A TRIP to China could prove a wellspring of inspiration for a Wee County artist, who had the chance to paint as she sat on the Great Wall.

Karen Strang, based at Alloa’s Marcelle House, recently returned to Clackmannanshire from inspiring travels, briefly shifting her focus away from the Scottish witch trials which have been at the centre of her work for years.

That is not to say she is no more interested in exploring the injustice suffered by women back then, and indeed today, as well as the connections to local places people can still visit today.

But the colours and unique oriental techniques she encountered face-to-face, as well as discussions with artists in China during her visit, could give Karen opportunities to do something different.

She said: “It’s like a breath of fresh air for me as a painter, to look at things and techniques in an entirely different way.”

The ideas she brought home from the visit could also give her new opportunities when exploring the Wee County landscapes she’s been working with for years.

Karen explained: “I need that at the moment actually.

“Having spent six years researching the local witchcraft trials, I’m mentally exhausted.

“Having worked on such a dark subject, I need to get some fresh air.

“I feel like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole with the witchcraft, it was very full-on, very intense.”

That work culminated in an exhibition at the Lillie Art Gallery last year as well as a book that provides the wider context and background to Karen’s work, both under the title The BURN and the TIDE.

Karen’s witchcraft trial paintings, including landscapes and human figures, are abstract and often provocative.

For her, painting is a political act and it is not about making people feel good.

“I paint to make people think”, she previously explained.

With more defined rules, Chinese art can be more representational than her usual work, but she also reckons the abstract can naturally evolve from the oriental, indeed many 19th century artists from the west were inspired by the oriental.

Armed with some authentic Chinese brushes, Karen will be learning how to use her favourite tool in a new way.

Speaking about the visit in general, she said: “It’s very overwhelming, but very inspiring and not at all as I imagined it.

“As an artist, the challenge is to see how you can put all the new experiences into new work.”

Sitting on the Great Wall of China and painting plein air was also a unique experience.

Karen said: “It was 40 degrees and I made the mistake of taking my water colours.

“In Scotland, the problem is usually that it is too wet.

“But there it was so dry the water colours evaporated so quickly that I just about finished a very quick painting.

“Then I had to make a decision, do I use my drinking water to paint another picture or not?”

She mused: “I thought I need my drinking water so my life came before my art!”