Starting: Forfar Loch (day 2)

FORFAR LOCH oil pastel on panel 10x20cm (reference photograph & art by Annie McLean)

Since Wednesday’s inspirational walk round Forfar Loch I have managed to draft out a project sheet with a couple of sketches, some notes and a colour chart for oil pastels and chalk pastels.  Today I decided to work on a small piece using oil pastels.

The support is a piece of mountboard primed with a layer of gesso.  I lightly mapped out the main contours in a fine pencil then applied oil pastels directly onto the board, overlaying white and the lighter colours for the reflections on the water and the clouds in the sky.  I used cotton buds dipped into white spirit then dabbed off the excess before blending the layers to create the tones.  Where I needed a bit more precise shaping and blending I used a no. 4 filbert. This was particularly useful in forming the clouds.  The cotton buds were very useful for lifting out the colour where I wanted white reflection on the water.  Once I was happy enough with the proportions and composition I then applied more highlights and shadow using the pastels.  I may well work a little more on this one but I am aware I sometimes ‘fiddle’ then overwork a piece.  Therefore this wee one will sit on show in the studio until I decide whether or not it needs more work.

I have planned out two canvases for this same scene in oils – a 20x60cm (I think the composition lends itself to a long narrow canvas) and a 30x60cm, a standard size for me.  Not sure which size to choose as yet.



Starting: inspired by Forfar Loch

FORFAR LOCH looking towards the town.

Most people, apart from those working shifts, consider the weekends as their days off from work.  My days off tend to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  A mid-week weekend.  This helps accommodate workshops on a Sunday and studio opening hours over the weekend for visitors to browse etc.  It also means that I have less people around when I want to indulge in going out and about. Public places are less crowded and often I have an historical venue (almost) to myself.  This week I had Tuesday in Arbroath visiting the Abbey and a lovely up a hill and down again followed by a blustery walk along the seafront.  I spent time along the seafront and beach having lunch then sketching before walking back into Arbroath along the King’s Drive.  Perhaps I’ll get round to posting more about this another time.

Today’s photo though is of my Wednesday afternoon walk around Forfar Loch.  Yesterday was full of bright sunlight and a cold wind but nevertheless a pleasant walk.  Birds a-plenty came to say hello from robins, blue-tits and even a bright red bullfinch.  Of course there were all the water birds too but that’s not what this blog is about.  The photo shown today is from the far end of the loch looking towards Forfar.  The scene reminds me so much of Suffolk, particularly the Minsmere area.  I just had to stop to admire and reminisce.  Here and there.  Angus and Suffolk.  It brought back so many memories of both places that I think this has to be this week’s Starting Piece for art.

My first choice of medium is pastel although I may well start with or go on to do other studies in a variety of mediums.  We’ll see.  All dependent on the Muse of course!  Time and other commitments too factor into what will become of this inspiration.  I’ll perhaps post some WIP (work in progress) photos as the week goes along.




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.


Life after FADD

FunaDay Dundee 2017 exhibition display

January was busy.  Extremely busy and different to most Januarys for me.  I’m not complaining; far from it.  I enjoyed ‘the ride’ and at times felt the bucking of the beast under me, especially when it came to having to do the practical things one must do in order to keep our lives running smoothly.  I lived and breathed ‘Small Talk’ (the title of my Fun A Day Dundee 2017 work); I thought of nothing but small canvases (6×6 or 5×7 inch) 24/7 for 31 days.  In fact, the ‘bronco beast’ bucked me so hard towards the last few days that I considered taking a few of the canvases forward into larger pieces.  I almost came out of the saddle trying to get one 50x50cm deep edge canvas completed before the end of the challenge.  But I managed it.  I managed 32 painting (31 small, one larger artwork) in all during January.  Quite a feat.  Quite an achievement and one I am quite happy about.

January has gone, quick as a puff of smoke out my late father’s pipe.  The exhibition has been held and was a successful event with a lot of hard work from the organisers (well done Sam and the Team!).  All that is left now is the collection of the remaining artwork and a big void that needs to be filled.  Perhaps I’ve just tamed the beast beneath me.  But I think not.  My Muse is not that gentle with me.  I’ve lived with this Muse long enough to know that she sleeps when she wants to then comes at me kicking, biting and tossing me around without respect for my human limitations.  I have a feeling that the bucking bronc she became in January will quieten somewhat, allow herself to be ridden with saddle and reins, then revert back to her boisterous self once she gets the bit between her teeth.  (All of a sudden I have visions of a young arab mare I used to ride out on in my teens!  Many is the time Cindy would bit my a**e as I mounted!!).

