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



Artist Tip: how to get started on a blank canvas/support using acrylic

PAINTING A GROUND (on canvas) TOP: is a single colour ground on canvas.    LEFT: is a canvas prepared with tints of one colour, marked out with lines and shapes.   RIGHT: a bright lime green ground as the base colour for a springtime landscape

It was wonderful yesterday to be part of Kirriemuir’s first Feel Good Festival.  So many people came out in support of the event and we had a constant stream of visitors in the Town Hall.  Have a look at some of the photos posted here: Kirriemuir Feel Good Festival.  One of the visitors to my table told me that she was often put off starting a painting because she was afraid to ‘spoil the white canvas’.  She asked how she could overcome this problem.

The white support, whether canvas or paper, can often be a barrier to the creative process.  Fear rises up within us at the thought of making a mark that will look silly or wrong.  And we all know that any mark stands out more prominently against white.  So how does one overcome this fear of starting?

One thing I would suggest is to get rid of the white as soon as possible.  Think of a background colour that would compliment your composition.  One that is sympathetic to the colour scheme you will be using or even a complimentary colour to help the composition/focal point stand out.  Once you have decided on what colour will work best then take a large flat brush and cover it with the mixed paint.  Experiment with a weak wash (this will allow some of the white canvas to show through) or try a thick application (this is useful for creating texture using brushstrokes).  Most of the time I use an in-between wash, one that will cover the canvas evenly and smoothly.

Let the ground, the wash you have used, dry then begin your painting.  Having this overall base colour will help to balance the painting, especially if some of it shows through the overpainting.  I have used some very bold colours to help me create a mood within the painting, such as magenta as the ground for an early evening scene or a lemon yellow ground for a very bright summer day.  My favourite grounds are usually ochre, terracotta and reddish browns to add a warmth to the painting, especially landscapes.  Although using an almost luminescent green can be useful for capturing the feel of spring.

Sometimes I will experiment a little with the ground and use tints and shades of the same colour, randomly applied.  This sometimes helps me to ‘see’ things on the canvas which is useful if I have no set idea of what to paint. On occasions I will even mark out lines and/or shapes that I can ‘see’ in a mix of burnt umber and ultramarine blue.  This often leads me to create an imaginary scene.  Have a look at the photo above to see some of the grounds I currently have lying around my studio waiting to be painted.

Working on a coloured ground is also useful for working in oil as well as acrylic, bearing in mind that traditional oil paint takes longer to dry than acrylic.

I am happy to answer questions online or in person.



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.




CHOSEN by Annie McLean Acrylic on canvas 70x70cm

I’m not even going to explain the title, far less the painting.  2017, for me, is all about exploring communication through art.  Tell me what this painting says to you. I’d love to hear from anyone – anywhere – regarding what they felt and thought when they looked at a particular work of art, including the art I create.

In 2017 my abstract project “Communication by Another Route” (I’ve not quite decided what to name this project yet, but this will do for now) aims to explore what messages or meanings, if any, conveyed in paintings.  It is a self-development exercise in trying to understand the how, where, why, what etc. art means to me and to others.  I aim to create a body of work that is representative of communication and collaboration across cultural perspectives and/or discrimination.  Past employment working with marginalised people of all ages taught me that communication is the key to making a difference. Does art communicate? Can it mean the same thing to the viewer as it does to the artist?

My project will purposefully explore cultural diversity without judgement, comparing cultural preferences as forms of expression.  Part of this process will involve examining parallels and discrepancies between religious, cultural or core belief systems.  In studying the symbolic representations from various faiths and societies I hope to find a common allegoric which can used to communicate without the use of language.

Big project – big demands on my time!


Day 2: FunAday Dundee

Work In Progress for “D3” by Annie McLean. (acrylic on canvas 6x6in)A

I thought I’d share the process of developing a painting for the FunAday Dundee event.  The photograph shows my project folder and the start of the work on the painting (D2) for the second day of January 2017.  I am pleased to say that the second small painting for this event has been completed.  This one has been inspired by my third daughter, hence the title D3.  Over the Christmas period I asked all four of my daughters to think of a number, a favourite colour and a shape.  They thought mother had either lost the plot or been at the bottle with the amber nectar in it.  Neither.  I explained that all would become clear in the New Year when I started my FunAday Dundee challenge.

