The big double gates to Angus Macaskill’s Grade II listed home in the centre of Olveston are well known to local people, for it is on these gates that his vibrant artwork is often displayed.
As a painter of portraits and contemporary life, Angus is often inspired by news events to create scenes with life-sized figures, often with a witty twist. When the Council cautioned him about potential damage to his listed premises from hanging art on the gates, he changed a painting of Tintin and his dog Snowy to show an enforcement enquiry on the letter in Snowy’s mouth. As news stories unfold, he sometimes paints on top of existing pictures to add pertinent details. When Oscar Pistorius ran to Olympic victory, he changed Tintin’s running legs into blades in tribute.
Over recent years he’s created scenes to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon win, royal births and the Olympics, as well as a tribute to the late Tony Benn.
As well as topical scenes, Angus paints commissioned portraits, capturing his subjects’ personality and character in oil. He says, “I like to catch the sitter in their own environment, find what a typical day would be and get an idea of what their life’s about.” He draws sketches, takes photos and makes notes, for example of the details of eye colour which is hard to see from a photograph. But he also needs to have sessions with the subject. “Photographs are only 2D, I need to know what’s around the corner. So photographs are very unsatisfactory for getting more than the basics. I like to tell people what I have in mind before I go too far, to make sure that they’re seeing it the same way.”
Angus always keeps learning and finding new inspiration. He often attends art classes, and he has recently spent some time studying classical portraiture and trying to replicate the techniques that masters such as Gainsborough used. He plans to try some classical biblical scenes next, such as the wedding at Cana in Galilee. “Doing the principle characters life-sized is something you don’t get in many paintings these days. With a portrait I really quite like to make it full life-size. I enjoy working like that, and it gives more presence on the wall”.
Outside of painting, Angus is clearly a man who lives life to the full. He is a keen pilot and sailor, despite one or two scrapes. He suffered engine failure whilst flying locally one day, and ended up performing an emergency landing in a field near Thornbury. The emergency services helicopter, which was there before he had even landed, was thankfully not needed. So whatever the future holds for this local artist, it is almost certain to contain a few adventures along the way.
Published in BS35 Local, October 2015