Wednesday, 29 April 2015

One of your five a day...

Strawberry+impasto+impressionism+vibrant+art+Nicola McLean
'Strawberry' - #1 in the five a day series
- impasto acrylic on canvas 5x5 inches

So, I recently subscribed to a new magazine called Vegan Life. It is so very lovely to be able to read a magazine from cover to cover without having to flick past all the sections that I can’t make use of, it’s really a delight to know that I can bake every recipe and use every product advertised in this particular magazine. I’m not saying I will, in fact chances are I won’t – I didn’t bake before giving up eggs and dairy so I'm not sure if I'll start now no matter how yummy some of the recipes look! But still, it's nice to have the option.

Strawberry+impasto+impressionism+vibrant+art+Nicola McLean

Anyway, you’ll be wondering what this has to do with art. Allow me to explain. So, there was a surprisingly interesting article about strawberries which not only made me want to eat some, it also sparked an arty idea in my head. And one that didn’t involve animals or dramatic skies, at that.

Strawberry+impasto+impressionism+vibrant+art+Nicola McLean

The texture of the strawberry looked like it would be perfect for a little bit of impasto painting so I decided I’d buy a punnet next time I was in town.  Of course, I didn’t figure on Lidl not having any the day I went in and I couldn’t be bothered to drive to Tesco and so, too impatient to wait for another day, I very loosely used a reference photo of one from Paint My Photo instead!

Strawberry+close up+ texture+impasto+impressionism+vibrant+art+Nicola McLean

Then last Friday I got S to show me (yet again) how to set up his GoPro camera and made a little timelapse video of the painting as it progressed. You wouldn’t know, thanks to S’s careful editing, but this little painting was interrupted by a burst water pipe in our attic with water dripping down through the window frame in the dining room, where I paint, on the Friday evening. We had to keep the water supply turned off overnight until S could get to the hardware shop to get the bits needed to fix the pipe. Then while he was sorting out the plumbing on Saturday, I spent the day at a Zen retreat of meditation and mindfulness. What a truly relaxing day – no talking, just meditating and some yoga nidra - sleeping yoga – what could be better than that!(Although technically you aren't meant to actually fall asleep!)

Strawberry+impasto+impressionism+vibrant+art+Nicola McLean

Feeling totally zen after my meditation day, I finished the painting on Sunday (the observant among you might notice the change of clothing and the little bit where I forgot to pause the video while I used my hairdryer to speed dry the paint which I actually do after every layer of colour!) and then S worked his technical magic last night to put it all together for me with music and text.

I’d like to do a little series of these. I was thinking I’d call it ‘One of your five a day’. I’ve had a think about other fruit that would work well and so far have come up with a kiwi (sliced in half for added interest), a pomegranate also cut open, a pineapple and possibly an orange – that pitted skin might work. If anyone can think of any other easily recognisable fruit that I could paint, I’d appreciate the suggestions.

Strawberry+close up+ texture+impasto+impressionism+vibrant+art+Nicola McLean

In other news, two lovely things happened this week.

Firstly, I discovered my painting ‘Soulful’ in the Portfolio Plus member’s gallery in the latest edition of Artist and Illustrators Magazine. That was a nice surprise.

'Soulful' in Artist and Illustrator Magazine gallery page

Secondly, I entered an older painting of mine called ‘a view less ordinary’ into the Society for All Artists Facebook painting challenge for April (the theme ‘April Showers’) and it won first place! I got a lovely certificate, my painting is now the cover photo for the month and it's now up to me to choose the theme for the May challenge and I get to judge it!

I also managed to blog twice this week so if you’d like to have a read of my blog post from Monday, please just click on the link below.

