Some kind of normal

It’s a gorgeous October day and I’m at the wee gallery at An Talla Dearg, at Eilean Iarmain on Skye, it’s really rather wonderful to be here.

My fellow artists are Aileen Grant and Steven Proudfoot and this our second time at this wonderful gallery.

We’re showing a selection of art. Steven is a watercolour artist, Aileen has a variety of work in different mediums, acrylic, oils and a selection of prints.

I’m showing work from before, during and after the lockdown. As you’ll know if you’ve read this blog I struggled to be creative during the Spring and Summer so instead of spending any time in the studio I found myself turning to the outdoors. I’m glad I had my garden and I really enjoyed teaching for UHI, but I missed painting.

Once I was allowed to travel again I spent as much time as I could sketching and drawing. But as things still seemed so different and, as the local roads were so busy, I found myself staying close to home. Therefore, by necessity much of my newest work has been inspired by aspects of Lochcarron and because my 85 year-old mother lives in Skye I’ve travelled back and forth weekly as soon as I was able to so my newest art reflects places along the route.

I do realise how lucky I am to be somewhere so outstandingly beautiful and I wanted to celebrate and share where I live in my art.

Normally a lot of my landscapes are painted en plein air or are based on sketches and studies done in the landscape, but during the lockdown, I really had to narrow my focus. I found myself looking at the familiar much more closely, the washing lines on the beach outside my home, the animals that live close to my village. This work makes up a good part of this exhibition.

There are also a number of pieces painted after the lockdown was over, views from a walk with my family or a drive through to Inverness and a selection of pieces from last Autumn, Winter and Spring, before the Pandemic.

It’s lovely to get out of the studio again, to meet people and to share our art with our friends and with visitors

My favourite view from An Talla Dearg

I’d love to see you if you can get along to the exhibition, but if not why not connect via this blog or via social media below

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Imagekind and Fine Art America 

Me at Singulart

Singulart and me

When I first went back to being a fulltime artist after ten years hiatus I decided to blog about my journey and post my art online. I did this for a number of reasons. I wasn’t really happy with my art to begin with, I maybe liked one painting in ten. My art felt stale, and I struggled to get anything finished. Posting my progress online really helped with that. It gave me a sort of deadline, I got lots of helpful feedback from folk and I made loads of online friends, artists and art lovers.

Then slowly, as time went on I began to sell my work. People contacted me becasue they liked a certain painting or because they liked my style and wanted to commission me to make work for them. It’s been really good for me. I’ve enjoyed making connections and selling my work, but it was always in a limited way.

Torridon from Annat

I’ve been selling via print on demand sites such as Imagekind and Fine Art America for some time and last year I set up an Etsy shop, through which I sold special editions of wee paintings, studies and sketches, but I kept my work small, because small paintings are easier to post.

I’ve always wanted to sell larger pieces, in a more systomatic way, but I didn’t know where to start selling, how to market myself or where to begin really. I had begun to investigate and then lockdown happened so I shelved it for a later time.

Then, about three weeks ago I was checking my spam folder and there was an email from Singulart inviting me to join their online art website. I’m no stranger to hard sell emails, people offering to help me improve my website, advise me how to sell my art or offering to pay me millions of pounds if I only give them my bank account details. We’ve all had them, right?

But the email from Singulart seemed different. So I did some research.

Singulart is a fairly new start-up, based in Paris. A recent article in EU Startups says of them:

Founded in 2017 by Véra Kempf, Brice Lecompte, and Denis Fayolle, the online art sales platform allows art collectors to discover works from the hottest artists in 80 different countries, while allowing nationally recognised painters and photographers to sell their art more easily around the world.

So my next thought was, do they really mean me! Well, yes they did.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in a high state of excitement, working with a wonderful advisor from Singulart (thanks so much Hong). Who has helped me with pricing, advised me on setting up my page and chivvied me along so that they could add me as one of their artists.

And here it is

Me at Singulart

I must say the whole experience so far has been really good. I’ve been encouraged to take some new photos, which I couldn’t have done without my lovely husband, who clambered over bog and heather to take the outdoor photos and put up with taking hundreds of studio shots till I finally found one I could live with! I also had to write a bio, which made me really think quite deeply about my process and my goals.

