“I wanted to do a big blue bee” says the artist Louise McNaught. “I’ve done one quite small, but then I’m not sure who would buy a big blue bee.”
Such is the conversation as we explore the types of creature from the natural world that Louise McNaught would like to paint next. As it happens, the blue bee in question is an actual thing. Found in Southeast Asia, India and parts of China, it’s known as a Carpenter Bee and she’s painted a little delicate one onto the back of a two rupee note. Included as part of a book on defaced banknotes called ‘Cash is King‘ it’s just another example of the variety in her work.
Louise McNaught the Artist
Louise McNaught has been steadily growing her reputation as a fine artist and painter of animals, insects and birds. Her art can be beautiful as well as fantastical and it’s certainly becoming increasingly popular as she begins to explore the natural world ever further. Starting out by applying neon, gold and other out-worldly elements to her work. She has evolved over recent years to focus on more realistic interpretations of the natural world though still with elements of fantasy.
We are meeting in Shoreditch and our plan is actually to record a podcast for our ‘Art Related Noise‘ series with Enter Gallery (formerly Art Republic). It’s a place we both know well! Many of her previous shows and exhibitions have been around the area. In fact it was just up the road at the Curious Duke Gallery where we first met. That was when she hosted a solo show there a few years back. She’s tells me that she’s always loved East London. Once aspiring to live in the area, she fell pregnant and that kind of put paid to her plans. Now she lives in South West London, it’s a space a bit more conducive to raising her daughter.
Getting to where she is now hasn’t been easy. Always knowing that she wanted to be an artist she was nonetheless rejected from a number of art schools before finally being accepted at the University of Greenwich studying in their Tunbridge Wells campus. The experience was key and provided her with the boost she needed in order to start fully developing her style. It was here she tells me that she really started to find her voice.
Now that voice has even found it’s way into publishing and Louise tells me about her first book. Called ‘Survival‘ it’s a series of illustrations of endangered animals. Based on one of her previous exhibitions it’s aimed at older children and the project exposed her to painting a range of creatures she would not normally have attempted. Backed by the charity ‘Tusk’ the book features Rhinos and Sharks as well as a range of other creatures whose very survival is currently being threatened.
The process of creating the works for the book over the past few years has also made her think more deeply about the world in which she is bringing her daughter into. She tells me about the thoughts she has had about her child’s future. “How sad it would be if she doesn’t get to see some of these animals when she’s older” she says to me. “What if they’re extinct? I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s and they were talking about things like the polar ice caps melting then and we are still talking about it now. It just feels like we haven’t really done enough.”
Louise’s daughter too is very much proving to be the inspiration behind much of her recent work. Seemingly taking a keen interest in all things bugs, bees and creepy crawly related, it’s something that mum has certainly had to get used to. “I’ve never been great with creepy crawlies but she loves them so she’s definitely opened my eyes to the smaller animals like the insects and things.”
It’s this completely fresh way of seeing the world which seems to have captivated Louise just as much as her daughter. “It was when she was about two years old and she was just fascinated by bees and the noise they made and it just drew my attention to them and it changed my perspective of them… I’ve also started painting beetles and stuff because she really loves those. She found a stag beetle the other day under a log which she found amazing.”
Louise’s mind though is constantly racing! When it comes to her art there’s a lot of places that it could go next. Maybe a series of blue bees could be in the offing after all? “They are really cool” she tells me. “I’ve got a list of things i want to paint… I’m just overly inspired and I’ve got too many things I want to do, rather than scrabbling for ideas. There’s too many!”