Tips for working small

Work In Progress: Christmas Tags

I introduced small paintings on wooden tags to my product range in 2018. I had no idea that they would become quite so popular and so now they are a permanent addition to the range of artwork for sale. This year I am concentrating on having several of one design in stock so that I can keep up with demand. Painting small works of art can be a strain on the eyes, particularly if you are painting in true miniature style. Here are some tips for those who like to work small:

  1. Invest in some magnifying glasses. These help you to see more accurately where to place the brush strokes.
  2. Use good quality brushes for the task.
  3. Trim old brushes to use before throwing them away and use them until they no longer give accuracy.
  4. Take regular breaks to rest the eyes. I tend to work for an hour then have a 15 – 30 minute break. Wearing magnifying glasses continuously tires the eyes quite a bit.
  5. Don’t get too precious or precise over your brush strokes unless you are attempting a proper miniature painting (these need a great deal of precision)
  6. Use the small paintings as gift tags for friends and family. Small paintings on paper can be fixed onto small cards for this purpose or use pre-cut wooden tags available online or from craft shops.
  7. Use the small paintings as artist trading cards.
  8. Have fun!


This Week In The Studio

I am still trying to get used to a ‘working week’ after such a long time in creative suspension. One good thing to come out of a long break away from work is that when you come back to it you come back with fresh eyes. So since the 1st of October – I know, that’s almost four weeks – I’ve been looking at all aspects of my work and seeing room for improvement and development in most areas. I’ve identified the need to find new ways and systems of keeping things organised. I’ve had to re-think how I market my artwork due to covid-19 restrictions. I’ve tried to accept and adapt to having lost my youngest daughter in April this year. I’ve tried to rediscover the creative Muse within, which just up and left me during some really difficult times earlier this year. And I’m pleased to say that I have risen to the challenge and managed to make a new start on all of the aforementioned.

So this week, on the creative side of work, I have been busy working on some new designs for Christmas products. There are lots of new sketches and designs sitting on the drawing board and a new Snowman Collection well under way. This week I have finished the wooden Snowman tags and wooden Snowman baubles. I’ve completed one of the new Snowman wooden door hangers and am ready to take the ‘artist’s proof’ forward with one or two wee tweeks. The Snowman linocut for cards needs more development as I am not 100% happy with the few ‘artist’s proofs’ I’ve printed off.

Some of the older cards/tags designs have generated interest from online sources and I am now bring those back into the ‘stock’ for this year. It’s all about Christmas now and this is where my focus is going to be for the next few weeks.


Coming Soon ……

Soon be time for Christmas …….

What a year 2020 has been so far! Nothing has been normal nor is it likely to get any different anytime soon. Christmas is just around the corner – 62 days to be precise – and it will be a different one, possibly difficult too, for most of us.

I came back to work on the 1st October after several months of absence, picked up some pencils and paints and made a start on designing new cards and tags for this year. I have not yet started on anything larger as there are less opportunities for showing due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. It has indeed been a strange year. However, major changes to the way we work and live gives rise to developing other ways to promote and market. I am now building more of an online presence and reducing the face-to-face events which have been non-existent since the beginning of this year. In 2021 this is likely to continue and may even become the new ‘normal’.

I feel a bit like a fish out of water in a virtual world but it is quite exciting learning new ways to adapt. I am looking forward to setting up my first online shop to compliment my website. I hope to have something up and running by 1st December, just in time to show and market some of my new Christmas merchandise.

In the meantime, stay safe and look after each other.


So Long ……

….. but not Farewell. It has been such a long time since I have done anything creative. For the last four months I have reached depths of despair and pain that were so beyond my imagination. How does one regain their axis after the loss of their child?

My child was 34 when she died in April 2020. My beautiful youngest daughter. Epilepsy is such a cruel and predatory killer. Lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic made the loss and grieving so much harder to deal with on both a practical and emotional level. On the other hand, lockdown also made it easier for me to hide away from other people, to hermitise myself in a deep dark cave of sorrow and loss.

Today, I found a shaft of light reaching into my darkness. A stranger in reality but a friend in virtual life. Words she had written for, presumably, herself but which stretched out fingers of hope towards my soul. I had not expected to feel touched in this magical way. Her poetry gave me hope. Hope that keeps me alive, rekindles my creativity. Hope that I can once again resume that role of Mother to my three other beautiful daughters. Hope that grandchildren can forgive Granny’s absence of mind. Hope that I have not lost the ability to retain and make friendships. Hope that a new Path will unfurl gradually in front of me. I am ready to walk once more.