          Big Skies, Little Planet - a commission (or two)

Wishing you all a wonderful rest of week and I’ll be joining in the Paint Party on Friday as always. See you there.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Big Skies Little Planet. A commission (or two)

Quirky doodle art+paint spatter+landscapes+Nicola McLean
'Big skies, Little Planet commissioned illustrations

Back in June 2013, I came up with some quirky little illustrations that I called Big Skies, Little Planet painted on watercolour postcard and inspired by the wonder of the massive skies all around us up here in the far north. The timing happened to coincide with that year’s Summer of Colour blog hop so I designed one each week using the colour combinations for that particular week (if you are an artist and haven't yet taken part in Colour of Summer it starts again on 1st June this year and it's my favourite art challenge) 

'Spring Greens'  - commission

I listed them in my Etsy shop and a few sold, here and there. One particular customer purchased a couple then came back a few weeks later and purchased another two. Then a couple of weeks ago she contacted me to ask if I had any in portrait format and with specific colour schemes. I didn’t, because all the ones I had painted previously had been done in landscape and I haven't done any more of that style of art for a while (unless you count last year's Christmas card designs) so I offered to create a couple of bespoke illustrations for her based on a loose idea of hills and sheep with a green theme and hills and a loch with a blue and red theme.

'Moonlit loch' - commission

In other news, this is a little mini landscape I painted a few weeks ago inspired by a gorgeous sunset S captured one evening in  Melvich, the next village along from ours. I posted it on my Facebook page a while ago but hadn't mentioned it on my blog. It's available to purchase on Artfinder.

Floating on the sunset+mini landscape+impressionism+Sottish Loch+Sunset+Nicola McLean
'Floating on the sunset' - mini landscape in impasto acrylic

Talking of online sales, last week I mentioned that I sold my art on as well.  Well, I don't any more! Every single time I uploaded a painting, without exception, I got an email from their 'Help' team telling me it had been rejected because the sizing was wrong, I hadn't included a photo of the edges, there was a bit of background showing on the main image which must only be the painting itself, and most recently because I had included my watermark and wasn't allowed to. Sheeesh.

sunset+colourful+vibrant+impasto+texture+Scottish+Loch+Melvich+Nicola McLean
'Floating on the sunset' 

After receiving an email with yet another rejection reason in it, I fired off a response saying that no artist wants to spend so much time editing and resizing photos when they'd rather be painting and that with other online galleries you could just upload the photos (with watermark) and hey presto the artwork was instantly available for sale. I mentioned that I wished I'd never paid for the gold membership because all the restrictions made me not want to bother trying to sell art via their website any more but that I suspected I wouldn't get a refund and would just have to suck it up.  

Much to my surprise, and all credit to their customer service, they replied advising that they had processed a refund and I would revert back to the free silver membership which they could also close if I decided I no longer wanted to use their website at all. I thanked them for the refund and closed the account as I know I wouldn't use it given how hard it seems to be to get the photos of the artwork right!

sunset+colourful+vibrant+impasto+texture+Scottish+Loch+Melvich+Nicola McLean
'Floating on the sunset'

Strangely just a couple of days later I received an email from Artfinder advising me to remove the watermark from my paintings as they had found it 'put buyers off'. Hmmm. Funny that. I'm not sure, if I was buying art online, that a watermark would stop me making the purchase and and call me suspicious but it's a little weird that they sent that just after I held them up in my email as an example of a website that didn't mind a watermark. Are they run by the same company or did Artgallery snitch to Artfinder about my wanton use of watermarks? I guess I'll never know, but I do know I spent the best part of a day going through every photo of every painting I've got on Artfinder and removing the watermark after all (when I should've been painting!)

Anyway, it's done now and they do a great job of getting your art out there online so I'm happy to keep using them. That's all my art and my moans for this blog. I don't normally blog twice on one week but I have a brand new timelapse video of a brand new subject matter that I'm very excited about so, if you're curious, do pop back later in the week if you'd like to see what it is. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Tiger, tiger burning bright...a commission

Tiger+endangered animal+wildlife+acrylic+impasto+impressionism+Nicola McLean
Tiger commission - impasto acrylic on canvas 40cm x 30cm

So, I was commissioned by someone who collects all things tiger, to do a painting in the thick impasto style I used on the rhino.

tiger+impasto+texture+painting+acrylic+Nicola McLean

Tiger's eye+Impasto+acrylic+Nicola McLean

Thanks to my favourite photo reference site (Paint My Photo) and to Gary Jones, who posted the photograph, I had a really beautiful photo of a tiger to work from.

impasto+acrylic+texture+painting+Nicola McLean

tiger's eye+impasto+acrylic+painting+impressionism+wild animal+Nicola McLean

I was initially a wee bit concerned that the way the rhino worked in the impasto style was just a fluke and that maybe it wouldn't work for the tiger, but I am very glad to say that it worked really well and I am very happy with the outcome. More importantly, Ian, the person who commissioned the piece loves it so that is the main thing!