Even though I haven’t been selling any larger paintings recently, I have still been painting them. There’s something about the majestic landscapes in the Highlands and large canvases that go so well together. I had some paintings that I have done over the past few months, but I was so inspired by being invited to join Singulart that I did two new pieces “Torridon from Annat” (above) and “The Five Sisters of Kintail” (below) both are 60 x 90 cms and they depict two local mountain ranges. If these larger pieces sell, Singulart offers professional support to help me ship them, free of charge to the purchaser, which helps me have more confidence in the process as I have someone to turn to for advice in that and lots of other areas

The Five Sisters of Kintail

I have been working on a series of smaller paintings too, (the ones that are easier to post) for a upcoming exhibition with my friend Aileen Grant Art and another local artist, Steven Proudfoot. That exhibition is planned for the 16th of October at the gallery at An Talla Dearg on Skye, fingers crossed that goes ahead.

Aileen and I are also planning to set up an online shop via our joint website at Lochcarron Arts so watch this space for more about that soon

Please do stop by my page on Singulart (linked below) and let me know what you think and meanwhile do browse some of the other amazing, talented artists that they are showing and supporting.

Me at Singulart

Singulart the main page

Or why not pop over to one of my social media platforms to say hello

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Imagekind and Fine Art America 

Going to pieces

An artist’s life is often quiet and fairly isolated, I suppose it’s quite routine in many ways. You spend so much of your time in the studio, or, in my case out sketching my local landscapes, but sometimes you get asked to do something rather unusual, something that’s a totally new experience and a chance to use your skills for something you’ve never done before. Such as a restoration project.

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would help a friend by painting in some blank pieces of a precious handmade wooden jigsaw. The missing pieces had been replaced but were blank white. I had a go at that and really enjoyed the experience, so I was happy to do another one, when I was asked, and this time I took photos.

The jigsaw as it arrived

As you can see, three pieces had been replaced, but they do stand out, so what I needed to do was paint these to match the surrounding image.

Things seemed to progressing well. I made several swatches to blend with the colour of the three replaced pieces and I held the jigsaw tray up to the light to make sure the colours were matching okay.

Then, everything (or almost everything) exploded.

It’s amazing how far jigsaw pieces can travel and the strange places they can manage to insert themselves. But I gathered all the pieces that I could find and realised that there was only one thing for it, I was going to have to reassemble the jigsaw.

It’s a lovely jigsaw with great chunky wooden pieces, but I had no idea how many pieces there were and I couldn’t really remember what the picture looked like as I hadn’t had it for long and I’d been far too focussed on matching the colours. No two pieces were the same and some of the edge pieces weren’t really edge pieces.

Two days in to the reassembly and I was convinced that the jigsaw had been made by a sadist.

However, slowly and systematically, I got there eventually and the jigsaw was done.

Sadly though, despite my best efforts, there was one piece missing (isn’t there always!)

Luckily I know that my friend is able to replace the wooden shape, but still wanted to make a swatch for her to use to be able to complete the jigsaw.

Happily, my friend came to pick up her jigsaw today and she was delighted with the painted pieces and I am really pleased with the fact that I managed to colour match quite effectively. I think the jigsaw looks good, almost back to new and my friend is having a perspex sheet cut to fit so that it all stays together from now on (after that final piece has been fitted that is)

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on some new art and finishing off some older works, getting ready for my upcoming exhibition with Aileen Grant and Steven Proudfoot at Gallery An Talla Dearg (fingers crossed) on October 16th – I’ll keep you posted on that!

Some of my new and updated paintings, getting ready for the exhibition

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Reworking a painting

When is painting finished?

Sometimes, you just know. That’s done, I can do no more, I’m happy with that (or at least as happy as I’m ever going to get)

Sometimes, you don’t stop when you should and those rich colours become muddy and that perfect sky just doesn’t look right anymore.

Then there are those paintings that almost work, paintings that never quite feel right, but have a certain something that stop me cutting them up or painting over them.

This painting is one that I’ve gone back to and reworked

This is a view at Breakish on Skye, looking towards Broadford. The painting on the left is the original and the view on the right is the reworked painting.

I haven’t changed the background at all, except to add a little more detail to the trees on the left, so it’s interesting that the houses seem brighter and the blue hill in the distance seems much greener. I felt that the foreground lacked detail and that the fields needed simplification, so I did that, but there was still the problem of the tree on the lower right of the painting.

