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?