We even had a wee photo opportunity when Ian asked for a photo when he came to collect it!

Photo courtesy of Ian Pearson - Ian and me with the Tiger

Tiger+canvas+painting+impasto+impressionism+colourful+vibrant+Nicola McLean

Tiger+painting+commission+Nicola McLean

Now that this one turned out better than I'd hoped I'd like to do more animals in this style - I'd especially like to paint my wee cat, Lily, like this but I've a few other commissions and paintings to do for exhibitions first so perhaps I'll get round to that later in the year.

I'm blogging a little earlier than normal this week but I'll be visiting Paint Party Friday as always. Thanks for popping by! 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A better view...a Scottish Landscape.

'View from Glen Loth' - impasto acrylic on canvas 40cm x 50cm 

I promise this is the last of my older paintings that I'm going to 'do-over' but it was hanging on the walls on our living room and I just kept sneaking glances at it and the sides and those black edgy bits started to really bug me. Plus I just wanted to zhuzh it up a bit with brighter colours and more texture - it's an addiction!

So, this is it and like all the other pieces I’ve redone recently I’m much happier with it.

This is what it used to look like:

This one will be available to purchase via my shops in either Artfinder or Artgallery. About that, do you sell your work online? I'm curious to know what works best for you - your own website (if so, how do you get people to find it?) or online shops and, if so, which ones do you find best? 

If you do sell online do you stock the same painting in more than one store? I do, because it gives my art a better chance of being spotted, but I have had cases where paintings I'd forgotten I'd even listed on an online store sold and I had them in an actual exhibition at the time and had to ask for them back! Awkward. Of course that won't happen very often but still, what do you think - should a piece only be exclusively available in one place even if it means it has much less chance of selling? I'd be interested to know what other artists think of this.

close up of fields and hills

Close up of trees

close up of mountains

Anyway, that's the last of the do-overs; all other work posted on here from now on will be brand new, I promise!

The new (improved?)View from Glen Loth

With that in mind, here’s a wee sneaky peek at a very different type of commission. It’s something else to be grateful to the rhino painting for (see here if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about!) I received a commission for a tiger in the same thick impasto style as the rhino and that’s what I’m working on at the moment.

A sneaky peek of my latest commission

At first I wasn't sure if it would work but actually I'm really pleased with how it's going. Hopefully, the person who commissioned it will be happy too! I reckon one more painting session and it should be finished.

Once the tiger is finished then it's back to realism in gouache for a super cute wee dog portrait which I'm very much looking forward to painting especially because he's got black fur - yay!!

That's all my news for this week but I'll leave you with some words of wisdom (having learnt the hard way today) - don't try to be a multitasking domestic goddess/artist because you'll become so engrossed in your painting that your delicious homemade soup will burn to the bottom of the pan! True story. 

See you over at Paint Party Friday 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A lot more than green and life's little wins and losses...

sunrise+Scotland+Baillie Wind Farm+Impasto acrylic+vibrant colour+Nicola McLean
'A lot more than green' - impasto acrylic 40cm x 50cm

So, a few weeks ago now I started a painting based on the sunrise coming up behind the wind turbines at Baillie Wind Farm. I’d painted a little mini one at the same time which I've already posted here and which is now available for sale in the Blue Tree Gallery or via my website.

This is the large version beside the mini version 'A little more than green' just to put the size difference into context!

impasto acrylic painting+vibrant colour+sunrise+Wind turbines+Nicola McLean
Little and large!

As well as the mini version of this, I have several other paintings on exhibition in the Blue Tree Gallery between now and June alongside other local artists and right now I'm busy working on three very different commissions.

and again.

I love that the days are stretching out so much now since the clocks went forward as it allows for a longer painting day - I'm always so much more productive during the spring and summer months (unless it's a particularly hot sunny day in which case I'll have to take advantage of such a rare occurrence and sit in the garden instead!)

