Scots don’t have to look as far as California to dream big

Fife artist Catherine Lindow explains how artists “don’t have to look far from home” to develop their careers

IN my work I have always loved the feeling of communicating with people about the places they live in by painting them. It's amazing to open up a conversation by presenting your own view of a town or a building and having someone else's viewpoint come back to you.

When I showed my picture of Dundee to someone, she remembered standing on her Hilltown doorstep in the morning and looking out over the city towards the Tay. “… It's just like California!' she said. She was so happy to see that familiar territory celebrated, and it didn't really matter that my picture didn't look like California; it just opened up that dialogue, and her depiction of being happy on a doorstep in Dundee was so evocative.

I work from home, in an attic that suffers from being a dumping ground and spare room but is also my haven and my comfort. I love working from home but being one step removed from the seething humanity downstairs. If I stand on a chair and stick my head out of the hatch-window I can see right across the Forth. Is it just like California? Not really.

One of the things I found inspiring about the referendum was the sense that artists and makers really could contribute forcefully to the economy and our sense of identity.

I used to work in theatre and painted sets for all sorts of productions. It's funny how my brush size has gone down over the years. I used to use a brush the size of my face; now some of my brushes are only the size of a few eyelashes. I love my materials. Watercolour is my usual home and there's nothing like a good heavy watercolour paper. It's like having a group of really supportive friends around you, when you've found your best fit in materials. There's no fear in starting a new project when you can lean on these friends.

I was so pleased to see Common Market set up. One of the things I found inspiring about the referendum was the sense that artists and makers really could contribute forcefully to the economy and our sense of identity. This marketplace seems like a real-world manifestation of that. I know many, many small-scale creative industries that really shine when you see them through this lens – people who take their skills and their knowledge and just get on with making things. They don't necessarily have to look far from home to develop their 'brand' – they just rely on people finding out about what they do through seeing the work. That can be hard to move forward.

Common Market works well because it's just one step further on from word-of-mouth. It feels like we're talking to a bigger group of people who are doing Christmas shopping yes, but also more – they're stepping into and wearing their own landscape - finding out something about what is going on in people's studios, workshops or even kitchen tables. And let's not be coy about this – the directness of the money flow is also very neat. There's not a lot of excess dripping off when someone buys a print; it goes straight back to me paying for my veg box.

Artists don't have to necessarily look far from home to develop their 'brand'.

I hope Common Market continues to grow. With more makers and browsers signing up we can see a truer picture of who's making and who's interested. That's got a certain power. It's great for artists and makers to know that their work is useful, and it's certainly very good to know you can do something as simple as shopping but have it resonate a bit. Right here on our doorstep. Is it just like California? I dunno. Probably not. It’s pretty good though.

Catherine Lindow is an artist and illustrator living and working in Fife. You can see her work at www.commonmarket.scot and www.catherinelindow.co.uk 

Picture courtesy of Catherine Lindow

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