Thursday, 26 June 2014

View from Glen Loth in impasto acrylic (and the impression of an expression!)

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

I've recently started reading a really useful book that my friend, Angela, lent me called 'Finding your visual voice' and it helps you to pinpoint what really inspires you to paint and what you respond to both visually and emotionally when looking at life and creating art - there are exercises to complete throughout the book and questions to answer which make you think more about why and how you paint. Now, while I know it isn’t that important to pigeon hole ourselves into any particular category, as I was reading the book although specific art movements, as such, aren't mentioned, it made me curious to know if my impasto work could best be likened to:

  • impressionist
  • post-impressionist
  • expressionist
  • fauvism
  • any of the many other art movements, or 
  • none of the above?
close up section of the painting

I did a little digging on Google (which can muddy the waters every bit as much as it can enlighten) and looking at examples of artwork I figured that perhaps I was a bit of an expressionist (with my impasto work at least as my gouache is mostly realistic). But then I Googled some more and other examples were nothing like my work so I did some more digging on the differences between the various art movements and the resulting styles.
close up section of the painting

Well, apart from learning the names of the group of artists and the timespan when each created their respective movement I'm no wiser - when you look up images, some of the same pieces of art appear under both impressionism and expressionism and although there might be 5 different artists described as ‘impressionists’ none of their work looks at all alike in a way that would make you say 'ah yes, he was clearly an impressionist'! So the upshot is that now I'm really not sure what I am but I think perhaps more impressionist than expressionist with maybe a little bit of fauvism thrown in!

Scottish Landscape+Acrylics+Art+Impasto+Nicola McLean

To be honest, I don’t think it really matters as, at the time these movements were created, it was just a bunch of artists frustrated with the limitations of the time and pushing the boundaries to create something new – each one seems to overlap and lead on to the next one.  So, I guess that most artists today just paint in the way that they are inspired to and chances are they might be a little bit this and a little bit that and that is exactly what this book is helping me to discover about myself!

Close up section of the painting
Anyway, this is my largest landscape to date, taken from a photo S took at the top of Glen Loth (which is a tiny rutted, potholed one track road with grass growing up the middle going through the mountains which shortens the journey by about 20 miles when driving from where we live south to Inverness but which I would never, ever drive myself as there are very few passing places and if a car came towards me we'd end up having a stand off as to who was going to reverse - and, as I'm so rubbish at driving backwards, it wouldn't be me!). 

SM-Art Photography+View from Glen Loth+Scotland+Highlands
Credit S: View from the top of Glen Loth

This is the same view I used for my ACEO landscape for the SOC4 week 3 on Tuesday. I used palette knives for this piece and really enjoyed the looser more painterly way of working but just don't ask me what art movement it belongs to!

Acrylic Landscape+Impasto+Scottish Highlands+Nicola McLean

I'm linking up with Paint Party Friday. I haven't been there nearly as often this year but I do try to find time to visit as many of the artists who link up as I can and please know that I always appreciate the time you take to visit here and leave a comment.  

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Summer of Colour - Week 3 - Lavender, Grey and Plum

SOC14+WEEK3+Lavender, Grey and Plum+Landscape+ACEO+Nicola McLean

We're on week 3 of Summer of Colour already and this week's colour prompts are:

Lavender, grey and a pop of plum 
During a brief moment when I actually had mobile internet access on my phone during the long drive back from Glasow (where we'd had a very short overnight stay to see Justin Currie (lead singer of 90s band Del Amitri) perform a solo gig) I saw the colours for this week and immediately thought of mountains and heather for my submission to SOC14.  It may have been inspired by the mountainous route we were on at the time but whatever the reason I was happy that the colours worked well in another ACEO landscape!

This is a very, very loose interpretation of a view from the top of Glen Loth which I've recently painted in impasto acrylics but which I haven't yet posted on the blog (pop back on Friday if you want to see that one!) 

In case you're interested the gig was brilliant. We saw him do a Del Amitri tour in January in the Hydro (a massive stadium) but this time it was in a converted church called Oran Mor - a tiny, intimate venue where he seemed much more at ease having banter with the crowd and he was amazing.

