Lockdown art project leads to Black Isle exhibition as pandemic leads to new passion for oil painting

Tuan Nguyen and Steve Baker of Black Isle Bed and Breakfast.

A VIETNAMESE barista now living on the Black Isle is to hold his first art exhibition after teaching himself oil painting during lockdown.

Tuan Nguyen will display his work, featuring Highland landscapes, in his gallery in a converted summer house next to the bed and breakfast he and his partner, Steve Baker, are opening on a 150-year-old farmhouse.

The exhibit at the Black Isle Bed and Breakfast near Avoch will open on Tuesday and run until May 8.

The duo moved from Bristol to Black Isle three years ago – then coronavirus hit.

“It was hard not being able to see people and friends – I had too much free time,” said Mr Nguyen, who has always worked in the hospitality industry and is a trained barista at Crofters Cafe in Rosemarkie.

“I had to do something that made sense and I started painting.”

Tuan Nguyen's paintings are inspired by the surrounding landscape.
Tuan Nguyen’s paintings are inspired by the surrounding landscape.

He was inspired by the landscape of the Highlands and an American television show, The Joy of Painting.

His work features a range of scenes from surrounding seascapes to a dramatic sunset over the Kessock Bridge. “Painting made me appreciate more the beauty of all the precious things around me,” he said. “It makes me feel connected with nature.”

He has already sold some of his work and is taking orders. He has lived in the UK for almost five years after meeting Mr. Baker in Vietnam.

Mr Baker previously had a career teaching English in the UK, then moved to teach in Japan for five years before settling in New Zealand, teaching the blind and visually impaired as well as running a bed and breakfast.

Tuan Nguyen paints a landscape near his home on the Black Island.
Tuan Nguyen paints a landscape near his home on the Black Island.

They decided to move to the Highlands after a visit to Mr Baker’s niece. “I hadn’t seen her for a few years and we came for a vacation and loved it,” he said.

More details can be found at www.blackislebandb.co.uk

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