Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Elspeth McLean, an award winning artist with a unique style of painting. Elspeth creates her colorful and intricate artworks exclusively out of dots made with acrylic paint and a paintbrush. Even though she hasn’t portrayed cats on her artwork (yet), I decided to interview her for Cat Lady Confidential since she is a cat lover.
Elspeth, can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to become an artist?
I grew up in Perth, Western Australia and to quote my Mum “have been drawing ever since I have been able to hold a pencil”. Creating has always been a huge part of my life. Both my parents really encouraged me and enrolled me in various after school courses and workshops. In my late teens/early adulthood I didn’t really stick to one medium. I explored textiles, fashion design, jewelry making, pottery and mosaics. When I was 15 I got my first little paid job making beaded jewelry for a local clothing boutique. It was so fun and empowering. After High School I enrolled in University to study Phsychology which I later changed to an English degree. At the time I didn’t think it was possible to make a career being an artist. I ended up leaving University before I finished my degree to travel and I never looked back. During this time I painted murals in my spare time and began to realize that with a lot of hard work and dedication it is possible to pursue art as a career. When I was 20 I moved across country to Sydney where I officially began my art career. For years I had other odd jobs like nannying and working at a florist to supplement my income. Becoming an artist wasn’t so much a decision but a need – I wasn’t happy or fulfilled trying to go down other paths so I knew that I had to at least try.
Your artwork is original and unique. How did you decide to dedicate yourself to “dotilism”?
I never consciously set out to use dots in my artwork. When I moved to Sydney I chose painting as my medium because I really wanted to communicate my inner world through imagery. My earlier works were very bold, simplistic and I would use dots to decorate or bring out certain parts of my paintings – for example around a sun/moon, reflection on the water, tree leaves. It came to be that the part of my paintings that I most looked forward to was the dotting part. I would almost rush through the rest of my painting just to get to the finishing dot detail part. As the years went on I used more and more dots out of mere love of creating them. Painting dots is a very meditative and rewarding practise. I simply can’t get enough of it! Many people say that I must have a lot of patience to create all these dots- but the truth is- patience doesn’t even come into it- they come so naturally to me and each dot is as fun and exciting as the first one I ever painted.
Mandalas are very present in your work. Why did you decide to paint mandalas?
Just like with the dots, Mandalas came to me almost accidentally. I used to draw a lot of Mandala’s in the margins of my school work. I also had a magical experience early on in life with Mandalas. When I was around 8 years old the Tibetan Sand Mandala Artists came to Perth to create one of their Mandalas. I was fortunate enough to see them at work and I was absolutely mesmerized. One of the monks took a liking to our family and gave each of us a bottle of their sand which I still have to this day. We also got a poster of the event which hung in our home for years. I still have the poster hanging in my studio. I think this early experience gave me a wonder and insight into the magical world of Mandalas. Mandalas are essentially creating withing a circle space. It is considered a safe and sacred space in which to express oneself. I love circles so creating within this space is very rewarding for me.
Since this is a cat blog, I have to ask if you have a special relation with cats? Do you have a cat?
Although I love all animals I have to say- I am definitely a cat person! Our family has always had cats. I’ve never owned a dog. Timmy and Mona were my first cats and they were so patient with me and my brothers when we were little. Whenever I visit someone’s house, I usually ask “do you have a cat?” even before I say hello because I’m always so excited to meet new kitties. I have two cats- a Ginger named Vincent (who moved in with my Mum when I moved away from Australia) and Lilu- a ragdoll X Siamese who lives with my husband, Adam and I in Canada. We adopted Lilu from a lovely man who was moving away. It broke his heart to let her go, and I understand why- she’s an absolute sweetheart but he put her needs for security first (Lilu does not like change). Lilu has been the biggest blessing and has settled in with us fabulously. She is such a loving, sweet and quirky soul. She always wants to be around us and loves to play chasey. We have kept in touch with her previous owner and send him lots of photos. With all my cats I really feel that I can sense their souls and who they truly are. I form a bond with them that I think only other cat lovers can understand. I learn so much from these creatures and I love that they have their own independence, choices and sense of self.
Will we ever see cats in your artwork?
Since I love cats so much I am shocked at myself for never including them in my artwork. This process with Cat Lady Confidential has inspired me to create something and I already have something in mind- so keep a look out!
PS- Lilu loves to be with me while I paint- she often sits at my feet or on a cushion near by and I love looking over to see her looking back at me. Her presence brings even more love and calm to my creative space.
Note: Sadly, after Elspeth gave me interview, Vicent has passed away.
You can find Elspeth’s work on her website and you can follow her on Instagram or Facebook. Her artworks are for sale on several platforms (listed on her website) including Society 6. Here are some of the products you can buy featuring her artwork:
So, did you already know Elspeth’s work?