Nicola McBride

Biro pen artist Nicola McBride is well known for her hyper realistic drawings of iconic Scottish food and drinks. Nicola McBride uses pen to explore mark making in her work, and she uses a limited colour palette to produce her exceptionally detailed and precise drawings.

Nicola McBride Scottish biro pen art - Golden Syrup
Nicola McBride Scottish biro pen art - McVities biscuit pen drawing
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Nicola McBride is a British biro pen artist who is inspired to draw well known Scottish food and drinks brands. Her art style can be described as hyper-real and could also be categorised as Pop Art due to her use of iconic subject matter.

Nicola McBride works in biro pen and is limited to using just eight colours. Her artworks celebrate Scottish food and drink culture and she often includes famous brand names in her artworks. Her subjects are usually drawn against a simple background of one or two colours – why do you think this is? What effect does it have on the subject?


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Nicola McBride Scottish biro pen art - Blue Tunnocks teacake drawing
Nicola McBride Scottish biro pen art - Tunnocks teacake drawing

If you look closely at Nicola McBride’s artworks, you can see that she captures a huge range of tones, even though she is limited to using just eight colours. To achieve this wide range of shades and highlights, McBride needs to gradually build up soft layers of colour in her pen drawings.

Nicola McBride tries to capture all of the crinkles, creases and reflections in the metallic wrappers she draws. Adding all of these details, textures and tones to her biro drawings is what helps to make them look more realistic.

How many different red tones can you count in the Tunnocks Teacake drawing above?

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Nicola McBride biro pen art - Caramel water biscuit drawing.
Nicola McBride biro pen art - Caramel water biscuit drawing close up

In order to show the glossy and vivid metallic wrappers of the famous Scottish treats she draws, Nicola McBride needs to build up layers of biro pen very gradually and lightly. In the Caramel drawing above, look at how many different colours McBride has used to create the shadow on the white part of the label towards the left. There are yellows, blues and greens, all layered on top of each other using cross hatching. Where the wrapper has a highlight (light reflection) McBride has not drawn anything and left the white of the background to show through.

Using biro to draw tones and highlights can be challenging, but biro pens can be very useful for drawing sharp edges, lines and outlines precisely. What other reasons do you think Nicola McBride might choose to create her artwork with biro pens?

When making her artworks, Nicola McBride paints a simple acrylic background with colours that complement the main subject(s). In order to make sure her drawings are as accurate as possible, Nicola McBride draws out her compositions lightly in pencil first. Smaller pieces she will draw freehand, but larger works she uses a grid for.

Look closely at the stop-by-step drawing pictures above, what details has McBride included in her pencil drawings that have helped her when adding pen?

McBride says:

I always draw from photographs but usually have the subject matter in front of me to refer to.

Nicola McBride biro pen art - glass bottle coke drawings
Nicola McBride biro pen art - irn bru glass drawing
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Top Facts about artist Nicola McBride:

  • Nicola McBride studied at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, Scotland
  • She graduated with BA Hons degree in drawing and painting in 1997
  • She has focused on biro pen drawing since 2019
  • Nicola McBride’s art is influenced by the 1950s Pop Art movement
  • She is restricted to using only 8 colours plus black in her work
  • McBride enjoys the challenge of using biro pens
  • Her drawings are usually a large scale – some pieces are up to 100cm wide!
  • One piece of work can use up to 25 biro pens
  • Her Tunnock’s teacake drawings are fully endorsed by Tunnock’s

Nicola McBride biro pen art - glass bottle pen drawings
Nicola McBride biro pen art - whiskey jar biro pen drawing
Nicola McBride biro pen art - gin glass bottle bio pen drawing

This short clip shows some of Nicola McBride’s work in an art gallery, and she explains a little bit more about her fascination with Tunnock’s teacakes.

You can also follow Nicola McBride on Twitter and Instagram.


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What do you think about Nicola McBride’s biro drawings? Which are your favourite pieces and why?

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