It’s amazing how fast July has gone by and it’s now just a couple of days till I go back to Inverewe to take down my exhibition.
Loch Maree from Tollie
On the shores of Loch Maree
When the Summertime has gone
It’s been a really interesting, positive experience. I had lots of support from Gairloch artist Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie and have had loads of great feedback. I also did a painting for Justin and TyLean, who are the new owners at Lochcarron East Church They’re holding a mini exhibition and this is place that I have painted a lot, so it seemed very fitting that I should do a piece of work for them.
Meanwhile, Aileen Grant and I have been out and about sketching. Both of us are working hard on pieces for our upcoming exhibition at An Talla Dearg in October. I love sketching in Gairloch and in Skye and I have some very interesting drawings that I’m currently working up into paintings.
Sketching at Inverewe Gardens
Sketching in Skye
I might even get the chance to make some of these drawings into prints. I’ll let you know how I get on.
I’m getting really excited for my upcoming exhibition at Osgood’s Cafe, Inverewe Gardens and feeling very blessed that I have the opportunity to exhibit my work in such a wonderful space. As readers of this blog might remember, I’ve been going up there regularly for the past couple of years.
This is thanks to the stirling work of the Inverewe staff and the very supportive Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie. Lynn was the artist in residence at Inverewe a couple of years ago and it was she who set up a very informal artist group, who meet and sketch in the garden regularly. After Lynn’s residency the gardens have launched a series of wonderful exhibitions and creative events and have even launched a great new website, which showcases:
“Exhibiting artists (which) include emerging and established artists working in the Highlands, whose works are inspired by the nature, environment, people or culture of the Highlands, or alternatively of Inverewe itself.
Our mission is to inspire viewers and artists alike; viewers by informing and exposing them to quality artworks of all genre, exhibitors by stimulating and stretching their artistic practice, as well as facilitating collaborative working with other artists on residency programmes.”
It really is a fabulous opportunity, which is why I have worked so hard to try and live up to the amazingly high standards and huge creativity of the other artists who are involoved.
It’s amazing how much getting ready for an exhibition concentrates the mind. I have (and still am) working to a number of deadlines. I wanted to have at least 10 – 12 paintings done for the exhibition, even if I don’t hang them all (It is quite a large space) and I’ve managed that.
I wanted to have some good images to use for the flyers that I had done and for the adverts that I’m putting in the An Carranach and The Gairloch and District Times and I’ve managed that too. I also needed to get my two largest paintings ready to take to the wonderful Emma Noble to be framed (I’m picking them up next Tuesday and I’m very excited to see them!)
It’s been a real learning curve and quite a challenge, but I’ve really enjoyed being able to create a series of work, which has continuity and (I hope) cohesion. The art that I have produced for this exhibition will also form a core of the collection that I’ll be exhibiting in October at Gallery An Talla Dearg at Eilean Iarmain on Skye, with fellow artists Aileen Grant and Steven Proudfoot at Oakbank Studio, Lochcarron.
However, it’s just over a week to go now to Inverewe and I’ll be in the gardens sketching and painting at for at least a couple of days in July.
More information about the exhibition and a selection of images are below:
I can’t believe that I haven’t updated this page since March 22nd. So much for my promise to myself that I would update regularly. However, I’ve not been idle.
Since my last post in March I was awarded a certificate in Botanical Illustration from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. A course that I’d been doing since October last year.
After many years of trying to be freer as an artist and focus on concepts like markmaking and emotion, I found Botanical Illustration to be much more formalised. Botanical art requires the artist to be much more precise and detailed than I am used to, however it’s been great fun and I learned so much.
Earlier this month I took part in an exhibition with some friends from the South West Art Group – a first for us and a wee trial to see how we got on. We were at the steading in Balmacara again, a great wee venue that I shared with Aileen Grant last year. We were there for 9 days this time and I think we all enjoyed ourselves, made some new friends and sold some art and some cards
Some of my work
This wee painting sold
My work hanging in the exhibition
Some more of my work
I’ve also submitted a couple of paintings to the upcoming summer exhibition at the Torridon Gallery at the end of June, which I’m excited to go and see. But even more exciting and challenging for me are the two exhibitions that I have later this year.