Today’s painting was created using my daughter Caroline’s number 2, her favourite colour purple and her chosen shape of a circle.  The 2 has become a swan, the relevance being the number 2 looks like a swan and the fact that when she was a young girl she painted me a picture of a swan.  I still have this painting.  Purple is the main background colour and the circle is painted gold, a symbolic representation of spirituality.  The finished painting may speak of different things to others of course.  A painting is a form of communication.  A relationship is formed between the artist and the painting which ends once the painting is sold.  A new course of communication, and relationship, is then begun between the painting and the purchaser.   But that is altogether another subject.

I am about to embark on the third painting for the FunAday Dundee event.  An early start to tomorrow’s painting as I will be out and about in St Andrew’s visiting the Fraser Gallery. I have promised my self at least one gallery visit a month and this month I would like to see the Chansons d’ete; the solo exhibition of John Kingsley, RSW.  I will finish the painting tomorrow – just so that I can say it was completed on that day!

As a side note, I intend to find some interesting historical facts that happened each day during January.  I forgot to add that to yesterday’s Blog.

1st January 1651: The coronation of Charles II took place at Scone.  This was to be the last occasion a monarch was crowned in Scotland.

2nd January 1971: The Ibrox Stadium disaster happened.  66 supporters were killed on stairway 13.

And now to go make a start on tomorrow’s small painting, do some paperwork and other boring things before dinner.  Perhaps after dinner I may venture back out to my studio to work on a larger piece I started just before the end of 2016.



Thank You

THANK YOU by Annie McLean 6x6in acrylic on canvas

I believe one should always start something new by being grateful.  Grateful for all one has in this life, especially for each member of our family.  Grateful we meet the people we are meant to meet, either to help or learn from. Grateful for all the opportunities that have come our way or yet to come about.  Today I am grateful for all my family, friends and all who step in and out of my life.  I am also grateful to be taking part in the FunAday Dundee event during January 2017.  First painting done – thirty more to go!


The Old has gone; the New has begun.

TIGHNABRUAICH by Annie McLean [oil on linen 30x60cm]

A bit like the King is dead; long live the King!  Life goes on. A new beginning of anything holds promise.  An anticipation of exciting adventures and/or changes yet to transpire.  I take pleasure in those first few waking moments of a new year.  All the less than good events can now pale into the depths of our own history (unless you haven’t paid all your bills; these will follow you into the New Year!).  The  happier events jolly us into the great expectations of having a whole year to achieve our hopes, wants and aspirations.  Or should that be resolutions for those who have made some?  I have decided not to make any resolutions to carry forward into 2017.  Instead I have created a bucket list for this year.  This bucket list though needs trimming down because I have got so much that I want to do and achieve this year that twelve months just isn’t long enough.  I will review this list over the next couple of days and decide on twelve desires or tasks to complete in 2017.  That’s one a month which, hopefully, will be achievable.  A bucket list is so much more positive than a resolution.  And so much more exciting too.

The beginning of a new year is similar in a lot of ways to starting a new painting.  There is nothing to beat the pleasure of peeling off the wrapping to a new canvas.  The anticipation of great things to come is so exciting.  I can always ‘see’ what I want to appear on this pristine white canvas.  Getting the image on there is another matter.  It takes effort.  Hard work at times.  Frustratingly so on occasions.  Not everything I start gets finished.  It doesn’t get thrown away, it lies still for a while.  Sometimes an unfinished piece will wait for months, even years, to be completed.  Other times it becomes something else.  Nothing gets thrown away.  Two reasons mainly: I don’t like to be wasteful and I enjoy recycling.  I don’t even throw out the leftover paint from my palette.  I use the leftovers to underpaint or put a ground cover on a new canvas.  As much as I enjoy tearing off the wrapping to a new canvas, the white distracts me whilst working so I have to cover the whole canvas as quickly as possible.  But that is another topic, perhaps one for another day.

