Although it’s been a bit chilly in St Andrews this week, Rebecca and I decided to brave the weather in order to bring you something slightly different for the last of our A Scottish Palette-inspired challenges!
For this final blog we’re going to explore the life and work of local artist Will Maclean and we’ve even been doing a spot of beach-combing to gather the materials for a Will Maclean-inspired artwork! But why was a trip to a beach in Scotland in February required to create an artwork in the style of Will Maclean? Allow us to explain!
Just like the two works which feature in A Scottish Palette (Boston ‘T’ and Skye-Collage Study) much of Maclean’s artwork focuses on the sea. However, he not only draws his inspiration from this topic. He also often collects the materials required to create his final artworks from the shoreline. He then combines them with more traditional elements like painting, drawing or sculpture to create the final piece.
Maclean’s interest in the sea partly comes from his experience of working on it. In fact, before he attended Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, he spent a year as a midshipman in the 1950s and then, in the 1960s, he spent time at sea as a ring-net fisherman. This eventually led to him creating a portfolio of 400 drawings which focused on the sea and this type of fishing.
He is also interested in the individuals and communities who live and work in this environment and is particularly inspired by their histories and mythologies. He believes that the way of life these communities represent is slowly fading away from contemporary Scottish culture, and in his artworks he is trying to memorialise it before it has completely vanished.
Inspired by Will Maclean’s interest in the sea, and his use of found objects from the beach, Rebecca and I took a walk to one of St Andrews’ three beaches, Castles Sands, in order to do some beach-combing! We hoped that we could use the items we found to create an artwork in the style of Will Maclean.
Not knowing what sort of items we might find, we decided to collect anything that looked interesting or unusual. (If you do decide to go beach-combing yourself, remember to wear gloves and be careful about what you pick up from the beach.) After just half an hour we had gathered an interesting selection of driftwood, colourful stones and pieces of coloured glass. We also collected a few slightly more unusual objects including some mesh and rope!
When it came to creating our artwork we decided to follow in the footsteps of Maclean’s sea-themed works and create a picture of a sailing boat. Working with the materials we had collected was a challenge because we were limited in what we could create by their shapes and sizes. We had to be very imaginative to turn them into a boat-like shape, but it was fun to consider what each object could represent in our picture. (We decided that the curled rope looked a bit like a wave, the coloured square of tile looked like a flag and the unusually shaped piece of driftwood looked like an anchor!) As well as its challenges, this technique also allowed a lot of flexibility as, unlike a traditional drawing or painting, we could easily alter our picture by moving the pieces around on the background.
Eventually, after playing around with the arrangement of our objects, we managed to create a recognisable picture of a sailing boat! (Unfortunately we didn’t have time to draw or paint in additional details, like Maclean does with his artworks, but if you try this at home maybe you can try adding extra details!)
We hope you have enjoyed our attempts to create artworks, as much as we have enjoyed making them! Sadly this is the last of our A Scottish Palette blogs but the exhibition does run until 1st March so, if you haven’t been yet, you still have a couple of days to nip down to the Gateway Galleries to catch it!
Deirdre Mitchell (Curatorial Trainee, Collection) & Rebecca Prentice (Curatorial Trainee, Learning & Access)