The first is a solo exhibition at Osgood’s Cafe at Inverewe Gardens at the end of June. This has been a huge learning curve for me. First of all I had to decide what I would do for it. rather than just showing existing work I have decided that I would paint everything especially for this exhibition and rather than a disperate selection of work I wanted to do a collection, something cohesive that had a strong connecting thread running through it.
Luckily, because I had just completed the course in botanical art course, I had a starting point and I have painted and drawn, botanical subjects most days and I have, worked on studies and smaller paintings, before starting on the larger pieces, a small selection of which are below:
Abandoned village study
abandoned village large
Strome Bypass waterfall
I’ve also started including more native plants in my landscapes as a direct influence of my botanical course. The title of the collection will be #Flowersof Scotland, if you want to follow my progress on Instagram or Facebook and the exhibition starts on the 28th June. I’ll definitely be updating here with more about the exhibition.
In the meantime I’ll also be adding some of the studies and small en plein air paintings that I’ve painted recently to my Etsy Shop
Meanwhile, if you happen to be in Edinburgh any time soon, my work can still be seen at the Stick Factory which I wrote about last time I posted.
More soon about Inverewe and the Autumn exhibition that I’ll be taking part in later this year.
On Mayfield Road, in Edinburgh is a great wee gallery called the Stick Factory and, earlier this year I was absolutely delighted to be asked to give them some work to display.
I met with Mike, one of the owners of the gallery in early February and discussed giving him some of my work to display. It was quite a tight schedule and I didn’t have a lot of time to create new work. I had already committed to my anniversary promotion, wherein I launched my Etsy Shop, and uploaded 20 paintings from my village and surroundings, one a day for twenty days at only £20. That promotion is now over, but I wrote about why I was doing it previously on my blog. I loved doing it, I learned loads and am now comfortable with selling my work online in a more formalised way.
I was also continuing to work on the art course that I have been doing with Edinburgh Botanic Gardens (more about that soon!) Sadly that meant that I had less time than I would have liked to get together a decent body of work for the Stick Factory. However, I did manange to give them 10 large paintings, a number of small paintings, some decorative trays, some wee original paintings for their browser and 25 handmade cards. The exhibition is now hung, and while I haven’t been able to pop in and see it, the Stick Factory have shared some photos of it on their social media pages, including their Instagram account
coffee and cakes
handpainted tray (photo credit Stick Factory)
original handmade cards
Several of the paintings that I gave them were still life paintings, but the core of the exhibition consists of a series of landscapes From Letterewe to Skye, this is what a wrote about the series:
“I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and, as a landscape artist I spend a lot of time, sketching and painting in this place. This series of paintings is titled from Letterewe to the Isle of Skye as this is where they were painted.
My village is Lochcarron, which runs like a ribbon along the Northern shores of Loch Carron. At the head of the loch is Strathcarron and the flat valley and raised beaches left by the last ice age. From my home I can be at Letterewe, within an hour, as long as I don’t keep stopping to sketch or draw or just look at the beauty all around me. This road takes the driver through Beinn Eighe nature reserve, the mountains of Liathach and Beinn Alligin dominate the views and are reflected in the sea lochs along the route. Letterewe is near the centre of Loch Maree, an inland loch that is steeped in myth and legend and that is considered one of the most beautiful in Scotland. To the West lie, Gairloch and Poolewe, to the North is Ullapool.
Heading South again, gives a different vista. Back past Loch Torridon, Loch Kishorn and the Bealach na Ba. Past Loch Carron and on the Road to Skye, the driver can stop at any number of view points and look back at Fuar Tholl and towards the mountains of Strathconan, or look ahead to the Cuillin range on the isle of Skye.
This scenery is primordial. Man is inconsequential in this landscape. And yet there are wee houses sheltering beneath the hills, the trees are distorted by the strong winds and the roads fringed by broom and gorse. This is the land of the storms and of gentle breezes. This is the landscape that I try to capture in my paintings.