I began the first hours of 2017, after waking, enjoying a leisurely breakfast in bed reading, listening to the radio and anticipating all the art projects I could do in 2017.  Not procrastinating on this occasion, more a constructive thinking time.  And here I am now, in my studio, arranging the display area into a suitable space to showcase my daily paintings for the FunAday Dundee 2017 Event. You will find more details about the event here: FunAday Dundee 2017

I have completed my first painting for this event already.  My project folder has all the 31 compositions planned out.  I have been working on the planning of this project for a few weeks now in preparation for this event.  Some of the sketches are nothing more than doodles, some a bit more detailed.  I may share some of this in a later blog.  I may even share the ‘process’ at the February exhibition.  My commitment to this event is to complete one 6x6in (15x15cm) canvas each day.  Each small canvas will be a painting in its own right but will also be part of a larger piece of art work.  I am working on a suitable display for the complete body of work but in the meantime it will be displayed, one by one as each canvas is produced, as a column at the end of my studio gallery.  This way I can still use the gallery space for my current exhibition of work.  Photos will come later.  I’ll try to get around to posting a photo of each new piece daily. This event is a good way to start the year.  Being creative raises the spirits – and I encourage all to try it!

I have planned other projects for 2017.  Some small, some much larger.  My main project for 2017 will be to take my art in a new direction.  I am heading into the realms of abstract.  I will be embarking on a course of self-study, research and practical application.  The pull towards abstract art came several months ago and by the last quarter of 2016 I had become quite serious about taking this development further.  I look forward to seeing where this route leads me.

It’s worth mentioning that I will continue to be offering workshops and tuition throughout 2017.  In fact I have planned to run more workshops this year.  I will also be continuing to produce my usual style of artwork, such as landscapes etc.  I do enjoy painting landscapes and, as often is the case, I am sad when they leave my studio.  I was quite sad to see the latest commission, “Tighnabruaich”, leave with its new owners.  This was one I travelled to the location for and fell in love with the setting.  It was a trip well worth embarking on and I have lots of ideas for new paintings from around that area.  A second trip is on the bucket list for 2017!

I have written far too much for a New Year blog so I will end here and wish you all a Happy New Year.  May your year be full of pleasures and blessings.



Commissioning Odd Ways


A View across the Kyles of Bute from Tighnabruaich Viewpoint


I like, where possible, to have some sort of continuity in my writings.  Random is okay but can become somewhat disjointed, especially if one reads more than one piece of writing at a time.  My last blog (was it really as far back as 24th October this year?) spoke about doing odd things or just being odd in general.  So I wanted to follow on from ‘odd’ by picking up an odd thread of thought or decision I had made recently and expanding the topic into another subject.  I do know what I want to write about, that being the recent event of having three days away from the Studio and spent in Tighnabruaich (Argyll), but how to connect my writing on the recent commission I have been given to being odd was perplexing me.

Odd.  Yes, I can fit a certain amount of oddness into my remit for a commission of Tighnabruaich.  Last weekend I made an odd or spur of the moment decision regarding the execution of the painting requested.  A few weeks ago a couple came into my Studio to request a commission of a painting of a small Argyll village nestled on a Loch Fyne shore in the Kyles of Bute.  Tighnabruiach was, and still is, a place that is precious to them.  They provided me with a photograph of the place to work from.  Not the best or most clear of photos but I promised to do the best I could, using the resources available to me.  I couldn’t use memory because I had never been there.  I did the preliminary work (compositional sketches, a small study, colour mixing for a palette to use etc.).  The clients chose the format and materials, agreed the proposals, paid their deposit, signed the contract and left feeling happy.  They have popped in since placing the commission and both are pleased with the progress to date.  However, I came to a bit of a block a week or so ago.  The basics have all been done but I just could not see enough detail from their photo to encourage me to complete the scene.  Damn!  I tried some internet research on the area, hoping to get a feel for the place.  Didn’t work.  I started to think outside of the box.  I had not built any costs for research into the commission but I knew I had to do something to pull the project together.  This is where ‘odd’ comes into it.

