“Innovation makes its mark in the world only at the cost of endless effort, groping, and guesswork.
“Manipulating both form and substance, a painter stumbles across what will one day be [their] future path without knowing exactly that it lies in that particular direction…” — “Monet Water Lilies: The Complete Series” by Jean Dominique Rey and Denis Rouart, page 75
You’ll know how to get there once you’re there, but until you’re there you won’t know how to get there. And then “there” moves, and the artistic journey starts anew.
“If it is untrue to call [Monet] self-taught exactly, he nevertheless took little heed of the usual stages in an artist’s training … absorbing only what was to his purpose and fed into his research.” — “Monet Water Lilies: The Complete Series” by Jean Dominique Rey and Denis Rouart, page 74
I’m a great one for giving something a try because it’s sometimes the unexpected things that we end up enjoying the most rather than the eagerly anticipated ones. But also for not spending time being bored with something simply because that’s the way one ‘ought’ to do it, tradition for tradition’s sake. One size doesn’t fit all. There are many paths to the same point.
“Tone speaks directly to the emotions. Line speaks to the mind. Or, rather, it speaks to the emotions through the mind by distilling the idea of the thing.
“Lacking the mimetic immediacy of tone, which is a closer approximation of the actual way that we perceive the world, the abstractness of a line drawing can never look like its subject in any literal sense. It can only look like itself, however much it may remind us of things seen.” — Frank Hobbs, Line Drawings
A line is the simplest of marks, one we know so well yet never in all its possibilities.
In a line drawing, aim for the lines to be having a ceilidh not a committee meeting.
From watercolour to ink to acrylics to oil pastels to beet juice, there’s a lot of variation in the paintings done in response to June’s painting project. Enjoy!
Remember, it’s never too late to do a project, they’re not limited to only that month and can be done at any stage as fits your time. Your paintings will simply be included in the next photo gallery.
Several people have commented on the lack of a focal point in my choice of painting project photos, which has made me realise how much my compositional choices are biased towards pattern and colour. It’s made me question and ponder, learn something about my own painting, and it may well develop into a workshop exercise..
On the beach at Findhorn (east of Inverness), there’s a colourful row of beach huts sitting atop the dunes. When I was there, the sun was shining but rain clouds were blowing in from the west, creating a dramatic sky.
The photo I’ve chosen for July’s painting project has a definite focal point (for everyone who missed having one in June’s project!), plus the compositional challenge of strong diagonals on the foreground pulling the eye into the distance but then using the clouds to lead the eye back up and out.
In terms of perspective, draw lines towards a vanishing point on the horizon for the top (apex of the roof) and bottom (lower edge of the back wall) of the row of beach huts. Spend a bit of time getting it figured out in your head, then recheck it later. Trust yourself rather than colouring-in your drawing.
Look at how much of the back wall of the huts you see, how you see less of each as they get further away. Also the width of the huts, and the angle of the ridge of the roof compared to the horizon of the sea. Notice also that the side wall is darker in tone than the back, and that it’s only the nearest huts where we see cast shadows.
If you can’t face the perspective on the architecture, consider leaving some or all of the huts out. It’ll be quite a different painting, and for me the main decision would then be whether to make the sky most of the composition (three quarters than the not quite two thirds in the photo).
Here’s a photo I took when I’d walked past the beach hut. The figures give a sense of scale. I’m also looking down at them, there being a high bank of pebbles at this stretch of the beach. They’re very silhouetted, but watch out for making them cutouts; imagine some clothing and colourful darks.
The composition with the diagonal bands of colour in the foreground is anchored by the figures, giving the story of the scene continuing in both directions. Without the figures it becomes a painting about bands of colour and texture.
Here’s a close-up of the beautiful pebbles on this beach. A colourfield of pattern, shape and colour. Click on the photo to get the biggest version of it.
The pebbles could be fun to do with granulating watercolour, or texture medium. Also as a collage with different papers. Or watercolour with oil pastel. Or larger than life on a big canvas. I wouldn’t try to paint them all, because I’m not that patient, rather pick a section or use it as a jumpstart.
To my eye, it’s the dark shadows between and beneath them that give a sense of depth, rather than form shadow (changes in tone on a pebble). Probably enhanced by the memory of how flat and smooth most of the pebbles were here.
As always, medium, size and format are up to you. I look forward to seeing what this inspires. If you’ve done a painting in response to June’s project, or any earlier one (see list of painting projects), do email me a photo to put in the photo gallery so we can all enjoy it. Happy painting!
Boats and architecture are not something I sketch. All that perspective and stuff … which I can do it if I spend a lot of time but for me that’s not a recipe for relaxed drawing at the seaside. But I so want to pull the ideas that include these subjects out of my head and onto paper, and sketching would be the starting point. So I didn’t bother trying to get it right, but focused instead on enjoying the patterns of walls, roofs, chimneys and, at Cullen, the viaduct. I consider these as fear-conquering sketches, first steps on a journey.
The two sketchbooks I used were an A4 size with 350gsm watercolour paper from Seawhite, and A3-width Derwent panoramic with 160gsm smooth drawing paper that didn’t like rain drops at all but does has a useful elastic to hold down pages.
Looking at these photos you need to add a soundtrack of gulls and shags and wind. I came here several times, sketching in different mediums, struggling against tendency to straighten and shorten the ‘leg’. Most mornings I had it to myself. At low tide you can walk almost to the rock without getting your feet wet. One afternoon, at high tide, there were three women who swam out to it, without wetsuits.
I spent last week on the ‘other side’ of Scotland, on the North Sea coast, from Findhorn to Aberdour. Looking and sketching, listening to and watching birds and waves, thinking and trying not to think, planning and dreaming, walking along a long sandy beach and sitting at rocky coves, taking photos for possible future painting projects and snaps of many an interesting bit of rocky shore. These photos are a few things that caught my eye.
“Intuition is subjective and depends on … what you go after. Much of intuition is also related to memory and perception.” Albert Handell, Intuitive Composition, page 22
Instinctively knowing how an ink might behave, what adding that colour will do to the others … these individual snippets of knowledge are the building blocks, the muscle memory of intuition. Practising art techniques can improve your artistic intuition.