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:

Jigsaw 2 – Eilean Ban Lighthouse –

Jigsaw 3 Torridon Spring –

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

Living in a lockdown

In another world today would have been my first open studio of the year, instead, I checked on my seedlings, did some housework and an online Yoga class with my lovely tutor, Sarah. As everyone knows this situation is unprecedented and we are having to learn to live our lives in another way.

I am very lucky in so many ways, I have a comfortable home, a decent sized garden, in which to grow vegetables and flowers and where I can sit and a wonderful view. I can still use my studio, I am blessed in so many ways.

But, 2020 was a year in which I made many plans. I was going to be tutoring a number of classes, with my friend Aileen, with West Highland College and here, in my home studio, all of the ones from the first half of the year are now cancelled, with the early summer ones possibly going to be cancelled or postponed too. We’ve also cancelled the exhibition which was due to take place at Attadale Gardens next week. But their opening has been postponed too.

However, it has been hard to get back to work, it has been difficult to feel creative and so much of the advice I have read is telling us not to, (not unless we are key workers that is), which is why I have taken so long to update my blog. I closed my Etsy shop and didn’t launch my ArtFinder page as I had planned, but getting back to work in the studio just hasn’t really happened yet. I’ve done a bit of sketching and I’ve decided on my next project, now I have to just do that.

I will update again soon. I will try to get into the studio. But for now, in these strange and exceptional times, I, like many others I’m sure, am just taking each day as it comes.

Meanwhile, instead of holding an open studio today as I had planned, I did a wee phone video instead.

My studio – on the shores of Lochcarron

The Five Sisters of Kintail

So often in painting life I have an idea that I just have to paint, or I set myself a goal, such as an upcoming exhibition or a project like my recent 30 days of paintings, which I uploaded to my Etsy shop in November last year and sometimes I get inspirations that I just have to work on. But my latest piece was commissioned.

Commissions can very challenging for an artist, as one is trying to create something which is someone else’s vision or memory, it can feel like a huge responsibility . I’ve done a lot of commissions in the past and I always enjoy the challenge, but this particular painting was, and will continue to be a favourite.

Firstly it was based on a recent sketch I did of the Five Sisters of Kintail, a stunningly beautiful range of mountains in the Western Highlands of Scotland.

Five Sisters of Kintail – a rough sketch

This sketch was done at the viewpoint on the Auchtertyre Brae, looking towards Kintail. The lady who commissioned the painting liked the sketch because it reminded her of fond memories she had of walking in these mountains, so she contacted me and we discussed me doing a painting for her.

Firstly though, I decided to go and do some more sketching and take some photos to help me make sure that my painting was accurate. The weather on my second visit was less kind than the day I did the first sketch, but I waited for a while and the skies cleared just long enough for me to do a couple more sketches and take some photos (I know it looks like it was a lovely sunny day, and it was…for about 20 minutes!)

Next we had a conversation about canvas size and composition. We wanted to keep some of the immediacy and energy of the first sketch while making the mountains themselves the focus of the painting.

Then, canvas and composition decided, I began to paint.

I really enjoyed painting this one. The composition came together quite quickly, without too many issues. Because I had done so much preparation work I found that the paint seemed to flow and that I did manage to get both the detail and the energy that I aimed for into the painting.

Some last minute touches and then I had to step away. I always let a painting sit for a day or two before I know its finished, then I added a highlight or two and then it was done. The finished piece is quite large, 100cms x 50, it is acrylic on deepedged canvas and I painted the edges black so it was ready to hang

The lady who’d commissioned the painting was delighted with it and it has now headed off to a lovely new home.

It was a wonderful experience, a painting I loved doing and a satisfied customer. This is why I feel so blessed to be able to work as an artist.

The finished painting – “Five Sisters in the snow”

A bit about Lochcarron Arts

Me and Aileen

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing all the preparation work for my new project with my friend and fellow artist Aileen Grant. We set up Lochcarron Arts as a very informal partnership so that we could work together to hold some exhibitions and maybe run some workshops together. We spent some time over the past couple of months planning and meeting up with some lovely people to organise some exhibitions and some workshops.

Both Aileen and I sketch and paint outside a lot so we thought it would great to be able to share our experience of working en plein air, so we’ve arranged to run four workshops at the absolutely stunning Attadale Gardens and two workshops at the gorgeous Loch Torridon, based at the Loch Torridon Centre, there are three stunning mountains dominating the landscape: Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe. For more information about this project or to book a place click here: Workshops

We also have several exhibitions planned too at Attadale, in the gorgeous wee gatehouse

And we’ll be holding another exhibition at the wee gallery at Eilean Iarmain – An Talla Dearg in October. If you’d like to find out more about our joint Exhibitions click on the link

Aileen and I have also planned to hold a series of Open Studios throughout the year, on the first Friday of every month. I’ll be posting more information about them via my social media pages (links below).

Planning and designing our workshops has been a lot of work and quite lot of fun too but working on the website was a whole other thing entirely. I have learned so much, but I think I was dreaming about links and blogs and uploading photos and info in the end. Fingers crossed though, everything seems to be working okay and you can find out more via the Lochcarron Arts page or even book a place on one of our workshops. So I’m now available to design websites *(I’m totally NOT available to design websites, though I have a lot of admiration for those who do!)

If you want to know more about the Lochcarron Arts projects or more about our open studios please do contact me to say hello.