The Old Blue Shoes again

30x30cm Oil on Canvas
[framed 33x33cm]

Well, I just couldn’t resist the temptation to render a painterly impression of my old comfy shoes. They really sparked my creativity last week, starting with a quick sketch in the sketchbook then scribbling the start of what could easily become a new short story. Within a few days, I had started painting them, finishing them the following day. I was pleased with end result and will be having the painting framed next week. I’ve submitted this painting to the Meffan Winter Exhibition so here’s hoping they will have their debut locally very soon. Sadly, the comfy old shoes gave up the ghost a couple of days ago. If the painting sells then I shall have to look out for another pair of comfy shoes …….. or perhaps I should look for cosy slippers now that we are slipping into winter.


The Old Blue Shoes

Black Biro on Cartridge paper [14 x 14cm]
Sketchbook Study

I saw my old blue shoes in a different light. They lay as they were discarded; on the old-fashioned floral rug in front of the sofa. The light from the south facing window reached into them from a drizzly overcast sky, throwing the shadows to the right and slightly backwards towards the sofa. The pale blue shoes had lost their brightness through age and wear, changing to a dusky blue tinged with daily grime. They had become arthritic like old ladies’ feet, my feet, through constant wear. They were old now, almost worn out. And yet they sat there, poised of their own accord. Waiting on the mat. Waiting to dance the dance of the day. Perhaps the old lady should have been a ballerina.

Galleries and Artists

What a jam-packed, exciting day yesterday turned out to be. The intention was to take a trip out to Fortingall Gallery‘s annual exhibition (held in the Molteno Hall, Fortingall, Perthshire PH15 2LW) and have a peek in at the Dunkeld Art Exhibition on the way. Well, one started the day out and the other finished it with lots of other in-between visits to galleries, a short walk and even time to indulge in tea and cake in a lovely cafe in Aberfeldy.

The day started with Dunkeld Art Exhibition. This was my first opportunity to see the exhibition, having missed the preview evening on the 17th June. One of my paintings had been sold and I felt quite sad not to have seen it hung in its first public showing. There were many wonderful paintings and other artworks on display with a diverse range of styles and techniques; many being affordable for limited budgets. Artists that I found interesting here were Nancy Brooks (Patchwork Landscape and Musical Trees) for her innovative approach to landscapes; Franciszca Doris for her interpretation and presentation of floral art (I was sorry not to see her poppies as they had been sold); Jane Ross for her compositional skills and expertise in using foil wrappers (various Tunnocks foil wrappers artworks depicting birds and animals, most sold); Jonathan Sainsbury for his delicate watercolours (Dipper and Burn, Blue Tit and Apple).

Walking back to the carpark, we stopped off Atholl Gallery for a quick glance around. We’d been there a few weeks ago and wondered if there had been any changes. All seemed to be fairly similar to last visit so perhaps there has been no change to artists on show. There really is an eclectic mix of artists and makers here, unforuntately I did not make a note of the names. It really is worth popping in if you are passing.

Aberfeldy was our next stop where we had a walk around town, down through the memorial gate to stroll along the paths of the Lower Birks, coming back out at the top of the town where we stumbled upon Aberfeldy Gallery There are many artists represented in this large, bright gallery. One of the back galleries (there are three very full rooms of exhibition space) is currently exhibiting four artists: Fiona Matheson (I love her ink and acrylic works, paticularly her painting ‘One Window, One Door’ ) Paul Bartlett, Ken Fergusson, Kevin Fleming and so many more, too many to mention them all. This is a very professional gallery with excellent presentation of artworks.

Continuing our stroll through Aberfeldy we came across Artisanand Gallery. Yesterday was the launch of a new exhibtion. Holly MacKenzie was one of the many artists exhibiting and I was impressed with her pyrography on sycamore slices. Time was slipping away and we both felt in need of refreshments so headed off to The Watermill Cafe, gallery and bookshop for tea and cake. This is a wonderful stop-off point in Aberfeldy and a place I have visited a few times. The best place I have ever found for a wide range of ‘proper’ teas served in a lovely teapot and accompanied by a small pot of extra hot water (offered, not asked for – now that is good service!). It was a very quick look around the gallery here (posters mainly so I did not linger) and the bookshop before heading out to Fortingall.

