Kirsty Maclean is returning to Scotland today after spending time in Benalla during which she became a valued and regular volunteer at North East Artisans.
Over time we discovered that Kirsty had studied at both art and graphic design schools in Scotland. We would often find her in quiet moments drawing intricate patterns in her artist’s note book.
Kirsty exhibited two paintings in the ‘Our Back Yard’ exhibition during the Benalla Festival, selling her very first painting and the first painting to sell in the exhibition. Kirsty also created a memorable mural featuring a tartan or patchwork quilt like pattern during the Window to Window Festival festive celebrations late last year.
Some quick facts to start with, Kirsty… Where is home?
‘Between Glasgow, where Mum lives, and Aberdeen, where Dad is based. They are still together and I go between ‘homes’, sometimes in Aberdeen and sometimes in Glasgow’
Where would you most want to live and create/write etc?
‘There are just too many places – my goal is to get to every continent. The next goal is to live somewhere in Asia, maybe try to get some art done there…I think it is a pretty interesting place’
‘God, what isn’t! I’ve a massive sweet tooth …chocolate; carrot cake; cheese cake; pastries…
’Current reads/films/exhibitions attended?
‘In Brisbane recently I went to the Modern Art Gallery and the Brisbane Art Gallery. One has a really large aboriginal influence. It was really good to see as I haven’t seen a lot of aboriginal art since being here. The Modern Art Gallery was also really good.’
Kirsty, what do you see as your artistic Influences?
‘Mostly things I find scattered around the place. I don’t think I have any particular influence…but there is a Korean artist I really like, Mingee, who does portraiture of women with these amazing coloured patterns…She has flowers bursting out of faces, half realistic, half nonsense. It is really mind bending to make sense of some of it’
What are you working on at the moment?
‘Mostly small wee drawings until now as it’s been too hot to do anything and I do all my work outside. I’m too Scottish to really deal with the heat over here! I’ve these little canvasses I’ve managed to get hold of so I’ve been doing wee intricate things with them in my spare time.’
What was the first work you exhibited publically or sold as an artist?
‘Probably the one here at the ‘Our Back Yard’ exhibition. I had my little tree and the cockatoo. Sally phoned me to tell me that the little tree had sold and I definitely squealed. I was really excited!’
How has your background/ background influenced your artwork/creativity ?
‘I’ve been drawing pretty much since I could hold a pencil. My granny was never a proper artist but she used to do all these really nice portraits of geishas. Then she started to go to art classes and we always used to draw together. Mum and Dad were always keen to get me drawing as well. It’s something I’ve always done.’
What’s the best part of being an artist?
‘The creativity of it all. It’s more of a hobby really, though I’d love to take it further… It’s just like getting all of the stuff out of my head… There’s something stuck in there and so it’s like getting it out, it’s very freeing to get it out.’
What’s the worst part of being an artist?
‘Self esteem! I fell out of it for a very long time. I used to go to art school, but I don’t think I was in the right course. I wanted to be a painter, but I was easily the worst painter in the class! When I was in secondary school I was the best in the class – to then go to being the worst, I took a hit. It wasn’t until I came here that I started drawing again properly. I used to do a lot of digital art though, which I’ll probably return to when I go back to Scotland’.
What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about your work?
‘I can’t really say, but selling my first work at NEA was actually a positive thing’
What’s been the most significant moment in your artistic/creative career so far?
‘Probably being part of the Window to Window festival in Benalla late last year . I had done big paintings before, but they were always on my bedroom wall so I could come back to them. At the Window to Window interview they asked me whether I wanted to do a small one or a big one and I said, ‘I’ll be fine, I’ve done big ones before’. And then I actually started doing it! It was two hours in on Friday and I was still drawing it up…and it dawned on me just how much work it was going to be. I had to call in the cavalry… my boyfriend and his family came to help me. They were saying ‘Chill’… I finished at 8pm on Sunday! It was supposed to take 6 hours and it took 22 hours. I still had an idea of what I wanted it to be, but at that point I didn’t much care. It was like, ‘I’m done’. I remember thinking, ‘I’m in over my head’, but I’m pleased that I finished. It was a good lesson.’
What do you find most challenging about (your field of work) ….. ?
‘I think it’s just coming up with a good idea, trying to make the painting work – the composition stage – that’s probably my greatest challenge’
When you’re struggling with a painting or drawing, where do you look for inspiration?
‘Normally when I’m struggling I’ll work on something else for a bit, then if I see something, or something in another drawing clicks, I’ll go back to it. I think space is what I need when I get stuck’.
Who do you picture as the ideal viewer/audience of your work?
‘Just anybody really, anybody who enjoys it, anybody who’s will to take a moment to look.’
Whether creativity in different areas can be taught is often debated – what’s your view?
‘I think you can in a way, I think it’s just pointing people in the right direction’.
Where and when do you prefer to work on your art/…..?
‘I’ll just draw whenever and wherever there is a bit of space. I’ll do a lot of drawing when I’m behind the counter volunteering’
What do you listen to when you work?
‘I make a lot of playlists…my music taste is terrible… ‘
Do you buy your eg. art supplies online, in an art store, or both?
‘Wherever I can get the cheapest deal, really. I’m not that well off to be that picky’
When not drawing or painting , what do you like to do?
‘I like to read. I do a lot of reading. I love video games. I’m really into comics, graphic novels. I’d really like to look into and try that when I get home and have my computer’.
If you could go out to dinner with any artist, who would it be and why?
‘Maybe a comic artist. There’s an amazing woman who does the drawings for a comic series I really like, ‘Saga’. There’s another who’d be even better. Frank Quietly – he’s a Scottish illustrator who is involved with ‘The Sandman’, it’s an out of reality comic’.
What is the art work that’s had the most significant impact on your life and work as an artist– and why?
‘Lots of different things I think, a variety of things. Glasgow has a really big artistic influence, especially with the art school. They’ve always had the most amazing exhibitions. Glasgow is an amazing place for arts and crafts’
At the beginning of the interview you said you are currently working on small canvasses. What do you hope to work on in future?
The small canvasses I’m working on are coaster size and so are like working on miniatures, they are teeny tiny versions of the big window. I’d may be like to work on something bigger in future.’
Kirsty, we have so enjoyed getting to know you, appreciated your contribution to NEA, wish you well for the future, and hope to see you again one day.
Kirsty was interviewed at North East Artisans Benalla on Friday 22 March 2019 after participating in her final (for the moment at least) ‘Introduction to Jewellery Making’ session with Sally Wallace. BL
Photos - Annie Longmuir, Bev Lee, Simmon Tan; Cooinda, with more to be added.
Benalla Art Gallery
Shepparton Art Museum
Wangaratta Art Gallery
Benalla Camera Club
Broken River Potters
Broken River Painters
Broken River Writers
Wots4Me Benalla Youth
Art Gallery on Ovens
Bush Gatherings -Violet Town
GANEAA (Goulburn and North East Arts Alliance)