Donald Macdonald - A Little bit of Life

Published 11 October 2018

Beatha Beag Beathoch: A Little Bit of Life is an exhibition of new works by Scottish artist Donald Macdonald. Donald's paintings are cheerful celebrations of everyday life and we were lucky enough to find out a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes in Donald's studio...

What inspires you to paint?

"Sometimes it’s a line from a song or something someone says. Sometimes I see a bird gliding or the shape of a stretching cat. Sometimes I look at my family and am overcome with feelings and emotions. Sometimes I see a colour, sometimes even a shape, a reflection, a cup or a jar. It can be a toy or a sky, an apple, a mouse or even a house. These are the kind of everyday occurrences and observations that inspire me to make my paintings. As an artist I love to re-create and re-make everyday experiences and emotions from the world around us in some way."

How would you describe your painting style?

"My work is based around photorealism but I have a very keen interest in the contrasts between the deliberate nature of photorealism and the more accidental side of expressionism and how the two can work together on the same canvas.  How runs of paint can transofrm a technically photorealistic object.  It fascinates me how these opposites can create something 'else', something new.  I think it is very important for my work to create emotion and 'feeling' for the viewer, to be able to work on different levels and not just the visual. 

The 'paper people' in your paintings are very recognisable, could you tell us a bit about them?

"I create miniature paper characters to represent and act out various roles in my compositions. These roles can be anything from a relationship to a landscape to an unadulterated celebration of colour. I like to use these characters as they are completely unrestricting in creation and allow me to convey anything that I am trying to express. These line drawn characters are very spontaneous, raw and loose and I love the contrast of this with photorealism in the finished paintings. When I have set up this miniature scene I  photograph it (sometimes for days) and use these photographs as a reference for my painting process"

How would you describe the colours you use?

"I think my palette looks quite restrained at first glance, but you need to look closely at my paintings to realise how they're built up with a lot of colours and tones. I start with thin washes, dribbles of colour and then I'll contrast that on usually a flat background and then I start the process of building up layers of paint, leaving areas of the initial washes, sometimes I even leave in pencil lines that work. I think it is important for a painting to grab you from the other side of a room, and when you're half way towards it, it grabs you again and when you're face to face with it, there is even more."

How do you come up with your ideas?

"So much of my work is about life and you can't experience that in a studio.  I'm an observer, I have to see, experience things, people and take that back into the studio with me. I never use sketchbooks or colour studies as I find If I do I kind of get bored of the composition before I actually start painting. I always try to keep that kind of excitement for the actual canvas. But I do have a habit of writing ideas and scribbling on walls!"

Beatha Beag Beathoch: A Little Bit of Life is open until October 19th, please click here to see the full exhibition on our website. 

Bridget Davies: All Dressed Up

Charles Simpson: Painting the Light

The Wonderful World of Vanessa Bowman’s Still Life Paintings

Hannah Woodman - Painting Cornwall

Mark Demsteader - Ophelia

Donald Macdonald - A Little bit of Life

Rachel Ross - Recollections

David Rycroft: Some reflections on Espace & Luminosité

John Brenton and the Places he Paints

In Conversation with Mike Bernard RI

David Storey’s Artistic Process

A Conversation with Jazmin Velasco

A Conversation with Athol Whitmore

A Conversation with Vanessa Bowman

Hong Kong Affordable Art Fair with Andrea Byrne and Bridget Davies

A Conversation with Mark Demsteader

The Scottish Show 2017 - A Selection of Artists Studios

Margrete (Grete) Marks – 1899 – 1990