Monday, 8 September 2014

A blog hop and Stormy Strathy Revisited

Strathy+Sutherland+Scottish Highlands+Acrylic+Impasto+Nicola McLean Artist
'Stormy Strathy' given a 'sponge over' - 5x5 impasto acrylic landscape

In between pet portrait commissions I'm still working away at miniature landscapes. I've got so much inspiration all around me and so many wonderful photographs to work from.

This one is actually a do over of one that I did back in May. This is what it used to look like:

The original Stormy Strathy

Ever since I discovered the texture that my little sponge dabbers give I've wanted to have at my previous landscapes and give them a 'Sponge over'. So I set about this one last weekend and I have to say I do prefer it now with the sponge texture. I'm planning to do the same with the other landscapes I've done, before doing any new ones. 

In case you might be wondering what a sponge dabber looks like - this is a bunch of them drying on the kitchen windowsill after a painting session:

Believe it or not that's after they've been washed! I'm quite hard on them so it's a good job they're cheap as chips!

Strathy+Scotland+Acrylic+Landscape+Nicola McLean Artist

I mentioned on my last post that Sandra nominated me to take part in a blog hop where I have to answer specific questions on all things art and then nominate three other art bloggers to do the same. The questions are:

1. What am I working on?

Currently I'm working on several different things. I have a few pet portrait commissions lined up so they are the priority and once they're completed I'll be back to working on my series of miniature landscapes such as the one illustrating this post.I also have the second of my 'sweetie' paintings to complete - this one is of a bowl of licorice allsorts and I'm looking forward to getting into that as it's something new for me. 

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Well, firstly I'm not even sure what my 'genre' is so I'm not entirely sure how to answer this question!

Obviously animals are my main subject matter and I suppose I would say my paintings are realistic but with a healthy dose of whimsy as they certainly don't look photo-realistic but nor would I want them to. Even though I admire that technical ability in other artists, I like my art to look like a painting with obvious brush strokes and more vibrant than real life colour palettes! 

I love landscape paintings, for this reason, where the focal point is the colour and drama of the scene rather than the scene itself, if that makes sense - more the impression of a moment such as sunrise or a stormy day and the effect that has on the landscape than the landscape itself.

Colour and texture are becoming increasingly predominant in my art - I love a tactile painted surface and bright vibrant colours whatever the subject matter.

3. Why do I create what I do?

I think I might have answered that in question 2! I'm passionate about animals and they will always feature in my art in some form or another but ultimately whether it's a dog, an amazing sunrise or a rain drop on a leaf, certain things will just attract me, like a magpie to shiny trinkets! I imagine I'm like many creative people in that wherever I go I look at things all around me and instantly visualise it as paint on a canvas and that's why I'm glad of the invention of camera phones so I can always record what I saw and store it away for inspiration at a later date. (That, and my pedometer app which calculates all the steps I take as I walk along these stunning landscapes!)

4. How does my creative process work?

Ha, this is where I show myself up as a self-taught rather than classically trained artist. I don't have a process. I don't do lots of sketches beforehand. I work from photographs because I'm either painting an animal (and they aren't known for sitting still for long) or a landscape and I'm not inclined to sit outdoors in the Scottish weather to paint!) 

If I'm doing a pet portrait for example, I simply sketch it out on the canvas or paper in pencil and then have at it with the paint! I noticed when I did my first time lapse video that I move around all over the painting rather than focussing on one area and I go over and over the same areas a lot building up layers and layers of colour to add depth. I'm sure there is a lot I could learn about tone and shade which would improve my work but at the moment I simply apply paint until I'm happy with it! 

I always photograph the work in progress after each painting session and from that photo I'll instantly see areas that need tweaked that, for some reason, hours of staring at the actual painting didn't reveal. 

Whilst all paintings are essentially the artist's interpretation of the subject, with my portrait work I aim to capture the physical look of the animal as well as their unique personality whereas with landscapes I am much more free to create the mood of the piece with colour and texture. I'm finding I'm in my element creating these landscape paintings as there are no expectations from anyone else as to what the end result should look like. 

With the landscapes I apply acrylic modelling paste to the canvas with a palette knife, to give the painting more dimension and then I simply add paint with my sponge dabbers, letting it dry between colours and adding more until I create a feeling of depth and again I simply keep going until I'm happy with it. There really is nothing more complicated to my process than that!

Now, I have to nominate 3 other artists to carry on the blog hop and answer these questions on their blog.

I have met so many artists online, all with very different styles and techniques and it isn't easy to choose only three but here goes:

Morag is a mixed media artist and she creates wonderfully vibrant pieces inspired by the Isle of Skye where she lives using all sort of techniques that I'd never even heard of! I am drawn to the subject matter, texture and colours of her work. 

Marji also uses a technique that I'd never heard of until I discovered her wonderful art via Paint Party Friday. She is an encaustic artist and again I'm drawn to her work because it is so wonderfully vibrant and textured regardless of the subject matter which varies from animals to still life and human portraiture.

Angela Simpson

Angela is a very talented artist who I've actually met in 'real life'! We both moved up to the far north of Scotland in January 2013 and met by chance at the animal shelter one day early on. Angela has a wonderful traditional style specialising in pet portraiture and sheep and makes oil and pastel look effortless.

I hope you'll pop by and visit these artists if you haven't already met them in blogland and hopefully they'll keep the blog hop going with answers to these questions as well. 


  1. I liked your "before" picture but the "after" picture does look nice, too. It just added more definition to the landscape or something...I like it.

  2. Love the makeover Nic, the dabbers worked a treat. Annette x

  3. Thanks Nic for your kind words. I loved reading your answers and reading about your process. I really like your new textual landscapes they are so vvibrant and full of atmosphere.

  4. oh I love when bloggers do this, I also love your work!!

  5. I do like the addition of the sponge dabbers on your painting-I've got a bunch of those but haven't used them in awhile-perhaps it's time to revisit them:):) Great answers to your interview ?? too!

  6. Love the landscape and its stormy feel. And I so understand and relate to your answers!

  7. Beautiful remake, although I liked it before too. But now it somehow looks "deeper" ..... not sure how else to say it :-) Love your answers to the questions, it's always nice to get to know online friends a bit better :-)

  8. Can't believe I almost missed the last post - what a fantastic painting! And your landscape is really lovely and I agree, you have taken it to another level with the added texture.
    I often photograph my work in progress too. I don't know why but yes, you really can spot things that are otherwise missed... maybe it's a sort of detachment? I also look at them in black and white too when I've finished. This is another great way to spot tonal mishaps! :0)

  9. Ahhh Nic I have been asked to take part in the blog hop too and was going to ask if I could nominate you!
    I should have realised that you would have already been nominated.
    Great to see yet more brilliant artwork and to know more about you and your work.
    Have a great week and thanks for sharing and giving such inspiration too ;D


Your comments always colour me happy! Thank you for popping by.


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