Published Jan 16. 2013 - 3 years ago

Sam MacDonald

What at first glance what looks like paintings is more like 3D sculptures made from metal, with a very particular character that lends itself very well to fish and underwater subjects.

Working on a detail - Notice the size of the sculpture
Hunting -
The artist and the result
Sam MacDonald

Scotland based artist Sam MacDonald dropped me a mail near the end of last year:
"I have really enjoyed the GFF website especially the artists pages. I hope you have time to have a look at my website and consider me for inclusion on this page."

Of course I immediately clicked onto the web site, and was really intrigued by what I saw. Sam definitely has a style of his own, and works with materials and methods rarely seen.

What at first glance what looks like paintings is more like 3D sculptures made from metal, with a very particular character that lends itself very well to fish and underwater subjects and a stunning amount of naturalism and detail considering the material.

I asked Sam our usual set of Fishy Artist questions, and his answers can be read below where you can also enjoy some of his stunningly sculptures. One thing that I didn't notice when browsing the web site was the size of the pieces. Seeing the images of Sam working on them sets that in perspective. Some of them are huge!

...a very particular character that lends itself very well to fish and underwater subjects

Detail - This is a closeup of the piece featured in the beginning of the article, clearly showing the amazing texture and detail of Sam MacDonald\'s metal work
Sam MacDonald

How did you start working with art and with fishing related art in particular?

I have always had a fascination with water. Growing up on an island off the North West coast of Scotland I spent all of my childhood in streams, rivers and at the sea, first of all fishing and then starting to dive the wrecks scattered around the coast. All kinds of fishing interests me, beach casting, boat fishing at sea - but it is fly fishing that is my real love. Nothing can beat trekking into a remote moorland loch and then landing a small aggressive brown trout on a fly you have tied yourself. In recent years I have started to travel for bonefish, tarpon, permit etc. and find this an exciting and inspirational form of travel.

I studied Art at Camberwell College of Art and Design in London and specialised in metalwork. When I graduated I was creating large abstract steel sculptures loosely based on Wrecks on moving back to an Island my approach and art soon focused on the fish I was catching.

Grand Slam -
Permit -
Two salmon -
Tropical and cold water
Sam MacDonald
St Kilda -
Three piece spiral
Sam MacDonald

Why fish and/or fishing?

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.

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 fish en masse in their own habitat of fascinating colours and textures. My artistic endeavour is to observe and capture fleeting moments of nature, trying to express the 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. After filleting the fish that I caught I also became interested in what we discard, as I admired the beautiful structural rhythm and sculptural form and beauty of the skeleton, and began working on fossilised fish impressions.

What is your preferred method of painting/drawing/producing your work - if any?

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.

Two trout -
Two Brownies -
Salmon -
Trout and salmon
Sam MacDonald

The metal and its patinations seem to suit fish, sea and water ideally. 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.

Is the art your main source of income - if at all a source of income - and do you do other jobs as a supplement?

I have worked making sculptures since I left college 30 years ago but it wasn't until 10 years ago that I could go full time and devote all my time to my sculpture and make my living solely from my art.

Can people buy your art and if so, then in which form and where?

People can buy my art or commission a piece by contacting me at I am currently exhibiting at:

Visions West Gallery Bozeman
34 West Main St.
Bozeman MT 59715

House of Bruar Gallery, Perthshire, Scotland

Sam MacDonald at work -
Memento Mori (A study of fish becoming extinct in my lifetime) -
Sam MacDonald

Redspot at Kingswood, Shrewsbury, England

Collier and Dobson, Hampshire, England

Where do you currently live and work?

I currently live in Perthshire, Scotland after moving here 4 years ago from The Orkney Isles.
The Orkney wildlife, weather and landscape have a beautiful raw simplicity and are inextricably linked to and forged by nature. This enabled me to concentrate on the compositional aspects of my work and I devoted a great deal of time to the study of the abundant aquatic life.

Perthshire has different influences for me. The detail, seasonal colours and beautiful richness of the environment, with birds, rivers, leaves and trees have been brought into focus. I have looked back at my work and combined the balance and simplicity with a new enjoyment of richness and complexity. Many different species of creatures and fauna, times and seasons being included in the same piece.

Tubing - Sam MacDonald in a comfy fishing position
Scottish water bug - Big and hairy and with horns!
Warm weather - Sam fishing in the tropics
By the river - The artist heading out
Ready for some action - Sam MacDonald all dressed and geared up
Sam MacDonald
Herring & Porthole Study -
Through the porthole
Sam MacDonald


Find Sam MacDonalds web site here
Contact him though email at or

Find Sam on Facebook here

His address is
Crombie House
47 Willoughby St
Muthill, Crieff

Telephone or fax is: +44 01764 681724


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