Featured Artist: Robert MacMillan

Robert MacMillan is a contemporary Scottish artist who is well known for his landscape and figure painting (primarily portraits).  Thematically, much of his work explores the relationship between light and dark, clarity and obfuscation.  His clean and crisp technique is often contrasted (or combined with) a hazy sfumato resulting in mysterious and haunting images.  Many of his compositions are almost entirely shrouded in darkness, while he provides lighting as if with a spotlight to small portions.  MacMillan draws in the viewer with his intriguing images and startling contrasts, and we are pleased to share them with you here on Transpositions.  Below is an excerpt from a recent catalog produced for his show “Light in the Darkest of Places” for the Fraser Gallery in St Andrews, Scotland, and written by Roderick Fraser:

Over recent years, Robert Macmillan has undeniably developed a strong reputation as one of Scotland’s foremost figurative painters. Through consistently reconciling traditional working methods with an attitude of painterly experimentation, Robert’s work is charged with emotional intensity.

Much admired by many other artists and collectors for his technical mastery, his work is greatly influenced by the old masters.  The results, at first glance, are simple and uncluttered, but upon closer inspection the detail is captivating.  Indeed, his work has been likened to a well crafted piece of poetry, where the omission of even a single word would alter the impact irrevocably.

The figurative work often focuses on a single female form.  This closely observed figure is sometimes covered in a golden drape with a void of rich, deep, dark negative space around the figure which has the remarkable effect of illuminating the central form as well as isolating it.

His influences include the little-known Tonalists and in particular, American Gearge Innes whom he regards as significant, and Whistler, whose apparently simplistic painting technique also manages to express tremendous depth and emotion.  MacMillan incorporates their methods of memorising a landscape to capture its essence, taking elements of a scene and rearranging them to portray the elusive, emotional, ethereal quality of what he is seeing.

And now, some paintings:

Ragamuffin.  Oil on Board.  5″x5″.

Summer Rain.  Oil on Board.  7″x7″.

Little Face.  Oil on Board.  5″x4″.

Listening For Hope.  Oil on Board.  60″x24″.


  • Jim Watkins is the assistant editor and a regular contributor at Transpositions. Originally, Jim is from southern California and southeastern Texas, but sometimes he feels most at home in the landscape and coffee shops of the Pacific Northwest. He met his wife Emily at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he studied Studio Art (concentration in painting). For his PhD research, he is examining the relationship between divine and human creativity from the perspective of divine kenosis.

Written By
More from Jim Watkins
Featured Artist: Cosette Cornelius-Bates
Cosette Cornelius-Bates (aka Cosy) is a fiber artist who describes her work...
Read More
Join the Conversation


  1. says: Sue Watkins

    I have never seen his paintings before and each one is emotionally powerful. The last one “Listening for Hope” is one that women all over the world can relate to. Amazing how that one image communicates so much. Thanks for sharing them

    1. says: Jim

      Hi Mom! Its good to see you on Transpositions. Yes, he does use the human figure in quite powerful and poignant ways. Thanks for mentioning “Listening for Hope.” Obviously, I had not connected with it as a woman, but I see now that this image could relate to women in important and specific ways. I hope all is well, and keep the comments coming!

  2. says: Lisa Murphy

    It is a delight to see Rob is making such fantastic work. I knew him as a student at DOJCA in the 90s. He was an exceptional artist even at this time and I was fortunate enough to purchase a wonderful drawing from him at his degree show. This timeless work is in my studio and inspires me through its confident execution and humanity so familiar, its like drawing a breath.

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

1,551,361 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments