me than it once was. 

It's like it tripped a switch in me and I feel like I suddenly can't learn enough about art and other artists whose work appeals to me. I've been pinning beautiful vibrant, semi abstract works of art on Pinterest like nobodies business - art that is more or less abstract or certainly impressionistic at any rate, but still very clearly landscapes.

The original inspiration

I'm drawn to vibrant colours and bold textures and brush strokes and, more and more, I find I truly enjoy painting most when I'm not confining myself to adding every detail and aiming to exactly replicate the subject. Of course, this doesn't necessarily apply to my pet portraits as I want them to capture the essence of the animal but even there I'd like to loosen up my style a little.

An online art buddy, Laura, recently mentioned a book she'd bought called Painting Realistic Abstracts by Kees Van Aalst and. although it is mostly in relation to watercolours, it's also relevant to acrylics. It's well worth a read if you want to move away from purely replicating the subject and instead want to adopt a more intuitive, emotional way of painting.

Scottish Landscape+Impressionism+Semi Abstract+Vibrant Acrylic+Texture+Nicola McLean
Just as well it's so tiny 7.5cm x 7.5cm) givem how many
layers of paint I went through!
I'm now working my way through Vibrant Acrylics by Hashim Akib, whose work I absolutely love and I already feel I've learnt so much just by seeing how these artist's prepare their canvas and choose their composition.

Anyway, in between pet portraits and sweet paintings, I've been experimenting with a looser more vibrant style and the landscape here is the end result. You can see how very far away from the original reference photo it is but if you scroll down you'll also see the many, many incarnations it went through until I found something that I was happy with and that felt like me. 

The 1st attempt was pleasant enough
but something wasn't quite right

More colour

Even more colour

just a bit more

aagh too much colour

starting to wish I'd left it at stage 1

another day another palette of left over paint to experiment with!

now we're getting somewhere

nope let's start over again add more and then scrape it all off and...
Now I'm happy with it!

I finally found a colour palette and texture I was happy with but ultimately it was a happy accident that involved lots of applications of paint and lots of scraping off of said applications of paint - a technique which I have no idea if I'll be able to replicate on the next painting but even then I learnt new ways to apply paint to get the texture and feel that I want. It was frustrating and fun! I'd love to know if you have a preference among the many stages it went through (even if it's not the final version!)

**Update - Thursday 30 October 

I'm very pleased to report that I posted a photo of this little landscape on my Facebook page on Sunday and it sold on Sunday evening! 

I'm linking to Paint Party Friday - I've been a bit remiss with my visits to the Party this year, dipping in and out when I get a chance but I'm going to make more effort to link up as it is a great opportunity to catch up with fellow art bloggers and what they've been up to. 


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