Douglas McDougall

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By carving into the paper in a particular way, one can feel the power and the magic and the luck. The face is a mirror of the soul - for better or worse. Portraiture is my way of encapsulating and understanding the ongoing museum of human experience, to show who we really are, body and spirit.” - Douglas McDougall

For more than 20 years, London-based Scottish artist Douglas McDougall has quietly persevered at his work, evolving from a disillusioned fine arts student who dropped out of the Glasgow School of Art in the early 90’s, to the highly regarded portraitist he is today. While far from stratospheric, McDougall’s career has followed a modest trajectory to success, fuelled by self-exploration and an almost spiritual commitment to his practice as an illustrative and portrait artist – a commitment that has kept him somewhat at arm’s length from the prevailing art world trends of the last two decades.




As a student, McDougall told Bliss Magazine in January, while the highly conceptual work of artists like Bill Viola and London’s YBAs were dominating the cultural zeitgeist, McDougall found himself “still wired to the whole social realism thing that had channeled itself through the Glasgow school a decade earlier.”

At school, his attachment to this illustrative style left him somewhat of the odd man out among his more conceptually minded peers, he says.

I was like the odd kid on the block, dabbling in something that was looked upon with a certain amount of prejudice.

Read the full Bliss interview here. Happily, McDougall found the courage of his convictions and in 2000, having spent a few years away from the art world after dropping out of the Glasgow School, he moved to London to focus on his work. And with the purchase in 2005 of Another Drink to Cold Women by the Cantor Arts Center for its Contemporary Drawing Collection at Stanford University, McDougall found his first major break and was on his way. Today, he has exhibited internationally, his work is held in public and private collections around the world, and both The Sun and The Daily Telegraph in the UK, as well as numerous print and online outlets, have profiled him.

Douglas McDougall

Read McDougall’s profile in The Daily Mail here.

His work defies easy categorization. “Hyper-realism or Photo-realism are the buzz words I tend to hear from a lot of people when they look at my portraits for the first time,” McDougall recently told “There have been too many viewers (who) try and understand or quantify the value of the work as a whole by this singular observation alone.”

And perhaps the singularity of McDougall’s work when compared to more traditional portraiture, the element that makes this more than portraiture, lies in his own unique approach to material and technique. Working with charcoal on cartridge paper, McDougall literally carves and shapes his portraits into the paper with scalpels, blades, erasers, and sandpaper. The resultant intricacy of the rendered surfaces lend these ostensibly two-dimensional works an air of the real existing in the realm surreal, of an aura alive with the vivid minutiae of a dream haloing each face.

“I’ve shown at art fairs and watched people walk swiftly past my work not giving it a second glance because they think it’s photoshopped B&W photography,” says McDougall. “On most occasions dealers have had to be a little more proactive, making sure that they catch certain individuals and provide them with appropriate understanding. When it’s realized it’s a joy to observe.”
You can read the full profile here, and visit McDougall’s tumblr for more thoughts and images from the artist here.

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