PICTURE this: right now in New York, art lovers will be staring at a collection of paintings of leading Scots figures.

The likes of Laura Fraser, Ewan McGregor, Nicola Sturgeon, Billy Connolly and Elaine C Smith are part of a group of 16, who been immortalised on canvas by artist Gerard M Burns, with proceeds going to The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice fundraising campaign for their new hospice in Bellahouston in Glasgow.

Actor Laura Fraser, who won great critical acclaim recently for her appearance in TV drama Breaking Bad, explains how she came to be hung on a wall in New York's Soho.

"I was introduced to Gerard by my friend Karen Dunbar," the actress explains. "Gerard had painted her last year and I loved her portrait. He captured a low, quiet melancholy in her painting that I found moving."

Fraser, who has starred in BBC drama series Lip Service and films such as A Knight's Tale, currently lives in New York with her husband and daughter.

"Gerard and I then met in New York and chatted for ages in The Scratcher, my husband's bar in the East Village. He took some photographs and we explored different ideas. He had previously sent me images that he was considering as inspiration and we both liked a lot of Gustav Klimt's (the Austrian symbolist painter) imagery."

She laughs at any suggestion the painting's open-palmed pose might hint at a slight Messianic tendency. "The open-palmed gesture came from us playing around with the imagery from one of Klimt's paintings," she explains. "Originally he was going to paint gold flower detail around me but then later decided to keep that open gesture - but leave the background dark and mostly empty. I like how hopeful and open it is, at the same time as being quite composed and stylised."

Fraser is delighted to be displayed on the walls of the Glasgow Caledonian University New York campus on Wooster Street in Soho alongside the likes of Nicola Sturgeon. As an exile, is she aware of the impact the First Minister is now having not only in Scotland but the UK?

"I feel really positive about Nicola Sturgeon," she enthuses. "She seems very bright and energetic and brilliant. I came over from New York for the referendum, but unfortunately wasn't allowed to vote as I wasn't living in Scotland at the time.

Fraser admits her sense of Scots identity has become more polarised as a result of living in the States. "Yes," she says, laughing. "I was worried I would become one of those embarrassing ex-pats who talk about lochs and potato scones in a strange mutant accent. I have missed Scotland so much in my four years in New York, and that's why we are moving back to Glasgow this summer."

Gerard Burns paints from photographs, which the actress says was easier than sitting. "It was certainly quick and painless to sit for a few photos instead of sitting for an entire day. I sat for a portrait once before with another friend of mine who's an artist, Stuart Pearson Wright. It was years ago, in Eastbourne and it took two whole days, but I loved it. It allowed for a very unusual contemplation. To sit still and in silence for hours and hours whilst being observed is quite cathartic. I felt dazed and awake when Stuart said it was done. With Gerard's technique it was a brief connection and then he left to paint it alone. "

Thirty-eight year old Fraser, who first rose to fame in 1996 cult film Small Faces adds: "He recently sent me an image of the painting and the whole experience of having my portrait painted was really interesting. I really liked working with the artist, who's a lovely guy, really insightful and curious."

Fraser's parents travelled to New York last week on a visit and their famous daughter invited them along to the portrait exhibition - which also features Brian Cox and Alan Cumming - entitled A Brush With Inspiration. But of course, her family, in traditional Scots manner, downplayed the event.

"My dad just said: 'When did you get your portrait painted?' And he added they would like to come to the party, and that was that.

"But I haven't told the rest of my family about the portrait yet as it never seems like the right moment to mention; 'Oh, by the way I'm getting my portrait painted!'"

Fraser adds, grinning: "It's pretty much impossible to disclose this information without sounding a complete arse."