Catherine MacDiarmid - ‘Behind the Doll Paint’, 2019. 30cm x 25cm oil on linen. Image courtesy of the artist.

TNG Member Catherine MacDiarmid Selects Some of Her Favourite Pieces

One of The Net Gallery’s primary missions is to grow a network of artists, curators and art students. As founding members of The Net Gallery, these individuals are helping to build a grassroots art community.

One artist working within our creative community is Catherine MacDiarmid, a Kendal-based artist whose work is influenced by the human form. Catherine is a member of the Lakes Artists Society and the Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP), and has exhibited across the UK, including shows with the BP Portrait Award, Royal Watercolour and Pastel Society and the Artists and Illustrators Artist of the Year.

Catherine splits her artistic practice between portrait commissions and creating her own thematic figurative compositions. She works in oils, watercolour and charcoal, and loves to explore human displacement and disguises.

This year, Catherine has work on show in the New Light Prize Exhibition, one of the UK’s largest and most talked about open exhibitions.

To learn more about her practice, we asked Catherine to tell us about some of her most significant pieces.

Behind the Doll Paint

Detail from ‘Behind the Doll Paint’, 2019, by Catherine MacDiarmid 30cm x 25cm oil on linen. Image courtesy of the artist.

Behind the Paint is a theme that I began in 2014 and focuses on the masks and disguises people can create with face paint. The theme developed from my side-line business of face painting, which evolved from a love of face painting my own children. Having two boys with Autism Spectrum Condition, I discovered that they found disguises a helpful tool, which displaced themselves from the world around and gave them confidence to join in and, sometimes, socially interact.

Expanding beyond this, I began to depict other face painted children. I am keen to see how much of the original character remains when protected by a guise, and whether I could still paint that person behind the paint.

This piece was selected for the New Light Prize Exhibition 2020.

Personal Space: Eye Level & Personal Space: Bystander

Catherine MacDiarmid - ‘Personal Space: Eye Level’, 2020. 60cm x 162cm, oil on canvas. This painting is currently on online exhibition at the Society of Women’s Artists Exhibition 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.
Catherine MacDiarmid - ‘Personal Space: Bystander’, 2020. 50cm x 50cm, watercolour on paper. This painting is currently on show in the RBSA Prize Exhibition 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

Personal Space is a theme I began back in 2009 and is an investigation into the notion that you are never truly yourself in a crowd of people. I am captivated when I see someone who does not quite belong or stands alone amongst others for a variety of reasons, and I seek to communicate this in these paintings. Are we ever truly ourselves or do we embody a different character in each different situation?

Safe Place

Catherine MacDiarmid - ‘Safe Place’, 2020.24cm x 36cm, oil on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.

As well as my thematic work, I do portraits and commissioned portraits. Safe Place is a portrait of my daughter and her cat. I sought to depict their close bond and anxieties. Both are introverts and feel safe together and safe within the confines of home.

Words by Catherine MacDiarmid and Toby Buckley for The Net Gallery.

You can find out more about Catherine MacDiarmid and her work through her profile in The Net Gallery Artist Directory. You can also find her through her website,, Instagram (@catherinemacdiarmid), Twitter (@CatMacdiarmid) or Facebook.



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