It’s been a very busy few weeks again – it always seems to be these days! So I’m later than I hoped to be with an update of Etsy project.
I wanted a way to celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of my move to Lochcarron, so I painted a series of small study paintings and uploaded them to my etsy shop. I’d had the etsy shop for a while, but had never sold anything from it, so I wanted a way of trying it out and something that would keep me motivated to post regularly. I was also very keen to keep the costs low. I thought that £20 per painting would be a good introductory offer. Normally a painting at approximately this size would sell for a lot more than this. But I wanted to make this celebration special, I wanted to say thank you to all the people who have supported me, both locally and online.
However, because I was selling my paintings at such a low price I couldn’t afford to offer free postage, which is what Etsy recommends. In future, I will do that, as I think it would make life a lot simpler.
Because it was a special series of paintings I also decided to do the paintings to fit a 10×12 mount. I really liked them at this size, it seems to be a good size to work with. I really like this size for a landscape study and I know there are several images that I want to work up into larger paintings.
It’s been such a postive experience. It’s helped me look more closely at some very familiar scenery, that I almost rediscovered. A number of people locally really enjoyed the project and I’ve had lots of folk come and chat with me about it. I’ve increased my followers on various social media platforms and I sold 15 paintings so far (13 online and 2 as a private commission) and I will probably have some work left at the end of the project which I can exhibit locally.
I’ve also been asked if I will sell cards of the images. I chose the 9 most popular images on my Instagram page, uploaded that image to my Facebook and asked people if they would choose their favourite images. Next Monday, I’ll count up the top six and then I’ll send a pack of cards to the first person whose selection gets closest to the final choice. Here they are below
Now that the anniversary project is over I am moving on to the next exciting arty adventure. More about that every soon.
It’s day ten of my project to upload a daily painting to my Etsy shop in celebration of my twenty years in Lochcarron (I wrote more about my reasons behind it here) and I can’t believe I’m halfway there already. Just ten more paintings to go. It’s been an interesting experience and quite a challenge but I think that uploading an image a day has been good for me and helped me think and act more professionally.
I try to be in the studio every day, for at least a couple of hours. I’ve been out and about in the village and surrounding area, sketching, drawing and taking photos to use later in the studio.
I’ve tried to balance the views of the village that I’ve included amongst the twenty paintings, but this area has so many beautiful places to paint that I’ve really been spoiled for choice.
The East church
Some village houses
pinned up to dry
I’ve sketched my choices and then blocked out each painting. When I’m happy with composition of each piece I’ve added details and finished the paintings.
Packaged in cello bags
mounted in crisp, white mounts
When I decided to do this project I bought white mounts and cello bags and when each painting is finished I’ve popped it in a mount, put a backing on it and then put it in a cello bag ready to be posted.
I’ve also had to be quite organised with social media and each day, after I’ve added that day’s image to the Etsy shop I’ve shared the details on my social media sites. My daughter gave me her old iphone, which has really helped me with my Instagram images, as no matter what I did with photographs before, they always seemed to come out blurred on my old phone.
I’ve tried to have several paintings finished ahead of time and managed it so far, again, that has been a learning curve and has helped me really focus on what’s important in running an online business, what I need to focus on and the discipline needed to do something like this.
I’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up this year, most of which I can’t share yet, but this project has given me the kickstart I need I think, to help keep me focussed for all the work I have ahead of me in the next few months.
A love letter to Lochcarron (in particular) and the Scottish Highlands
My family moved to Lochcarron in 1999 after a very tough time. We’d been living in Shetland and that hadn’t worked out for us, so we had to move back to the mainland. Thanks to the help of some very good friends we found the house in which we still live and we moved in at the beginning of March of that year. At the time we were just glad to have somewhere to stay, somewhere that we could make into a home. The house needed a lot of work and we didn’t have much money, my husband had to work away quite a lot and my children, who were five and seven at the time, had to start a new school. It was a pretty traumatic time for us all.
