Capturing the Spirit, Energy and Vitality of Flowers - Pamela McMahon

Capturing the Spirit, Energy and Vitality of Flowers - Pamela McMahon

March 06, 2018

Pamela McMahon lives and works in rural Scotland and her current work has two main styles – collage landscapes and mixed media flower paintings. Both are semi abstract, expressive and colourful.  

With the collage landscapes, her aim is to create compelling and beautiful works through the use of bold colour, texture and details that reference the interplay of light and shade and the marks made on the land by man and machinery.

Her floral paintings are executed on heavyweight paper using watercolours, inks and acrylics.  These paintings are splashy, colourful and a wee bit wild.  Pamela's aim in these works is to capture the spirit, the energy and the vitality of flowers. 

Through her work, she hopes to share with others the delight and happiness that she get from her love of the countryside and flower gardens.

Scottish Artist, Pamela McMahon at work her in studio


What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?

As a child, I loved to draw and paint and from around age twelve or so, my ambition was to become an artist.

How would you describe your own personal style?

My personal style has evolved over the years from producing realistic landscapes and portraits to a more expressive and semi-abstract approach based on using strong colour combinations and texture.

What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?

The move towards my current way of working began a few years ago when I attended a masterclass on how to paint expressive landscapes. I was introduced to random mark making, mixed media and collage and it gave me the confidence to use strong colour and texture and the freedom to adopt a semi abstract approach. I am not sure how my work will evolve in the future but I will continue to experiment with and explore shape, colour and pattern.

"Oranges and Lemons", Pamela McMahon, Mixed Media on Paper, 2017


What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?

I find it difficult to explain what drives me to create artwork. Something deep inside compels me to paint and it is a compulsion that has been with me all my life. Even if I don't paint every day, I think about painting every day.

Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, may be even other artists?

I was encouraged by my art teacher at school to attend summerschools and apply for Art Collage, however, my parents did not approve and I was not able to pursue my artistic ambitions on leaving school. However, my love of art stayed with me throughout my life and I have found much inspiration over the years from my ever growing collection of art books and by visiting art exhibitions and galleries both at home and abroad whenever I can.

When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?

My favourite medium is acrylic paint because of its versatility and quick drying properties. I also love acrylic inks and use them and oil pastels to add details to a work.

"Purple Haze", Pamela McMahon, Mixed Media Collage on Canvas, 2017


When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?

My work is inspired by my love of the countryside. As I live in the country I am continually observing the effects of light on fields, hills, mountains and water, and this informs my landscape work. I also love flowers and flower gardens and I seek to capture their vibrancy, delicacy and joyfulness in my flower paintings.

Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?

My collage landscapes are heavily textured and created with ripped fragments of specially prepared paper sheets. These sheets are covered at random in acrylic paint and inks, crayons, pastels and metallic inks and crayons. Marks are made, mediums run into each other, scored and marked with a variety of objects and splattered with colour. When dry they are ripped into varying shapes and sizes and carefully assembled to create a pleasing composition. They are then glued to a canvas and more paint, inks, crayons and so on are added to complete the scene.

My flower paintings begin with random splashes and drips of thinned paint which is allowed to dry. A thin coat of vibrant colour is then applied so that the dried drips and splodges show through. These shapes are then worked up with a variety of media to suggest flower heads, leaves, deep shadows and pockets of light. These works are semi abstract and are about capturing the spirit of flowers.

Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is it more a case of when the moment is right you work?

I don't work regular hours and there is no such thing as a normal day for me. I tend to start work early in the afternoon and when the mood is right, I can still be working until late in the evening. Some days I can easily spend hours on-line posting and promoting my work and often have to spend quite a bit of time in keeping my records up to date.

"Pink Sundae", Pamela McMahon, Mixed Media on Paper, 2018


When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?

Sometimes I begin work on a few pieces at the same time – putting down the first layers on one or two works then working on the detail of another while the first ones dry. And if I have mixed too much paint for the piece I am working on, I will use it as the background for a new piece rather than waste the paint.

How has your art evolved to be where it is today?

My art has evolved to where it is today through perseverance, trial and error, tuition and sheer determination.

Which of your artworks are you most proud off?

It is difficult to say which of my works I am most proud of - I am proud of them all in a way, simply because of the time and effort it takes to produce them.

 Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?

I admire very many living artists – people like Duncan Shanks, Helen Flockart, Barbara Rae, John Byrne, David Hockney to mention but a few.

"Golden Landscape", Pamela McMahon, Mixed Media Collage. 2017


If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?

If I could travel back in time I would like to have been involved in the Impressionist period and to have lived and in worked in France. I think people often do not appreciate how revolutionary the Impressionists were in their time, simply because we are all now so familiar with their works.

What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?

The 21st Century artist has so many challenges to overcome, mostly to do with the existence of the internet. So many influences, so much competition, so many routes to market, so many different styles all crying out for attention.

What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?

I would advise any young aspiring artist currently studying art to make sure they develop supportive relationships with other artists and influencers if possible.

"Lilac Lovelies", Pamela McMahon, Mixed Media on Paper, 2017


Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is their another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?

Despite having developed my work to focus on landscapes and flowers, I am always drawn to and admire portraiture. Work that can capture the spirit and personality of a person never fails to impress me.

We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?

Knowing when to stop working on a painting can be a real problem. Deciding when 'enough is enough' can get easier as you become more confident in your own style, but every so often you just can't decide – and no one else can decide for you! At such times, the best thing to do is to put the work to one side and do something else. When you go back to the work it is often the case you will see what is needed or not needed. However, it is not an exact science.

"Turquoise Glow", Pamela McMahon, Mixed Media Collage, 2017


Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expression your creative nature?

I am not a political or a narrative artist. The aim of my art is to create joy and beauty to be enjoyed by others. Some artists, however, are driven to make political or social statements or to tell a story and I respect that very much.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on a series of large semi abstract floral works on paper. Many of my floral works to date have been small to medium size but I now want to create larger work. Ideally, I would love to be commissioned to create a really big piece.

"Autumn", Pamela McMahon, Mixed Media Collage, 2017


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