What Makes a Painting?

It is always so encouraging when people take the time out to write to me and share with me their enthusiasm for my work. It fills me with great joy when someone can find some inspiration for their own work in my paintings and I am always happy to provide any advice I can to help.

The essays I wrote for 'Work Small, Learn Big' and 'International Artist' are now almost 10 years old but I put a lot of thought into the articles and think they still stand up today. My work has moved on in many respects but essentially my approach to painting remains the same.

A few years ago, for the first time, I gave some painting workshops and this has caused me to deconstruct my working methods in an attempt to pass on to others not only 'how'  I make my work but also my thought process as a painting progresses.

When you are looking to make a painting, the subject matter, in my case, fields, farm buildings etc are only important in that they have stimulated you to want to create. Once you have begun your painting, once the first mark is made, the subject ceases to have any importance, all your attention should now be on the surface of the painting. Only make marks, add colour, draw lines, splatter paint which you think make the painted surface look better. The world of your painting is your world, you are the supreme being and only you get to decide what looks 'right' and only you can decide if something is 'wrong'. You have the power to make grass red and the sky black, or even the other way around but you must also apply your  own internal logic to your creation.

You probably know what you want your painting to look like, don't let your knowledge of the natural world inhibit you as you create your new personal world. It will be difficult at first to make complete paintings which satisfy you but parts of your work will be everything you hoped so treasure these parts and try to develop and grow them until you are making paintings which are expressing your inner vision.

I hope that doesn't sound too 'spiritual' and helps you a little. Happy painting!



From One Artist to Another...

One of the main reasons for starting a blog was to encourage feedback from anyone who enjoyed my work. Like most artists I know insecurity and doubt are always round the corner and it's a real pick-me-up to be reminded that someone, somewhere is responding to what you're trying to do.

It is even more rewarding when other artists take the time to pass on their compliments and regards. I’m old enough, not to take the web for granted and to still be amazed when an email arrives from New Zealand or California or Malta.

These are all exotic, far-away places to me and it comes as a surprise to realise that my representations of the east-coast, Scottish landscape can resonate in such far-flung corners of the globe.

I recently received a mail that truly astonished me from an artist in Sudan and I’d like to share it with you here:

name : Faisal Tajalsir

enquiry : I just wanted to express my deep admiration with your works..and as an artist I was greatly inspired by them..god bless you..if you are interested in seeing som Sudanese art please visit my blog at fandos.maktoobblog.com.

Sadly, Sudan and Darfur are regularly in the news with the situation in Darfur being called by the United Nations ’the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time’. The constant barrage of ‘bad news stories' from the region can blind you to the fact that ‘normal’ life is still going on. But the environmental, cultural, religious and economic background of someone from Sudan could hardly be more removed from my own experience and it was truly humbling to realise that an artist from this background could find something in my work which spoke directly to him.

I made contact with Faisal and asked him to send me some images of his paintings. This he did and again I was astonished and amazed. I felt a real kinship with his work and felt we were on parallel tracks both seeking, in our different ways, similar solutions to the questions we ask ourselves.

As my work is now easily available in prints and cards quite a few artists use it as a starting point for their own work and I have no problem with that, but I felt that Faisal’s work was more like a sibling than an offspring. You can use this link to see more of his work and I will be contacting him for biographical details to include with the paintings so he can have a ‘mini website’ to promote his work.

I’m sure you’ll agree that it is great to have a ‘good news’ story from a troubled region and I would love to hear what you think of Faisal's work. I will also be happy to pass on any mail or indeed requests for paintings.


Photo credit: Faisal Tajalsir

Why Sketch

Sketching isn't just about drawing, it's all about 'being there'. The experience is more than merely visual. Sounds, smells, the weather, are among lots of factors which make up your  experience of  a place or  a moment.  How you feel inside yourself; happy, sad, stressed, relaxed will all effect your memory of the experience when you try to recall it in the studio.


Taking the time to sit and sketch will not only give you a visual record but the time spent in one place even if it’s only a ten minute sketch allows the other factors an opportunity to have an impact. Taking time to sketch means staying in the same place, looking at the same thing for an extended period. 

With the hectic pace of life today, taking time for passive absorption is almost unknown. When was the last time you stood still and observed any of anything around you for more than a few seconds before shifting your gaze or moving on?


In a car or a train the experience becomes similar to the sort of subliminal advertising that was banned a few years ago. The images flash into your mind almost without you being aware of them but they are implanted in your memory and are a resource to be used.

