2019

Oh my! 11 months since my last blog – what happened to the time?  All those days and weeks swallowed up without stopping for a glance backwards.  Perhaps 2018 did not want to be recorded. Endings, beginnings and lots of muddling through.

2019 has started with the Fun A Day Dundee project once more.  This year I am attempting miniatures.  One small wooden gift tag painted with an original acrylic painting for each day of the month.  I can’t always manage one each day but I am doing what I can, when I can.  Mother takes up a considerable amount of time at present due to her health issues and the travelling between her home and my own – she lives 100 miles away which is two hours drive or five hours bus journey.  I find it difficult to have any time for painting when staying with mother so I decided that time can be used for ‘thinking creatively’ whilst time at home can be ‘action time’.  In other words I paint more than one gift tag a day at home and make notes for other tags when at mother’s.

In addition, I have a rather large (48″ x 24″) canvas to complete during January.  A commission that has taken much longer than it should have due to caring for my mother.  Just the finishing touches to do then it will be off the easel waiting for the clients approval prior to delivery.

As if that is not enough to be getting on with, I have committed myself to working with several others on Julia Cameron’s book Finding Water.  I had to back out of the last Group in 2018 (Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way) when too many pressures became overwhelming.  Perhaps I’ll return to The Artist’s Way at a later date.  For now though it is Finding Water.

It has been a joyous start really to 2019. Mother, although now completely immobile with various health issues, can now be left for a few days at a time. This means that I am now able to get back to the pleasures of creating artworks. I felt I had almost lost the artist within. These wee wooden tags are now becoming obsessional. I had an idea in December that I would like to paint a small gift tag for each of my four daughters. Then I thought I’d like to include grandchildren. Before I knew it I was painting tags for Bob’s family also. Then of course there were a few close friends. And Bob too. I ended up painting 28 wee tags! Somehow it seemed odd to give a gift tag without a gift. I then had to go out shopping for small extra gifts (I was giving money this year as I didn’t have time to shop!) to attach the gift tag to. Those wee tags kept me busy during December; and now I am still just as busy during January doing more tags for Fun A Day Dundee!

Time to get on with the day. May 2019 bring joys a-plenty to all. ~A~

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Lady’s Tower

 

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LADY’S TOWER by Annie McLean Mixed media on paper £POA  Image: 8x12cm.  Mounted:15.2x20cm [unframed]
Sunday was a cold day, perhaps not the best day to walk along the coast of Elie in the East Neuk of Fife but the sun shone, coaxing me and my Muse outdoors.  I had not set out to gather inspirations for my artwork; the trip out was meant to be just another ‘chilly picnic’ with Bob, enjoying each other’s company and countryside.  Bob parked up at the harbour car park and guided me across the sands, grasses and rocks towards the east side of Elie Ness.  We stepped out of the car to a severe biting wind, thinking a short walk before lunch then perhaps another short walk in the other direction after eating our picnic in the car.  We stopped many times during our walk that our ‘chilly picnic’ became more like a mid-afternoon feast as we took so long to complete what should have been a short walk before lunch.  

 

I was glad I had packed my camera as there were so many scenes of inspiration that captured my eye.  Bob, as always, was patient with my need to indulge the Muse. We stopped several times to take photographs and to absorb the beauty of this delightful place.  We did continue our explorations after lunch and, as before, I gathered more photographs and ‘beachcombing gifts’ that will work their way into some multi-media work at some point.

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Lady’s Tower – and a patient Bob.

 

Here are some links for those who wish to know more about Elie and the Lady’s Tower:

Lady’s Tower – a short walk from the Watersports Car Park.

Elie – a tourist page showing areas of interest around Elie and Earlsferry

 

Catching the Muse

Well, Time and my Muse are both fickle entities of the most elusive kind.  I seem to have let slip of both and find myself facing the start of summer with still lots of unfinished work to be completed.  That’s the Time aspect.  Time can be managed by better planning and organising.