The tree is the one that is actually there at Breakish. I liked the shape of it, but felt that it just didn’t work in the painting. It was too close tonally to the fields in the background, it was also too small and seemed to disappear in the composition. I felt there needed to be a strong diagonal framing the houses in the distance and leading the eye to the houses. So I painted a pine tree that’s actually miles away at Garve, one that I sketched for an earlier painting. I liked the clump of rosebay willowherb that’s in front of it and the small lime green bush. I felt that the reddish pink of the willowherb helped highlight the red roof and the reddish brown seedheads help draw the viewer’s eye into the painting too.

It’s strange how much brighter the painting seems to be, without me changing the pallette at all. I think I’m happy with it, I certainly like it more than I did before.

I have an exhibition coming up at the end of October – all being well. So I’m going to leave it for now and see if my opinion changes when I’m ready to start framing.

Meanwhile, I have quite a lot of new work in various stages of completion. I’ll take my time with them and let them evolve slowly and maybe keep returning to them over the next few weeks

Putting it together

I’m feeling rather hopeful that the final exhibition that Aileen and I had planned this year at Eilean Iarmain will indeed happen, so I went to Inverness to stock up on some bits and bobs and managed to hurt my knee while loading the car. That meant that instead of spending the day in the studio I’ve been sitting with my feet up and an ice pack on my knee.

However, it’s an ill wind as they say, so I’ve spent the afternoon putting together some jigsaws from my own art via Jigsaw Explorer linked below.

The first jigsaw is 100 pieces and the second is 150, anything larger than that the pieces would be too small I think. My paintings do make good jigsaws though, even if I do say it myself. Please feel free to have a go.

Enjoy xx

Jigsaw 1 – Shore Street, Applecross: https://jigex.com/ZBfR

Jigsaw 2 – Eilean Ban Lighthouse – https://jigex.com/ZBfR

Jigsaw 3 Torridon Spring – https://jigex.com/BvUL

I found the third jigsaw to be the hardest, but do let me know what you think x

The steepness of learning curves

I’ve learnt a lot of new things during lockdown. I’m a much better grower of vegetables than I was this time last year. I’ve had more time to concentrate on the garden, read more, been more dutiful, taken more care. I’ve taken lots of cuttings and had a wee freak-out when I thought my peppers might have fusarium (they don’t). I’ve been picking strawberries by the punnet and and have now moved on to raspberries, tayberries and gooseberries. It’s been great picking lettuce and spinach and the potatoes and peas should be ready any day now. I’ve bonded with my greenhouse.

My art has been focussed on the garden to a great extent, though now, with lockdown being lifted a bit I do plan on going out and about more frequently, so there will hopefully be some plein air art coming up over the next month or so. I have several ideas for a new series of paintings, but that’s gently ‘cooking’ away in the part of my brain that seems to take care of my creative thoughts and plans.

All my real-life exhibitions have been postponed until at least the Autumn, so I hadn’t bothered renewing my membership of The SAA – a great organisation, which offers discounted art materials and (most important for me) insurance for exhibitions, open studio events and private tutoring. After all, I’m not holding exhibitions, open studios or private tutoring sessions for the forseeable future.

However, SAA are quite persistant. They sent me several emails and a number of letters – it was nice to get some post I suppose! Then they offered me the opportunity to join their sister website, which is an online selling platform called ArtGallery. As an SAA member I’ve been offered “GOLD” membership, which means I’m allowed to upload up to 150 paintings at any one time (I’d better get some more painting done) and (as a special offer) 2 weeks as a featured artist. So I’ve uploaded three original paintings so far (pictured below) each are acrylic on board, 25 cms x 30cms and are on sale for £90 (excluding p+p)

These were all painted in Applecross, one of my very favorite places, last November. The sun rises late and sets early at that time of year and often the days themselves are dark. But when the sun shines, the colours are unbelieveably bright and sharp and that’s what I tried to capture in these paintings

There is some lovely art on the site and it’s well administered from what I can see. For example images are evaluated before they go ‘live’ which I thought was good. It’s taken me a while to understand how it all works – that learning curve I mentioned. This is my page just three images uploaded so far, but I’ll be uploading more over the next few weeks.

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Imagekind and Fine Art America 

Affordable and accessable – art online

One thing that I think we’ve all learned from the recent lockdown is that the world changed overnight. I have been selling my art online through Etsy, through my own social media sites, and, just before lockdown I was in the process of setting up another online outlet, however. I live in a wee village, with a small postoffice and I didn’t want to risk having something for sale and then not being able to post it if it sold.

