Artist Liz McQueen was drawn by the ancient Loupin’ Stanes – and her love of a Lockerbie man - to Eskdalemuir. She tells Carol Hogarth why she fell for the wild, dramatic countryside and how the changing colours, stormy weather, dark skies and silence inspire her

“I spend a lot of time disappearing up into the hills, off the beaten track, with the dogs,” says painter Liz McQueen, who has developed a deep personal connection to the dramatic landscape of Eskdalemuir.

Although she grew up in Anglesey in North Wales and only moved to the remote community north of Lockerbie in 2018, Liz felt an immediate affinity with the area on first seeing a photo of its ancient Loupin’ Stanes stone circle years earlier.

“We were both living in the south of England when I first met Geoff [her now husband who is originally from Lockerbie], and he had this black and white picture of the Loupin’ Stanes on the wall of his flat. I didn’t know where it was, but I told him I wanted to go there.”

The pair visited the stone circle while staying in Lockerbie. “I fell in love with Eskdalemuir straight away,” says Liz. Geoff later proposed at the stones and the couple now live close to the ancient site on the banks of the White Esk river.

Liz works from a spacious shed studio in the garden of their home, the former village police station, but her real inspiration comes from exploring the landscape armed with her sketch books, charcoal and pencils.

Liz McQueen in the studio (Image: Mile Bolam)

“I came from a really picturesque, pretty place in Wales. This is very different but there’s something about this landscape that seems to resonate from home. The spirit of the place.

“This is not a pristine landscape. There is a lot of Sitka plantation, there’s environmental damage, it can be really bleak, but if you’re a landscape artist, you can’t not pay attention to some of these issues.”

Liz’s practice has incorporated hiking since her days at Winchester School of Art, where she began studying fine art in 2007.

“The course at Winchester was very conceptual. I didn’t do painting and drawing, I did photography, film, installation, performance… and I got really interested in land artists. I started using walking in my practice, following old pilgrims’ routes and bringing that into my work.”

Although she loved painting as a child and did A Level art, Liz says the focus after school was on getting a “proper job”, so she completed a languages degree in Nottingham, followed by a master’s in law, in Bournemouth, and had an early job as a PA.

“My 20s were spent as far away from artistic things as you could be, and I was miserable.”

Eventually, on returning to North Wales, Liz says: “I finally went to the art college in Bangor I should have gone to 15 years earlier. My tutor there suggested I do a degree , so I went to Winchester.

“It was just glorious. It had been a bit of a circuitous route to get there but I felt very much on the right track.”

Liz McQueen's workspace in her studioLiz McQueen's workspace in her studio (Image: Mile Bolam)

After meeting Geoff, who already had a son, Lucas, and marrying in 2012, Liz and Geoff have a daughter, Millie, the following year.

“I didn’t work much when the kids were small,” says Liz “I was doing bits of life drawing, but my mental health was suffering, and I felt I needed to do something.

“A friend gave me The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self, which set me back on a path of creativity again.”

At the same time, the couple were planning to move north and eventually relocated to Lockerbie in 2017, where they lived with Geoff’s parents before buying their house in Eskdalemuir, and moving in the following year.

“We’d first seen it on the market when we were still in Dorset. Then, amazingly, it came back on the market. When we went to view it, we didn’t pay much attention to the house or even the view at first. We just came into the shed and thought ‘wow’. Everything fell into place.”

Inspired by the changing colours, stormy weather, the dark skies and the silence around her new home, Liz began drawing and painting: “It was landscapes and nothing else. I started off painting tiny wee, 5cm landscapes in notebooks. I still do little sketches to figure out composition. It doesn’t take long and it’s a great way to get started and find your creative voice again.

“I’m not one for painting realistic views. My landscapes are largely abstract, it’s more about expression. I either work on paper with inks and watercolour for smaller pieces, or on canvas for bigger paintings, with acrylics using palate knives, random tools and found objects. I love having a big wodge of paint and moving it around.”

Liz McQueen's artworkLiz McQueen's artwork (Image: Mile Bolam)

In 2020, Liz came in contact with Lucy MacLeod [now Bell] of OutPost Arts in Langholm, a charity delivering art projects which engage with communities.

“She asked if I’d like to do some teaching. I did a little exhibition with her and then a workshop and then became involved in the Art Journal project.”

A creative wellbeing tool, Art Journaling helps participants explore emotions and offers “an accessible and portable platform for us to escape, reflect, take stock and re-calibrate”.

Still working for OutPost three days a week, Liz says: “The project starts with little doodly drawings. If you practice that a few minutes a day, your confidence comes back, and your natural curiosity takes over. Then we try playing with paint or charcoal and it starts to build into something.”

The programme of guided workshops and bespoke tuition is aimed at adults and young people who may have confidence issues or low self-esteem, might be experiencing economic barriers, isolation and loneliness, mental health or chronic health conditions… “people who are perhaps just a little bit lost”, says Liz.

“We commission artists’ workshops, which has been a great way of getting to know more artists in the region, and it’s helped my own practice develop, too.


“Since meeting Edward and Lucy from the Old Mill Gallery at Palnackie, for example, I’ve become really interested in using natural pigments. I’ve started making my own charcoal and experimenting with wild clay.”

Liz exhibited at Edinburgh Art Fair last November and had a piece in the Society of Scottish Artists’ annual exhibition at the Maclaurin Art Gallery in Ayr in the winter.

She is keen to stay in touch with the Welsh arts scene and has shown in the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art open exhibition, and currently has a picture included in the Kyffin Williams Drawing Prize exhibition in Anglesey.

Liz has taken part in Spring Fling, Dumfries & Galloway’s annual open studios event, since 2020, welcoming visitors for the first time in person in 2022. She is looking forward to opening the doors again for this year’s event.

“It’s a great opportunity to show your work to a wider audience and, through Spring Fling, you build a network of friends and colleagues. That’s the best thing, you meet kindred spirits.”

Liz McQueen with one of her piecesLiz McQueen with one of her pieces (Image: Mile Bolam)