Lady’s Tower


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.

Lady's Tower and Bob DSCF9888_edited-1
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



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.

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).

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

And that is my week so far.



Starting: Lots of new beginnings

Left to right: 30x60cm canvas prepared (oil) from Forfar Loch photo; : 16x7in acrylic paper on board prepared (acrylic wash) from Forfar Loch photo; 16x12in canvas prepared (acrylic wash) from sketch book (shown above); 30x30cm canvas blocked out with composition in acrylic (started last night)

Monday morning arrived with a touch of frost and clear blue skies.  Just the right weather to think about new beginnings.  Spring is definitely in the air – within me and in the World.  The above photograph shows the three new works I have started this morning plus the one I started on late yesterday (mentioned in yesterday’s blog).  So let me tell you a bit more about each one and how I hope to develop them.  I’ll take them from left to right.

The 30x60cm canvas is a continuation of developing the Forfar Loch project I started last week (see last week’s blog on Starting about that one).  Since finishing the Tighnabruiach commission in December last year I have been itching to start another landscape in oils.  I love working with oils.  I love the smell of them, their fluidity and buttery feel under the brush or palette knife.  I love the smell of the thinners too; I know, I ought to be using low odour thinners.  And as for the linseed oil, well there is nothing like adding a bit of that to the oil paint to thin out for glazing etc but oh it does add to the drying time!  I’ve given this canvas a wash of Burnt Sienna (Seawhite) and used a cloth to evenly apply this then dabbed out the areas to lighten for clouds and reflections.  I then thickened up the paint and used a 3/4 inch flat brush to map out the darker areas.  The burnt sienna will add a touch of warmth to the painting.  The reference photograph was taken last week when I was out walking.  Even although it was a cold blustery day there was plenty of sunshine and I felt warm inside and out.  This view struck a chord with me, making me think of and compare two lovely places where I have lived (Suffolk) and where I now live (Angus).  This painting is likely to take me about 2-3 months (or longer) to complete as I use traditional oils which will need time to dry between layers.

The 16×7 inch was originally going to be painted onto a panel however, when I removed the panel from a beautiful frame I have in the studio, I realised that the panel was only hard board with rather rough edges.  I thought that a coat or two of gesso might be good enough but I was not happy with it so I cut out the exact size of the board in specialist acrylic paper (Seawhite 360gsm) and glued it to the board.  I now have a suitable support for the painting.  This rendition of Forfar Loch will be completed using acrylic paints and I think I will use either the Galeria (Daler Rowney) or the Seawhite acrylics.  I have prepared the support with a two-tone acrylic wash (blue) and have set the horizon about one third down from the top.  The light blue wash for the sky has been ‘dabbed out’ in places to show the lightness of clouds.  The darker blue (ultramarine with a touch of burnt umber) has been applied in a watery wash, again dabbed out to show the highlights on the water then thickened and applied to the areas in shadow or darker tones.  I’d like to get this one finished by the end of March; one of my completions as part of my goal for that month.

The 16×12 inch canvas will be another abstract.  This one has been inspired by my waking thoughts at 6am this morning.  Why I was thinking of skiing heaven only knows – I have never skied in my life before!  There is, as with a lot of the abstracts that I have been doing, a spiritual element to this particular piece but I may talk about that another time.  So at 6am this morning I wrote a few lines in my journal and made a quick doodle to remind myself of the shapes/composition I had thought of.  First thing I did when I got into the studio this morning was to sketch out my idea in my sketchbook using coloured pencils to remind myself of the colours I felt would work.  In the photograph you will see the initial sketch above the prepared canvas.  Again I have used a thinnish acrylic wash (Galleria burnt sienna and crimson) to map out the composition.  This too I hope will be one of my completions for March – but we’ll see how that goes as I have a habit of delaying the finishes and I also have an abstract WIP (70x70cm) that needs some attention and finishing too.

Finally, the 30x30cm canvas on the right is one that I started late yesterday after finishing the two abstracts (see yesterday’s blog).  As I mentioned, I don’t like to waste anything and I had quite a bit of acrylic in blue (coeruleum and ultramarine), black and white left over from previous painting sessions so I set about blocking in and imaginary scene.  This one technically is a ‘starter’ from last week rather than this week but one I hope to work on in-between the others.  This one will get finished as and when according to how the Muse directs me.

A lengthy blog to start the week on and I am now way behind what I should be doing.  So it is off to tackle some of the more boring tasks of being an artist – keeping the paperwork up to date and a little marketing.  May you all have a happy week.



