Interview: Talking Scottish scenery, home style and summer with artist Sheila MacLean

In her landscape-based work, artist Sheila MacLean is inspired by the stunning Scottish scenery and its shifting light and reflective moods. As her artworks comes to ACHICA, Sheila tells us a little more about her work and play...

What do you love most about Scottish scenery?

My background is Highland-Hebridean so I am particularly drawn to the wild, rugged beauty of Wester Ross and the Outer Hebrides – ancient, majestic mountains, moorland and stunning beaches. I love the ever-changing light and the way it plays on the landscape, transforming it from one moment to another. I never tire of it. I have to admit that Edinburgh, where I now live, is a beautiful city with fabulous architecture and a great skyline so I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

How did you become an artist and did you always know art was your calling?

I’ve always been creative but art was not given the credit it deserved when I was at school. I graduated in Business Studies and later combined that with an interest in knitwear design, setting up my own business.

I used to sell small pieces of affordable art alongside my more expensive knitwear and it gradually took over. I’ve never looked back and take added pleasure from giving Gaelic titles to my work. That’s another subject I wasn’t encouraged to pursue at school!

What is your favourite media to work with?

I specialise in painting on silk as I like its free-flowing quality and feel that it captures the softness of the Scottish light.


Describe an average day as an artist and how you go about creating your works?

There is no such thing as an average day! My work is inspired by a sense of identity and place and often evolves as I work on it. I rarely paint in situ. Fragments of poetry, music and memories of colour, scent and people are usually the main triggers. Some days are more creative than others so I go between painting non-stop then doing admin type tasks.

What is your favourite personal artwork?

Alba 1 (Scotland 1). I have kept the original. It is a muted, moody image of distant hills and a beach foreground.

Who is your favourite artist?

My young daughter. Seeing the world through her art and eyes always amazes me. The unknown artists who created the exquisite Pictish stones scattered across Scotland also inspire me. These stones are centuries old and still full of mystery.

If you hadn’t been an artist what line of work would you have gone into?

Furniture design perhaps. I love wood. Some of my earliest memories are of watching my grandfather building a rowing boat in his shed. They still evoke a wonderful smell of wood shavings and tar. Celtic Studies or Archaeology would have taken my fancy as well.

Describe your home style?

Relaxed, easy living. Wooden floors, light walls and an eclectic mix of old and new furniture, simple ceramics and memorabilia. I like things that are natural and easy on the eye. My walls double as gallery space for my art.

What do you hope to cross off your to-do list this summer?

Re-live some of my early childhood experiences with my daughter back home in Wester Ross and catch up with some friends before it’s Christmas again and I am writing “Must catch up!” in their cards!

[Above: Latha Sitheil (Peaceful Day), Limited Edition Fine Art Print, Signed & Numbered, Unframed, 50x50cm by Sheila MacLean]

Describe your ideal weekend?

Long lie-in, then a walk with my family and young puppy around the local farmer’s market. An egg’s benedict brunch and a catch up with friends then a quiet, comfy corner with a good book.

Favourite holiday destination?

Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands. Abroad, we’ve enjoyed a few great times in rural Majorca.


When you’re not painting what are your hobbies?

Walking, especially in the hills or on a beach; pottering around second hand shops; visiting galleries; Scottish traditional arts and cultural events. I recently took up fencing - a mad, spur of the moment idea but I enjoy it.

What is your signature dish?

Somerset Chicken casserole - with plenty of added cider! It’s a family favourite and a one-pot dish so less washing up!

Best restaurant you’ve been to?

Fisher’s on The Shore at Leith. It has got an easy going atmosphere and great seafood, which I love.

5 fantasy dinner party guests?

I like a laugh at a dinner party so invites to Dame Edna, Paul Merton, Billy Connolly, Miranda Hart and Dawn French.

What book are you currently reading?

These Islands We Sing – It’s an anthology of Scottish Islands Poetry edited by Kevin MacNeil.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be true to yourself.

And what’s your motto?

Trying to follow the above.

Shop for Sheila MacLean artworks at ACHICA

[Image above: Camhanach Na H-Oidhche (Nightfall), Open Edition Giclee Print, Unframed, 50x50cm, by Sheila MacLean]

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shop at ACHICA.

Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor