james mcnaught

artist biography

James McNaught was born in Glasgow in 1948. The son of two carpet designers, he grew up drawing and painting; he recalls his first experience with a painting being when he saw a Picasso, becoming determined that the subject was his mother. This early appreciation of Picasso’s work can be found in McNaught’s own art, perhaps especially in his curious and fanciful portraits.

McNaught developed his own skills and technique as he grew up, though never attaining a formal qualification throughout school. This determination led to his acceptance to the Glasgow School of Art in 1966. He worked as an art teacher for some time, but after retiring, was able to paint full time and reach higher levels of recognition and success.

Now a member of the RSA, RGI and RSW, McNaught has gained a large following of admirers and collectors for his unusual and thought-provoking works.


McNaught’s style stands out from that of many other popular artists. His intriguing surrealist scenes capture his audience’s imagination, offering what seems to be a single, brief glimpse into a richly developed fantasy world.

His images are hyperbolic and stylised, with slightly crooked buildings, impossibly constructed architecture, eerie light effects, and strangely formed figures. The townscapes he creates are filled with muted colours and blocked shapes, the roads and walkways devoid of people save one or two enigmatic figures going about mysterious tasks. His exaggerated portraits of provocatively attired women are filled with strange imagery and piercing wit.

McNaught uses watercolour and gouache to create his subtle, highly detailed scenes. He balances fantasy with realism to enhance each composition; fantastical figures or impossibly constructed streets are offset with carefully controlled light and shadow. His colours are generally muted, furthering the uncanny effects of his bizarre figures and townscapes.

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