Wednesday, 27 May 2015

To be perfectly Frank... a pug portrait

Pug+Pet Portrait+Gouache+Nic's eARTh+Nicola McLean
'Frank' - gouache on watercolour paper approx 15 x 10 inches

It makes a lovely change when, every now and then, I get the opportunity to get my gouache paints out. The way I paint with gouache is like a sedate afternoon tea party, china cups, soft voices and cucumber sandwiches with the crusts off - all neat and tidy and contained. Painting with acrylics is more like a kids' party at a paintball range - the necessary drop cloth covering the dining room table trying and failing to contain the blobs of paint that inevitably land on the floor (or the dogs if they get too close!) paint all over my hands and my clothes if I forget to wear my trusty art shirt. I love it, actually, but sometimes it's nice to just paint without the need for vast preparation and subsequent clear up, get out my box of gouache paints and sit in front of the paper stretched on my drawing board and just quietly paint, focussing on each tiny detail instead of flinging paint randomly at a canvas. 

I always like to start with the eyes.

This is Frank the pug. Frank is the most zen dog you'll likely ever meet. The lucky pup lives with the lovely lady who introduced me to reiki, yoga, meditation and mindfulness and wee Frank spends his days in a wonderfully relaxed environment enjoying the positive benefits that all these activities create. 

I was lucky enough to take the reference photos for Frank's portrait myself when I was there for a reiki treatment and I loved painting his cute little squished puggy face and those massive puggy eyes. 

The real Frank posing beautifully for his reference photo

I've posted the various stages that he went through on the different painting sessions. It never seems like much gets done because it's layers and layers of tiny detailed strokes using very fine brushes to build up the colour. Of course, I was delighted that not only is Frank ridiculously cute but he is also black and as any one who reads my blog knows when it comes to painting, I do prefer black fur to white (just don't tell my westies that!) so I was able to pick out the range of blues, purples and pinks reflected in his shiny coat.

I normally paint my favourite shade of turquoise as a background but as Frank was a full body pose and, as there was quite a lot of blues in his fur already, I thought it would be more effective to  leave the background white and just paint little shadows by his paws. I liked the effect of this tiny dog in a big white space!

Pug+Dog+Animal art+pet portrait+Nicola McLean
The finished portrait

That's the last of my pet portrait commissions at the moment and next up I'm planning to do a portrait of my own wee cat, Lily, in the same style as I did Lil BUB. I've also got a seed of an idea growing for how to run another pet portrait competition except this time raise money for charity at the same time. Details to follow (once I've worked them out!)

In other news, I've just finished another commission - this time it was my first ever landscape commission and I loved every second of it, pop back next week if you'd like to see the finished piece. 

Now, it's back to finding time to paint all the ideas that are popping into my head when I meditate - who knew there'd be such an unexpected and delightfully creative side effect to taking time to just be!!

See you at Paint Party Friday

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Lil Bub+impasto arylic+art+pet portrait+Nic's eARTh+Nicola McLean
Lil BUB - impasto acrylic on canvas 4 x 4 inches (10m x 10cm)

If you love cute animals (and if you don't, seriously, why not?) and spend even a modicum of time on the internet then you will no doubt be familiar with the cuteness that is Lil BUB – the cutest cat on the internet (or to quote her website 'the most amazing cat on the planet!')

This is the description of Lil BUB taken from her website:

"BUB was born with a multitude of genetic anomalies which all add up to one of nature's happiest accidents. She is a "perma-kitten", which means she will stay kitten sized and maintain kitten-like features her entire life. She also has an extreme case of dwarfism, which means her limbs are disproportionately small relative to the rest of her body and she has some difficulty moving around. She has short, stubby legs and a long, ferret-like body. Her lower jaw is significantly shorter than her upper jaw, and her teeth never grew in which is why her tongue is always hanging around. Fortunately BUB has a very healthy appetite and eats dry and wet food with no problems. Additionally, BUB is a polydactyl cat, meaning she has extra toes, and in her case, one extra toe on all of her four paws, adding up to 22 toes (and 22 claws). And then of course there are her big, bulging, wonder-filled green eyes. Some think she can see into the future with those things. Despite her unusual looks and numerous "deformities", BUB is a healthy, happy cat living in the care of her "dude" who treats her like a queen." 

