What is it that you actually do?

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Me in my Skye studio (Photograph by the insanely talented Anthony Lycett)

For all my posts about my days on Skye and the things I enjoy doing, I realise that I never talk about my day job as an artist.

This evening I was posting some photos of my most recent work to my Facebook page (Katie Tunn Fine Art) and I found myself writing more about the background to the pieces than I usually do, like a kind of mini blog.
Since these new paintings are Skye-inspired I thought I’d share what I wrote…

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Inspired by the ocean and the sky


(From Facebook)
‘Back in 2013 I took a month out to explore Scotland. As an ocean-lover and a geology-enthusiast I have always been entranced by the natural beauty of the country.
I had no planned route but as I roamed from place to place I realised I was in pursuit of something… The colour blue.

From the icy teal of the deepest Fairy Pools to the Caribbean turquoise of Coral Beach -I found glimpses of what I was looking for on Skye. It’s part of why I fell in love with this place and perhaps what led me to move here.

I’ve now been here for over a year. Although I’ve been making art the whole time, it’s been mostly my ‘bread and butter’ work, portrait commissions.
I love this type of work but for a long time I’ve been meaning to make some more intuitive art that reflects what I love about this island. I have no idea why but something always stopped me.

It took an impromptu painting session with fellow Skye artist and friend, Marion Boddy-Evans, to inspire me to loosen up and experiment.
Following her words of encouragement I’ve been rapidly turning every blank surface in my studio blue.

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Catching the light

 

These new pieces are all works in progress as I explore different painting techniques to represent the colours of the ocean and the patterns found in minerals and gemstones.
It’s great fun to go back to using high-gloss surfaces, circular canvases and metallic colours, it’s been a while.
It feels like I’m beginning to really find my blue…’

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All my favourite colours

The circular canvases in the somewhat blurry photos above are my favourite pieces so far but it’s been fun to play around with different surfaces and materials too, especially using stuff that I’ve picked up whilst cleaning beaches.
My studio has gradually become a shrine to cerulean; it’s a delight to walk in and be surrounded by splashes of my favourite colour.

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Experimenting with beachcombed finds

As I mentioned above, this is a departure from my everyday artwork which mainly consists of portrait commissions. I specialise in drawings and paintings of people or horses, often with a military or polo theme. Yes, it’s incredibly niche but it’s a good market and one I enjoy working in.

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One of my favourite finished commissions 

There are pros and cons with working to commission…
Pros: It’s guaranteed work and I really enjoy meeting my new subjects.
Cons: It can be painstaking with little room for error or movement. But worse, you never know whether your client will like it or not so there can sometimes be an agonising internal struggle to work out whether you’re really up to the job.

When working on a big commission I often spend most of my time doubting whether I can really paint at all and whether I’m committing some kind of fraud by pretending to do so. It may sound extreme but it’s not an uncommon train of thought. It’s what makes us try to be better artists.

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The latest drawing commission 

It’s the lack of that internal struggle that makes this intuitive, abstract way of working feel more fun and carefree.
As my friend Marion wrote on her blog recently, you have to experiment and accept that you’ll make mistakes. I really owe her one for inspiring me to find that freedom with paint that I was beginning to lose a bit.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and seeing what comes out next…

To see more of my work please visit my Facebook page: Katie Tunn Fine Art

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You shall go to the ball… somehow!

How do you find yourself standing in a car park in your pants with paint on your face? We’ll get to that in a minute…

Saturday night was the Row St Kilda To Skye ball and ceilidh, an event to celebrate the charity efforts of a group of islanders who raised money for local causes via an epic 100 mile row.
Liza and Barry had booked a whole table for the staff of the gallery and bakery and I was chuffed to have kindly been given a ticket. My first proper night out on Skye, it was a chance to dress up and to spend some social time with my new colleagues.

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The Row St Kilda to Skye superstar fundraisers. With thanks to them for this photo!

It was a grey day so I’d ensconced myself in my B&B room for the afternoon with a book and continuous cups of tea. Of course, I forgot the time and all of a sudden it was time to get ready. Emma, my landlady at the B&B was staying elsewhere for the night and there were no other guests so I put on some music and started laying my outfit out. I always end up rushing to be ready for black tie things (I’ve got dressed in 5 mins in the back of a London cab SO many times), so I was going to take my time and enjoy this.

To transform from scruffy girl in pyjamas with sleepy panda eyes I needed to grab my hair curlers from the car so I slid on some shoes and popped out.
Slam.
The door!
Oh, you’ve got to be kidding…

About 8 laps of the building and I’ve learned that Emma’s B&B is possibly the most secure place I’ve ever come across (not that I make a habit of trying to break into homes). The curtains in my room are open and I peer in at my phone, door keys, purse, evening dress etc etc on the bed. Everything just sitting there, mockingly. All I had were car keys.

It was no use, I couldn’t get in. The last of the light faded away and I realised I only had 15 mins to get to the ball.
Luckily I’ve got my entire life packed into the back of the Yaris and I ripped through my bags until I came across a long summer dress that could pass as eveningwear. A further rummage uncovered some shoes and a hair tie. I went to put my greasy, frizzy hair up but couldn’t see a thing. I’d have to drive to the square, park under a streetlight and get ready there.

So that’s how I found myself stripping down to my pants in the pouring rain in the middle of a Portree car park.
Have you ever been so desperate to look nice for something that you dug out a pot of black acrylic paint and used it for make-up? Well I have, and I can tell you that old Daler & Rowney actually makes quite a passable eyeliner. I knew that art school degree would come in handy somewhere…

So, slightly frazzled and without ticket I rushed off to the ball.

I followed the beautiful ladies and men resplendent in kilts to the entrance to the Portree community hall. It was beautifully decorated with creels, shells, pebbles and all kinds of coastal paraphernalia. Inside I joined the table and we had a lovely meal accompanied with live music from a local band. A film about the row followed and then the ceilidh begun.
I’ve never really enjoyed country dancing myself but I loved watching everyone flinging themselves across the room to the sounds of traditional Scottish music. It was quite an appropriate introduction to the island, although I’m pleased it was more authentic than those tourists who go abroad and watch belly dancing or something to feel part of the culture!
I also found out that on Skye people don’t call this type of dancing ‘reeling’, only a ceilidh. I assume that it’s a Gaelic thing and that reeling is a mainland term…

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The Skyeworks gallery and bakery table. With thanks to the Skye Baking Company for the photo!

I found out today that, with the contributions from the ball, Row St Kilda To Skye have now raised over £39,000 for the RNLI and Skye & Lochalsh Young Carers. So they don’t just throw a good party, they’re pretty incredible fundraisers too!
To find out more about the rowers and their journey check out their Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/RowStKildaToSkye

So, that’s how I went from standing in the rain in my pants to enjoying a rather lovely evening.
As for getting back in? I’d resigned myself to a night in the car but I thought I’d post a note on the B&B door first to let Emma know the situation. By a blessed stroke of luck she’d changed her mind and decided to come home after all. I pushed through the door of my room and collapsed on the bed in bliss.

The moral of the story?
Sometimes there’s no fairy godmother to get you ready for the ball; a princess has to be resourceful and independent and get herself to the ball.

Actual moral of the story?
Just keep a hold of your damn keys.