Interview with Joanna McDonald - Year of Coasts and Waters

Posted by Jane Glue on

The Stone Wave

On this great beach a wild

Atlantic storm

Sculptures in stone its huge

and wavelike form.

Robert Rendall




Jane recently did an interview with Joanna McDonald, a blogger who moved to Orkney just as lockdown commenced. Go here to look at the 'In Celebration of Coasts' Collection.

For the original, click here.


2020 is Visit Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters which this week, the Orkney International Science Festival is celebrating as its theme. Over the next few weeks I will be exploring the Orkney coastline through the eyes of people who have a special relationship with it. I am absolutely delighted that one of Orkney's foremost landscape artists Jane Glue agreed to a chat. Read about her involvement with the Science Festival, making her own brushes, and her description of an Orkney winter

 How long have you been painting the Orkney coastline?

 All my life. Ever since I started to paint and draw. 40 years or more.

What makes the Orkney coastline special to you?

The colours, different lights, and weather.

What is it about the Orkney coast that makes it so instantly recognisable, even to people who have never visited?

 It depends which part you go to. There is red stone, granite, yellow stone and all the different  colours. Sunshine really changes its character.

 I've always thought the Orkney geology has its own particular slant toward the sea. It's the way the layers of sandstone lean. If I see a painting or photograph, I always know it’s Orkney even without any description.

 I’d never thought of that before!

  Could you describe an Orkney winter storm to me in three words?

 Wild. Manic. Wind! 

 I think islands are as much about connection as separation. During lockdown I loved seeing boats travel within Scapa Flow. I especially liked seeing their lights at night and knowing other people were still out there. Did lockdown change your relationship with the islands and coastline at all?

 It reaffirmed for me what I love about living here. I got really homesick when I went away to Art College. I have to be here. It was really nice to go out and it be lovely and quiet. We weren’t too affected up here. The thing l missed most was not being able to wander about the Orkney shoreline as l couldn’t go far from my home in Kirkwall.

Did lockdown change anything else for you?

 My new website turned out to be a lockdown project. There are about 500 pictures on the website now, but this is only about half of my life’s work so far. In the first ten years of my business l didn’t have the ability to make quality copies of my work, apart from the work that was put into print commercially. Owning my gallery meant that l was showing and selling work all year around so l was quite productive.

 During lockdown l volunteered for Orkney Mutual Aid delivering medication. It worked out well with doing my website as l could be flexible with my time.

 I launched the site at the end of March but l still continue to add to it with more pictures and text. I had been on Facebook for a few years but it’s only this year I have really started to use it. During lockdown l gained about 1500 new followers which is such an exciting new way to connect with people within and beyond Orkney.

 I read once that if someone told you how solitary an artist’s life was, no one would do it! So, to be honest, lockdown wasn’t any quieter for me than normal!

 It was the Orkney International Science Festival that prompted me to start these interviews. Will you be participating at all this year?

Oh yes I know Howie [Howie Firth, Festival Director] well. I did an exhibition for them in 2013 about the Orkney explorer John Rae who went with Hudson Bay Company and ended up mapping huge parts of Canada and discovering the fate of the Franklin Expedition. It’s an incredible story told brilliantly by Ken McGoogan in his book Fatal Passage. I collaborated with his wife, Toronto artist Sheena Fraser McGoogan, on a series of paintings that celebrated Dr John Rae’s favourite places on both sides of the Atlantic

This year I’m particularly looking forward to joining the Sunday online workshop Riches of the Shore. We’ll be foraging beaches to make our own paints and pigments and grass brushes. I often make my own brushes to paint with.

 Can you tell me a bit more about your painting ‘Orkney abstract’ which I picked out as one of my favourites in your coastal range.

With ‘Orkney abstract’, the original acrylic painting was very large. I really wanted to capture the feeling and the noise of the sea in this picture. In the wintertime, sometimes it can be so stormy you can hardly stand up and this is on one of those days! I used very few colours along with white to create the spume.

It certainly captures the drama and colours beautifully. I can feel my breath being whipped away.

 To enjoy more of Jane’s paintings, and learn about how she creates them, visit her website, join her on Facebookinstagram, or read her blog.

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