Now that the weather has improved and the days are getting longer, it isn't just me that's been busy round Craggis Cottage - I'm very excited to report that S has finally been able to start work on Operation Art Shed. The support posts have been set into the ground (very firmly because of the strong winds up these parts!), the floor has been laid and the frame is starting to take shape. I can't wait to have my own painting space!

close up of edges

In other news - I won a dairy-free easter egg. Yay, me. I entered a Vegan Life Magazine giveaway on Facebook for Mulu Easter Eggs and I won one! I only found out on Tuesday so I haven't received it yet but I'll keep you posted on how it tastes! 

I sold another two paintings this week and I also won a whole £6.40 on a lottery ticket. (yes, six pounds and forty pence!)

Close up texture of sky

What I didn't win, however, was a shortlisted place in the Wildlife Artist competition that I entered my rhino into. I had been waiting on tenterhooks for an email to let me know the outcome and I finally got word last Thursday that it hadn't been selected. 

I'll admit that I had allowed myself to imagine that this piece would be good enough to make it onto the hallowed walls of the Mall Galleries. I wasn't so confident to think that I might win one of the category prizes but I did (foolishly) think that I might perhaps need a new frock for the opening night. 

close up texture of wind turbine

Well, that's me back down to earth with a bump! Who knows just exactly what the judges of these competitions are actually looking for but I refuse to let that artistic sensitivity, which I think we're all guilty of, allow me take it personally and let my self-confidence and my artistic muse both walk out the door in a huff. 

'A lot more than green'

I think what helps to put life's little disappointments into perspective is practising gratitude, where I make a conscious choice to be grateful for the little things that make me happy and don't dwell on the other things that make me less so. 

Obviously, I'd have been super grateful if my rhino had been shortlisted but I'm grateful that entering the competition in the first place made me create a painting that I'm proud of and that has a message which is really important to me.

Painted right round the edges 

Anyway, in the grand scheme of things an art competition isn't really that big a deal and there have already been many more ups than downs this year so I'll just console myself with some dairy-free chocolate egg and think about trying again next year. 

Well, that's all my news for this week. The large version of 'A lot more than green' is available to purchase on my website.

Thanks for popping by and I'll be linking up with Paint Party Friday as always to find out what everyone else has been up to. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Mya. A portrait of a cat.

cat+pet portrait+commissioned+animal art+Nicola McLean
'Mya' - acrylic on canvas 5x5 inches

So, last year I ran a pet portrait give-away competition. I subsequently painted a portrait of a beautiful and much loved calico cat called Tibby, who unfortunately had passed away.

Then earlier this year I was delighted to receive a message from Tibby's human, Wendy, commissioning me to paint a portrait of Tibby's daughter, Mya. Once I got a selection of photographs to work from, I got started and this is the finished piece. 

Reference photographs provided by Mya's mum, Wendy. 

I know some artists don't like painting black fur but I actually find it easier as you can pick out lots of different colours in the sheen of the fur.  White fur on the other hand, I find much more of a challenge and Mya had a lot of it - a really beautifully thick soft very white coat most everywhere except on her ears and top of her head where she had a cute little grey cap.

Anyway, I gave it my best shot and I'm very pleased to say that Wendy loves it. I was so eager to get it packaged and into the post that I completely forgot to take any close up photos other than the ones I'd sent by mail for approval so I was very grateful that Wendy sent me a few photos including both portraits together - I was also quite chuffed that I'd managed to get the turquoise backgrounds pretty much the same as I mix a few colours to get that shade and there's always the chance that it will be slightly different each time!

cats+calico cat+pet portraits+commissioned art+Nicola McLean
Mya and Tibby - photography courtesy of their humans

Funny enough, my next commission is also a cat but of a much bigger stripy variety! I've been asked to paint a tiger in the same style as the rhino so that's what I'm working on now. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out as the rhino's hide lent itself perfectly to the impasto paint but I'm not entirely sure if a tiger's fur will work in quite the same fashion. Still, that's what I love about painting - constantly setting myself new challenges and adapting and modifying techniques to suit the subject matter. I'll let you know how I get on!


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