‘Crow Head’ in group exhibition

It is so glorious to look at a painting and realise it is finished. To know that you managed to invent something that you like and that all that frustration is over. 

But the best feeling of all is that moment when another human being decides that they want to be part of that something you invented. 

‘Crow Head’ is currently on display at House For An Art Lover’s latest exhibition ‘Identity Through Landscape’. 

The exhibition features artists whose work is either about the landscape, or is created in response to the landscape. My painting ‘Crow Head’ is about intuition, guidance and having a relationship with nature. The crow on the figure’s head is a reference to ‘spirit guides’ in Shamanism and the triangles represent all that pulls us in life. This is simply what it means to me at this moment in time. I hope other people are able to read into it using their own language. 

‘Crow Head’ hangs in a stunning building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which sits within Bellahouston Park on the outskirts of Glasgow. 

The exhibition runs until 8th August. I hope you are able to pop by.

Is it important what I paint?

I bought an aloe vera plant last week and put it next to the window in my bedroom. Every morning since, I have woken up and gazed at its thick, juicy spikes. It is now part of my life, which is why I am painting it. 

I have painted trees, faces, mountains, strangers in the distance and even the odd still life, like the aloe vera plant I’m painting now. I’m not finished yet, but I can already see it’s a ‘Nicola Wiltshire’ painting. I have painted the aloe vera like I would paint a face, or even a forrest scene.

The aloe vera is painted on a woven pattern from The Fabric Mill in Dundee. It kind of reminds me of something you’d find in an old Scottish castle, which is slightly odd when forced into harmony with a tropical plant and lashings of bright blue. It is roughly 100 x 60 cm and painted in oils. More updates on my instagram page @dundee_painter

Why is colour a feature of my work?

Colour is perhaps one of the main reasons I love living in Dundee. 

The sky here throws out so many magical colours, all swirling together in a kaleidoscope of dramatic hues of orange, turquoise and purple as the sun slowly dissolves into the night. It’s almost like theatre, especially compared to the sky I had grown used to in London, which is murky orange at best as a result of the light pollution that comes with living in a densely populated, 24/7 city.

I began experimenting with colour way back in primary school. When asked to draw pictures of myself, I learned quite quickly that Crayola’s ‘skin colour’ was nowhere near my own skin tone. It was probably the first time I noticed I was a different colour to everyone else. Being mixed race, the brown in a standard pack of pencils was too dark. It was then that I started layering multiple colours, as an attempt to create something that looked more like me. 

Eventually, I became frustrated with this. And by the time I sat my Art GCSE, I was painting people with blue, green and orange faces. I was almost creating my own race of colourful people, where shades of brown weren’t as important as what you could say with icy blues, or fiery reds. 

My undergraduate exhibition (2009) featured looming portraits of people using a palette of muted blues, greens and purples. There were no ‘skin colours’ in sight and for these huge paintings, I abandoned cotton canvas. Instead painting my figures on dark and rich shades of velvet.

Slowly, over the years, my established palette of Prussian Blue/Sap Green/Crimson/Black/White became punctured with experimental purchases of new colours by Michael Harding and Old Holland. It was only when I was stood in the middle of my Master’s exhibition (2015) that I realised colour had perhaps taken over.

The Graduate, 2009

Studio photo, University of Westminster, 2008

Graduate Show at P3, Baker Street, London, 2009

Masters Show at University of Dundee, 2015

Masters Show at University of Dundee, 2015 (Photo by Kathryn Rattray)

Using Format