We were newcomers, moving into a small West Coast community, we might have found it hard, we might have struggled, but people were very welcoming and we quickly made a home. I don’t remember what I thought back then about future plans, we just wanted somewhere to settle for a while, I don’t know whether I had thoughts about staying for longer than a few years, but here we are almost twenty years later. Lochcarron has welcomed us, sheltered us and given my children space to grow into the wonderful adults they have become.
Like everyone that one loves, I have had my differences with the village over the years. Lochcarron is a long way from just about everywhere (or maybe just about everywhere is a long way from here!). It was hard when my husband had to work away. It was hard when family were ill or when my children were going through hard times and when they grew up and moved away. It was difficult when we had little money and the house was cold and drafty and needed new windows and doors. But there were also so many rewards.
Lochcarron, indeed the whole of Wester Ross is stunningly beautiful, for a landscape artist it is a wonderful place to live. It is beautiful in any weather and sometimes, it so amazingly gorgeous that it takes your breath away. Lochcarron has so many of the things that one would need in a small village, a great surgery, a golf club, library, an excellent shop, a shop and garage, two other garages, great cafes and restaurants, gift shops and The Howard Doris Centre. But the best thing, the most important thing is the people.
We have some wonderful friends and neighbours. For some years I worked in the village, then I worked in Inverness and Balmacara, so I sort of drifted in and out of village activities and events, but was always made welcome when I did make it along to things. Whenever I’ve had a problem or needed some help, someone locally has always been there for me.
Then a few years ago my husband retired and I stopped working full time to concentrate on my art, something which I had mothballed when my children were growing up. This is when the benefits of having such good friends and neighbours really became apparent. I have been so supported by the local community in Lochcarron and indeed, by folk living elsewhere in the wonderful Highland area. People have bought, liked and shared my work on social media. When two friends and I ran a gallery for a short while, people popped in to see us, told friends and visitors about us and generally just supported the venture. I have exhibited locally in various galleries, I have been welcomed and supported and my work liked and shared
So I wanted to say thank you. I wanted to commemorate those twenty years somehow, so I’ve been doing some paintings of local views and I decided to upload them to my Etsy shop for a very low price of only £20 each (plus p+p) as a special, anniversary, introductory offer.
I have sold to people who have contacted me directly via social media for a while, and I’ve also had a Fine Art America account, but this feels very different! It took me a while to read through terms and conditions, get parcels weighed and sizes sorted, (thanks to the lovely Hilary at the post office for the advice!) to get everything mounted and presented nicely, oh yes, and to paint the landscapes themselves! I’ve spent time adding social media buttons, info about the painting, info about me and getting ridiculously excited and nervous. But there it is (or at least a screenshot of it!) my first ever listing on my Etsy shop. It will fill up over the next few days as I add more paintings.
Hopefully these paintings communicate some of my feelings of home, some of the joy and wonderment that I feel when I see these stunningly beautiful, familiar and iconic places.
Lochcarron has become very special to us both, we feel blessed to have a comfortable home and lovely garden, we feel blessed to have such wonderful friends and neighbours and for me, someone who was mostly rootless for much of my childhood it has been wonderful to finally find a place to stop for a while. I feel connected here, and to the Highlands in a way that I had never been before. I do love to travel, but when we come back to the Highlands after being away, my heart leaps with happiness as we first catch sight of the Kessock Bridge in Inverness. With each mile we travel West I feel a lightness of being, then finally when we drive up the hill at Balnacra and see the hills of Lochcarron I know that I am home.
I’m just back home from a lovely visit to Glasgow, “The Dear Green Place” of the title of this blog. It was really great to get away. Some of you may remember that I did a course online with Irish artist Roisin O’Farrell last year, I learned so much about alla prima oil painting, creativity and “feeding the well” Roisin, believes that before we can expend a lot of creative energy, we need to spend some time topping up our own energies by taking in the creativity of others. That’s what I’ve spent the last few days doing.
