Wednesday, 25 February 2015

How now, Highland Cow...

Highland Cow+Impasto+Acrylic+Vibrant+Impressionism+Nic's eARTh
'Cora' - impasto acrylic 50cm x 40cm box canvas

So, because I had a limited amount of time to produce 5+ paintings for the Committed to Art Exhibition I decided to give some older paintings a do-over rather than try to start and finish 5 brand new paintings. Last year I painted a highland cow - it was my first attempt at impasto acrylic and I was quite pleased with the result at the time although there was always something about the background that I felt needed improvement. Lo and behold, it turns out that all it needed was a splash of vibrant colour! 

This is what it used to look like:

This was the original painting before the do-over

As you can see, the original had a duller sky and the edges were painted black and I decided I didn't like that.  

Close up of colour wrapped edges

So, I changed it so that the bright colours of the sky and meadow now wrap right around the canvas. Although in the reference photo the cow really was on the slope of a hill, the background always just looked wonky to me so I levelled that out as well.

Close up of texture of cow's nose
I didn't want to change too much about the cow so I just added a bit more colour to her nose and horns and one or two brighter streaks in her hair (fur? I'm not entirely sure what the correct term is for a cow!)

Close up of impasto texture of grass

In other news, I've been invited to take part in two different exhibitions; one in April in a new gallery called The Blue Tree Gallery in Wick, a town about 45 minutes drive from our village. The owner is also an artist who creates stunning landscapes and wildlife paintings and shares my love of texture and colour. He is planning to have a few exhibitions throughout the year with various local artists taking part. After receiving the invitation, I visited on Saturday to meet Kevin, the artist/gallery owner and took a few small paintings which are now available to purchase from the gallery and then I'll drop some more in for the exhibition in April. 

Close up of texture of grass (still not just green!)

The second exhibition is an annual art fair in November in a place called Strathpeffer Pavilion which is a bit further away, being down near Inverness. I was advised that this is a very popular exhibition and they usually have more artists than they can accommodate so it is by invitation only and they try to rotate the artists each year so the exhibitions remains fresh. As it is by invitation only, I feel very pleased to have been asked to take part. Looks like I'll be kept busy working towards getting enough pieces together for these upcoming exhibitions. It's quite nice to have different outlets to exhibit  at and it's good exposure for me to show at different locations in the Highlands of Scotland.

Close up of cow's horns

Coming up next weekend, I'm going to be getting creative in a cabin in the woods! My friend, Angela is a very talented artist and is running a series of workshops on different arty subjects, one of which is pastel. There were pastels and pastel paper included in the art supplies I won last year and I would really like to learn how to use them properly (and get over the horrible chalky feeling on my fingers!). I have two different types of pastel paper - velour and a type that feels like sandpaper (which I've no idea how to use) so I'm hoping that Angela can show me how to create my colourful landscapes in pastel on these papers which are currently a mystery to me.

Vibrant box canvas edges
I'm looking forward to learning how to use a new medium and given how wonderful Angela's pastel paintings are, I know I'll be in good hands to pick up some great tips.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Confessions of a nature-loving artist...

Wild Mountain Time+Scottish Landscape+Colourist+Impasto+Vibrant+Nic's eARTh
'Wild Mountain Time' - impasto acrylic 70cm x 50cm

I have a confession to make. Even though I love nature and am in my element living where I do with wild and rugged beauty all around me, gorgeous beaches that stretch for miles, mountains and hills perfect for a day's hike in a bid to finally, finally tire out our springer spaniel for whom the phrase 'boundless energy' was apparently coined, forests, woods and more green fields than you could shake a stick at; when it comes to painting I really, really don't like the colour of grass. 

close up+impasto texture+vibrant colours+Nic's eARTh
Close up of the road - impasto texture

I mean, in real life, of course I love grass. I especially love it in the summer when we get one of those preciously few hot sunny days where I can sit outside and feel the sun's rays warm my peely wally skin and feel the blades of grass in our garden tickle my bare feet - that's when I'm truly in my element (perhaps we should have emigrated to somewhere hot so I could walk barefoot in the grass more often, come to think of it). But as a colour, the green hue of grass is not my favourite to paint. (Which is especially weird because when asked in any of the many Facebook quizzes what my favourite colour is, the answer is always green (I guess I mean teal, sage, olive, any colour of green except grass!)

close up+vibrant colour+impasto texture+Nic's eARTh
Close up of the mountains - impasto texture

Perhaps that is why I was never a fan of landscapes involving lots of green fields or green trees or green anythings because I just don't care for that grassy, leafy colour. Of course I know there's more than just one colour of green involved - there are many shades, tones and tints of green that make up the overall landscape but whether blended together by the artist's paintbrush or by the viewer's eye, the end result always seems to be a bright, emerald green that just doesn't appeal to me. However, now that I've learnt to leave reality in the reference photo and let my imagination and colourful palette take over on the canvas, I've discovered the joy of using the colours I like and ignoring the ones I don't. It's so liberating. Don't care for green grass? No problem, just make it purple, or pink, or orange or every colour of the rainbow instead!

skies+sky+clouds+wispy+dry brush technique+Nic's eARTh
Close up of the sky - dry brush technique for the clouds

So, with that in mind this is my latest landscape and another large one at 50cm x 70cm (19.6 X 27.5 inches) - using a reference photo taken by my very talented photographer husband, S, of a view on the Strath (a little single track road running through the mountains in the far north where the only other life you might come across are the deer or perhaps a buzzard circling its prey overhead). The field on the left was mostly green and initially I did actually try to stick to the colours of nature, before remembering that this was my painting and I could make the field whatever colour I damn well wanted! 

