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.


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