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Visits to Cheshire Studio are by Appointment
The following is an edited version of an interview published in Fieldsports Journal, Volume IV issue 1, 2020/21
What makes your style of art unique?
There is a kind of poetry in good painting and I believe that’s the aspect that can’t ever really be taught.
I want my paintings to be an authentic honest rendering of a subject, but there is more to good painting than just that because painting is a language in its own right. Its fluid and expressive nature is I think uniquely suited to reveal the ineffable.
What or who are your influences?
Amongst many other galleries I’ve been visiting the National Gallery in London for about forty years now. It seems pretty inexhaustible in its capacity for inspiration.
It’s been interesting to notice how my interest has changed and matured over time. Visiting as an art student in the eighties I had a great affinity for the art of Stubbs, Constable and Turner, noticing how the baton had been picked up by the Impressionists and then developed by the post impressionists. I felt at home with them all. But there is so much to experience in art and so many great paintings.
It's all about Titian for me at the moment which happily coincides with the current exhibition at the NG.
Describe your studio
My studio is at home in a converted loft space above an old stable block, surrounded by beautiful woodland and farmland.
Tell us about the painting process
Painting is like a moving target. Even if you hit the bullseye one time it’s not going to be in the same place next time round.
But basically I paint a lot from life. I do huge year long plein air projects that I’m sure, have greatly influenced my studio practice.
I love oil paint and I’m forever experimenting with new potions, methods and materials.
Do you listen to anything while you work?
It used to be all music. However, I discovered just a few years ago that there are certain parts of the painting process whereby the spoken word is not a distraction. So at the moment I’m getting through an awful lot of podcasts and audio books.
I’ll listen to all sorts of stuff from philosophy, current affairs to humour.
What draws you to paint game species?
The answer seems a bit back to front but I’m really most interested in people and the human connection to nature. I’m interested in how we fit into the natural world. Hunting, stalking, fishing and farming is our natural heritage and getting these activities and processes right I think brings us into harmony with nature.
And I don’t want to be just a spectator I want to get involved and get my hands dirty, so to speak.
For me deerstalking really puts you into 'the story’. Regardless of the days outcome, there is always a tale to be told.
So it's not just the animals I’m drawn to as a subject but also seeing folk ingrained in nature, on the hill going about their work and pursuit. Guns, stalkers, ghillies, keepers and beaters. It's the whole scene.
What was the very first painting you sold?
I remember holding a one man exhibition of plein air landscapes at A level college in Ilkeston Derbyshire.
I’m not absolutely sure that this was my first sale but a couple of pieces certainly did go.
Are you able to disclose who your biggest collectors are?
Some people can name drop with grace and humour.
I’m afraid I’m no good at it.
I am very lucky to have had some incredibly serious and supportive collectors from my very early years starting out.
And now in some cases the next generation of the family have continued to collect.
Hardly anyone buys just one, I’m lucky.
What kind of commissions do you receive?
I get a variety of commissions from large projects to small pieces.
Last year I was asked to produce two huge paintings 7x10’ and 7x9’ to fit into a spectacular new house on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. I made a site visit as the building work was at a mid stage to try and envisage how the paintings would best work. It was interesting to liaise with the architect, interior designer and builders and then see it all come together for the hanging of the paintings.
In recent years I have made copies of old master paintings. These projects have been fantastically insightful and I don’t doubt have improved me as a painter. They take a lot of discipline to achieve but the journey is worth it, I believe.
Early in the year I returned to South Africa to set up a temporary studio. This allowed me to continue a huge project of African subjects. It’s ongoing and I need a bit more time to complete the whole collection. Lots of plains game along with buffalo, rhino and big skies! There's a lot on the go!
In your opinion which style of interior does your art look best?
My paintings sit well in both modern and traditional settings. They can work with ornate frames or no frames at all which can suit perfectly a contemporary space.
It was nice to see such a contemporary space featured on the shortlist for Kevin MacCloud’s Grand Designs, House of the year 2019.
The room featured a series of four MacGillivray's depicting deer on the hill through the changing seasons.
It’s a theme that I love and works so well as an installation in a room.
A further example being a series of twelve deer paintings with each month of the year represented.
Earlier this year a beautiful traditional dining room in a West Highland lodge was refurbished and dedicated to show off such a collection.
It's a nice homage to a wonderful animal.
And exactly what you want to enjoy, dram in hand after a day on the hill!
It’s also nice to be part of an eclectic collection and it’s often a pleasant surprise to find out who you're rubbing shoulders with!