Oban Artist – Jo MacLean


Oban Artist - Jo MacLean. Inner Hebrides Black

Oban Artist – Jo MacLean. Inner Hebrides Black


As part of my 10 questions with series on Love Scottish Islands, I managed to catch up with Oban Artist – Jo MacLean and chatted to her about her love of the west coast of Scotland and her passion for painting and using nature’s abundant supply of raw materials.


1) What brought you to Oban?

My art is a celebration of my move to the west coast of Scotland from my childhood home in Glasgow. I grew up with a large family of 7 on the outskirts of Paisley and spent most childhood holidays on the isle of Arran or Mallaig. We were left all day to beachcomb, climb hills and explore the natural landscapes only coming in at night for tea covered in sand, midgie bites and a large smile. I finished school and went on to attend Glasgow Caledonian University where I left with a degree in Marketing and Communication. I spent most summers in between school and University working summer jobs on Arran. Anything from waitressing, gardening, cleaning antiques in Brodick Castle and volunteering with the National Trust. I then took a job with Scottish Telecom to save for a world trip in 1997 which gave me the bug to pursue a career outdoors after working for the Byron Bay surf school and teaching surfing to tourists! I came home studied an HND in Community Arts and took a job with STV working on programmes such as Funhouse, High Road and Wheel of Fortune. I had a change of career three years later by volunteering with the Scottish Wildlife Trust and then seasonal jobs at the Loch Lomond National park with a full time job in Forestry Commission starting in Drumchapel woodlands in Glasgow. I met my husband Rory on a forestry course and 6 years later we are married and happy with 2 kids and 2 dogs. My husband is from Oban, however I always had a calling to live up here.


Oban Artist - Jo MacLean. Slate designs

Oban Artist – Jo MacLean. Slate designs


2) What inspired you to become a full-time artist?

A combination of my father and childhood holidays to the west coast I was missing the landscapes so much I felt closer to the islands when painting them. My father always boosted my confidence and took my paintings to get framed, he also encouraged me to start painting on wood as I love the forests trees and woodlands and occasionally find great pieces of driftwood to paint on as well. My dad who has always been telling me to do something with my art! Boyd Tunnock C.B.E. who bought one of my first paintings, gave me the confidence to keep painting from an early age.


3) What materials do you use for your designs?

Wood, canvas, slate and framed west coast wildlife designs. I also collect specific driftwood and paint one off pieces. I like to use the natural grain of the wood to leave imagination to the viewers eye. I love natural materials, especially in the home. It connects me back to nature and is unique in the wider art market. It also gives the buyer something tactile and authentically Scottish to take home and cherish.

4) How do you get inspiration for a particular design?

I get inspiration from photographs and from bold colours oozing from the land and seascapes, especially on bright sunny Hebridean days. Especially when I see something which catches my eye on visits to these destinations. My twin emigrated to Colorado 13 years ago and is thousands of miles from the ocean, so she inspires me to paint to lessen her homesickness.


Oban Artist - Jo MacLean. Outer Hebrides

Oban Artist – Jo MacLean. Outer Hebrides


5) How do you create your designs?

I work best on sea and landscapes with simple features such as croft houses and beaches with bursting colours mostly from a picture/memory as a reference, rather than painting on site. I create my wildlife slate heart designs using a variety of materials including tartan ribbon and glitter, something different yet unique. I create in my home, no studio yet!

6) What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Boyd Tunnock buying a painting, a commission which went all the way to Western Australia last autumn, I even painted a stag mural at a Forestry Commission visitor centre. Ex pats commissioning work and sending my designs to Texas, Colorado, Germany etc.

7) Where is your favourite place in or around Oban?

Tralee Beach, Beinn Lora (the views over to Lismore, Mull and Kerrera are unbelievable) and Connel Bridge!


Oban Artist - Jo MacLean. Large Highland Cow with Tartan Ribbon

Oban Artist – Jo MacLean. Large Highland Cow with Tartan Ribbon


8) What Scottish islands have you visited? Which are your favourites and why?

Arran, Islay, Coll, Tiree, Barra, Harris, South Uist, North Uist, Kerrera, Benbecula, Lewis, Cumbrae, Jura, Eigg, Muck, Skye, Holy Island – would love to get to St Kilda!


9) Where do you see yourself and your business in the next 10 years?

Hopefully, I will have my own studio where I can develop my love of painting and create more art and inspire young children to paint as a way of expressing the way they see their world. Also, running my business full time, as my kids will be nearing the end of school by then.

10) Where can I find out more information about Oban Artist?

My website – Oban Artist has all my current designs and is a good starting point. I also have a Facebook Page. My stock can be purchased in Kilmartin House Museum, Oban Bay Crerar Hotel and Heartfelt by Liz.


Oban Artist - Jo MacLean

Oban Artist – Jo MacLean




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