My friend, Audrey, kindly looked after Lily the cat, who was home alone while we took the three dogs to Glasgow with us. S's brother dog-sat our 3 along with his own westie while we went out for a lovely meal at vegan restaurant The 78 and then off to the gig  - it was a great wee night and well worth the 13 hour round trip to get there!!

I'll be linking up to Kristin's blog for SOC14 Week 3 as well as the Flickr page and Facebook page so do be sure to visit one of those venues to see the wide variety of arty crafty things everyone else comes up with using this week's colour prompts. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Lurcher+Dog+Pet Portrait+Gouache+Nicola McLean
Toast the Lurcher - 12 x 8 inches in gouache
Toast is a perfectly named and incredibly handsome lurcher whose person, Rachel, had the winning bid in the Hounds First, Sight Hounds Charity Auction in which I offered a custom pet portrait as one of the prizes.

I really enjoyed painting Toast and it was good to dip back into detailed gouache after being so slap dash with palette knives and acrylic for the last while.

The best part of doing a bespoke portrait (apart from doing the eyes which is my absolute favourite) is feedback from the client and I'm delighted that when I showed Rachel the portrait before sending it off, her response was:  

"I love the portrait - it's Toast absolute and is going to take pride of place, thank you so much! It really is wonderful...thank you for such a lovely portrait of Toast and I cannot wait to see it here at home, it's spot on Nicola!"

Here is the lovely boy in the photo which Rachel sent me to work on:

Toast - photo taken by his person. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Summer of Colour 2014 Week 2 - Coral, Teal and White

Summer of Colour week 2+coral, teal and white+Nicola McLean
ACEO  landscape in gouache

Week 2 of Summer of Colour and the colour prompt this week was:

Coral, Teal and a smudge, splash or pop of white

I want to keep my theme of ACEO landscapes going so found an instagram photo I'd taken of a field of sheep and then painted pretty much an entirely different picture using the colours in the prompt instead.

In other news, the second of the three local exhibitions that I'm taking part in started yesterday. It runs for three evenings and is a mix of art and crafts from local artists and crafty folk and a percentage of the profits goes to the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Caithness General Hospital. 

Also last week, I received the cheque for the small canvas I sold at Latheron Art Show (with no stamp on the envelope so I had to pay £1.53 to the Post Office for the privilege of getting it!). It came in very handy to pay for the return postage of my seal painting which unfortunately didn't sell at the Association of Animal Artist's Annual Exhibition in Frodsham last month. Hey ho. What art gives, art takes away!

Anyway, I've almost finished the pet portrait commission that I've been working on during doggy nap times. Here's a sneaky peek.  Pop back on Friday if you'd like to see the completed piece.
Lurcher+Pet Portrait+Work In Progress+Nicola McLean
A sneaky peek of a Pet Portrait in Progress

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Summer of Colour 2014 Week 1 - Aqua, Yellow and Pink

summer of colour week 1+Nicola McLean
ACEO seascape in gouache

It's that time of year when artists all over blogland get their palettes primed and ready to go for the next 6 weeks when we join in my favourite arty challenge - Summer of Colour.

This year it's all about Smudge, Splash & Pop - each week Kristin will give us colour prompts with two main colours and then a third colour for us to add a smudge, splash or pop of!

This is the first week and the colour prompt this week was:

Aqua, Yellow and a smudge, splash or pop of hot pink
I've got quite a lot on artwise at the moment with another couple of local exhibitions and I'm in the middle of a commissioned dog portrait so I wanted to be able to do something that meant I could join in this challenge but that wouldn't eat into too much of my time. This is especially important right now because my art time is currently restricted to puppy naps!  

I'd forgotten just how much work looking after a puppy is. She wakes up any time from 4am and once she's awake, we're all awake! Then it's the constant reading of ever so subtle puppy body language that might give some indication of wanting to 'go potty'. Skye doesn't believe in giving much warning so literally every time she stands up I take her outside (our carpets thank me for it!). That's all well and good but doesn't do much for artistic concentration. So while she sleeps, much as I'd like to sleep too, I paint instead.

Still, look at that face - how could I resist and she won't be a puppy forever!

