In honor of Saint Andrew’s Day, my interview this week is with Scottish artist Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie.
Born in 1967, Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie is an established artist living and working in north west Scotland. She was brought up in the remote rural areas of the Highlands of Scotland. Lynn studied at Gray’s School of Art graduating in 1990 and now has a workshop/studio on a picturesque croft, from where she also operates a thriving framing business She works in various media – oils, mixed media, watercolour & pen & ink. Her work is evocative of the Highlands and is inspired by the light, colours & stories of the area as is particularly evident in her pen & ink drawings. She has shown work in various exhibitions and taken part in community and international projects including The Big Picture, Wild Wood , Landfill art, and was recently invited to attend an International Art Symposium in Russia. Her work is innovative, original and versatile and she aims to capture an essence of emotion in her work, drawing the viewer in to the story that unfolds. Her work is intuitive and comes from within, drawing on her experiences from where she lives and from places and people she meets & visits. Her latest works focus on the invisible connections between us and the world at large. She is fascinated by the notion of what is around us that cannot be seen but often felt by some, faith, and the way people interpret consciousness & reality. Her work has been described as having a gentle beauty, softness and light and dynamism. Lynn hopes that her work will make people more aware of their own internal power and our ability to adapt and change.
ANTHONY: Hi, Lynn, welcome! Thanks for the chance to chat!
LYNN: Hi Anthony, thanks for asking me.
ANTHONY: Let’s start with some of the basics: what were some of your earliest creative influences?
LYNN: I suppose the places where I grew up, most of them remote and rural – I had a free, happy childhood with lots of open space in beautiful areas, and my art teacher in later high school, he was the one who really encouraged me and suggested I go to art college.
ANTHONY: You work in a number of different mediums. When approaching a new project, how do you decide what medium to work in?
LYNN: I actually don’t think about it too much, what I am doing tends to dictate the medium, although I go through phases of using certain mediums.
ANTHONY: Have you ever started a project in one medium, then decided it would work better in a different form? For instance, I’ve often started writing a short story only to realize the story is better suited to a one-act play or poem or even novel.
LYNN: Often I might start a work in pen & ink say, and then carry the work through into watercolour, charcoal and oil. Some don’t make it past the drawing stage, it really depends on how strongly I feel about the piece and theme.
ANTHONY: Is there a medium you’re most comfortable working in? Any medium you avoid or feel uncomfortable in?
LYNN: Pen & ink is my “comfort food”, I always return to that. I avoid pastels, I used them at college and never felt at ease with them, so have not gone back to them at all.
ANTHONY: For each medium, what are your most consistent tools? Favorite brands or “old reliables?”
LYNN: A definite favourite is my Rotring 0.25mm Isograph, tried other sizes of nibs, but this is the one I have used since I was 15. Pink Pig sketch books, made in Huddersfield, also palette knives rather than a brush. Other than that I tend to chop and change a bit, try out different brands.
ANTHONY: What is your most creative time during the day? For me, writing early in the morning is virtually impossible (unless I’ve been up all night).
LYNN: I usually try to get out for a walk in the morning, tho that doesn’t always happen! It can take me a while pottering about in the studio doing other things and then ideas will start, so probably late morning/early afternoon I would say is the best for me.
ANTHONY: In your bio, you mention “focus[ing] on the invisible connections between us and the world at large.” How has this focus influenced your creative process?
LYNN: I think very much so, I am very aware that every action has a reaction, so it often fascinates me how something that might have happened to me, maybe some time ago, can find it’s way into my work. Often others see this more than I do, which I enjoy, most of the time!
ANTHONY: Has the move to this new focus been a natural progression in your growth as an artist, or was it a sudden change in direction, and if the latter, what brought it about?
LYNN: I would say it has been a natural progression, as I have worked more, my confidence has grown, and that obviously has a direct impact on my work. I used to worry more about what my work appeared like to others, whether they would like it or not, now I am more inclined to trust my instincts. If it feels right to me, then I am happy.
ANTHONY: Most of the art posted on your website seems to be linked not just thematically, but in terms of the “characters” in the pieces. Is this because you’re more comfortable with certain facial structures, or is it a choice to feature the same woman in each piece?
LYNN: The face is one that re-occurs, no idea why – I have tried to change it a few times, but it persists!
ANTHONY: Your oil & acrylic, water-colour and ink drawings all seem linked by that common theme, but your mixed media work feels like an almost totally different creature. The mixed media pieces seem less fantastic and more … eerie, perhaps is the word I’m looking for. Like the piece in the photo named disp5, which puts me in mind of a hand congealing out of water vapor and feels a bit nefarious. Talk to me about the differences between the more traditional mediums and mixed media in terms of creative process.
LYNN: When I was at college, I struggled to decide between taking painting & sculpture, and now I find myself being drawn back to 3D works again and exploring these a bit further. It is more of a challenge to work in this way, but with the works I have done so far, I have not planned it too much and let the works evolve as I go along. I find if I consider things too much, the work will be more rigid, so although it might take a bit of playing about at first, at some point, the switch will click and I will get good results.
Regarding this work in the photo, the reactions are either they love it and are fascinated by it, or it freaks them out, always good to get a reaction!
ANTHONY: You’ve done some exhibitions, but your site also mentions the possibility of purchasing prints of your work. I do have some readers in the UK, but I’m curious about someone from the States purchasing a print. At this time, are you able to sell and ship your work overseas?
LYNN: I can ship prints and originals if necessary.
ANTHONY: Do you have a current project you’re working on?
LYNN: I am working on a personal project, Displacement. The work in this will be quite different to that which has gone before.
Also I am working in collaboration with Indian artist, Somu Desai, on Ceangal, a project to hold international artists residencies in NW Scotland in September 2012- a totally new and exciting venture!
ANTHONY: Any events coming up with your work that you’d like folks to know about?
LYNN: I am travelling to India in Jan 2012 to meet artists, experience indian culture and see some residencies in progress there, so will be blogging about that, and looking forwards to seeing how it affects my work on my return.
ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has not read it to convince them that they should?
LYNN: That is a tricky one! I don’t know that I have a particular favourite, but two that I have read recently twice (unusual for me) are Nine Lives by William Dalrymple, an amazing insight into what people will do for their beliefs, and Invisible by Hugues de Montalembert, an amazing but honest memoir by the artist who was blinded by burglars who threw acid in his eyes – inspiring!
ANTHONY: Thanks again, Lynn!