Completed: Two Abstracts

Two abstract paintings completed today. Both acrylic on canvas (deep edge) 50 x 50cm. (left) Untitled at present. (right) Blue Sails in the Sunset.

With the end of the month looming, I spent today concentrating on trying to get some art work-in-progress completed.  I am the devil’s worst for starting new work and either taking ages to complete or just abandoning it to an obscure hiding place.  Out of sight really does mean out of mind in my studio.  If I can’t see it then it tends not to be worked on until I have a major clean up and rediscover these half-worked canvases etc.

At the start of the year I quietly resolved to attempt a start and a finish for each week of 2017.  Not a resolution of course.  Experience and self-knowledge tells me that resolutions, especially when made and disclosed, often fall by the wayside early within the first quarter of the year.  So my 2017 aim is not a resolution.  I had considered making it a resolution, because I knew I could make a fast advance on achieving this by adding the artwork for the FunAday Dundee (FADD) January event.  But that would be cheating.  So instead I set a personal goal of attempting at least one start and one finish every week after the FADD exhibition.  That was two weeks ago.

I am pleased to say that, so far, I am on track to reaching my goal.  Very much aware though that I’ve only worked through two weeks and I have many more to go.  Like a whole ten months of commitment.  Whilst I am working to a schedule there will be no foreseen problems in achieving my goal.  However when summer comes around there may very well be a multitude of distractions to cause delay.  Like my eldest daughter’s wedding in August.  And there is the visit to my home the week before that from the third daughter and her brood of boys, including the adult boy.  That might be August wiped out.  Then in September my good friend from Suffolk comes to visit for two weeks.  And that is two weeks of burn-out adventure time.  There is so much of Scotland to show her, especially as this will only be her second visit to Scotland.  Aside from those planned events, I also have to filter in visits and fun times with all four daughters and grandchildren.  I have a feeling the goal posts will be getting moved around a wee bit before the end of the year.

But it is not all doom and gloom.  So far it is all going well.  In the two weeks post-FADD I have managed to complete three art works, giving myself a head start.  This week I have completed the two above, both part of my ongoing abstract development project.  Both pieces were inspired by the smaller versions (15x15cm canvases) I did for FADD.  The Untitled one is more or less the same but larger than the smaller one (Under the Bridge), however the Blue Sails in the Sunset (this title may change) has managed to paint itself completely different to the smaller version.

The Untitled one is quite precise with its sharp lines and the only curves are in the bridge where the long boxes or shafts recede under.  I don’t feel the boxes are going away from the viewer so perhaps I should not use recede to describe their action.  I feel the boxes are more rushing out from under the bridge to meet with the viewer.  What do others think I wonder?  I know an artist friend thinks this piece of art is quite representative of an album cover.  My own thoughts about this painting is that it seems to have more male energies than female.  Perhaps that is why I am struggling to come up with a title for this piece.

Blue Sails in the Sunset has a completely different feel to it.  It was painted completely with palette knives and has many layers applied freely and thickly, sometimes being blended in wet-on-wet (particularly the sky) or applied randomly and thickly as pure colour one on top of another when dry.  There is a lot of movement within the stillness of the sun bedding down for the night.  I’ve deliberately tried to achieve this juxtaposition in order to create a form of communication.  Whether or not it works will be dependent on each viewer’s perception.  I feel I may have overworked this piece but I have decided to call it a day on this one and get it off the easel so that I can start something new.

In both paintings I used Daler Rowney System 3 Heavy Body acrylic paint.  I had some leftover paint and, as per my usual practice, I used some of this to make a start on a prepared canvas waiting in the wings to be started.  I’ll talk more about this next week.  The rest of the leftover paint went into a plastic container (the sort you get from take away restaurants) with lid and this will be used another day.  I try not to waste much.

And so ends a productive week.


Gustav Klimt

Adele Bloch-Bauer 1907 by Gustav Klimt

Born Baumgarten, Vienna on 14th July 1862; died 6th February 1918.  This painting shown here is the one I have chosen for the Facebook challenge given to me by my friend and fellow artist Tricia Colyer.

Gustav Klimt, for me, is one of the most impressive artists of his time.  His paintings are full of sensuous story-telling, almost touching on the erotic in one or two of them.  I particularly like his use of gold and silver leaf in his art work. The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (left), completed in 1907, is perhaps his most sumptuous in application of both gold and silver leaf.  It is semi-abstract, if that is a correct term to apply to a piece of art, but has at its core the most delicate renditions of portraiture ever completed by any artist.  He has captured the character of this woman and presented her quite serenely and gently to those who look upon her.  She looks out of the painting with reverence and command.  This perhaps is exaggerated by her eyes being very high up in the overall composition.  Of course, having no knowledge of the woman I cannot say for certain if he has done her justice or not.  But to me she is beautifully composed and presented.

