Monday Motivator: The First Ingredient in a Painting

Monsieur P Artiste Monday Motivator from Marion Boddy-Evans Isle of Skye art Studio

The landscape helped Monet determine how color expressing the light key was the first ingredient in a painting, not drawing.

Monet’s method was expressing light in colour, and not value.
Hensche on Painting page 27

Colours do, of course, have inherent value/tone. It’s about putting colour decisions before tone, not tone first and then colour.

The Manneporte (Étretat) by Claude Monet, 1883. Size: 65 x 81 cm. In the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Bookshop Find: On the Mastery of Water-Colour Painting

A chance find in Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness.

Book: On the Mastery of Water-Colour Painting by Adrian Hill

Book: On the Mastery of Water-Colour Painting by Adrian Hill

Book: On the Mastery of Water-Colour Painting by Adrian Hill

What I’ve found out: Adrian Hill presented BBC “Sketch Club” from 1958 to 1962 (way before Tony Hart‘s show), was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in London during the First World War (the first, according to his Wikipedia entry, which also says he went back to art college afterwards, worked as a professional artist and art teacher, and coined the term art therapy) and he wrote quite a few books. There are a dozen of his paintings on the UK public art collection website, and a short BBC radio interview.

But back to the book I found. It’s written in a style you don’t find in contemporary photo-led books, when sentences could be longer and have more complex constructions, language more descriptive and poetic, and opinions more strongly stated. It’s like listening to an artist thinking aloud on various aspects, with the thoughts organized not random.

I suspect quotes will make their appearance as Monday Motivators, but here’s one for today, from Chapter 6 which is called “Timidity and Courage”:

“…once perfect freedom of execution has been enjoyed, a little self-disciple will generally make itself felt, and the rebel will turn docile; whereas the law-abiding student will rarely ‘break bounds’ without persuasion.”

I do wonder if it caught my eye because my mind’s been on my introduction to watercolour workshop on Monday (still spaces if you’d like to join us). How when you know next-to-nothing about a workshop attendee other than they want to learn about watercolour painting you have to prepare approaches that’ll work for wherever they turn out to be on the spectrum from cautious (timid) to expressive (courageous).

Monday Motivator: Mix More Paint!

Monsieur P Artiste Monday Motivator from Marion Boddy-Evans Isle of Skye art Studio

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

Remember: it is always more wasteful to botch a wash in a painting because you run out of paint (and must stop to mix more paint that will not match perfectly the color you mixed before), than it is to throw away a little excess wash mixture.
Bruce MacEvoy

(Throwing it away isn’t the only option either.)

Watercolour Paint: How Much Water?

Colour Names vs Pigments

Primary Magenta and Process Magenta.

Spot the difference?

The small print on the labels tells us: PR 122 and PV 19.

Looking up the numbers tells me: quinacridone magenta and quinacridone rose.

Depending where you are on your colour journey, this may or may not be useful information.

The good news is all you really need to know is that one’s a red (R) pigment, the other a violet (V) so, besides the difference in colour as you see it, they’ll do different things when mixed.

Handprint says: “Because it is warmer than a typical magenta, quinacridone rose creates clean, bright mixtures across the red to yellow span of a color wheel. Its violets are not as bright as those mixed from quinacridone magenta, but I find this creates a more natural color when the mixtures are used for shadows.

For me the two feel like Rosa rugosa flowers (“pink-pink”) vs its rosehips (“red-pink”), which I can’t find a photo of right now.

At Patchings Art Festival last month I was very encouraged by the number of conversations where “single pigment colours” and “pigment numbers” weren’t met with blank looks.

“Colors into which a Sunset will Collapse”

“Colors into which a sunset will collapse”

This line is from a poem, Wolf’s Trees, by JD McClatchy.

I came across it via a circuitous journey that involved a new book on trees by the photographer Art Wolfe. Initially it wasn’t anything in the poem that struck a cord, but rather that it’s dedicated to the painter Wolf Kahn, who’s on my list of favourite artists.

The poem overall is one that’s in the “mmmm” category for me, but the line above intrigues my imagination. I find myself replacing “colour” with “branches”. Possibly because at certain times of year the sun sets ‘through’ the woodland at Uig. As yet ill-defined thoughts of a tree painting with sunset colours collapsing into the branches.