Skye - sometimes it's exhausting being a puppy (and a puppy parent!)

So, I decided I'd stick with the landscapes I've been doing a lot of recently and do some little ACEO landscapes keeping to the colours in the prompt.  These colours said sunset at the beach to me and so that's what I did.

You can see all the many and varied interpretations of these colour prompts over at Kristin's Summer of Colour blog or pop over to the SOC14 Flickr or Facebook page.

Friday, 6 June 2014

A wedding caricature and the importance of saving before deleting!

Heather and Neil Magill+Wedding Caricature+ink and gouache+Nic McLean
Heather and Neil - wedding caricature in ink and gouache

So, my friend Heather is getting married on 8 June. Unfortunately we weren't able to get back to N.Ireland for the big day but I wish them both a fabulous day of sunshine and love. 

Like us, Heather and Neil have two little Westies and I had thought to do a portrait of them as a wedding gift. I had a squiz through Heather's Facebook photos but I couldn't find any close up shots of Alfie and Spencer that I could've used as a reference photo so I had the idea to do a caricature of the bride and groom instead. 

Now, because the paper is A3 sized, it was too big to scan so I carefully blue tacked it to the larder door in our kitchen and took several photographs before putting it into the frame.

I put my camera memory card into the computer to upload the photos and went through them making a note of which photos were the clearest, intending to post a shot of the caricature on its own and then of it in the frame.

Well, for some reason known only to the universe, before creating a new file and moving all the photos off the memory card onto the computer, I decided to delete the shots I didn't need first (something I have never done before and have no idea why I did now). Of course, instead of just deleting the shots I didn't want I managed to delete all the shots bar the one illustrating this post. I frantically hit 'undo' to no avail. I Googled what to do to retrieve accidentally deleted photographs and was directed to download a programme guaranteed to find them. I downloaded it and it found photographs that were previously on my memory card that I barely remembered taking but not the ones I'd just deleted! G'ah!!!!

wedding caricature+gouache and ink+Nic McLean

So, the upshot is, I have just the one photograph to show you of the caricature in its frame and I've cropped it in to show you the caricature on its own, which isn't the clearest, but I can only be grateful that I even had that one photograph left.  Otherwise you'd have to take my word for it that I had even done the caricature as it was already in the post when I managed to have my blonde/senior moment!

The real Heather and Neil
- no idea who the man in the middle is but I turned his hand into Neil's!

Happy Wedding Day Heather and Neil!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

'On the horns of a dilemma' - Highland Cow in acrylic impasto

highland cow+impasto+acrylic+nic mclean
'On the horns of a dilemma' - acylic impasto 40cm x 50cm

This is one I started several weeks ago when I first decided to try my hand at impasto. The background has gone through many, many incarnations and I've gotten through many, many, many tubes of acyrlic paint - I love the 3D texture of impasto but my Dog, it uses up a lot of paint!

Close up of the thick layers of paint 

I used a photo that S took recently when he was out and about during his family's visit but I sort of made the background up.I messed around and messed around and eventually hit on something that I liked.

highland cow+box canvas+ragged edges+nic mclean
The ragged edges are deliberate!

In keeping with the mini landscapes I've been doing recently I decided to do ragged edges as if the paint was peeling away from a black background. I liked it as I was doing it but then had a crisis of confidence and so, I called upon my good art friend Sandra for her opinion on whether it looked deliberate or would people think I just couldn't paint a straight black border round the sides of the box canvas! Sandra reassured me that it worked which is what I was hoping she'd say as I really quite like it!

Anyway, I finished this a couple of weeks ago and am working on some more mini landscapes for some more local exhibitions but plan on doing some more animals like this too.

In the meantime, another of the auctions that I donated artwork to has completed and this time I offered to do a custom portrait of the winner's dog. I've been in contact with the winner today and will be starting a gouache portrait of a beautiful lurcher this week. As much as I'm enjoying the unpredictability and expressionism of impasto I'm really looking forward to getting back to some more realistic gouache. It's nice to switch between the two styles - perhaps if I had to label myself as an artist I'd be a realistic expressionist or would I be an expressionistic realist?!


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