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I am an artist and painter from Glasgow, Scotland. I have been drawing and painting since I was a young child, however, I only began to pursue a career in art after graduating in Painting & Printmaking from Glasgow School of Art aged 36.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to paint and study in the world-renowned Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed building before it was sadly destroyed by two major fires.

It was an exciting and inspiring place, and during my time there I discovered the work of many artists who continue to inform my practice. I have always been interested in psychology and states of mind, and the uncanny world of Surrealism and Symbolism is fascinating to me.

I am particularly interested in expressing nature and the human form/head in an alternative way, which suggests curious, unsettling narratives. My style is usually quite bold in color and the scenes depicted are often cropped on the canvas like a film still, to create a sense of unease.

During lockdown I have been working from home instead of my studio, and have started to focus on painting some portraits of people I admire, to lift my spirits! I have recently returned to using acrylics, which has been interesting, as I mainly work in oils.

My portrait of the actor Sam Neill was inspired by his social media videos during the lockdown, in which he would often sing and play the ukulele. I am pleased that the painting has been well received on Instagram and delighted that the man himself has acknowledged it on Twitter!

Hello Linda! When did you start doing art? Is there some story behind it? What did you want to become as a child?

Linda: Hi! I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. My family was not particularly artistic, but it was always instinctive for me as a child to create art. I was an only child and drawing was a constant pastime. At the age of 12, my art teachers at school encouraged me to attend a Saturday morning art class at the Glasgow School of Art. The minimum age was 14, so for 2 years, I had to pretend I was older! I loved the classes, and it was there that I developed my love of painting and my interest in art as a future career.

My periods of creating work over subsequent years have been intermittent, due to caring for my mother and other family responsibilities. I feel like the time has come for me to now focus on myself and my work.

Beneath

What are some of the tools you use to create a distinct style of artwork?

Linda: I have painted in oils for many years, on both canvas and wooden panels, as it enables me to build layers of color. Bold color is a strong feature in my work. I also enjoy working in large brushstrokes and I like these to be visible in my paintings. I use rags of fabric to rub back areas of paint and then rework them. In the past I have used turpentine on the background of paintings in order to create patterns and texture, however, I now prefer layers of paint.

During the lockdown, I had no access to my studio for several months and began working at home using acrylics on canvas boards. I haven’t used acrylics for a long time, but I am pleased with the vibrancy of the colors in my recent work. I have had to adapt to the faster drying time, but this has helped me to work more productively.

English Rose

What is the message you are trying to give with your art?

Linda: I don’t try to project any direct message; however, I do think my work is heavily influenced by ideas around states of mind and mental health. My mother had bipolar disorder with some psychotic episodes, and that has certainly had a profound effect on me and my life. I spent a lot of time questioning what was real and rational thoughts and behavior, and my paintings are sometimes reflections of those thought processes. I think it’s important to have empathy and compassion, and an understanding that these issues are real, life-changing, and require awareness and support.

Frame of Mind

Could you walk us through your process? What is a day of working like in your studio? Do you have any rituals that help you get motivated or in “the zone”?

Linda: I am lucky to have a great studio with huge windows looking out on to the city of Glasgow and the River Clyde. On arriving there I always have a coffee first and stare out at the view to kick start my thoughts. Depending on the weather, I will move my easel to an area of the room that has the best natural light. After contemplating my previous work on a current painting, I will continue with this straight away if I am feeling confident with ideas. If not, I will prepare other canvases or boards with base coats and colors, as I sometimes work on different paintings at the same time. I also have a bookshelf with art books to refer to, in times of painter’s block and when I need inspiration. Music always helps too and I have been caught having a dance now and again!

Hybrid

You say you’re particularly interested in expressing nature and the human form/head in an alternative way. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Linda: I like my work to demand questions, and for a while, I was painting suggestions of heads/figures, which were disguised underneath cloth or leaves, or the human figure metamorphosing into an animal. I am interested in the subconscious, psychology, philosophy, the unknown, and things not being what they first seem.

Rough-Diamond, Portrait of Damien Hirst

 

Give us some insight into how you create this amazing sense of unease. Are there any specific techniques?

Linda: Often a sense of unease in a painting can be suggested by the use of dark colors, tones, and shadows, however my work is much brighter overall and the viewer can perhaps be misled into misreading the scene at first. I also include elements that are perhaps unexpected, such as large insects or unusual perspectives. This invites the viewer to look at the work again, and this element of surprise or distaste can then alter their perception and heighten their reaction.

Shroud III

What artists influenced you the most and why?

Linda: I admire several surrealist artists whose work has influenced mine, in particular Leonora Carrington (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonora_Carrington) and Dorothea Tanning (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Tanning). Their use of the human figure linked to nature, to express emotion, identity, and the subconscious is very powerful. I have always liked Tanning’s quote:

“People talk about surrealism as an art movement, like abstract expressionism or impressionism. Surrealism is a philosophical movement”.

I also love the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_O%27Keeffe). Her desert landscapes and beautiful enlarged flowers suggest the fragility and fleeting nature of life.

In relation to portraiture, I have long been inspired by the very different styles of Tai-Shan Schierenberg (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai-Shan_Schierenberg) and Meredith Frampton (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meredith_Frampton).

Although not painters, the incredible large-scale installation work of the late Christo and Jeanne-Claude (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christo_and_Jeanne-Claude) continues to amaze me, and I was very fortunate to go to New York in 2005 to see the unveiling of their work ‘The Gates’ in Central Park.

Submission

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Linda: There have been many interesting responses, including ‘I love your work, but I wouldn’t have it hanging above my fireplace’, which in some respects is understandable!

I have been delighted with the general response to my recent portraits, however. A ‘Wow. Thanks!’ from Sam Neill had me jumping for joy!

‘Portrait of Jim’ is a painting of my partner, and it was lovely to hear several people saying that not only had I captured a likeness, but I had conveyed a sense of his personality and inner character. That means a lot.

The Night Owl

What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?

Linda: I have just recently set up my art Instagram and Facebook pages:

https://www.instagram.com/lindalivingstonartist/

https://www.facebook.com/Linda-Livingston-Art-103947038079045/

I am learning that they do have a wide reach to enable new people to find and engage with my work. I am also in the process of creating my new website, which will eventually allow visitors to buy prints of my paintings. Nothing replaces looking at actual paintings, so I hope to have some on display soon.

Windswept

Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about (or canceled due to the Covid-19 situation)?

Linda: I have no upcoming shows at the moment, but I hope to have a new body of work completed by the new year and hopefully an exhibition will follow sometime after that. In the meantime, I have entered some work into a competition, so I’m glad I have found new confidence to do that.

Lockdown Sam with Ukulele

Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?

Linda: I think my art says something about me, and from experience, I find that people are drawn to art that they feel an instant connection with. I feel like that is also a connection to the artist themselves. I believe in the idea of mindfulness and trying to live in the present, and if my work has any broader purpose, it would be to illustrate an awareness of one’s self and its connection to others.

Thank you!