Molteno Hall in Fortingall is a beautiful location and a wonderful exhibition of some of the finest artworks around. There was a very high standard of artworks displayed at Fortingall Art Exhibition . The following artists are but a small sample: Erraid Gaskill; Helen Welsh; Shona MacKenzie; Rochelle McConnachie; Maryann Ryves; Keith Brockie. An online gallery shows examples of the work on show but the art really needs to be seen in the flesh to fully appreciate it. I highly recommend a visit there during the next two weeks.

Our day of galleries had come to an end. All that was left to do was take a long, leisurely drive home, stopping at Kenmore for a drink and bar of chocolate at the waters edge of the Loch Tay looking out towards the Crannog. It was indeed a very busy but delightful day out. So much to see and be inspired by. I do hope readers have enjoyed this rather lengthy Blog and have browsed through some of the links. There have been so many more artists I felt inspired by and excited about their work than I’ve had room to mention. In fact I’ve used up a big chunk of Sunday writing up this blog. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.


Finishing Day

Thursdays I try to focus on finishing things. Thursdays call for a lot of self-discipline. My work environment, wherever and whatever it has been throughout my life as an artist, has always hosted a diverse range of unfinished projects. Being a creative person means that I have ideas a-plenty but not always the time to see the inspiration through to completion. So I now devote a whole day, once a week, to finish things off. I still have a lot of projects that need picking up to work on but I can, at last, say that things are getting done.

This week I have concentrated on finishing the wood engraving prints I started on Tuesday. I have managed to turn quite a few of them into greetings cards to be sold at my next event. I have also been putting together some small original studies and paintings onto cards for the same purpose. I’ve used some (brown) craft cards, pre-scored with fold, that I’ve not used before. I’ve added a white paper insert which I like to see in cards and much nicer to write on. I’ve even re-designed some small labels to be stuck onto the back of the cards so they are truly hand-crafted original artwork cards. The finished product, packaged in a cello bag, is looking good. I’ll also be looking for other outlets to host and sell my original artwork cards. In the meantime they will be available to purchase through my website. You will notice from the photograph that I’ve finally managed to complete the varnishing and packaging for a selection of tags I did earlier in the year. I’m still not sure about how to present these for sale: in the clear bags with cord, attached to a greetings card or framed in a small black frame. Some of these tags a very detailed and take me a considerable amount of time to paint which means that I am never likely to cover my cost let alone make a profit. Either I will have to go more ‘impressionist style’ or sell them as miniatures mounted and framed.

The only painting I have managed to ‘finish’ this week is a small impressionist painting of (yet another!) a tree I completed several weeks ago. I’ve now mounted and framed this piece but I am not sure about the thin black frame being right for it. The frame may change at a later date, as may the brown card backing. For now though it will hang on the wall until I decide what else should be done with it. Or I may sell it as a study without the frame.


En Plein Air: Wet and drizzly

Well, someone ought to tell the weather that I have organised a weekly schedule to keep me organised and working on my art. Wednesday’s are ear marked for En Plein Air work; and what did the weather do? Drizzled and rained off and on. A dreich day as oft happens in Scotland. Needless to say that no work of significance happened. I did manage to geta couple of sketches done in my sketchbook that I can work on in my studio, so not all was lost. Yesterday’s ‘oot and aboot’ adventure was Edzell Castle and Gourdon harbour.

Edzell Castle has a beautiful garden and a super wee summer house which remains complete. The castle itself is a ruined relief of its once grand former self. I’ve taken lots more reference photographs for future inspirations. I took time to walk around Edzell to get a feel for townscapes at a later date.

Gourdon is one of my favourite wee places to visit on Scotland’s East Coast. An unassuming and very small harbour village. Hardly a town as it is so small. A place that inspires me greatly and one I enjoy visiting even when it is raining. I stayed in the car to sketch and paint the boats yesterday as the rain was more than a slight drizzle. Hence I forgot to photograph the scene I was painting. I’ll be back there soon no doubt.

This week’s artist: Jolomo

[2013. S Mansfield, J Leighton and T Roberts.]

BBC I-Player has been running a programme on John Lowrie Morrison, better known as Jolomo. This is a programme well worth watching about a famous and very prolific artist with Hebridean roots. The programme has only three nights left to run but it is certainly well worth making time to view.

Jolomo’s work is very vibrant and full of energy. His use of strong bold colours seems at odds with the Hebridean landscape and yet he manages to capture the essence of these remote places very well. It is almost as if these wee crofts come alive under his application of thick oils. Jolomo’s paintings have a similarity of colour and texture to Van Gogh, but without a personal anquish often found in Van Gogh’s work.

Take a look at to find out more about Jolmo’s work. The book above can be purchased through


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