Hi Angus, please tell everyone a bit about yourself and introduce your brand & products.
Hi I’m Angus and I am an artist and craftsman, living in Grantown-on-Spey in the Cairngorms National Park with my partner, Jane, and two young sons, Drew and Duggie. I teach art and design at the local secondary school, Grantown Grammar. I am a landscape painter but I also do ceramics, printmaking and jewellery.
Can you take us back and tell us a bit about where it all began?
I trained as a jeweller and after university, I worked for designer Kirt Holmes in London before returning to the Highlands in the early 2000s to start my own business. I used semi-precious stones and recycled bullet casing to make costume jewellery, selling my products at craft and game fairs throughout Scotland. After training as a teacher, I started painting again and have held exhibitions of my work locally.
How would you describe your style and where do you take inspiration from?
My paintings are bright and colourful – I want my pictures to make people smile. They mostly depict local landscapes. The Cairngorms is a special place and I love to paint the lochs, mountains and big skies that you find here. Local lochs are especially inspiring and my love of fishing has influenced my work, with underwater paintings of fish or a fishing fly. A day in a boat on the loch is never wasted – even if I don’t catch a fish, I can take pictures for my next composition.
You sell your work in various formats, please share with us some of the products that you have available?
I sell a range of chunky mugs that are decorated with my illustrations of Scottish wildlife. The Highland Cow is popular, particularly because of a wee surprise you’ll find at the bottom.
My pine prints feature landscapes from the Cairngorms National Park in the style of old railway posters. They are simple and colourful.
I also do giclee prints of paintings from my 2019 exhibition, Into the Cairngorms, which raised money for the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team. Finally, I print some of my original paintings on aluminium plate.
We came across your beautiful mugs at Glen Tanars latest self catering offering Tower O’ Ess in Aberdeenshire, where else might we find your products?
I recently completed a painting commission of a stag in the Cairngorms for a luxury lodge, The Eagle’s Nest, near Boat of Garten in the park. My prints and mugs can also be found at other holiday homes and accommodation in the area, including the Cairngorms Guesthouse.
As well as my online shop, you can buy my products at the Highland Wildlife Park, Grantown East Heritage and Cultural Centre, and Highland Artisans.
Can you tell us about some of the commissions you have worked on, is there a particular project that stands out to you?
Loch Morlich is by far my favourite landscape. It’s a magical place and has everything you want in a picture – big skies, snowy mountains, huge forests, a sandy beach and beautiful clear waters. The wonderful thing about landscapes is the variety of light and seasons that you find. You can paint the same scene 365 days a year and every painting would be different.
I love the diversity of commissions and each new project brings challenges and fun. I have painted scenes for customers who have provided six-figure grid references of their favourite view and turned one of my paintings into a tile mural for a client’s new kitchen. Earlier this year, I did a portrait of a pug standing proudly over a west coast landscape that was a favourite of its owner, who was getting the painting as a surprise birthday present. It’s lovely to produce work that has a particular meaning or significance to someone.
The project that really stands out is a 12m mural on the walls and ceiling of the Grantown Masonic Lodge. It was painted in stages over three years from 2016-19 and it depicts a view of the Cairngorms. Painting across such a wide space was a huge challenge and it’s the biggest project I have ever done. It was a real honour to be asked to do the commission.
Can you tell us a bit about your process?
I work on several pieces at once when I am painting, especially in the run-up to an exhibition. I have a sky day, where I will paint the sky of every picture, then a water day, then a tree day, and so on until I get to the details. And I can always do other things while waiting for paint to dry, like sculpting clay, glazing mugs or framing paintings. There are always lots of projects on the go in my studio.
I also like learning new skills and new technology that I can use in my school lessons. It’s great to be able to bring outside experience to help the pupils produce their best work.
Can you tell us a bit about the area you live/work in?
I have lived most of my life in Grantown-on-Spey, which is a thriving town about 15 miles from Aviemore. It was founded more than 250 years ago and is brilliantly placed to reach two ski areas and the Moray coast. We have a busy High Street with lovely independent shops and the Grantown East Heritage and Cultural Centre outside the town that has a miniature railway that we all love and delicious pizza is served in converted train carriages. I love walking our dog in the forest that surrounds the town and the River Spey is wonderful for walks, fishing or canoeing.
What would you recommend doing/seeing in your area to someone visiting?
Walks in our local Anagach Woods are lovely all year round. Just now they are full of wildlife, including deer and butterflies. An added attraction is that local children and their parents painted stones during the lockdown and placed them in the woods for others to find. Recently they started a huge snake, my namesake “Angus the Adder”, which stretches along the main path through the forest. It’s been great to see so many people picking up a paintbrush to join in and make Angus longer.
I also love the Frank Bruce Sculpture collection at Feshiebridge near Kincraig. Frank Bruce was an award-winning sculptor who used local timber to make striking sculptures about Scottish culture. The sculptures are now decaying, which was part of the artist’s concept for the collection. It’s a unique and interesting place to visit for a short walk.
Are you working on anything new at the moment/do you have any exhibitions in the pipeline?
The pandemic and lockdown has meant I don’t have an exhibition for the first time in years and my plans for a series of summer craft fairs were also cancelled. But this has created more time for product development and I have been working on a range of handbuilt ceramics. One range that is now available at the Highland Artisans shop in Grantown-on-Spey is inspired by trees, while I am also experimenting with a fish design.
Can you pick out 4 or 5 things in your working space that you can’t live without?
I have a huge range of brushes, from lovely Skyflow brushes for creating smooth blue skies in my landscapes to scrappy old ones that I use for trees.
Extremely useful for wiping your paintbrush on.
A cup of coffee is integral to the painting process.
I do most of my painting in the winter months when I can’t go fishing so being warm and cosy is very important. It also helps the paint dry quicker and I love fire-gazing with my cuppa.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOUR WORK?