Fyne studios/the Hidden Gallery is not so much a gallery as a glimpse into the studios and lives of two of Argyll's top painters, Don McNeil DA and Jean Bell, at Newton on the shores of Loch Fyne.
Fyne studios/the Hidden Gallery was established in 1998 by painters Don McNeil DA and his wife, Jean Bell at Newton on the shores of Loch Fyne 3 miles from Strachur on the road to Colintraive and Tighnabruaich on the A886. They offer a unique insight into how two international painters live and work and often it is the highlight of the visitor’s stay in Cowal and many come back to see new paintings. Their work is full of passion expressing the emotional aspects of the wild and rugged Scottish landscape. They set themselves a time limit so the statement retains a fresh and spontaneous expression capturing the moment and not a topographical copy of the view. While many artists produce giglee prints of their work Don & Jean prefer that there is only one image of their work which increases the value of the work – Don comments that a giglee print is worthless as it is a photographic process and thousands can be printed. He adds that if they were going to go into print it would be using screenprint, etching or lithograph process – a real print with a genuine limit to the quantity making it a profitable investment to the buyer.
Their studio work is completely different, Don has called his his ‘Synchronicity series’ exploring oils and acrylic together resulting in exciting abstract images that already have caught the attention of the art world – his ‘Synchronicity No2’ was short listed for a world wide art competition in 2012. Jean, on the other hand, has called her studio work ‘toffee paintings’ which uses the village of Newton as the model – she eats the toffees and puts the coloured wrappers in ALL the windows to give the impression that the village is fully occupied.
One of their exciting diversifications is called ‘Brushstroke Memories’ – they go to weddings, birthdays or any gathering that celebrates an event and, under their guidance, the guests produce an exciting impression of the event that is a unique record that will last forever and will be on permanent display on a wall in the house. They have travelled all over Scotland working with groups as small as 4 and as large as 120 and the venue ranges from hotels to castles and quite often are filmed by the photographer as they had never seen this kind of event before.