I was lucky to be able to catch the last day of the Turner exhibition in Edinburgh, the first few days of the Da Vinci exhibition as well as the work of the Glasgow Boys at the Kelvingrove. We stayed at a lovely hotel, attended a couple of concerts at the Mackintosh Church as part of the Celtic Connections festival. I drank coffee in coffee bars, ate some delicious food and did some sketching and people watching.
I’m back home now and, well duly filled, and I’m getting ready to set up my Etsy shop. This is something I’ve been planning to do for a while and which I just never got round to before. So I’m going to do it as part of a celebration of my 20 years in Lochcarron. I’ve been working on some small local landscape paintings, 20 of which will be mounted in an 8 x 10ins mount and which I’m going to sell for only £20 each. They’ll only be on sale for a short time at that price and I’ll be uploading one a day, every day, from Saturday 9th of February until March the 1st, the 20th anniversary of our move to Lochcarron.
Hopefully everyone will like them!
I’m still trying to do something creative every day as part of the #100daysproject and so as well as continuing to sketch and work on the small landscape studies that I’m putting on my Etsy shop, I’ve started to read a novel by Peter May, Entry Island, a modern murder mystery which is filled with echoes of the past, black houses and famine in the Western Isles. I love Peter May’s work, but this is a new one for me and will hopefully compliment the histories that I’ve also started to read.
2019 is a big year for me, with several major anniversaries coming up. I have now lived in the Scottish Highlands for more than half of my life, almost all my adult life, it will be 30 years this August since my husband and I came to live here. We stayed on the East coast for 9 years, for ten months in Shetland and then in 1999 we moved to Lochcarron, we’ll have been here twenty years on the 1st of March this year.
Scotland has shaped my adult life. It is here that I have loved and worked and raised my children. Scotland is part of me and I hope it will always be my home. Perhaps this is because I moved around a lot when I was a child, never staying anywhere for longer than a year or two. I have no friends from my childhood, no real connections from the time when I was young. But in Scotland I have friends who I met in my first few months in the Highlands, people who helped me when I was a young mum with no family nearby, places where I always felt welcome and still do after all these years. It is here that I have put down roots, here that I have connections, so these anniversaries feel very special and I decided that I wanted to mark them, celebrate them in some special way.
Despite living here for so long, I know far too little about my home, I have painted the landscape as a semi-professional artist for six years, but I never really looked deeper, tried to find out more. Then I was offered an exhibition, this October (more about that soon) and I didn’t want to just do more landscapes, I wanted to look deeper. So just after Christmas I signed up for The100DayProject
It seemed to me that this project was perfect for me and my needs and this is the project proposal that I sent them:
The project started on the 20th of January, but I haven’t really posted about it before as I had also signed up to the 30daysketchbookchallenge2019 and I didn’t want to confuse everyone (and myself) with all the different days! However, I have been working on it. I have sketched and thought and read and researched. I have borrowed a pile of books from the local library and bought several more. I will be posting about it as frequently as I can manage, sharing some History, stories, sketches and paintings. I’m not sure what will come out of this, but I think I’m going to enjoy the journey and I hope you’ll join me for at least some of it.
It was day twenty of the thirty day sketchbook challenge today and the first day that I used a photograph to sketch from. It was a Highland Coo, in case you are interested. The sketchbook challenge has been great for keeping me doing something every day, and my sketches have attracted quite a bit of interest, which has finally pushed me into doing something I should have done a long time ago: open an online shop.
To be completely accurate I’ve actually had a couple of online shops for several years, now, but have not used them for selling. One is an ebay account and the other an etsy shop. I swithered about uploading some art before Christmas, but I had such a busy year that I decided in the end to take a break and wait until the new year. In the past I have sold locally and through Facebook, but that just doesn’t seem to be enough any more.
I had to do some research to find out whether to use etsy or ebay, and I’m still trying to decide which might be best to sell some smaller pieces of my art, but if anyone has experience of selling on either (or both) I’d appreciate any advice you might have.
In the meantime have a couple of projects planned and I’ll share more about them in the coming weeks and I’ll be opening a shop – either Etsy or Ebay on the 8th of February for a very special anniversary.