Robin Macdonald

I started painting late in life and only after one of my sons, not knowing what to get me for a birthday, bought me some oils, brushes, an easel and a couple of canvases. That was a little over 10 years ago. In many ways I wish I had started earlier, but I suppose there’s a time and place for everything. Even through science A levels, a science degree and a career or two in scientific fields I have always drawn, mostly in pencil or charcoal – I used to be roundly criticised by my biology teacher for my overly lifelike diagrams: very un-scientific he would say. But oil paining was a very different thing. And there are days when it can be completely consuming – I can start in the morning and suddenly it’s getting dark; my coffee stands un-drunk and cold; the dog is patiently (or not) waiting for a walk, and I’ve lost all track of time. Then there are the opposite days, when I just cannot start for fear of going wrong or messing up what I’ve already done. But that’s one of the beauties of oils: you don’t really go wrong. Things just evolve, and quite often you end up, standing back, and wondering how on earth did I do that?

I find starting a painting very easy – inspiration comes from the most unlikely sources, but almost always colours or contrasts in colours, dark and light, rather than shapes: it’s the finishing that is much harder. If it’s a commission, and time bound, that’s easy, but if it’s not then a painting tends to be finished when I move onto something else. My studio is littered with semi-complete paintings and drawings that I know I will never go back to, but the process, I hope, has been worthwhile and helped me develop and improve or acquire new techniques along the way.

Dark and menacing skies are a constant attraction, especially if contrasting a light, warm and pleasant landscape, and it is perhaps not unsurprising that these play such a regular role in my work – whilst I might spend days playing with portraits or charcoal drawings, I always seem to return to menacing skies and they are a feature in a series of semi-impressionist landscapes I have been absorbed with over the last few years.

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