Nicola McLean

Catching up with Past Prize Winners

We got in touch with some artists who have won our prizes to see how it helped them to progress and develop their practice. Here you can see what they had to say!

Please introduce yourself and tell us about the prize you won from GreatArt:

My name is Nicola McLean and I won first prize in the GreatArt Postcard challenge competition in 2014. The prize included £750 worth of art supplies from GreatArt, a year’s representation with BGallery and a place on Ashley Hanson’s Freedom in Painting workshop in Cornwall in September 2014.

Do you remember how you felt when you found out you’d won?

I was absolutely stunned when I found out I’d won not least because it was the first art competition I’d ever won and the prizes were fantastic! It was such a great confidence boost to have my painting chosen for first place and I’d always wanted to visit Cornwall so to get to go there and see it through local artist, Ashley Hanson’s eyes was an amazing experience.

How did you spend your prize vouchers?

I bought lots and lots of acrylic paints and plenty of different sized canvasses and I also decided to try some new mediums such as acrylic spray paint (which was a fantastic addition to my painting arsenal) and pastels which I learnt weren’t such as success for me as I just can’t get on with the chalky feeling on my fingers and the dust they generate!

How would you say winning the prize has benefited your work?

Being able to buy so many new paints and canvases was fantastic and allowed me to try new mediums that I maybe wouldn’t have been in the position to spend money on otherwise.

Winning a place on Ashley’s workshop came at such an opportune time for me as I had been feeling in a bit of an artistic rut and I knew I wanted something to change but I wasn’t sure if it was the medium I worked in, the subject matter or the style of my work. As it was, Ashley opened my eyes to looking at compositions and subject choice with fresh eyes with more emphasis on mark making and colour and less on worrying about creating an entirely representative piece. I gained so much from his workshop and it definitely encouraged me to paint much more vibrantly. I did experiment with more expressionist, less representational work and have been more confident in trying new ways of working and, although, I have settled on a fairly representational style it’s much more about letting my imagination have free reign than trying to replicate exactly what I see which is very liberating.

What are you currently working on?

Funny enough, the piece I won the competition with was a close-up painting of a rain soaked leaf on gravel and I’ve recently been working on a series of slightly similar pieces, although they are in acrylic rather than gouache, still life paintings of river rocks with watery reflections. The first had my welly boot clad feet in amongst the rocks, the second a feather on the stones and the one I’m currently working on has two marbles among the river rocks.

Once that painting is finished, I’m looking forward to starting a series of landscapes based on photos we took on a recent road trip across America on Route 66.

Do you have any advice for artists when it comes to competitions?

Develop a thick skin! I’ve entered lots of competitions and not been shortlisted and it’s very easy to take it personally because for an artist our work is such a personal thing and it’s hard to separate the two.  Art is so subjective that just because your piece wasn’t shortlisted doesn’t mean it isn’t a good painting; it just means on this occasion the judges preferred a different style. Just keep on painting and keep on entering competitions because the old cliché is true – if you aren’t in it, you can’t win it!

You can see more of Nicola’s work on her website: www.nicsearth.com

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