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.


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