The Muse is a different kettle of fish, albeit the Muse is neither kettle nor fish.  The Muse is sneaky and slippery.  One minute She is there; the next gone!  How to manage the Muse is a problem reaching back infinitum.  I guess I am not the only artist to suffer from the absent Muse syndrome.  Neither the first nor last artist to suffer from her absence.  So how can an artist reign in her Muse?

The first thing to do is pretend Her absence is not noticeable.  Pretend the Muse is only in the next room, waiting or preparing for ‘The Big One’. This is the point where I sarcastically say to myself “I wish!” before continuing with my ‘capture the Muse’ tactics.  It’s a bit like dealing with a sulky child.  Except this one is our ‘Inner Child’.

The next thing is to commit to a daily practice of creating, with or without the Muse.  She won’t like that as the Muse can be full of Ego at times.  In fact I have often thought that if the Muse was a tangible humanly presence we could identify, by use of all our senses, then she would be born under the sign of Gemini.  Her twinned personality defined by Ego and Spirit.  So commit and create without looking for completion or appraisal.  Once the commitment is undertaken it will get easier, as long as the last sentence is adhered to.  The creation does not even have to be ‘good enough’ nor even finished.  It only has to be started.  Make a mark.  Write a word.  Sew a stitch.  Take a photo.

Follow up by making a start without thinking.  Dispense with Kipling’s ‘six honest serving men’ What? Why? Where? When? How? Who (for)? because they will cast doubt if sought out in the beginning.  Keep the ‘serving men’ for when the Muse returns.  She’ll make good use of them then.  So make a start.  A short time period is good because short means less time to think.  The thinking can come later.  Break the creative workout into steps and try to only do one thing then move away.  Leave it until the next day.  Give the Muse an opportunity to come back at every stage.  The first step will lead into the second step whether you push it or not.  Subconsciously we will be digesting the mark we made and will instinctively know what the next mark should be, albeit time has passed between the two.  Don’t leave it more than 24 hours though between marks.  I mention ‘marks’ as I am an artist of the painterly sort.  If you were a writer you’d write a few words or a sentence.  A textile artist would perhaps do a few stitches.  A photographer, a photo.  Whatever kind of artist you are use the tools of your trade, the ones you are most comfortable with.  Let’s work on those steps.

Step One: Take a colour and apply.

Step Two: Make a shape

Step Three: Walk a line around, over or through the ‘Creation’

Step Four: Add/do something different.

Step Five: Repeat one of the first four steps

Step Six: Repeat two or more of the first four steps

Step Seven: Rest, use the senses (Look, Listen, Feel, Taste, Smell) to adapt or add.  Rest.

Some people believe that God made the world in seven days – surely we can create something in seven days.  It doesn’t need to be perfect or finished.

Whatever has been created is done.  It does not need to justify itself nor do we need to justify or define ourselves by our results.  This exercise is practice whilst we wait for the Muse to return.  If she doesn’t return after seven days it does not matter.  We can have another week repeating the seven steps.  It only takes a few minutes a day of commitment but you may be surprised at how change comes about within ourselves and what we create.  Don’t be surprised if you find the Muse comes rushing in during one of the stages, especially if you are repeating the weekly process.

It’s Monday ….. I’m off to start working on my steps………

~A~

ps: I think I will write this up as a workshop programme.

Completions in March

MARCH ART
Completed paintings in March 2017

I doubt if I will get round to finishing another painting before the end of the month – but one never knows, so I may well be adding to this before the 31st comes to a close.  Today’s photograph shows the finished work for this month.

It was quite a long laborious ‘finishings’ this month.  I had been busy painting the first three weeks of March, with eight paintings completed during that time.  All, bar one, needed framing – six of which needed mounting too.  I also wanted to get them onto my new super organised ‘catalogue of art 2017’ – constructed in MSWord.  There is certainly more to being a full-time artist than creating works of art!  Not quite all on the website yet but I still have a few days of March left to get that done.  Give me a couple of days and then go check it out: Ainetheon Arts – New Work .

Now to plan April.

