Perth teacher Nicola McBride’s biro artworks net Tunnock’s deal

Perth teacher Nicola McBride’s biro artworks net Tunnock’s deal

Perth teacher Nicola McBride has clinched a deal with food giant Tunnock’s – thanks to her trusty biro pens.

Nicola, 47, who heads Perth High School’s art department, is one of the few known selling artists to draw solely with a ballpoint nib.

Her first Biro-only drawing was of her Airdale Terrier dog Alfie three years ago.

‘Alfie’: Image: Nicola McBride.

The image was a huge hit and she has since had her work exhibited in shows across Scotland.

Many of Dundee-born Nicola’s drawings are inspired by Scottish culture and she has won a commission with Mackays and a deal with Tunnock’s for her depictions of their products.

This has enabled her to go down to teaching part-time and fulfill a lifelong dream of earning a living through her art.

“It was always my dream to be a working artist but I never thought it would come true,” she said.

This feature details Nicola’s journey to fulfilling that dream.

Inspired by Rockwell teacher

One of Nicola’s greatest inspirations was Liz Morocco, her art teacher at the former Rockwell High School in Dundee.

Liz was the daughter-in-law of the famous Scottish artist Alberto Morrocco.

“She really encouraged me to do a lot in my spare time,” said Nicola, who grew up in Ardler and also attended Macalpine Primary School.

The former Rockwell High School.

“She gave me extra one-to-ones at lunchtimes.

“She did a lot of her own work as well, which I found inspirational.

“She sold her work and I thought ‘this is possible for me as well’.”

Liz now lives in Angus. She is retired but remains a practicing artist.

School to Ninewells and back

On leaving school, Nicola studied drawing and painting at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University.

After graduation in 1997 she moved to Stobswell and enjoyed a “small degree of success” with abstract art.

But this gave way once she started having a family.

She eventually turned to teaching after working at Ninewells laundry for six years.

‘The Duke’. Image: Nicola McBride.

Nicola relocated to the Fair City for a job at Perth Academy and then moved to Blairgowrie High School, where she was head of the art department and then deputy head teacher.

She took on the same position at Breadalbane Academy, before taking on her current role at Perth High School.

‘Mistakes cannot be rectified’ with biro

The fateful drawing of Alfie was the result of circumstance and fascination.

Nicola didn’t have a studio and biros make less of a mess than painting materials.

She was also inspired by the use of the medium by US artist Nicolas Sanchez and Mark Powell from Yorkshire.

‘Irn-Bru’: Image: Nicola McBride.

Plus, there was the “challenge of trying to control an unforgiving medium”.

“Mistakes cannot be rectified,” she said.

“And I need to carefully build layers slowly and faintly to achieve the correct colour.”

She uses eight colors – two greens, two blues, a yellow, brown, red and black – to ensure she gets the “tone and shade I need”.

Mackays link-up

Nicola shared the Alfie drawing on her Facebook page and the reaction was both positive and massive.

For the next year she was overwhelmed with dog commissions.

The Andy Warhol fan is heavily influenced by the pop art movement and its methodology of bringing everyday items into art.

‘Scottish gin triple’: Image: Nicola McBride.

This gave rise to her take on iconic items such as Scottish gin, Mini cars, Irn-Bru drinks and Tunnock’s chocolate bars.

She had a commission from Mackays marmalade in Arbroath to replicate a jar of its Dundee Marmalade.

Tunnock’s agreement

And Tunnock’s also got in touch directly.

‘Tunnock’s tidy’. Image: Nicola McBride.

Nicola explained: “They contacted me to ask if I would be interested in officially endorsing their work.

“So I now have a license agreement with them.

“This makes everything legal so I can get prints made and can use them in competitions.

“I am delighted.”

In addition, she has recently secured a collaboration with Murrays Bakers of Perth.

Living the dream

Along with commissions Nicola exhibits at several galleries across Scotland.

She has had solo shows at Gallery Heinzel in Aberdeen and at the Fotheringham Gallery in Bridge of Allan, near Stirling.

‘Plain slice of journalism’. Image: Nicola McBride.

She has also exhibited at the Torrance Gallery in Edinburgh, the Eduardo Alessandro Studios in Broughty Ferry and the Atholl Gallery in Dunkeld.

The decision to go part-time at Perth High School was made in August due to her busy work schedule.

Nicola is head of the art department from Tuesdays to Thursdays and spends the rest of her time on her drawing enterprise.

Promoting Scotland

Ultimately, Nicola says the central aim of her artworks is to spark memories in the viewer “and help them form connections and relationships from their own childhood”.

‘Double Mini’. Image: Nicola McBride.

She added: “I come from a family which is very proud of its Scottish heritage, as am I.

“Consequently, I always strive to promote products from Scotland.”

She now has her own studio in Perth, at 3 Murray Terrace, which will be opening to the public on Saturday, November 26.

It will enable the public to see her at work and to purchase original artworks, limited edition giclee prints, coasters, greeting cards and mugs.

Nicola McBride is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as her own website

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