Lil Bub+cat+miniature+painting+pet portrait+impressionism+Nic's eARTH
A mini painting for a mini cat

She has a huge following online and has rubbed shoulders with celebrities (including one of my favourite actors, Robert de Niro!) and delightfully, she uses her powers of cuteness to raise awareness and funds for other special need animals in collaboration with the ASPCA. In February 2014 the ASPCA announced Lil BUB's Big Fund which is a national fund in the States to provide grants to shelters with special needs animals. 

Lil Bub+Cat+Impasto+painting+art+Nicola McLean
Close up of texture

I was looking through her Instagram feed one day not long after I'd finished the tiger commission and I thought it would be fun to have a go at painting this gorgeous little face with its mahooosive eyes and little pink tongue. 

Lil Bub+Portrait+Cat+Impasto acrylic+min canvas+Nicola McLean

So,in between other bits and bobs I'm working on, I did this wee painting. Because I wanted to be able to include this style of painting as an option for custom pet portraits, this was an ideal way to try it out because it wasn't a commission so if it ended up rubbish then there no harm done and no one need ever know.

I'm delighted with how it turned out though and I had a lot of fun painting that adorable wee face in the process! Even better, I contacted Lil BUB's person, Mike, asking if they would like it and was over the moon when he replied that they'd seen hundreds of portraits of Lil BUB and this was one of the coolest! So, it's currently on its way to Indiana and I'm delighted that it'll be hanging in Lil BUB's home. 

Lil BUB+Pet portrait+impasto acrylic+Nic's
Lil BUb's lil portait. 

If you'd like to know more about Lil BUB and the amazing life she leads with her human, Mike, then please do pop over to her website, Facebook or Instagram page, if only to get a daily dose of cute. 

In other news, I've been shortlisted in the Scottish Renewables Young (ahem!) Professionals Green Energy Awards 2015!! A few weeks ago a fellow artist contacted me via my Facebook page and told me about this award and how there were different categories, one of which was art, and she suggested I submit my paintings.  The idea was that it was something that painted renewable energy in a positive light which my paintings of wind turbines against a beautiful Scottish sunrise literally did!  

I had a look on their website and as it didn't actually stipulate anywhere what exactly young was, I figured, nothing ventured, nothing gained and nominated myself and my paintings stating that, for the record, I was young relative to, say, a pensioner!

Lil Bub+pet portrait+miniature art+Nicola McLean
The real Lil BUB (photo reference from Lil BUB's Instagram page)

Anyway, I got an email last week advising that I'd been shortlisted and the winner is decided in a vote at the awards evening which takes place on Thursday 28 May in Glasgow. I was invited to the event but unfortunately I won't be able to attend. It would be lovely if my paintings got the vote on the night although honestly, I'm delighted just to have been shortlisted!

I'll be joining Paint Party Friday as always and will see you all there!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Passing time...a tiny Scottish landscape
'Passing time' - contemporary landscape on canvas 2 x 2 inches (5 x 5cm)

It seems like ages since I last painted a landscape but I found time this week to squeeze in another of the teeniest tiniest ones. This was inspired by a photograph that S took on the Strath (the single track road through the most beautiful countryside which also inspired Wild Mountain Time).

This is the photo S took:

Sm-Art Photography+The Strath+Scottish Highlands
Credit: S

Because I was painting on a square canvas I decided to leave out the part with the passing place sign in my composition but in a nod to it I entitled the painting 'Passing time' because driving along this particular stretch of road is a particularly lovely way of passing the time!

