There are so many hidden gems in the Lane these days, that NHC MUSIC decided we really should be showcasing them to you, the readers, as you need to get down here to see as many of the other units as you possibly can! Trust us, there are visual delights in the lane that you probably walk past every time you visit us for some live music. So next time, rather than walking past the other open doors, take a wee look inside and have a gander at what's on offer for yourself. Until then, we have a selection of interviews for you with some of the other creative inhabitants of the Hidden Lane and Hive, and we will be bringing you two interviews a week for you to check out. So read on for the first one...
Hi there! Glad to get you on the website for a wee chat about your business in the Hidden Lane, got to say, I LOVED that big painting in your studio too, that was fantastic looking (though possibly a tad large for my house….). Anyway, we will get back to that a little later, can you start us off by telling our readers a wee bit about yourself, and your unit in the lane?
Firstly, I’m terrible at speaking about myself as an “artist.” I have a this complex where I’ve always considered myself to be less of something because I haven’t been “officially” trained – I am getting better though!
My unit in the lane came about after years and years of continually regretting that I no longer painted. I use the term “no longer painted” quite loosely – until recently I hadn’t painted since high school (and even then there were hardly a multitude. I tried to re-engage with Art in 2011 when I started an Artist Teacher Masters course in the hope that it would give me the SCQF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) points to enable dual qualification with the GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) and when I found out that it wouldn’t, I gave up after a year (this is relevant, I promise!) During that time I started a painting that I would finally finish in March 2017; a painting which on completion shook – quite drastically – my perception of myself as an “artist.” For the first time I really believed I could paint and, trained or not, I figured a short term lease on a studio was worth a shot – either I would paint, be pleased enough with my work to be proud of it or even sell it; or, it would lie dormant and I would give it up.
And, so far? I’m really really proud of what I’ve completed to date and it looks as though I will not hesitate to extend my lease - when the time comes.
Occasionally, folk like to remind us how ‘off the beaten track’ we are, but we actually like it to an extent, people should have to wander down alleys and lanes to find hidden gems after all! What’s your own thoughts on being a wee bit tucked away, is it beneficial to the artist in you?
I remember seeking out The Hidden Lane Tearoom years ago and immediately falling in love with its quirkiness but on that day it was raining and I didn’t even look at anything else. When I was younger – back in the days of Virginia Galleries – I used to trawl the streets for hours looking for gems like The Hidden Lane and frustrating to think that the older I’ve gotten the less and less inclined to wander the back streets and alleyways for something special – sadly, I think I do that via the internet these days. But, to answer your question: In some respects, I like being tucked away. For starting out it has given me the space to find myself as an artist and build confidence in what I’m doing; had I been in a place more obvious I think I may been less true to myself. Now, I am close to a stage where I want to make myself more known I do need to do some signs and alert people to my tiny presence. What I have loved about being in the Lane is the other people – very quickly I was made to feel like I was part of the community and I love how there are so many people who really look out for one another. Added to that, I think there is a real buzz about being in a place with some many “creative,” we’re never short of inspiration or enthusiasm or determination and when I first arrived I didn’t expect that at all.
I definitely feel that I want to contribute to the Lane in some way and I have a few ideas that I will action when I find myself with a little more time on my hands – all of these ideas will take me in an uncharted direction with regards to my art and photography.
Back to that giant painting then, can you tell us a wee bit about that, what scenery are we looking at?
The giant painting is sort of a commission for Knock Castle Hotel and Spa, in Crieff. The owner, Jason, has recently launched a gallery where he is displaying the work of local artists – obviously for sale. There is a massive wall above the main staircase and he wanted a painting which filled the space, approximately 10ft by 8ft. My painting isn’t actually quite big enough – only 8ft by 6ft. I’m not sure how it came about but over a course of conversations I ended up agreeing to it – a massive sign of my naivety towards a large painting! It took a lot of research to realise that it was very risky to paint onto un-stretched canvas, a further few weeks to find an expert to build a frame and stretch it for me, and then penny dropped – how on earth do you transport such a huge frame in a Citroën Nemo or a VW Golf? I’ve had to call in a few favours.
In terms of the painting’s subject, it is based on a waterfall in Perthshire. I choose it after a day photographing the Falls of Bruar and the Birks of Aberfeldy. I had a list of favourite ones but after asking around everyone – other than me – thought this the best; it was certainly the one which presented a waterfall close up and, due to its scale, I’m hoping as people walk down the stairs they will feel they’re walking into a feat of nature. The colours are also really interesting – lots of reds, blues and purples, contrasted with greens, ochers and yellows – which will complement the stained glass window that sits adjacent to the wall my painting will be on.
Any big plans for the rest of 2017 then? Can people pop into the studio anytime, or do you have specific open days?
I think the biggest plan is the one I’m working on! Jason has asked me to display four images in the gallery@Knockcastle - the big one and three smaller ones. Two of the smaller ones are finished and currently with a framer – the same person who stretched the canvas and is making the frame for the big one; the big one is still in progress and I’m really hoping to have it completed by the end of July – I’m so excited to see the finished product; it will quite overwhelming knowing that it I’ve not only finished it, but handled a painting on such a massive scale. The fourth painting is pretty much there but I feel that as my technique has improved since starting the big one I may find more to do to it than I actually realise.
Having just returned from a trip to the Norwegian Fjords I’m feeling very inspired. If you had asked me in March what I would be painting I’d have said portraits – it’s where my passion has always been and, indeed, the painting I finished then was a portrait – but everything I’ve done so far has been landscapes and I now I have a massive bank of outstanding photographs and different outlook on what I want to achieve in my work. This has been partly inspired by the scenery but also by the art work I’ve seen – the Norwegian art galleries have been some of my favourites and I have a whole new host of “favourite” paintings – some traditional, which I would’ve expected from myself, but some contemporary and in a style I’ve always (slightly) condemned. I guess for the rest of 2017 I’d like to select a group of photographs and work with them: currently, I’m thinking large photo-canvases (something I’ve always hated!); renaissance style skies in oils; and capturing a mood that is atmospheric, even foreboding.
People are more than welcome to pop in and see me at work but I’m usually only there evenings and weekends (and daytime during school holidays). If someone desperately wants to catch me, it is probably best to text, email or phone to make sure I’m there. Hopefully, I’ll have some signage sorted over the next few weeks which will help people to find me and to establish whether or not I’m there!
So there you have it folks, the first of many hidden gems for you to explore! If you are quick, you might even catch the giant painting before it goes to it's new home. It was so big I couldn't even fit it into the camera! More to come soon...