Monday, 10 March 2014 16:16

Your Dream Studio?

Written by  Bob Bahr
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Peter McLaren's studio, built from scratch in a Scottish garden Peter McLaren's studio, built from scratch in a Scottish garden

Sure, you like to paint outdoors. But some days you have to be in the studio. Those days would be a lot more pleasant if your studio looked like Peter McLaren's.

The interior of the studio, with stained and varnished floor and wood-burning stove

McLaren built his studio from scratch on the grounds of Glassmount, a garden near Kirkcaldy in Scotland. "In February 2013 my brother and I were nearing the completion of a shed we had built together in Falkland," he wrote on his blog. "It worked well, perhaps better than we both expected, so a seed was sown. I could use the template of what we built there for my new studio here at Glassmount."

"Skipi Geo, Orkney," by Peter McLaren, oil on board, 48 x 48 in. Collection Andrew & Pamela Taylor

He framed it out with lots of windows and a generous stoop, under which he can dry wood for the wood-burning stove. He dug out a path and filled it with wood chips, and transplanted plenty of snowdrops and daffodils around the structure. The wood floor got a warm stain and a generous coating of varnish. McLaren placed big barrels at two of the exterior corners to catch rainwater from the roof.

"Skipi Geo, Orkney," by Peter McLaren, oil on board, 48 x 48 in.

"I value light when I paint, especially changing light," says the artist. "It keeps my paint alive. I wanted to build a space where I could enjoy a plein air light experience indoors. The roof on the south-facing side has two translucent full-length roof panels. A lot of the interior light is diffused through them. The only time I have had trouble with the glare is when the winter sun sets low over the horizon in the west. At the day's end, I'm happy to put down my brushes and just absorb its changing colors. The two blips you can see on the horizon are Neolithic standing stones."

Framing out the studio

While his "indoor plein air light experience" is currently on hold due to weather, McLaren feels a change coming in the air. "Recently I've been working on some still life paintings in the studio, given our short daylight hours at this latitude," he says. "Now spring has arrived, and I plan to do some painting around the studio. The light is particularly good, and while there is little foliage, the shadows cast among the trees look challenging and very paintable. The ground is peppered with snowdrops, with daffodils soon to follow. We planted a meadow on the south-facing side of the studio, which is a riot of color in summer. The play of light on the holz hausens [beehive-shaped woodpiles] is always a distraction, in a good way. I had hoped the winter would bring some snow as I was keen to paint them as Monet had painted his snow-covered haystacks."

Putting the tin roof on the structure

McLaren has been painting for decades, and his studio has been artificially lit all along the way. Finally, he has his dream studio. But McLaren has no regrets.

Laying the wood-chip path

"The studio has been a revelation," he says. "It has been a joy to work in it. With heat and light year round it has changed the way I can work. I could have built it years ago, but I doubt it would have the resonance it has now.

McLaren's studio, emerging out of fog

"The thing I enjoy most about the studio is how it evolved out of its surroundings and how it has mellowed back into them. I value the changing light the seasons bring. Working within a building which promotes this variety is like adding a hundred new colors to your palette."

Last modified on Monday, 10 March 2014 16:30

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