It’s not every day that your artwork lands a starring role in a hit TV comedy show.
But that’s exactly what happened to Colin Brown when he discovered that one of his pieces was hanging on the wall of Friends actor Matt LeBlanc’s flat in the BBC Two sitcom Episodes.
“When I found out that it was genuinely my painting, it was bizarre,” said Colin.
“I knew nothing about it so that got a bit of attention.”
It’s no surprise that Colin’s art made it from his studio in Stonehaven all the way to Hollywood as throughout his 34-year career, his talent for collage has taken him around the world.
From New York and Singapore to Germany and South Korea, the acclaimed artist has exhibited far and wide.
This makes his show in Kilmorack Gallery, by Beauly, all the more special.
“The exhibition is based around a Belgian botanical artist called Pierre-Joseph Redouté,” said Colin.
“He was an amazing flower painter. So I’m taking one of his images and making that a contemporary thing. I’m adding loads to it, I’m painting over it, I’m putting collage elements to it so I’m taking it to a different place, making it very contemporary, and for me it’s like a conversation with an artist from a different time.”
Growing up in Kingussie, Colin thought his destiny was already mapped out as he excelled in sports. But at the age of 14, everything changed when a travelling art gallery rolled into town.
“Being brought up in Kingussie meant we didn’t really have access to galleries so the travelling art gallery was the first time I’d ever seen an exhibition.
“So I saw this exhibition by the renowned Scottish landscape painter Sir William George Gillies and that was something that really sparked my interest in art.”
Found his calling
Towards the end of high school, Colin spent morning, noon and night in the art department, working on his paintings.
He continued to live and breathe art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee before graduating with an Honours Degree in Fine Art (Painting) and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Fine Art (Painting).
“It was five of the best years of my life,” said Colin.
“Having been brought up in the Highlands where there wasn’t a lot of chances to see art, suddenly I was totally immersed in art, it was fabulous.”
A lightbulb moment
And it was in the college library that Colin experienced an epiphany.
“I remember at college I found a book about a German collage artist called Schwitters and he was a knockout; I loved his work and that encouraged me to start doing my own and from there I’ve always done collage.
“So I do mixed media paintings with collage and acrylic paint – it’s all water-based materials that I use.”
Destined for success
Leaving college with a fire in his belly, Colin started his career in one of the culture capitals of the world after being awarded a scholarship in Florence.
Inspired by his time in Italy, Colin flew back to Scotland and set up his own studio in the west end of Glasgow before moving to Dusseldorf in Germany.
“Germany is great, the museums and galleries are fantastic, they’re really world class so for me it was tremendous.”
For the past 26 years, Colin has been based in Stonehaven where he works from his studio just off Market Square.
Life as an artist
By nature Colin enjoys working in isolation so says the coronavirus pandemic didn’t impact his life too much.
“I’m used to working on my own so that’s not an issue, it’s normal for me,” said Colin.
“I think it’s quite important for me to have the head space and the room to work on my own pieces in my own way.
“It’s nice to get an hour out of the studio once a day though and just clear my head by going a walk up to the castle or the woods and have a bit of time to think about what I’m doing in the studio. It gives me that clarity of thought.”
Change in direction
Just before lockdown last year, Colin changed the focus on his work from urban to nature.
“It felt really prescient that I’d gone from urban to nature as there was more focus on nature as everyone was stuck at home and travel was banned,” said Colin.
“So nature became quite a big thing for me and became quite an important part of the process of what I’m doing. It seemed like a good time to move it.”
Reflecting on his 34-year career, Colin hopes his story will inspire the next generation of Scottish artists.
“Anyone who would like to be an artist should give it a go,” said Colin.
“It’s not an easy life in many ways, you have to really work hard at it. But if you’ve got that belief and that calling then you should do it.
“When I left college, I was determined to work as an artist and I’ve continued full-time all the way, through thick and thin.”
Colin Brown’s exhibition In Bloom is at the Kilmorack Gallery until Friday June 4.