Artist Suzi Macaulay uses art and architecture to bring Edinburgh murals to life
Suzi Macaulay has created two commissions in Edinburgh eateries, using the combined knowledge gained from two different degrees to enhance the surroundings for diners.
And the freelance architectural designer has already received a literal thumbs-up from one of the biggest names in Scottish art – even if she did shoo him away.
She may not have recognised painter Jack Vettriano initially, but he returned the next day to offer some advice.
The two murals, one in Pirlous in the city’s Grassmarket and the second in La Plaza Bistro in the New Town, are designed to bring atmosphere to blank spaces as they recall history at home and far away.
Macaulay, 50, has graduated from Edinburgh College of Art twice – initially as an artist in 1993 and later as an architect in 2012.
She uses these two skills to bring together the murals.
“I find it very expressive – because I'm an architect, I understand the structures,” she said.
"The two murals are both very different. The first was in Pirlous and depicts Edinburgh in the 1700s, which is quite an imposing image.
"I wanted something that would be dramatic, catch the eye and make people stay longer.
“It took a few months because I had to paint in the evenings when the eatery was closed.
“It’s black, white and gold to reflect the moodiness of the Grassmarket. The gold depicts the sparkle of lights from the old inns.”
The success of the first mural brought the opportunity for the second at La Plaza, this time sponsored by Craig and Rose paints, with the bistro asking for a streetscape in Turkey, not unlike Edinburgh.
Macaulay said: “It was all about architecture. Mardin in Turkey, where the owner is from, is remarkably similar to Edinburgh. It has an imposing castle sitting on top of a rock, with the old town below.
"They were so happy with it that they asked me to also paint the Eiffel Tower.”
The commission brought a chance encounter with another Scottish painter.
"While painting in the evening, people would stop, bang on the windows and cheer me on,” Macaulay said. “One night I was up the top of a ladder and when I’m painting, I just get absorbed in it.
"A guy started banging on the window and gave me two thumbs up. He had a flat cap and glasses, and I didn't recognise him so I just shooed him away.
"He came back the next day and this time I recognised him as Jack Vettriano. He came in and gave me some painting tips. He likes encouraging new Scottish painters, so he gave me some advice.”
With the two murals completed, the use of art and architecture has already left Macaulay feeling emboldened as she seeks out her next move.
”It's given me confidence in my own abilities as a painter,” she said. “The two skills are very intertwined and feed off each other.
“I’ve always been a painter. I love it and I just want to continue.
“I'm on my way to Sicily to study murals for a month, and hopefully there'll be more commissions when I return.”