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.
It’s great to have something to keep me sketching, hence the fact that I signed up to the #30daysketchbookchallenge. I haven’t missed a day so far, but I’m cutting it fine to get something up tonight. I’ve been posting every day on my Instagram page, if you want to follow my progress.
However, I’ve also had several other deadlines this week, including wanting to drop off some art to the Twitter Art exhibition curator (TAE19), a meeting of the art group I belong to (we met to do some sketching and to hang a mini exhibition at a local venue) and an arty trip to Inverewe Gardens.
I also have two months left of the online certificated course that I am doing with the Botanical art department at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Great fun but really challenging and the deadlines are non-negotiable. I uploaded my latest assignment earlier this evening. I’ll post more images from this course and share a little more about it in the next few weeks.
Then there’s the The 100 Day Project which isn’t starting yet, but which I’ll be working towards over the next couple of months.
January is such a difficult month. After the Christmas break it can be a real challenge to get back to work. Deadlines seem so very far away, so it doesn’t seem like to much of a problem if you leave things for a day or two, then, all of a sudden your deadline is just a month away (I’ve been in THAT situation more than once!). But this year I have a lot of deadlines – more about those in future blog posts, so I can’t allow myself to slip behind.
So to get me in the right frame of mind I signed up to the 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge via this group on FB. It’s been an interesting experience so far. Every day participants are given a new prompt, which you have to sketch.
I’ve found some prompts really fitted well with my own skills and I really enjoyed doing something, but other days I have found it much harder to do something based on the prompt. The group is full of glorious images, there is so much inspiring work and some much imagination. The particpating artists are from a wide range of genres and experience levels and they’re really supportive of each other. It’s also great at a time like this, when there is so much bad news and so many worrying things happening, to have a FB timeline that’s filled with wonderful images.
I can’t believe that it is the end of the year. That my last post was in May, that I’ve not managed to post regularly, because I’ve been so busy, painting.
When I first came back to art I set up a Facebook page and then a Twitter page. I shared my journey and met lots of new people. Got advice and support and offered it too.
Three years ago I opened a small gallery with two friends. We were just leasing the premises and, when the landlord decided to put the building up for sale, we decided that we would keep running our gallery until we ran out of stock and then close. It was great fun and I learned a lot, but it was also very tying too. I spent a lot of time in the shop, talking to visitors, sharing and selling and being inspired by art. But not nearly as much time painting as I would have liked
We closed the gallery in June, a bittersweet occaision. Then my friend Aileen and I worked towards an exhibition at the wee Bothy Gallery at Balmacara. I also exhibited in Inverness, Ullapool, Thurso, Skye and Nairn.
I’ve blogged a couple of times about being inspired by a course I did at Inverewe Gardens way back in March. The course was with Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and I loved every moment of it. So this Autumn I was delighted to be accepted on the certifcate course, once again with Edinburgh Botanics. The course has taken me right back to basics and I’m still working through it.
I also have a couple of really exciting projects coming up this year, and I promise to try and update regularly and let you know more about my art adventures.
In the meantime, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who follows me on social media, all those who follow this blog and who has offered advice and support in 2018.
Thank you. And I’d like to wish you all a very happy 2019
A few weeks ago I did a wonderful botanic art course at Inverewe gardens and came away feeling inspired to paint and draw more botanical subjects. I have quite a large garden myself, spring has come late this year and I had a limited choice of subjects.
So I asked Joanna MacPherson at Attadale Gardens if I could sketch at their gardens from time to time. Joanna was kind enough to say yes, so, my friend Lorna and I spent a wonderful afternoon walking and sketching amongst the Rhodedendrons and hosts of daffodils.
Sketching botanicals outside is quite a different experience from working on one speciman. I’m learning loads though and feel very lucky that I have such a wonderful place to practice!
It really has been a very, very busy couple of months and trying to balance painting and everyday life has been quite a challenge.
My last blog post was about the exhibition at the wonderful Skyeworks Gallery and since then, I’ve completed several paintings for a month-long exhibition at the GALE Centre in Gairloch.
I’ve also attended an amazing, inspiring three day botanical art course with two wonderful artists Jacqui Pestell and Sarah Rogers both of whom are tutors at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. It’s a totally new way of painting for me, and it was very much an introduction course, I have a LOT to learn. However, I did enjoy it, even if it is a pretty different way of painting from my usual work, a lot to think about.
I’ve also been working away in my garden, my new greenhouse has arrived and (just!) needs assembling. I’ve been sketching the changes in my garden for some time, I’ll share them in a future post. It’ll be interesting to see how different my new sketches might be from the ones I did last year before my alla prima oil course, and the recent watercolour course at Inverewe.
I’ll post more about it soon.
I have work to varnish and frame, for Carron Restaurant‘s oyster festival this weekend, oh, and they also all need a bit of ‘bling’ to finish them.