San Pedro Flowers &; Gin, by Francis Boag
San Pedro Flowers &; Gin, by Francis Boag

Capturing a snapshot of Scotland on canvas

The first thing that strikes you about Francis Boag’s expressionist landscape paintings are their vivid colours.

Bold patches of reds, blues and purples dominate his work, conveying the emotion and beauty of locations such as Pittenween, Glencoe and Kincardineshire.

For Boag, it’s important for people to connect and engage with his work and colour is a useful tool in making his art accessible to everyone.

‘Colour is a universal thing, you don’t get degrees in colour, you don’t have to be brave to understand colour, there’s no gender or race or social class – everybody gets colour.’

He also steers away from being too abstract in his work, dotting houses and rivers around the landscape to provide reference points for viewers. ‘I can make a very abstract painting that people would struggle to understand it but if I put in a house they’ll suddenly go, “well that’s the trees, that’s the field, that’s the river”. It’s about giving people a way into the work that they understand.’

San Pedro Flowers & Gin, by Francis Boag

Unlike many landscape artists, Francis prefers to paint using acrylics rather than oil, finding them much more versatile and offering him the freedom to experiment. By mixing acrylics with water and liquid, he can paint on multiple layers and he achieves the effect of oil by using an oil varnish to finish, which causes the layers to come through, creating a striking, stained-glass window effect.

Boag carried out a solo exhibition in March at Aberdeen’s Gallery Heinzel following six months of hard work, during which he produced 43 paintings for the show. He is no stranger to the gallery, having exhibited there for more than 20 years, including five solo shows.

The Dundee-born artist moved to Aberdeen in 1987 and worked as head of art at Aberdeen Grammar school before giving this up to focus full-time on painting.

His career took off and soon his work was touring the world at exhibitions in London, Seattle and New York, with around 35 exhibitions per year. But despite travelling far and wide for his art, he has always had a great appreciation for the North East and his supporters – ‘guys from Fochabers and Ballater and The Heinzel in Aberdeen’.

‘Scottish people are really supportive of artists, when I talked to young artists in Paris they couldn’t believe that I could make a living here,’ he says.

Today he spends much of his time at home on the beautiful Ury Estate south of Stonehaven, taking inspiration from the landscapes around him.

Pink Sky, Positano, by Francis Boag

‘It’s often snapshots of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing,’ he says. ‘This summer I spent a lot of time in the garden trying to get it as nice as possible so there were lots of flower paintings and lily ponds – I just let it happen.’

Boag, who turns 70 this year, is still busy at work and has recently received some private commissions from the likes of Baxters Food Group and a French vineyard, for whom he is designing a new bottle label.

As he gets older however, he looks towards the future and his legacy. ‘I’d probably like to retire,’ he says. ‘I’m thinking of the long-term future rather than the short-term. I want to make sure I’m doing things that are meaningful and that I can be proud of.’