Then someone told me about Imagekind (click on the bolded name to go to my shop there)

I must say I was really impressed. I love the way that you can see how the prints would look in a variety of frames and settings and examine the paintings in close-up too

I have been selling prints on Fine Art America for quite a long time but had become frustrated with them for various reasons and had removed most of my images. They seem to have had a bit of a revamp since I used them last though, including the new option of images for Instagram

Fine Art America 

So I’m planning to upload some of my favourite images over the next week or so

Some of my work is already available

Here in the Highlands we have been very lucky and, things go well and there are no outbreaks things may well be opening up so I have applied to sell with ArtGallery. They are an online sales platform who are a sister company to SAA (society of all artists) where I’ve been a member for several years. Joining was only finalised this afternoon so I haven’t uploaded any art images yet, but watch this space!

My work will be available alongside these wonderful artists very soon

If you want to have a chat, say hello or share your experiences, please contact me here on my website or click on one of my social media places below xx

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Imagekind and Fine Art America 

Being an online artist

When I gave up full time employment several years ago I had no idea whether I could make any sort of income from my art. Living where I do, in the remote Scottish Highlands, there aren’t exactly huge numbers of galleries or art collectors and opportunities can be hard to come by, so I decided to go online.

A good suite of social media and a simple website, which I have developed in the past few years, has allowed me to connect with all kinds of interesting people, galleries and collaborations and has also enabled me to sell thousands of pounds worth of art.

My latest collaboration is with the innovative and rather wonderful West Highland College to deliver two online courses, something I’m really excited about. The first course starts on Tuesday 30th June (click on the link on the picture below to go directly to their event page on FB) or click BEST – Business Enterprise Solutions and Training. to book on their website: The college have been really helpful and supportive and I’ve worked with them to keep the cost of the courses really low to make them as accessible as possible. I’m really keen to help and support other artists in any way I can and West Highland College has a lot of experience in delivering a great selection of online courses so this seemed like a really great way to do that.

BEST – Business Enterprise Solutions and Training Event

The course will be online for three consectutive weeks and I’ll share some hints and tips and things that I have learned as I set up my business. This will include how to find an online audience among millions of art lovers, how to connect, promote and sell your art and some of the benefits and pitfalls that you may come across along the way.

I live and work in rural Scotland, West Highland College has several campuses, but the great thing about online courses is that anyone interested in taking the course can be based anywhere where they have a decent internet link so please do feel free to share with anyone who you think might be interested.

I’ve had some huge benefits from sharing and selling my art online, including meeting some wonderful fellow artists. It’s been vital to my business to be able to reach a wider audience and I think this will become even more vital thanks to the effects of the pandemic. Who knows how things might change and how galleries and other venues might be affected, art, however, has been selling during the lockdown and I firmly believe that the virtual world will continue to be important in the weeks and months to come. If you are interested in the course but have a question or want to know more, then you can contact me here or connect via social media on any of the links below or comment at the end of this post.

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Just in case you were wondering, my second course is an Introduction to Botanical Art which will start in July, and which can also be booked on the same link BEST – Business Enterprise Solutions and Training, but more about that very soon.

Creativity in a crisis

I logged in today with the aim of doing a blog update and realised that I haven’t posted since early April. I feel like I have been in a sort of stasis for the last few months and I know I’m not alone in that.

When lockdown happened back in March, I had a very busy year planned, workshops and exhibitions, open studios and several local events. But none of them happened. However, I had poured so much creative energy into the preparation, painting, planning, website design, working with my friend Aileen on leaflets and diaries, sourcing materials and promoting it all. Then when all at once everything stopped, dead, with such little warning, all of our plans stopped too.

At the beginning I really did try to carry on as normal. I did a couple of paintings, regularly updated my social media, read blogs, did short courses and tried to sketch every day, but then I just…didn’t do anything art wise, for weeks and weeks

I am really lucky, I know that. I have a slightly shabby, quirky but comfortable roof over my head and, although my income took a considerable hit, I’ve been okay. I have a garden, I live in a beautiful place and the weather has been mostly pretty good. I am not a key worker. I haven’t had to juggle work and family, my children are all grown up. I have a fantastic local shop, (a big shout out to Emma, Hector and their wonderful staff) which has delivered our food and a great community which has watched out for us all

snapshots of the garden

Maybe that’s why I felt I had no reason to complain, no right to feel down or sad, when so many people are so much worse off than me. Yet there have been times when I have cried, been listless and felt as if I had no energy at all and certainly none for art.

