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


By Val Sweeney

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

A VIETNAMESE barista now living on the Black Isle is to stage 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 summerhouse next to the bed and breakfast which he and his partner, Steve Baker, are opening in a 150-year-old farmhouse.

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

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

“It was difficult not being able to see people and friends – I had too much time on my hands,” 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 which was meaningful 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 Highland landscape and an American TV programme, The Joy of Painting.

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

He has already sold some of his work and takes on commissions. He has been living in the UK for almost five years after he and Mr Baker met in Vietnam.

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

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

They decided to move to the Highlands after a visit to see Mr Baker’s niece. “I had not seen her for some years and we came for a holiday and loved it,” he said.

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


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