First published in 2016
Pauline James-Paterson could be forgiven for being a rather prickly character considering the number of thistles she has painted, yet she is anything but. The painter and author has a passion for Wigtownshire and her different media that is infectious.
Under the guise of Splashyartystory, she has forged a niche that is resoundingly Scottish – perhaps surprising considering she is a child of Tyneside.
“It’s my adopted homeland and I am passionate about it,” she states proudly. “I don’t pretend to be Scottish although I married a local farmer who is fiercely proud to be from Scotland. Because of the love I have for this country, I get a particular buzz from people around the world who buy my work because it has a strong Scottish connection. They use my work to proudly display their heritage in their homes in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. That is hugely satisfying for me.”
Perhaps not so surprising therefore is the prominence of the thistle in her work. She has lost count of the number she has painted of the iconic Scottish image but combines them seamlessly with the national flowers of other countries.
“That may sound very contrived, and in a way it is, but there is an artistic challenge that I enjoy in painting, for example, a Scottish Thistle with a Irish Shamrock or Canadian Maple Leaf,” she explains. “The finished work has to be true to artistic principles and have artistic integrity, as well as being a celebration of two cultures. That’s quite a challenge that I have set myself.”
Pauline, based at Port William, has a first class honours art degree and an OND business studies qualification, combining the two perfectly. As well as painting, she loves all aspects of business – marketing, sales, distribution, financial decisions – and no decision is made without making sound business sense, perhaps boring to some, but she finds the challenge of running a profitable and expanding business, whilst trying to satisfy her creativity, very exciting.
Her advice to aspiring artists to know your market reinforces that viewpoint. Talk of scrutinising statistics and researching past sales may seem alien to some artists but it is working well for Pauline.
She sells open edition prints of her watercolour paintings via the Internet under the name of Splashyartystory and has a very active ecommerce website with a strong market, not only in Scotland and UK, but in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and New Zealand – anywhere around the globe with a Scottish connection. Work continues on increasing her exposure in the U.S.A. as she works her way through the thistle combined with State flowers such as the Texas Bluebonnet, North Carolina Dogwood, Tennessee Iris and Kentucky Golden Rod.
Her website is regularly reinvigorated with fresh images to make sure the buying public don’t lose interest and look elsewhere.
“The necessity to make a living creates a tension and I find that conducive to producing better paintings,” Pauline said.
By offering a free personalisation service for customers who wish to make a canvas print even more personal with the addition of a discreet date or name, she has also made her work very popular as wedding gifts.
She also writes, illustrates and publishes children’s picture books with a Galloway theme via her publishing company Second Sands Publications.
A small studio in her house was abandoned last year when she decided to take canvas printing in house. The installation of a large printer and all the accompanying packing materials necessitated a move so she now has a large studio and art print packing room at her husband’s farm, minutes walk from home.
Having previously regularly piled up 60-hour weeks, she now restricts her work to office hours and trimmed this down to 45 with the help of “indispensable” Christina, who works for her on a Monday.
“I can now enjoy weekends at home knowing that all the orders that come in over the weekend will be dealt with speedily on a Monday,” she said. “Although I spend a further hour on the Internet at home each evening keeping up my social media presence, I now have a much better work/life balance.”
Her path into art started at an early age much to the bemusement of her family – there are no connections to anyone remotely artistic amongst relatives.
“I have always coloured in and painted with whatever materials were at hand,” she remembers. “As a teenager I covered my bedroom in murals – even the ceiling. I had very tolerant parents.”
Alongside her paintings are her children’s books, the third of which, Boo Goes Bonkers, she has just started.
This will follow on from the success of The Trail Of The Pointy Toed Pyjama Thief and Boo Where Are You? – both of which were set in Galloway. The new book will not be ready until next summer as she can only devote one day a week to the illustrations.
She is also collaborating with local author Jayne Baldwin on a book about the lighthouses in Dumfries and Galloway with a view to publishing this also next year.
“There is a phrase that has always resonated with me which is “‘the harder I work the luckier I get’. I have worked incredibly hard these past few years and am very lucky that my business is doing so well,” she said.
“I am very driven but so is my husband who works as an architectural designer – we are a perfect match. I am fortunate in that I can live very comfortably off the sales of my work. It allows me to pay all of the bills, help out my family and still have enough left to travel – this year it’s Iceland.”
Her love for her adopted homeland, however, shines through. She loves to hop on a train at Stranraer and disembark in a Scottish city, spending the weekend taking photos to use as the basis of a watercolour painting.
Both Edinburgh and Stirling Castle have been tackled in her own individual colourful style and she spent five hours at the docks in Aberdeen last year in the freezing cold – “heaven”. Other iconic Scottish images such as sporrans, bagpipes, pipers and haggis are also used to try to create a fresh and contemporary new idea.
“I like to experiment with media and will often replace a paint brush with an old credit card, sponge or drinking straw,” she said.
Closer to home, Wigtownshire provides the perfect surroundings with amazingly clear light and all the expertise needed to run a business, including printing, website building and even promotional videos.
“You don’t need to look outside this area – all the skills are here,” she said.
Her website allows her to connect to her customers but also helps with regards to artistic control.
“It is tempting to fiddle around with a piece forever but I just have to accept the fact that it is never going to be perfect. Again, because my artistic endeavours are commercially driven I have to be realistic as to how many hours I can devote to a single image.
“It’s not just the time painting it is also the necessary work in preparing the image for sale – scanning it into my computer and using Photoshop to alter the resolution according to its application.
“I use Photoshop to watermark my work and to produce images of what the eventual canvas would look like. I print on demand so a canvas won’t exist until an order comes through. This necessitates my generating any new canvas image digitally for promotional purposes.
“As soon as the watercolour painting is loaded onto my website, as an A4, A3, A2, A1 and unframed canvas, with all supporting information and prices, I feel my work is done.”
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Picture Stephen Jolly Photography.