Title: Brownie
Size: 20cm x 20cm
Medium: Resin, Copper & Aluminium

Additional Information

Sam MacDonald - Technique

I obtain inspiration whilst fishing and studying fish through observation, photography, diving, and snorkelling in rivers or the sea and I travel widely to see species and their own environment. I use old traditional metal work techniques to produce contemporary and unique pieces. The fish are hand pierced out of pewter sheet and then scales and detail are tapped in using a combination of repousse and chasing, with tools I have made for each individual species, on either a bed of pitch or an anvil. Metal has a strange permanent quality with a real presence of its own. The manipulation of such a material is as much inherent in the resulting form as the chosen subject matter. The forms I produce evolve through scarring and marking of the surface of the metal in the same way that a fish is imperfect, showing its own history of unique scars and marks. This is why I rarely cast but prefer to sit at the anvil and create a story of marks. I ‘draw’ with hammer blows using both hands in unison, each one dictating depth and width. Each fish is gold-leafed in places and wired wooled back. To colour I use enamel and the fish is finally finished off with a hot lacquer and heated in an oven.  The backing plate is then prepared, and I pierce the profile of the fish out with a piercing saw to embed the finished fish. The metal is then coloured through my repertoire of patination techniques. The limitations of the metal are a joyous challenge to overcome with heat and power. The colours, achieved with patination, suit the underwater palette perfectly and give an extra aura of age, more so than I have ever found with watercolours, acrylics or oil paints - this is the real alchemy. The pieces are then wax polished several times with beeswax. Finally, the plates are attached to a wooden frame using resin and pins. I also do studies of underwater wrecks and submarines.  These focus on layered drawings of shapes, forms and structures at different depths combining drawing and relief work encapsulated in resin. I have always had a fascination with water. I spent much of my childhood in streams, rivers and at the sea, and fish have always been a source of aesthetic beauty to me. Their ability to stay motionless, effortlessly in a strong current is contrasted with their explosive speed of turn and strike. Their form is of pure aerodynamics and engineered for speed, hard and glinting - the same attributes as metal. They have a superb sculptural form and beauty, including their skeletal structure. Once I had felt the electricity transmitting through the line of the fish taking the hook, I was hooked. I envy their freedom of being able to move in three dimensions, the equivalent of flying. The closest I come to this is diving and seeing them en masse in their own habitat of fascinating colours and textures. My artistic endeavour is to observe and capture fleeting moments of nature. I try to express an emotional response to something very private, a moment shared between man and nature, suggesting a balance and a suspension with the brooding colours of the background saturating the work with a contemplative stillness.

About the Artist

Born 1964, Isle of Lewis.

Trained Camberwell School of Art BA (Hons), London

Presently working and residing in East Lothian.

Sam MacDonald, who now lives in East Lothian, grew up on the Isle of Lewis and, after 4 years at Camberwell School of Arts, lived on Orkney for 19 years. This enabled his love of fishing, diving and the sea to combine with his developing skills in metalwork. Sam uses old, traditional metal work techniques to produce contemporary and unique works. He creates impressions of fish and sea vessels, using the tactile effects that metal, its processes and techniques, have to offer.

Travelling internationally to fly fish has always been an inspiration for Sam. Fishing in Venezuela, Pakistan, Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic for bonefish, permit, tarpon and barracuda have been the source for many recent pieces. As have several trips salmon and trout fishing all over Iceland.

Diving on the wrecks in Scapa Flow exposed him to the beauty and power of decomposing submerged engineered structures and their gradual absorption back into nature and so, on moving to Aberlady, the two X5 midget submarine wrecks in the bay were an instant fascination.

Sam is a Signature Member of The Society of Animal Artists USA

He has been featured on BBC 2’s ‘Coast’ programme and has featured in Wildlife Art Journal and X-ray International Diving Magazine.

Work has been acquired for private collections all over the world and Sam has recently installed two large salmon pieces in the prestigious East Ranga Lodge in Iceland.

In 2012 Sam had a large solo show in The Gallery, Cork Street, London. He has also shown at various group exhibitions in galleries including the House of Bruar, CLA Game Fairs, the Royal Scottish Academy, The Wykeham Gallery and Visions West Gallery, Montana.

‘My artistic endeavour is to observe and capture fleeting moments of nature. I try to express an emotional response to something very private, a moment shared between man and nature.’

Featured on BBC 2 “Coast” TV program 2008


2000 -The Constant Moment, Pier Arts Centre, Orkney (free standing large steel sculpture)


2006 - Institute of Medical Science, Aberdeen (large bronze relief)


2008 – “Stornoway Regeneration” Herring Bronze Plaque

2009 - Six pieces for new cruise liner “Azura’



2012 The Gallery, Cork Street

2010 Alexander Meddowes Gallery. Edinburgh

2006 Stenton Gallery, East Lothian

2004 Maclaurin Art Gallery, Rozelle house

2003 Stenton Gallery, East Lothian

2003 Queens Road Gallery, Aberdeen

2002 Depth, The Orkney Museum, Kirkwall

2001 Fish, The Weem Gallery, Pittenweem, Fife

2001 Fish, Pier Arts Centre Stromness


2009 Dunkeld art exhibition featured artist

2009 Redspot Artists C.L.A. Game Fair Belvoir Castle

2008 Whitehouse gallery ‘Countryside pursuits’

2008 Redspot Artists C.L.A. Game Fair Blenheim Palace

2008 House of Bruar, ongoing exhibition

2008 The Wykeham Gallery Hampshire

2008 Strathearn Gallery Crieff

2008 Frames Gallery, Perth

2008 Heinzel Gallery, Aberdeen

2008 Shetland Museum “Along the edges”

2007 House of Bruar “Redspot Artists”

2007 Whitehouse Gallery “Countryside Pursuits”

2007 Royal Scottish Academy Annual Show

2007 Visual Arts Scotland, R.S.A.

2006 Gallery Heinzel

2006 Redspot Artists C.L.A. Game Fair

2006 House of Bruar Gallery/ House of Hardy

2006 The Wykeham Gallery, Hampshire

2004 /2005 SWLA Mall Galleries London