It would be great to hear you thoughts on sketching, get in touch at boagart@btinternet.com.



I first wrote this nearly 20 years ago as part of my application for the M.A. Course at Grays and reading it again I'm struck by how much it still informs my work today.

In my work, I am trying to evoke in the viewer, a childhood memory of a day or a long forgotten moment, and to reawaken the sense of pleasure and lost innocence this memory brings.

I hope to achieve this response through a combination of visual references, intellectual elements and emotional triggers.

In the paintings, the visual references are the trees, cottages, dykes ( stone walls ) birds, sheep, cows and so on, which I interpret in a naïve simplified style.

The intellectual element is the sense of it being a visual record of an actual place i.e. Cookney or Glen Isla and the emotional triggers are chiefly the expressive, vibrant colour I use, but the texture, shapes and rhythmic 'marks' I make as the painting develops are also important.

In my current work, I am slowly working toward diminishing the intellectual elements, refining and simplifying the visual references and trying to rely more on the emotional triggers, to elicit a response.

My aim is to make work, which will impact on the person seeing it in a sense similar to that felt on listening to a familiar or favourite piece of music.


Gallery Ury - Open Weekend

A BIG 'thank you' to everyone who took the time to visit the Open Studio this weekend.

Sunday in particular was incredibly busy with a 'full house' all afternoon. Apologies if I didn't find time to chat with you as it was a bit hectic, but I do appreciate the support of everyone who turned up, from old friends to new 'fans'.

I hope everyone who left with a brand new 'Boag' has found the perfect spot for it at home.

I hope you'll keep in touch through Facebook and also Instagram where I try to post a new image every day.

Thank you again, Francis.

UNICEF Christmas Cards

As many of you know for many years I have contributed greeting card designs to International Children’s Charity, UNICEF. This month, the charity got in touch to let me know that my Winter Landscapes were their best selling Christmas cards this year. The entire edition sold out and raised a total of £36,000, which will go to help their work with the world’s most vulnerable children.

I have always felt privileged that UNICEF have been able to use my work over the years and made it possible to support the fantastic work they do.

Following such a fantastic response to the Christmas card designs, I have decided to offer the designs as Limited Edition prints.

These prints will be available for a short period of time on the Boagart Publishing website and all profits will be going towards the wonderful work UNICEF do across the world.

Thanks for your continued support. 


Welcome to BoagArt Publishing

My year long residency as Artist in Residence at Fraser East in St Andrews has now drawn to a close and its time to look ahead and make new plans.
The residency certainly fulfilled one of its main aims, in that it provided plenty of opportunities for engaging and interacting with a huge range of people who came to the Gallery to view my work.
I didn't encounter any negative reactions, at least not to my face (!) however there was one thread running through some of the responses which made me pause for thought.
People would look around the show and on leaving say something along the lines of,

“I love your work, I've always been a big fan and when I win the lottery I'll treat myself to a painting”
This, or a similar sentiment, was expressed too often to ignore and I thought 'when did you have to become a lottery winner to afford one of my paintings?'
But, looking around at the prices on the wall I could understand. You need an awful lot of disposable income to treat yourself to even a comparatively modest painting.
So, what could I do about it?
I have always been proud of the fact that my paintings appealed not to a small ‘cultured’ elite but to a wide spectrum of people, across all sorts of boundaries, whether they be geographical, social class, gender, intellectual and culture. The last thing I want to happen as a result of any success I have achieved is to price people out of owning and enjoying my paintings.
With this in mind I have, in collaboration with my children, created ‘BoagArt Publishing’ - an online resource as a means of providing access to my entire back catalogue of paintings at affordable prices.
Through this venture anyone wishing to own one of my paintings should be able to find something to match their budget. The range stretches all the way from greetings cards, books, open edition prints, limited edition prints and framed original paintings.
The top price for any item is £500.
This is not the first time my work has been available in print, but new technology means that almost any painting you see in an exhibition can be reproduced as a high-quality, signed, limited edition print.
We also intend to keep the size of the editions low which should increase the feeling of owning something special (as well as the residual value).
I am also very happy to now be able to offer small original paintings direct from my studio at a very competitive price.
As far as my paintings go, I truly feel 'small is beautiful' as I put as much thought and effort into my small paintings as any of the bigger pieces. In fact sometimes the smaller works have a spontaneity or 'va-va-voom' which can be hard to replicate in larger work.
I hope that I have done my bit to make sure that anyone who would like to own an original Francis Boag painting will never again be able to say to me “I love your work, but I can’t afford it”.