~A~

Meet Moody Margaret

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MOODY MARGARET by Annie McLean – Oil on Board 15×17.5cm
Meet Moody Margaret, sheep extraordinaire.  I have a feeling Miss Margaret though may be more of a ‘Ram in Ewe’s wool’.  But I don’t mind transgender sheep.  This has been a bit of fun for me over this last week or two.  This fun wee painting started out as another ‘left-overs’ and I have worked away, off and on, at it over the last couple of weeks using the left over oils from my palettes from other paintings.  Perhaps she was a bit of light relief from working on the landscapes.  She is worked in oils on prepared (gesso) board and is 15×17.5cm.  I have used a photograph I took some time ago as reference and tried to put a bit of character into the piece.  Sheep, like all animals, have characters.  Whilst I was working on Moody Margaret I kept thinking up stories about a sheep.  A rather bossy, dominant sheep who keeps trying to be in charge only to find that other farm animals play tricks on her.  Perhaps a children’s story in there after all ……

I’ve come to 5.30pm and realised that I have not gone shopping yet.  I have two choices – eat what I can cook from frozen in my freezer (which means a late dinner) or get to the shops quick and see if I can pick up something that will cook quickly – and maybe even treat myself to a bottle of wine.  My prize for completing two paintings in one day, albeit ones that were started previously.

~A~

Completed: From Wilkie’s Shelter

FROM WILKIE'S SHELTER
FROM WILKIE’S SHELTER by Annie McLean Oil on Board [14x10cm]
Started yesterday at the monthly Drop In for Art session – finished this morning.  I say finished but quite often after a painting has sat for a few days before signing I make a last minute amendment or addition.  I may dull the ‘wee hoose’ down a tad when I come to sign the painting.

For this landscape I have used my own reference photograph taken during Sunday’s Day 1 (en plein air) of the 2-day workshop.  The palette of oils I have used for this one includes titanium white, cobalt blue, indian red, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber.  The support is a board primed with gesso.  I’m hoping the oils will be dry enough for me to mount the piece in a week or so.  The size of this study is 14x10cm and I may decide to paint a larger version later in the year.

Wilkie’s Shelter is a red and white public shelter with seating.  There is a board close to it giving information about whose life it commemorates and why it was built.  I’ll have to come back and edit this post as I have very little time at present to give full details.  Briefly, for now, it sits on the top of Kirrie Hill behind the Peter Pan Playground.  The shelter is partitioned into four sections, two of which overlook the Angus Glens.  This view looks out towards Glen Clova.  Perhaps I ought to paint a view from each of the sections.  Another thought to put into the Project Folder.

And now to work …..

~A~

 

Completed: On Tulloch Hill (study)

On Tulloch Hill
ON TULLOCH HILL by Annie McLean – Oil on board 10x8inch

This 10×8 inch painting started life as a study for a larger piece but I worked on and it has become a painting in its own right. Worked in oils, this was one of the four oils started recently.  It was inspired by last week’s EPA (en plein air) walk up to the Airlie monument on Tulloch Hill and beyond to look over the glens.  This particular scene was composed from a previous visit in September 2016 (own photo reference used) when the grasses were a bleached ochre, the heathers an aged mixture of sienna and umber, the sky showing a dramatic loss of summer.  I am still working on the EPA piece I started last Tuesday (7th March) and I hope I can capture just as much drama as I did with this completed one.

Oh it is so good to be back painting landscapes in oils!  Having said that, I am still committed to making this a year of abstract development.  Hopefully I can manage to continue to do both as well as running regular workshops.  At least I will never be bored.

A short blog today.  I have a very messy studio that needs tidying and clearing before the end of the day. I am heading off out this evening to a private view with a friend so have a tight timescale to clean up in, especially if I want to get a bit of painting done today.

May you all be happily busy,

~A~

WIP: Three Oil Paintings

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L to R: View from Tulloch Hill; Queen’s View; Forfar Loch
Friday is working on my own day, apart from the occasional visitor to my studio.  My desire today is to work in oils, my favourite medium.  I love the sensory aspects of working with oils; the smell, the feel (yes, I sometimes do use my fingers to apply or smudge in the paint) and the overall quality of this medium.  Oils are sensual.  A most delightful love affair.

