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Interview with fine artist MICHAEL McVEIGH

Where was he brought up?

Michael hails from Dundee, one of five children.

Dundee is one of the four major cities of Scotland. It was first granted city status 800 years ago. Dundee has a long history of invention and innovation including the first telephone service in the world (outside London); the first street lights; the postage stamp; the submarine telephone cable; and, the hole-in-the-wall cash dispenser. Dundee is known as 'The City of Discovery' from Scott of the Antartic's ship "Discovery" which was built in Dundee and now forms the centrepiece of a heritage centre on the city's waterfront. Additionally, industrial museums, recall Dundee's past as a centre for whaling, shipbuilding and jute manufacture. Through Dundee runs the River Tay which flows for nearly a hundred miles from the Highlands to the North Sea through magnificent scenery ranging from mountains and lochs in the west, to miles of coastline in the east with rich agricultural land in between.

Why do so many of his paintings feature fantastic creatures?

One of his earliest jobs was volunteering in the Zoo and spent his summer holidays and weekends getting close to the wildlife, particularly the Giraffe's, a personal favourite.

Why do so many of his paintings feature the sea?

Michael links his fascination with the sea to the fact that Scotland is essentially an island. Almost wherever you are on Scotland's east coast you can see, hear or smell the sea.

What inspired him first to paint?

Michael was asked by a neighbour to paint a peacock that she had. Michael spent the '70s painting and repainting this peacock on a second hand canvas, stretched on wood reclaimed from a child's cot. Michael's mother recently found the finished painting, under her bed, around twenty years after it was started. She gave it to the neighbour, principally because she couldn't afford to have it framed. The delighted neighbour did have it framed and died a few days later.

Michael was a continual visitor to the Dundee Art Centre and was intrigued by the Christ on the Cross painting and particularly enjoyed watching other visitors who sought comfort in touching and soothing Christ's wounds on the painting.

How long did you continue to paint in Dundee?

Michael completed a Diploma in Drawing and Painting at Dundee College of Art. During this time he consistently applied to WASPS Studios and finally secured a leased studio after graduation. The building formed part of St. Mary's Church and the soundtrack to Michael's early career was the rector performing Roll Out the Barrel when the congregation had gone home. One of the enduring memories of this early studio was the cold. With tall arched windows and wooden floors, Michael often had to paint with his coat on.

Earlier commissions in Dundee included some murals work, some of which can still be seen in the Dundee Centre of Contemporary Arts and Bowling Club.

Why did you come to Edinburgh?

Michael's sister once took him on a trip to the National Gallery in Edinburgh. Michael was spellbound by the collection, particularly Rembrandt, and decided to move to Edinburgh to paint and be closer to the gallery.

Michael is still a regular visitor to the gallery and enjoys choosing an appropriate classical music accompaniment to each new exhibition.


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