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‘I’m a painter rather than an illustrator’: Artist Jennifer Mackenzie on her exhibition in Dundee

Jennifer Mackenzie
Jennifer Mackenzie

Gallery Q in Dundee has welcomed back the colourful paintings of Jennifer Mackenzie with an exhibition to lift the spirits.

Jennifer, 71, lives and works in Golspie, Sutherland but is originally from Coatbridge near Glasgow.

She graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1971 and, after further teacher training, taught art and design in schools in Lanarkshire, Inverness and Sutherland.

Tiny Tulips by Jennifer Mackenzie

Since taking early retirement from teaching in 2001 she has been a full-time professional artist.

Her paintings are a personal response to her environment, in terms of colour, light and space, and reflect her time at Glasgow School of Art in the 1960s, when drawing skills were still considered an important element of the coursework and painting was in the Scottish Tradition of alla prima oil painting – part of the legacy of the Glasgow Boys and Scottish Colourists.

“Over the years I have developed my love of colour which is expressed mainly through the medium of oil paint, and largely in still life compositions,” she says.

Red Jug and Lilies by Jennifer Mackenzie

“I also enjoy sketching outdoors and in the studio, as well as life drawing and other classes.”

“Still life is what I always come back to. Setting up a big still life is an important part of the process and something I enjoy.

“I work from life but I’m not looking at making an exact copy. I’m looking at the balance of shapes, colours, and tonal values within the group and sometimes I exaggerate perspective and enhance colour.”

Lifelong love of art

Jennifer, 71, explains that she knew from a relatively young age – at least from when she went to secondary school – that she wanted to do art.

Jennifer Mackenzie

As a teenager, she enjoyed drawing and would copy things out of magazines. She remembers being “quite pleased” at her efforts to draw Mick Jagger.

During her first two years at art school she did a general course covering drawing and painting, design, sculpture, embroidery and weaving.

Then in third and fourth year she specialised in drawing and painting.

Explaining why she went into teaching Jennifer says: “I think most people did that in my day. It was a secure job. You had to do your year at teacher training college, so I did my year at Jordanhill College of Education to get a teaching qualification.”

She then taught in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, for a couple of years – meeting her husband from the north of Scotland at that time – and after they married, they moved up to Inverness. They’ve been in Golspie around 40 years now.

As a mother of three, however, there wasn’t really the time to paint, and when teaching, it was difficult to find the creative energy for herself because she was expending it all on the kids she was teaching.

“I was fortunate to get an early retirement deal in 2001 and that enabled me to get really active with my painting again,” she says.

Wee White Roses by Jennifer Mackenzie

“I’m a painter rather than an illustrator in that I use paint I would say in quite an enthusiastic way. I love paint. I love the texture and the experience of making marks on the canvas. I am also generally quite keen on colour in an expressive kind of way.”


Jennifer has exhibited in galleries across Scotland and a couple in England as well over the last 20 years.

Covid-19 times mean she’s had to think about how to make deliveries to galleries – using an art carrier instead of personal deliveries.

Being stuck at home also gave her the opportunity to try other things such as portraits and landscape.

She’s enjoyed  getting out and about a bit more into the open air to do a bit of sketching and drawing.

While it’s been a few years since she last exhibited at Gallery Q, she’s delighted to be back.

“Every so often you just find yourself a wee bit overwhelmed with the amount of work you’ve actually taken on, so I took a wee break from Gallery Q for a few years, and Lucinda contacted me a while ago asking if I wanted to put something on,” she says.

“I think it’s very difficult for galleries right now. It’s the same for all businesses.

Jennifer Mackenzie exhibition at Gallery Q, Dundee

“Some people are more enthusiastic and keen than others to go out and browse about than others despite vaccination and all that kind of thing. A lot of people are still a wee bit nervous.

“But I’ve found as an artist in general, and I think most people will have found this, that most people are still buying art. I’ve still sold paintings over the last year and  half, which has been quite amazing.”

The mixed exhibition featuring Jennifer Mackenzie runs at Gallery Q in Nethergate, Dundee, until July 17.