This morning I have been working away on three oil paintings of landscapes.  All of them different, with scenes of individual beauty.  The first one worked on this morning was the 30x60cm canvas of Forfar Loch I had started 11 days ago.  This one I am painting from my own reference photograph using Seawhite Oils: Titanium White, Cobalt Blue, Coeruleum, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna.  I want to try to see if I can stick to this limited palette; so far so good.  I had started this one with a brush sketch using thinned out Burnt Sienna then applied the first layer last Friday evening then leaving it for a week to let the oil paint dry out enough before applying the next layer.  Today I have worked the sky and water a bit more and darkened up the background shading of the water edges, grasses and trees using a mix of Cobalt and Sienna which gives a lovely luxuriously deep, almost Phthalo, shade of blue.  I am pleased, so far, how this one is developing.  I may do a little more to this one later today or over the weekend then let it sit again for a week or so.

The next one I decided to work on was a 30x30cm deep edge canvas of Queen’s View in Perthshire which was started as an En Plein Air painting last summer.  The wind got up whilst I was standing at the viewpoint overlooking Loch Tummel, blowing me, the easel and the canvas about a fair bit.  I called it a day, brought the canvas home and settled it on a shelf for the last few months.  Today I started to edge out some of the darker shapes along the loch in the same Cobalt and Burnt Sienna mixture then blended it in a bit with the lighter blue of the loch.  I will work on this one more later today.  I have painted this scene a few times, the largest and best example held in a private collection in Suffolk.  I enjoy painting this scene but prefer to do this in the studio as trying to work EPA at the viewpoint is nigh on impossible due to the tourists.  I’ve also taken a couple of overseas students to this location for a two-day workgroup last year; long, exhausting days but very enjoyable ones.

Last dabble before lunch was adding a bit more substance to the sky from this week’s EPA venture up Tulloch Hill.  I had thought about ditching this one but then thought better of it.  Practice makes perfect so to speak, and not only that if something is not going right first time then there is a lot more to be learnt from sticking with it than giving up.  I think I was more disappointed with not being able to do a complete painting EPA on the day.  I paint slowly and do so envy those who can work outdoors for a couple of hours and come up with spectacular work.  I don’t think I have ever completed a piece of art fully EPA, and if I have then it still gets tampered with in the studio.  Another habit of mine, I find it difficult to stop painting and oft-times overwork a piece.  The View from Tulloch Hill has been salvaged to be worked on and completed another day.

So today is oil painting and there are now three oils on the go, all landscapes.

~A~

 

 

En Plein Air (EPA) day

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Getting Started with the pochade box
Thursday already.  Thursday is my Monday, the start of another five days of working in the studio.  Weekends, mid-week or otherwise always seem to rush by quicker than I expect or want.  My mid-week weekend has been no different to most.  I promised myself a full day out and about on Tuesday, walking and painting in the Glens of Angus.

On Monday evening I prepared my new pochade box with all the accoutrements needed to start a new landscape in oils.  I packed my usual Winsor & Newton favourite colours and a couple of extras plus an assortment of brushes and a few palette knives.  The box had plenty of spaces for additional materials for cleaning, thinning etc.  I had even ‘primed’ the palette of the box with linseed oil (so much easier to clean up afterwards).

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Airlie Monument, September 2016
Tuesday morning was bright, blue and a bit on the cold side.  Never mind, plenty of wrappings will keep me warm.  Breakfast finished, off I set with my prepared pochade box (complete with two boards supporting a sheet of 12x9in oil painting paper each side), a lightweight folding stool and my rucksack with lunch, water and a few sundries.  The large flask of hot water I decided could stay in the car until I got back to it.  I knew what and where I wanted to paint, and knew that there was every likelihood of it being very much different to when I last visited in September 2016.  It was indeed quite different. I forgot what a climb it was from the car park on the way to Glen Prosen.  And it was much colder in March for sitting still for well over an hour on top of Tulloch Hill, where the Airlie Monument sits in memory of the 9th Earl of Airlie who was killed in the Boer War.