Close up of (not green) grass and fence post - impasto texture

I had asked S for suggestions for a title and he came up with Wild Mountain Thyme as in the lovely Scottish song covered by lots of people including Bob Dylan, the Silencers (my favourite version) and, more recently, Ed Sheeran. I love the song and thought it was a perfect title for this painting but decided to change the spelling of Thyme to Time as driving along the Strath it seems like you have all the time in the world. This is the first of the pieces I plan to submit to the Committed to Art Exhibition next month.

Wild Mountain Time+Scottish Landscape+vibrant colour+box canvas+impasto+Nic's eARTh
Wild Mountain Time - box canvas

In other news, I had a lovely week at home with my family, a brief catch up lunch with a couple of old school friends and a great meal at my parents' favourite restaurant for my mum's 80th birthday. My parents and my sister spoiled me rotten as they always do although I wasn't so grateful for the rotten head cold my sister generously shared with me and which I've been dosed with all week!

Me and my sister

A wee family meal out with my parents, my sister and my cousin

Thanks as always for popping by, I'll be linking with Paint Party Friday (where I was delighted to discover I was the featured artist last week!).

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Island Life. A Scottish scene that used to be in Cornwall

Island Life+Vibrant Colour+Impasto texture+Impessionism+Abstract
'Island Life' - impasto acrylic on canvas 20cm x 30cm

When I was at the art workshop in Cornwall last September, I painted two pictures in a looser style more along the lines of abstract realism than 'real' realism. 

close up+texture+impasto+vibrant colour+Nic's eARTh
close up of the impasto texture of the ocean

One of them I gave a vibrant do over to back here and called it 'Where it all began' in honour of the fact that it was the workshop with Ashley Hanson that set me on my new vibrant 'colour me happy' art journey.

close up+art+vibrant colour+impasto texture+Nic's eARTh
Close up of impasto texture on the land and sea

I've just given the other one a vibrant do over as well and moved the whole scene from Cornwall to Scotland. I decided to add a rocky stack, a sight that is common all along the north Atlantic coastline of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Once it was finished though I decided to call it 'Island Life' because somehow it made me think of a little tropical island - perhaps because of the bright colours and turquoise oceans or perhaps because I've been watching the new series of 'Death in Paradise' recently set on a most idyllic Caribbean island. Anyway, this piece will be going into the upcoming 'Committed to Art' exhibition in March. 

This is what it used to look like:

The original painting as completed in Cornwall of Cornwall

and this is it now:

Island Life+Impasto Texture+Vibrant Colour+Abstract Realism+Nic's eARTh
'Island Life' - slimline canvas 20cm x 30cm
As well as this one, I've been busy working on a couple of new large landscapes and re-doing a couple of older paintings so hopefully, even with being on holiday in Ireland this week, I should be on track to have at least 5 paintings ready for the exhibition. Anyway, I thought I'd just get a wee blog post in early for the week and now I really better go get my suitcase packed for my trip! See you next week. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Ming. A pet portrait.

black cat+pet portrait+acrylic+Nic's eARTh+Nic McLean
Ming - in acrylic on canvas 5x5 inches

Ming is a beautiful black cat who owns my friend, Marji. When I painted Tulli back in November, Marji kindly commissioned me to paint Ming as well and she was very patient in waiting for me to get my Christmas commissions completed before I got started on Ming's portrait. I finished it a couple of weeks ago and Marji emailed me yesterday to let me know that both portraits had arrived safely in Seattle and I'm delighted that she is really pleased with them, saying that the photos online don't do them justice - I'm so happy to get such lovely feedback and look forward to the photo Marji promised to send me when they are settled on the wall in her home in Portland, Oregon. 

Good things that happened in the last week:

  • I had a meeting with the other committee members of my local art society about the upcoming exhibition we're holding. It's going to be called 'Committed to Art' and will be on in a local gallery, Caithness Horizons, from 4 - 28 March. Slightly scary thing is that it's a month earlier than I had in my head so I've got to finish 5 paintings in 3 weeks (next week won't count as I'm off to Ireland for my mum's 80th birthday!)
  • I sold a painting in the Caithness Horizons' Christmas Exhibition
  • I sold a painting to a lovely lady who saw it on my Facebook page. 
  • I sold two paintings via an online gallery I'd forgotten I'd submitted art to months ago!
  • I received another commission to paint a tiger in the same style as my Rhino!

Cat+Dog+Pet Portrait+Nic's eARTh+Nic McLean
Ming and Tulli
Things to do this week:

  • Get painting for this exhibition! Because of the amount of paint I use to build up texture in my impasto paintings, they take a bit of time to complete especially at the moment as they seem to take even longer to dry in the winter (I've been known to give them a quick blow dry with the hair dryer to speed the process up a bit) So I better get cracking! I don't think I'll get 5 new ones finished so I may need to revisit some of my older paintings and give them a little vibrant do-over!

Black cat+pet portrait+box canvas+Nic's eARTh+Nic McLean

I won't be blogging next week as I'll be back home visiting my parents along with my sister, who is travelling over from London, but I'll hopefully get some time this Friday between painting and packing to pop over to Paint Party Friday to see what everyone has been up to. 


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