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Renowned Highland painter creates Nairn Book and Arts Festival 2024 programme cover

By Federica Stefani

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One of Michael Forbes' artworks.
One of Michael Forbes' artworks.

A Highland pop surrealist artist whose work was shared by Madonna and praised by Sir David Attenborough has created the main artwork for the Nairn Book and Arts Festival this year.

Black Isle painter Michael Forbes was chosen to do the event’s programme cover.

The popular event will run from August 31 to September 8, with the theme “Wild Sides (Wilder Edges)”.

The full programme for the festival will be announced on June 21.

A festival spokesperson said: “The artwork, which will be revealed at a special evening launch event at the Newton Hotel, is a glorious pop art explosion celebrating all things Nairn and the arts, as well as highlighting important issues such as the climate emergency.

“The bold design also features the legendary entertainer Charlie Chaplin, who was a regular visitor to Nairn with his family, where he enjoyed relaxing summers at the Newton Hotel.”

Mr Forbes is an almost entirely self-taught pop surrealist artist. His paintings are a visual record of his thoughts and dreams, often journeying into the subconscious, showing a magical and playful world laced with humour and pop culture.

Black Isle Artist Michael Forbes will create the artwork for this year's Nairn Book & Art Festival.
Black Isle Artist Michael Forbes will create the artwork for this year's Nairn Book & Art Festival.

He was selected to paint the Millennium poster for the London Underground, which is on show at the Museum of London Transport. He was also selected to represent the future of animal painting in the 2007 Blue Cross exhibition ''Animals in Art'' opened by the Queen. He has shown at the Opera Gallery exhibition ''In the Mood for Pop'' on New Bond Street, London, at Pop Gallery in Manhattan, New York, and was the first artist to have a private exhibition of his work at The Club at the Ivy in London.

Mr Forbes said: “I was really thrilled to be asked to create this year’s poster for the festival.

“It’s an exciting event and I’m excited to play a role in it. My father was a lorry mechanic and many years ago he was working in a lay-by near Nairn, fixing a breakdown, when a Rolls-Royce pulled in.

“Charlie Chaplin got out to stretch his legs and he chatted to my dad for a short while. I liked the opportunity to once again bring a little piece of Charlie back to the area in poster form, and in memory.”

During the festival, the artwork will be on display at the Nairn Community and Arts Centre.

The artist will be donating his fee for the artwork to Nairn Beach Wheelchairs, which aims to deliver the hire of specialist beach accessible wheelchairs so that more people can enjoy the beauty of Nairn beach.

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