I don’t think I was blocked. That’s happened to me before and this, this ennoi, feels nothing like that experience. Instead it has been like a time out of time. I’m sure that a lot of people who are much better writers than me will describe their experiences far more eloquently than I have here, but I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings, now that I’ve realised how long it’s been since I posted last.

Many of us have found our world changed beyond all recognition whilst some have experienced minimal changes, each one of us unique and yet so similar in many ways. Things we took for granted disappeared, almost over night and maybe, just maybe, nothing will be the same as it was. I make no value judgements about that, because no-one yet knows what those differences will be. Some people will undoubtably suffer, the world economy has taken a huge hit, but maybe some good will come of this, I do hope so. How this will affect artists we have yet to find out. In time perhaps we will find that fewer people will buy art, but maybe we will need art and beauty and kindness more than ever.

I have spent a lot of time over the last few months in my garden, as can be seen by my photos on social media and here on my website. Many of us might have been in stasis, Nature was not. I think that much of my creativity has been focussed in my garden. In growing and tending young plants, sowing seed, watering and weeding. Being in a garden can be so meditative. I know that at times I have just popped out for an hour to find that I have somehow lost several hours just being outside. I have had to focus inwards more than I have done for a long while. I think that this close focus is beginning to emerge in my art.

Recently I’ve been back in the studio again and drawing and sketching outside too (see the sketches below). Looking more closely at how things grow, at the way they change and develop and trying to capture the intricacy of petal and leaf structure, colour and stem.

Things might be beginning to open up again now too. I do have some possible things coming up soon, so maybe more about that in the next wee while, but I’m trying to take things more carefully, to not do too much and find myself overwhelmed. Stopping the world for a while has left a lot of arty things unresolved for me personally and I don’t know where I am going with this yet. It’s a work in progress.

As I’ve had a little more time on my hands, I’ve also decided (at long last) to set up an email list as I’ve had a few people ask. So if you’re interested in getting more frequent updates from me and the occasional wee treat or special offer then you can contact me here

This post has been far more wordy than anything I would normally write, but I might even manage another post in a day or two. Meanwhile, be safe, look after yourselves and I do hope that my art helps to make your day a little brighter.

Garden Perspectives

Today was meant to be my first exhibition of the year. A joint one with my friend Aileen Grant and I at Attadale Gardens. Instead, I did some painting and took delivery of some courgette and lupin plants (thanks to Donald of Loch Duich plants).

Back in January 2017, Aileen and I joined an art group based at Inverewe Gardens. We returned frequently over the next few months and visiting inspired me to undertake a Certificate in Botanic Art with Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and to then go on to exhibit an Inverewe in July last year. I have also been lucky enough to be able to sketch and paint regularly Attadale and earlier this year, Aileen and I met with Joanna Macpherson to plan a whole series of events that we would run jointly with Attadale including workshops (read more about them at Lochcarron Arts). Unfortunately events have overtaken us and we’ve had to cancel a workshop and the exhibition itself, though we do still have things planned for later this year, all being well.

But that first visit was the start of a series of events which were life-changing. We returned several times and I spent a lot of time sketching at Attadale too. and it was that which inspired me to further study. After doing the botanic course I felt much more confident in combining my two loves, art and gardening and I have spent a lot of time over the past year or so looking more carefully at plants and at gardens generally and incorporating them into my art.

I have been a landscape painter for many years and I am particularly fascinated with the Highland landscape, which is in many ways more artificial than a garden and much more harsh. Yet people do live here and gardens grow profusely, in the temporate climate, at least they do after windbreaks have been planted and soil enriched.

I have been working in a variety of different styles and mediums. I make the initial sketches in situe where I can, in pastel and charcoal, trying to capture the way that the plants grow, the plants they grow alongside, the conditions that suit them. I take careful measurements and then, back in the studio I do a more careful and detailed drawing or painting. Until now, I have been lucky enough to work in the glorious gardens mentioned above and I will continue to work on these sketches, drawings and photographs to make work, which I will hopefully be able to share at an exhibition, later this year. In the meantime I thought I would share the images with you anyway.

But for now, my own garden is beginning to grow. I am spending time sowing plants, bringing on seedlings and sketching and drawing at home.

sketches from my garden

And I’ll continue on with my latest work, based on my own garden and the view from the decking at the top.

my latest work in progress – the view from the top