Welcome to the latest in our series of interview with the fabulous featured artists at Funky Scottish. We take a peek behind the artwork, into the everyday lives of these talented people. We discover how they seek out inspiration, structure their day and tap into their natural creativity to produce the pieces that are showcased at galleries and boutiques like Funky Scottish. Also, if you're dreaming of becoming an artist - as a hobby or professionally - this series will provide an invaluable insight into the many different ways to craft a successful and fulfilling creative, artistic lifestyle. Now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Sonas Maclean....
I've lived in Dunfermline, Fife since 1990
Tell us about your studio or work space – where is it, what is it like?
I used to have the cliched room in the attic but due to roofing work in 2012 I moved to a wee ground floor room overlooking the garden, lovely but very distracting!
How would you describe your art?
I paint landscapes & birds
Tell us a little about your background and how you uncovered your love of art?
I'm originally from Thurso on the North coast of Scotland, it's a coastal town & there are lots of interesting birds in the area. I don't remember when I began to enjoy painting. I've loved painting since I was a toddler & my parents were guaranteed peace & quiet if I was given paper & drawing tools.
Tell us how you began your life is an artist?
I feel it began at age 15 which is when I discovered there were such things as art colleges. I was fully aware that I'd have to get a 'proper job' on graduation but as that was in 1987 when it was difficult for the most highly qualified graduates to get employment, I could only get a part time job in catering. So, I was able to continue painting in my down time. I was lucky & was given opportunities to exhibit and my painting income began to outstrip my part time job so I went full time as an artist.
Which elements of your surroundings provide you with the most inspiration?
The sea has always been a big feature in my life and light has always been precious. Long dark days of winter & surreal, light nights of midsummer in my childhood were probably significant in this. I can't see it as a coincidence that I've painted a lot more garden birds this year - I swear they sit outside the window & pose.
Aside from your immediate surroundings, where do you gather inspiration?
Music & poetry.
How do you begin your day?
The resident male blackbird 'shouts' when he thinks I should be up & supplying breakfast, he gets more & more irate the longer he has to wait & is far more effective than my alarm. Good job I'm a morning person as in the summer the blackbird gets up at dawn. After I have given him & the other birds something to eat I have to have a cup of tea before I do anything else.
How do you structure your day?
My day is seems to be scheduled around cups of tea. I try to get to work as early as possible, apparently a mid-morning cup of tea is also regularly on the schedule as the blackbird turns up looking for elevenses. When I break at lunchtime I check the mail & deal with any matters arising. I stop to make the evening meal between 5 & 6. If I have a deadline I go back to work after that.
How do you “switch off” and relax away from your work?
Most of the time away from the studio is spent delivering/ collecting work and if I'm lucky and the light is good I can spend a few hours sketching or stalking birds.
In which ways do you find you most relate to other artists?
Most of my friends are artists we share the similar experiences of education, vocation & life in general which means that I'm not continually having to explain and/or excuse myself.
What are the most typical daily challenges for you as an artist?
Being left alone to concentrate on the work. My paintings take quite a bit of time so I spend long hours in the studio & there are days when the telephone never stops ringing - I have been known to unplug it.
What are the most typical everyday rewards?
I think anyone in any field will recognise the satisfaction of creating something with your own hands. If I can recreate in any way the joy that watching a bird or sitting in a harbour gives me that would be a huge reward.
Describe your ideal day at work – feel free to daydream! Or, tell us about a working day that you remember for being truly wonderful!
I work on a lot of paintings at once and an ideal day would be one when they all come together & I get the satisfaction of completing several at once - then I get the thrill of setting out something new to paint!
How did you begin exhibiting at Funky Scottish?
Karen & I have known each other for quite a while but lost touch while she was at art college. I had exhibited at the Pittenweem Arts Festival for a few years but one year someone took over watching the show for a couple of hours & I ran round trying to catch some of the other exhibitions. I met up with Karen again at the Funky Scottish gallery. We kept in touch and one year when I mentioned I no longer had a venue she very generously offered me space to show my work at Funky Scottish.
What advice you would give you anyone dreaming of doing what you do – or something similar?
If I'm honest I normally tell my nearest & dearest not to ; the hours are long, the financial reward small, you lose your social life and your family has to be very understanding. Painting in particular requires long hours of solitude and that can be hard for some people. I love to work by myself and even I can find re-entry to the world disorienting. Other people have also told me they find it really difficult. However, if they cannot resist the calling I say don't carry a portfolio larger than A2, go to yoga or swimming & join some sort of club where you will meet & socialise with lots of other people.
Finally, give us your top tip for a creative working day!
I'll give you 4 -
Unplug the phone
Unplug the doorbell
Put the packet of birdfood on the window ledge & tell Mr Blackbird to help himself
Put a good speaking book on the ipod & enjoy!
Thank you Sonas!
Find out more about Sonas Maclean via her website or view her exhibition at Funky Scottish in Pittenweem.