Ann Oram: A Modern Day ‘Scottish Colourist’

Ann Oram  generously took time out earlier on in the year to judge the ‘Dry Media’ category as part of the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize (she decided to award the prize to Anna Roberts for her pastel ‘Oranges’). When she wasn’t judging our prize, Ann was busy painting, exhibiting, and discussing her work with publications and enthusiasts across the globe! We wanted to find out more about what Ann Oram – a modern day Scottish Colourist –  has been up to this year.

‘Garden Roses on Green’
Acrylic on Board, 30x30cm, 2017

Lisa: You judged our ‘dry media’ category prize earlier this year, as part of the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2017. What’s it like judging art in this way and what was it about Anna Roberts’ winning entry ‘Oranges’ that stood out for you?

Ann: I liked the fact that it was an ordinary everyday subject. Beautifully executed. Simple. Good colour. 

‘St Giles, Dark Sky’
Acrylic and ink on board, 30x30cm, 2017

Lisa:  I last interviewed you back in 2013, prior to your exhibition at Brian Sinfield Gallery. What path has your work taken since we last made contact?  

Ann: I’m not sure that I’ve changed radically. The same subjects still intrigue me. But I suppose I always look for new ways of developing them. It could be about scale; from large to small. Or colour palette. Also more architecture is coming into the work. I hope to visit certain churches in Germany soon to do some work. Dresden and Cologne are on my list. Makes a change from white Italian Cathedrals!! Antwerp is also looking good too. 

‘Allanton, Mid winter Snow and Seedheads’
Acrylic on board, 46x61cms, 2017

Lisa: What subject matter do you most like to paint and why?  

Ann: That’s difficult! I’m fairly general in that I don’t keep to one subject. I love Still life and flowers. Also architecture is coming into the frame much more. Especially churches. Interiors and exteriors.  I’ve been working on Edinburgh cathedrals this year. And I do love the landscape. The winter landscapes are beginning to appear now; and in the Scottish Borders, they are stunning. Can’t wait until the ground is more frosted or even a spot of snow!! 

The artist

Lisa: Can you describe your favourite place to create your work? 

Ann: Well I always love my studio. Somewhere, where the light is good and is peaceful. 
I’ve been doing a little research at St Giles in Edinburgh and also Rosslyn Chapel, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Both are beautiful buildings. However the Rosslyn interior is incomparable. I want to do a series of drawings there. So creating work in and around these buildings is very satisfying. 

‘Frosted Grasses and Seedheads’
Acrylic and ink on textured ground, on paper, 56x75cm, 2017

Lisa: In your summer show at the Thackeray Gallery you mention in the notes that there are ‘no heroic mountains or lochs’ in the landscapes, just very familiar scenes from your everyday. Did this make painting the scenes harder or easier? And how important is a personal connect to your subject matter?

Ann: For me the subject matter must excite me. I don’t want to write a lot of words ever about what I do. I want the paintings to express that for me. The excitement is in the way the materials behave, and of course the subject matter. If you feel that certain something in your gut, then go with it. It carries you through the tough times when you don’t know how to resolve a painting. So I’m not sure if the familiar makes it easier. I suppose it must do. If you see something every day, you form an opinion about it in terms of how you’d like to represent it. Lighting and weather conditions come into it as well. Ordinary things can be the most beautiful I think. We are surrounded by beauty. 

‘Bank of Scotland at The Mound. Nocturne’
Watercolour, gouache, ink and oil pastel on paper, 54x76cm, 2017

Lisa: When we last conversed you mentioned John Piper as being a key influence. What is it that you respond to most in his work?

Ann: Dear John Piper. He always used line within his paintings and prints. I’ve always enjoyed line. But he creates work with beautiful drawing, texture and colour. They still make me excited when I see them. And his work is loose. It isn’t tight and academic.

Ann Oram putting paint to canvas

Lisa: How would you sum up 2017 in terms of your creative endeavours? And what’s in store for 2018?

Ann: 2017 was interesting from the point of view of my work being appreciated abroad. I sold several paintings to clients as far afield as Japan and India, as well as America and Europe. I was interviewed by magazines in the States and France, and in June I was invited to give a talk and a workshop to a group of enthusiasts in America. For me that was so exciting to find a wider audience. 2018 looks like it might be similar. Already the galleries are asking for work many months ahead. But it’s a way of life I enjoy. Maybe not the deadlines!!

‘Miss Jekyll’s Garden on Holy Island’
Acrylic and ink on board, 31x41cm, 2017

Lisa: Do you keep a sketchbook? If so how important is it to you and how do you use it?

Ann: I do. They can be quite scruffy but I jot things down and do very loose sketches. Sometimes I’ll put some acrylic grounds on to the pages and apply paint or ink later on. They are a good thinking tool.  Sometimes I think I prefer the looseness that you can achieve in a sketchbook. 

‘Flowers from an Edinburgh Garden’
Watercolour and gouache, ink and oil pastel on Arches Paper, 2017

Lisa: What are you working on at the moment?

Ann: I have a small show at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in March. It’s not a big show. An intimate 15 paintings or so. Full of colour. The landscape around me, some Edinburgh architecture and still life will feature. As with all galleries now, the paintings have to be finished way ahead of the show. So a March show has a deadline for early January.

‘Chinese Lanterns in a Black Jug’
Acrylic on Board, 46x61cm, 2017

Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?

Ann: You can always see my work on my website:

‘Red Still Life with Chinese Lanterns’
Acrylic on Board, 46x61cm, 2017