Hopefully I can get through February without any bites on the bum then maybe saddle up for another round of art adventures in March ….. April ….. May …… Watch this space!


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.



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.



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.



Charlie’s Dog Lessons for People

My first ever Re-Blog. Charlie Dog makes a lot of sense – more than most humans do in my opinion. Well done Charlie Dog for passing round the good advice. Ask your human for some extra treats – you deserve them.

the creative life in between


Charlie’s Dog Lessons for People

  • Love unconditionally
  • Take a walk outside every day (even if it is raining and your Mom keeps singing “It’s a Rainy Day… It’s raining outside, and we can’t go out and play.”  It’s only water, and it shakes right off!)
  • Forgive quickly and easily
  • Play every day (and make your family play with you!)
  • Be loyal and faithful
  • Keep digging until you find what you are looking for
  • Accept treats with gratitude
  • Greet guests and strangers lovingly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat all of your dinner
  • Trust and follow your instincts
  • Take naps
  • Bark only when necessary
  • Appreciate a simple life
  • Be a best friend

Woofs & Wags,

Charlie is an adopted dog with brown eyes and a white-tipped tail who brings joy and laughter to his family and friends.  Charlie is a gifted writer, raving food critic, cat, chipmunk, and

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FunaDay Dundee 2017: Update

FunaDay Dundee 2017: work so far

I’m slowly catching up with myself – or am I actually ahead of myself?  I like structure, uniformity; routines I seem to hedge away from no matter how well I organise my to-do list or diary.  At the start of the FunaDay project I felt I had a head start because I had pre-planned all 31 small paintings.  Ideas were sketched out, some coloured to assess effect etc.  I organised each small sketch in order to be completed.  I made a progress chart.  I created a whole file for this in my project folder.  The build up to this event was exciting.  I felt like a child waiting to catch Santa make an entrance.  And I was feeling rather smug about how well organised I was.  Yes, no problem or so I thought.  I hadn’t reckoned on the Inner Being (my Muse by another name) meddling in the practical tasks.

The first of January arrived and off I went to the studio in the morning.  How quiet the quirky Wee Red Toon was – guess everyone had been celebrating Hogmany the night before.  Not a person or vehicle did I pass on the walk down the Roods.  The studio was quiet too without the noise of the traffic tearing round the one-way system I usually get.  On with the paintings.  And …. The Muse steps in!  I don’t paint the first one planned.  Instead I paint a small painting from a sketch I was going to use as a design for Thank You cards.  Not at all a painting I had even contemplated doing for this project.  The first design did get painted eventually on the third day.

As the days went on, my planning went further to pot.  This Muse, the one who resides within me, is quite mischievous and oppositional at times.  One a day, just one a day.  That’s all I need to focus on I tell myself.  The Muse, she will not listen.  She sneaks up on me when I least expect it and encourages me to work on more than one small painting at a time.  She even had me start something further down the line of my planning.  Much further down the line.  Yesterday she had me paint the one for the 30th January. By now I realise my planning has really been blown away.

There are times when one just has to give in.  After three weeks of trying to get the Muse to toe the line I have succumbed to the pressure.  My Muse has now been allowed to hijack this great plan I had.   Ownership of the project has now been conceded to the Muse.  In all honesty, she took over from the start.  We are now on the 23rd day of January and I have 18 small paintings completed, four more being work in progress, six prepared with the ground and the remaining three being ones salvaged from my reject bin with thoughts on how I can now finish them years after they were started.

So much for the one a day.  Actually, if I count the four WIP’s then I have achieved the one a day – so far.  Or is that cheating?  One thing this project has taught me is that I work best when I am working on more than one painting or project at a time.  Is that a lack of self-discipline or just me being inspired by my own creativity?

One final thing to note.  I now have more ideas than there are days in January.  Perhaps I can take the leftover inspirations onto something else.