Nicola Wakeling was born in 1978 in Essex but moved to Scotland when she was one year old. Scotland has had a big influence on her and her work ever since. Showing a talent for art from an early age she went on to graduate with a BA (Hons) in Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art and then a PGCE in Art and Design(secondary) at the London Institute of Education.
Nicola’s work is mainly landscape based and is inspired by the beaches and dramatic scenery of the West Coast of Scotland. She grew up in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire and visited the Outer Hebrides several times a year to visit family. The majority of her paintings are based on scenes in the Hebrides. As she says; ‘Anyone who has ever stood on a Hebridean beach will recognise the emotions that my work tries to invoke. From the vast expanse of sea and sky to the subtle colour and movement changes that come with the turning tide’.
Nicola has always admired Edward Hopper’s work and his simple desire to ‘paint sunlight on the side of a building’. Scottish painting is a constant source of inspiration whether it is the figurative work of Ken Currie or the free brushwork of Joan Eardley. ‘When it comes to creating a work, my main aim is to paint a sense of space and feeling of smallness within a landscape’.
Each series of Nicola Wakeling paintings begins with a walk. She walks in all weathers and will set off along the beach in rain, hail and sun and with the ever present Outer Hebrides wind. She prefers ‘miserable days for interesting clouds’. ‘The white beach and turquoise seas on a sunny day are far too glaring and positive’.
Nicola’s main method of recording the landscape is with a digital camera. She will take around 200 photographs on a walk of about 3 hours. ‘As I’m walking, I’m looking out for the way the light changes as the wind skiffs clouds overhead. The colours are constantly changing as light hits a particular area of sand or the way the sky is reflected in the water. Ideally, I gather material just after the tide has gone out and there is a layer of water that reflects the sky and this can be manipulated to create a sense of space. Other times, I’ll be driving and will have to fling the car into a passing place because a certain cloud has caught my eye. When I began painting the Hebrides, I wanted to communicate cultural and family associations within the work. Now it’s more about the landscape itself’.
Once she is back in her studio she works with music constantly blaring, first with large brushes to block in shapes then moving on to smaller brushes for detail in the finishing stages. ‘Oil paint is a glorious medium, it smells like you’re doing something important and the strength of colour suits my subject matter. I use large japanese brushes to achieve the smooth reflections and large cloud areas.’ She uses mixed media and various techniques including wax and household paint in order to achieve the many different textures that are found on the shore.