A self-portrait in words

Don McNeil

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A Cowal artist is publishing his life story after encouragement from his family and friends.

The book, which will be launched on March 25, started life during lockdown when artist Don McNeil took the opportunity to write his story – warts and all.

And now, thanks to the help of Tim Saunders of Creative Coverage, the book was recently published on Amazon.

The Path Less Trodden – A Man and His Art begins with Don’s mother Jean Hastings, a renowned Scottish soprano in the 30s, and the influence she had on his musical life and his father, who was a minister, on his painting, directing and producing of musical theatre. He recalls how he experienced wonderful musical evenings with some of Britain’s top musicians.

Don was born in 1940 at Carnoustie, before the family moved to Dunfermline then Dumfries and, eventually Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay on the Isle of Bute.
He was educated at Dumfries Academy and went on to study at Glasgow Art College.

He graduated in drawing and painting in 1965 from Glasgow School of Art and then taught for 30 years, 23 years as principal teacher at Gourock High.

He writes about his time teaching art at the week-long art course at Ardentinny for senior pupils in Renfrewshire, where he met his future wife Jean Bell, who is also a painter.

In the book he talks about the importance art has had in his life and the influential people who helped him to realise his dream of making a living as a painter.

In 1995 he took early retirement from teaching and along with Jean, they set up Fyne Studios on the shores of Loch Fyne. Together they have had exhibitions in Miami, Broadway, Dublin, London, Arran, Germany and Tokyo. Together they were founder members of Cowalfest and Cowal Open Studios, and ran classes from their studios.  They are active with Cowal Music Club and, more recently, Dunoon Jazz Festival and the panto in 2018

The book is illustrated with Don and Jean’s paintings and will have its local launch on March 25 at Bookpoint, 2a Ferry Brae, Dunoon, from noon to 1pm.