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View from the Airlie Monument, March 2017
Well, I actually set myself up a short walk away from the monument itself and perhaps exposed myself even more to the chilling wind.  My hands became so cold that I put my lovely soft leather gloves (my best ones of course!) back on to paint with.  The are no longer pure black – they have the odd smudging of oil paint in a variety of colours.  Not too much but enough for them to no longer be considered my best pair of gloves.  My woolly pom-pom hat with the lovely fleecy lining also had to be put on.  My poor ears were starting to go numb with the breeze biting at them.

I much prefer the photos I took last September and have a notion to follow up the one started EPA with one of the Autum scene.  Two different scenes from a short distance apart.  I will work on more than one scene from both the autumn and the spring.  It will be interesting to see what comes out from both.  I don’t do too much in the way of EPA painting.  I suppose I did more outdoor work when I lived down in Suffolk when life was a bit more settled than it has been over these last couple of years back in my homeland.  I intend to rectify that now that life events are settling into a nice routine of work and play.  Scotland is such an inspirational playground for the artist.  Angus and the wonderful Glens is like manna from heaven to my heathen soul.  I will never have enough years to visit or paint all I want of Scotland before my ticket is called.  But I will have fun and plenty of adventures along the way.

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EPA view from Tulloch Hill, March 2017
Tuesday’s EPA painting did not go so well for me, perhaps because of the cold and perhaps because I need more practice hoicking art paraphernalia and lunch up mighty steep hills (well I am into my 60’s now!).  I also need to get over the reluctance of being visible to the public (hence I don’t do street scenes – but watch this space).  I choose the Glens thinking that there would be a good chance of not seeing other people around.  On this trip I had two couples and single walker stop to chat.  Once my concentration gets distrurbed I sometimes find it difficult to settle back into the ‘mode’.  After about an hour and a half of playing around with the oils I decided to pack up and walk further into the glens, heading towards Clova (and a suitable place for a ‘comfort break’).  I took some photos along the way which may or may not get used for future paintings/inspirations etc.

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Towards Clova from Tulloch Hill, March 2017
I could have kept going but realised that I had a lot of up and down hill to retrace back to my car.  And I wanted to get back to the car for a nice hot cup of tea from my flask.  I made it back to the car by 15.30 and sat on a bench in the car park looking towards Glen Prosen.  Enough was enough for the day.  Time to head home and get back into the warm.

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Time to turn back towards the Airlie Monument, March 2017
 

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Walking back towards the Airlie Monument, March 2017
Next week another EPA day.  Where will I get to next week?

~A~

Completed and WIP

We are fast approaching the end of another week.  In my Blog on February 26th I spoke about having a weekly aim of starting and completing at least one new work; not necessarily the same one.  I followed up that Blog on Monday (27th February) by showing four new ‘starts’ for the week ahead.  Out of those four beginnings I have managed to achieve one completion and one Work In Progress (WIP).  I have also continued to doodle and sketch away with new ideas for other works of art; some will be progressed into the project folder then developed on, and some will remain in the depths of either my sketchbook or journal.

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Untitled (ref:2017-0301) Acrylic on Canvas 12×16 inch

I believe I mentioned in Monday’s post that I awoke with this image in my head and made a quick sketch of it in my journal.  So much for me keeping a journal for words only!  From there I sketched out then coloured, using watercolour pencils, it.  Once I was happy with the composition and colour choices I moved onto mapping it out on a 16×12 inch canvas with a tonal wash of Burnt Sienna acrylic paint.  On Thursday I started applying the first layer of paint using Daler Rowney System 3 Heavy Body acrylic paint.  Palette used was Titanium White, Coeruleum Blue, Ultramarine, Cadmium Red, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Process Black and Reeves Gold acrylic.  I used a variety of palette knives to paint this one and a round no. 8 brush for some finer detail.  A flat brush was used to paint the sides of the canvas.  I am not a lover of leaving edges unpainted, even if they are to be framed. I worked on this one over two days and completed it yesterday (Friday).

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Forfar Loch (WIP) Oil on Canvas 30×60 cm

And that is my week so far.

~A~