Uig Trees Sunset

Photos: July Word Prompt Charts (& August’s Chart to Print)

July 2018 Word Prompts Chart by Eddie

Are you ready for August’s word prompt chart? You’ll find it here. For inspiration and motivation, here are four completed July charts:

From Karen, who says: “The calendar words make me think outside the box.”
— I love the connection of 19 and 20 through the nursery rhyme!
July 2018 Word Prompts Chart by Karen

From Tessa, who says: ” I’m pleased with the cat. The waiter went pear shaped.”
— The waiter looks like she’s in that precarious moment where you wonder if it’s going to crash (go pear shaped) or be niftily slid onto the table! 
July 2018 Word Prompts Chart by Tessa

From Eddie, who says: “There are some interesting challenges this month which caused some head-scratching but were fun to do.”
— I think 16 is a particularly inspired idea!
July 2018 Word Prompts Chart by Eddie

From Margaret, who says: “Have to admit to a bit of Googleing to help with some of the images — in particular the piranha — well we don’t have any piranhas in Cumbria that I’m aware of. We do have a few standing stones in Cumbria so that one was soon put together. I was stuck on Mum and Dad when my arty pals suggested the male / female symbols and a family tree.”
— I think the family tree idea is an inspired bit of thinking!

July 2018 Word Prompts Chart Margaret

My thanks to everyone for sharing (and do email yours if you haven’t yet). Look forward to seeing what August’s chart brings.

August 2018 Word Prompt Chart

Monday Motivator: Brushstrokes vs Subject of a Painting

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“We all take pleasure in dazzling technique. But there’s a risk in making the brushstrokes the main subject of painting. …

“The paint strokes have taken on a life of their own. It’s a bit hard to tell what the strokes are trying to represent. …

“It’s easy to make a painting look like paint. But it’s a lifelong challenge to use paint to evoke the chill of autumn or the smell of a rose.”
— James Gurney, Pitfalls of Virtuosity, 3 January 2008

Some paintings are of course about the brushstroke, think those single wide calligraphic strokes. But fan-brushed trees and grasses that stop at the “looks like repeated dabs with a fan-brush” stage are a distraction I can’t easily see past.

How Many Colours Do You Need for a Successful Painting?

Warm and cool primary coloursThe short answer:
Try black or Payne’s grey or sepia.
(If you don’t believe this, then ask yourself how black-and white photography is still a thing so many years after the invention of colour photography.)

The colour theory answer:
A warm and cool blue, yellow and red.

The typical answer:
The primaries, white, and some earths, perhaps a green.

The Colourist’s answer:
Whatever floats your boat.

My slightly longer answer:
However many you wish, but probably not all in one painting.

Exploring colour is part of the joy of painting, getting to know the personality of each, how it behaves when it’s by itself and how well it plays with others. (I mean: the properties of a pigment and how it mixes with others.) Everyone has their preferences as to how many they want to play with, both at any particular moment and overall.

There is no magic number, it’s about personal preference and it’ll change. If you don’t enjoy colour mixing, you’ll likely use more straight-from-the-tube colour.

How many colours make a successful painting depends on how you use them. Mix them all together and you’ve a muddy mess. Have scattered colour across a composition and you’ve disjointed visual chaos. Worked together, considered and intuitively, it can be intriguing and full of discoveries for a viewer. Never let anyone insist that you limit yourself if you’re enjoying playing with your colours.

Six Primary ColoursWhen painting with acrylics, I tend to use a subset of colours that has got slightly larger over the past few years (I now need two hands to count the colours, not only one). I do have tubes of many other colours I’ve tried, and occasionally I play with these again. But mostly I use titanium white, Prussian blue, cadmium orange and yellow, lemon yellow, magenta, and perylene black. Phthalo blue, cobalt blue and phthalo turquoise are also regulars, cerulean blue sometimes joins in. Burnt umber is now neglected as I’ve shifted to mixing greys with orange and blue, and I still don’t like ultramarine blue much (sorry Sharron.

But when it comes to watercolours, since discovering Daniel Smith’s granulating colours, I’ve increasingly been having a ceilidh with colour. Pigments with distinctive characters, not homogenized to all behave the same way like well-socialized, good little colours. I’m not using every single colour in every single painting, and the more successful ones do have fewer colours, but I think these also work because they retain the joy of mucking about with all the colours.

When I moved to Skye 10 years ago, my watercolour set looked like this:
Thatch watercolour set

My current watercolour box looks like this:

big watercolour tin

It feels indulgent to have so many colours, but it’s also so joyous. Sometimes one is all you need, but how will you know which one unless you’ve tried many?


Why not join me exploring and playing with colour this September: read more…


A big thank you to all my Patreon supporters and subscribers; you enable me to spend more time writing. In the past six months I’ve written twice as many blog posts as I did in the same period last year, as well as create my “Word Prompts” drawing workbook and my “Think Like an Artist” book. Thank you too all my followers, readers, and encouragers. Here’s to whatever the next six months bring!

I Can’t Paint It Like That!

Sitting in the sunshine listening to the tinkling of the river at Sligachan today (I mean sketching), I looked left towards the Bundt-cake peak (I mean Glamaig) and noticed a triangle of cloud that you could impossibly put in a painting as it’ll just look wrong.