Gustav Klimt is one of the artists I have looked to for developing my abstract work in 2017 along with Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky.  You may hear more about Klimt (and the others) throughout this year.


Small Talk

FunaDay Dundee 2017 exhibition display

Yesterday was an eventful day in more ways than one but I am pleased to say that I managed, without my car, to get all 32 paintings to the Dundee Wasps studios as planned and hung ready for this weekend’s exhibition. (see photo left)

Preview: Friday 10 Feb 7pm-9pm

Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 Feb 10am-7pm

At: Wasps Studios (level 4), Meadow Mill, West Henderson Wynd, Dundee DD1 5BY.

All welcome – I’ll be there Fri & Sat.

My 2017 project is about communication through art and so I thought I would call this one-a-day-in-January project ‘Small Talk’.  Originally I had intended to set out the paintings in the order I had done them but it did not flow so well.  Probably as I managed to do an extra painting in the month of January.  I felt that the small deep edged abstract (bottom right) would look good on a larger canvas, so I managed to get a 50x50cm deep edge canvas done over the last two days.  32 paintings in one month is quite some task I can tell you.  I had some idea of what I was going to do for each day but as the days slipped by I found that other ideas and inspirations were coming to mind.  Some I am more fond of than others and there is one that I really do not like much at all but felt I had to put it in as it was part of the project.

It has been a wonderful way to start the year.  The activity itself has produced new ways of working, new ideas and a rather full project folder which will see me through most of this year.  I certainly feel more energised and enthusiastic about my art.



Daisies In The Grass

DAISIES IN THE GRASS by Annie McLean Acrylic on Canvas 12x4in

Last painting for the FunAday Dundee 2017 event completed – yes!  This has been a lovely project for January.  Kept me busy and inspired.  I’ve managed to do 31 small canvases and a larger one (50x50cm) in January – that’s 32 paintings in one month!  Don’t think I have ever been this productive – apart from 2000 when I wrote 365 poems in that year.

The Great Garden

THE GREAT GARDEN by Annie McLean ~ Acrylic on Canvas (deep edge) 50x50cm

My most recent finished abstract painting, completed today.  I have used Daler Rowney System 3 Heavy Body paints: Process Black, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine, Coeruleum, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Burnt Umber and System 3 Titanium White.  I used a small amount of Reeves Gold Acrylic paint for the detail work.  I applied the paint using a selection of palette knives, mostly paddle or angle large ones and a pear-shaped small one for scrapping/removing paint, and flat brushes 24, 16, 10, 8.  The deep-edge sides of the canvas have been painted as part of the composition.

This painting is part of my abstract development for 2017.  It forms part of the SWOT analysis project I started late in 2015.  The SWOT project started as a small activity to encourage colour experimentation as well as self-exploration.  Little did I know that several months later it would take on a life of its own.  In many ways the SWOT project has become the major focus for my abstract development.   The first few paintings are perhaps more like studies for the end products, although they do stand alone as completed works in their own right.

I welcome comments and critique.



Gun Hill

Gun Hill by Annie McLean [acrylic on canvas 6×6 inches]
Today’s painting for the FunaDay Dundee 2017 event.  This painting was inspired by my love of Southwold, where I lived for several years.  I have tried to simplify the scene, in my quest to develop an abstract way of painting.  I’ve concentrated on keeping a realistic but simplified scene, using shape and colour to convey my feelings about this place.  This is one of the ‘wee ones’ I may use as a study for a larger piece.

It has been rumoured that the Duke of Cumberland gave the cannons  to the town after the battle of Culloden – but I am not aware of how true that is.  If you are interested in reading a short article on this then click the link: Gun Hill, Southwold


Day 5 FunAday Dundee

Day 5: Progress so far

Didn’t manage to get one done yesterday and have been playing catch up late this afternoon.  Am still a little behind but hope to catch up fully tomorrow.  Day 5 is my second daughter’s number so today’s painting is all about Rebecca’s number 5, her star shape and her colour blue.  I will either have to come back down to the studio after dinner or leave it until tomorrow.  I think tomorrow might win – it’s cold up here and once I’m in my home I seldom feel like going back out again, especially in the winter evenings.