A spur of the moment decision had to be made.  Justifications had to be self-proposed and self-sanctioned.  It’s how I do things.  When money is tight, as it often is when you are a self-employed artist, there has to be some good solid reasons to spend money.  Time as well as finances are limited and stretched at present.  Odd that I should suddenly decide to use up three days and £150 to satisfy the Muse’s demands.  I chose to book a single room for two nights at the Tighnabruaich Hotel.  Art materials and clothes packed, I set off in the car on Tuesday morning.  I had convinced myself that this trip would pay for itself in that I could get at least one more painting from the area to cover my costs.  Not the same composition of course as I have a policy, when I am paid a commission to do a particular scene, that I do not replicate the work.  So I had to be prepared to stop at various scenic spots en-route and return to photograph or sketch scenes I could use in the Studio.

Photographs were taken all through the trip and I did a late afternoon walk on arrival along the water’s edge and through the village.  Wednesday was spent finding the location the clients had taken their photograph from, taking my own shots, and then some ‘en-plein-air’ painting from the other side of the village (one for the Muse) until the tide came in far enough to make me pack up. Mid-afternoon I took the opportunity to have a good ‘reccy’ around the area on foot as well as by car.  More photos, more expense, more time used up.  But all to future advantage, or so I justified to myself.

I was so carried away by the beauty of the place and thoughts of new works I could achieve from all of the scenes discovered, that I had not taken note of how far I had gone in the car.  I ended up getting back after dark, well after dark, and having traversed across a very narrow un-named road that cut across the desolate, big-dipper, countryside.  Not to mention the odd (this time meaning occasional) sheep or deer walking or crossing the road in front of me.

Tired but a happy artist.  A good night’s sleep (well, as good as I could in a rather ‘tired and need of refurbishment’ hotel bedroom.  Then it was back on the road home with the same agenda for justification as before.  More en-route stops for photographs.  There were a few less stops this time as the weather had turned.  We now had low cloud, grey and dismal, and the rain came down for most of the journey.  I arrived home rather tired and worn out after my adventure.  Pleased I made the decision to go and with thoughts of returning after winter has psssed.  Then I slept like a log when I got into my own bed.  Tomorrow is another day, one of practical doing rather than creative musings.

So now you know what an artist does to make a living.  Rather odd occupation would you not agree?



Artist for May: Ann Burry

LADY EVEYLN by Ann Burry  (61x61x1.27 cm – Acrylic)

The first artist I would like to introduce is Ann Burry.  Ann is a self-taught artist which I guess makes her an ‘Outsider’ as per my recent blog on ‘Outsider Art’.  It also makes a good link to / from another article in my summer newsletter on the same subject.

I first came across Ann’s art a few years ago when I joined the Facebook group Artists Representing Themselves.  I like the simplicity of her work which is neither simple nor lacking substance.  It is very expressional in a simplified way, drawing the emotions and curiosity of the viewer into the painting.  Ann uses bold colours and often heavy lines which seem to add more to the mystery and character of her portraits.  The same could be said of her floral pieces.  A visit to her website is recommended where there is a variety of subjects and medium on display.  Her prices are reasonable and make them an affordable art choice to start, or add to, as a collection.

Ann introduces herself  as being inspired by the natural world.  “The beauty of the materials that nature provides – wood, stones, plants – and especially the process of decay that occurs in all objects, are a great inspiration to me. The textures and colours of rust, for example, excite my imagination.”  She is a bold and inventive artist, pushing boundaries and “[to find] new methods of expressing the excitement of artistic creation, to experiment with different materials in order to produce works of beauty and colour.”  (words in italics from – last accessed 06/05/16)  Ann does not mention her artistic training or achievements, however I came across a review of her work which had a link to her own blog from 2014 on ‘How my inspiring art tutor set me free‘.

I find Ann Burry’s work exciting and inspirational.  I have always wished to be more ‘free’ in my painting style and Ann captures the abstract simplification without losing the reality in her art work.  Do take time to view her art work.