I had been adding a magnet to the back of these teeny landscapes as they are the perfect size to become fridge magnets (and who doesn't want a piece of original art on their fridge?!) 

miniature art+landscape painting+vibrant

But I was also thinking that if I could find the right size of little box frame they might look quite nice framed and that way they could be hung on a tiny amount of wall space (perhaps in a little group of affordable original artwork? just sayin'!). I've had a look on my favourite go to online shop and have just found some which will hopefully work. I'll keep you posted!

contemporary Scottish Landscape art+impressionism+Nicola McLean

In other news, I'm delighted to report that thanks to the wonders of Twitter, the rhino painting sold and is on its way to Perth in Western Australia as we speak! In fact, the person who bought the painting is not only an avid art collector but is also a Trustee of the Save the Rhino Trust Namibia who do a lot of work with the desert adapted black rhino. 

I'm so pleased that my rhino painting has gone to someone who clearly cares about their future and that thanks to his purchase I can now make that donation to Save the Rhino International.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to share the painting on social media - it's proof that it really does work in helping artists get their work seen by folk who would never otherwise see it. I even got a retweet from Steve Backshall (a wildlife TV show presenter in the UK) which is my current claim to fame and which totally made my day!!

Scottish mountains+contemporary Landscape

Thanks as always for popping by and I'll be linking up with Paint Party Friday later in the week to see what everyone else has been busy creating.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Fundraising for Save the Rhino...

As anyone trying to make a living as an artist will tell you, it isn't necessarily a career path you choose if you want untold riches(unless you have access to a shark that you can put in a tank of formaldehyde and then, apparently, you're set for life). It doesn't matter though because even without the fame and fortune, artists who are driven to paint will paint regardless and, if there are causes that are very important to you and also happen to inspire your art, then there is one particular benefit to having the ability to create and that is being able to use art to help pay it forward a little bit. 

When I painted 'Vanishing' for the wildlife competition, had it been shortlisted and subsequently sold, a percentage would have gone to a conservation charity. Which would have been great because, honestly, while I appreciate the opportunity to show my art in both virtual and actual galleries, I much prefer the idea of the 30-40% that galleries take in commission fees going to a worthwhile cause instead. 

So here's what I'm hoping, rather than submit this painting to a gallery (virtual or actual), if I can get this painting out there via as many forms of social media as possible and I can sell it myself without gallery intervention then I can donate 40% directly to where it might do a little bit of good for the rhinos.

Rhino+Endangered+Fundraising+Art+Nicola McLean+Save the Rhino

With that in mind, I contacted Save the Rhino International and explained what I hoped to do but also asking for their help to get the painting out there to their many followers and members and fellow wild animal lovers to increase the likelihood of it selling and me being able to make the donation. 

close up of texture round eye

Save the Rhino International is a UK registered charity (1035072), which raises funds and awareness to protect the world’s five rhino species. The charity works with global project partners to support 18 long-term rhino conservation programmes in Africa and Asia. With rhinos being so incredibly endangered, their work is vital and if you'd like to learn more about what they do please visit their website at

close up of texture of horn

They gave me the logo above to show that I am indeed hoping to help fundraise for their organisation with 40% from the sale of my painting.

I plan to share to FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest and, as I only have a relatively small reach in the virtual world, this is where I would really appreciate your help. Obviously it would be wonderful if you would like to purchase the rhino painting yourself but equally it would be a massive help if you could share, retweet, like, repost, email, tell friends by word of mouth, write an old fashioned letter or even send smoke signals - any way at all to help reach the person for whom this painting would be perfect and who would like to give him a forever home on the walls of their home. By doing so you will help to raise funds to help these beautiful animals.

£600 plus £50 postage (UK)

Please note the postage is an estimate within the UK with Parcelforce based on their online price finder. The actual price will be determined once the painting is packaged and if less I will of course refund any difference. Should you require delivery outside the UK I will be able to advise of any additional postage charge to other destinations at the time of postage.

Once the painting has been sold and the purchaser has received it and is hopefully delighted with it, I will make the donation of £260 to Save the Rhino International via JustGiving.

Thank you all very much for any help you can give me in getting my rhino out there and helping a good cause at the same time. 


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