It’s a dark and stormy day as I pulled together the photos for the November painting project (instructions here) gallery, the kind of weather Eddie has in his pen and brushed-ink painting:
I had a few goes at painting this myself, with mixed success. But as it’s a building I’ve walked past even since we moved to Skye, even my failed paintings of it are more than I’d managed previously and so I should count them as victories.
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“…what happens at about the age of 5, when people enter the school system, is that drawing and writing become split. That’s when there’s some idea that those two things need to be moved away from each other. Even to the point, you know, where we start looking at books that have more words than pictures.” — Lynda Barry. Drawing ‘Has To Come Out Of Your Body’
Use words in your sketchbook. Bring back the integration of words and pictures that’s so enjoyable in illustrated books, comics, graphic novels. Don’t believe that sketchbooks are for images only.
Sometimes I mostly use words. It doesn’t turn my sketchbook into a diary, it just means I was in a words mood not a drawing mood.
“Afraid is a country where they issue us passports at birth and hope we never seek citizenship in any other country. The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change. Audre Lorde, 18 February 1984 diary entry, A Burst of Light and Other Essays, via Brainpickings
Uncertainty is a certainty of life.
Uncertainty is a certainty of art.
Being afraid to try, being afraid of failure, being afraid of letting ourselves down is so much easier than hoping for success, hoping for discovery, hoping to enjoy the process of learning. Choose hope over fear, and find like-minded people rather than naysayers.
To end the year, I’ve chosen a subject that’s iconic: the long-hair, long-horned Highland cow. Their long hair covers a coat of shorter, helping to shed rain in a wet climate. Most Highland cows I see are rusty-earthy-orange-brown, but their colours range from black-brown to blonde-white.
The photo is intended to be a starting point, open to various composition possibilities, rather than being a photo that presents you with a perfect composition, lighting, etc. Will it be more of a portrait of a single cow, or will you include them all and a suggestion of location? Might you include more grass rather than the bare earth around the feeder? Make a note of your first thoughts or impulses, then push the ideas a bit further with thumbnails to see it leads.
The style, medium, and size of painting are up to you. Click on the photo to get the largest version of it or go here.
Suggestion: do versions in different mediums.
Pencil (with an eraser)
Pen (as you can’t erase you have to work through/past mistakes)
Black ink (with a brush not a pen)
Pastel, soft or oil (the scale of the painting should suit the size of mark a pastel makes; don’t work too small)
Coloured Pencil (don’t work too big or you’ll be at it all month)
Watercolour (transparent colour)
Acrylic or oil paint
Collage (torn or cut)
So far I’ve ticked 2, 3 and 9 from the list (though the later did start out as a watercolour), aiming for a ‘portrait’ of a cow rather than a ‘landscape with cows’ painting.
It was such a beautiful, windstill morning I couldn’t resist painting outside despite the temperature struggling to get to 0°C. I don’t know that I would recommend it, but having ink and watercolour freeze as I used it was intriguing. It certainly “sparked joy” as ice crystals gathered on the tip of my brush.
Ending up with paint frozen on the surface of the paper made for something very tactile, inviting my fingers to slide across it. Of course, as soon as the painting was moved to a slightly warmer environment (i.e. indoors), it melted and the paint behaved like “normal”; the paper was cold-damp to its core across the entire sheet and took a little while to dry through.
This was my favourite painting from today, a slice of loch shore, started on location and finished indoors.
There’s one little tree in the Uig woodland that wears its autumn colours later and longer than the rest. I call it the “The Little Tree That Could” (context: the children’s book The Little Engine That Couldwith the lines “I think I can, I think I can … I knew I could“) and first painted it in 2014 (see this blog). On Monday I went to say hello again, taking my watercolours and some acrylic ink (video link if you don’t see it below).
This video was taken when I started moving the colour around with a rigger. (It goes a awry for a bit as I open a bottle to add more orange, just skip that bit. Video link)
My fourth painting is my favourite, ending up a bit like Moses’ burning bush. Watercolour only.
I was sitting on a convenient rock next to the stone wall. 1 = Watercolour set. 2 = Painting drying. 3 = A bit of waterproof padding to sit on. 4 = Plastic folder with paper that also serves as a ‘drawing board’. 5 = Inks and fluid watercolour in plastic box. 6 = Water bottle (for me before my brushes) 7 = Backpack with raincoat, biscuits etc.
“There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It’s made up of all those who’ve consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination.
“… Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve.
“Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.
“…This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. ”
I put these three horse mannequins out of paint-splatter reach in the studio at Higham Hall, only for them to conjure up images of the horses of the apocalypse as I looked up at them.
There would, strictly speaking*, need to be four for it to be apocalyptic — a white, red, black, and pale symbolizing pestilence, war, famine, and death — but it still got me wondering what the three horses of an art apocalypse would be. I ended up with perspective, tone, and colour riding on an Palomino, Appaloosa and a Brindle.
“…there are three qualities you need to develop as a painter: patience, persistence, and passion.
“Since painting is a complex process, you need to be patient with yourself as you learn to master the craft. Your persistence is important, in order to move past your failures and frustrations. And finally, it is your passion…that propels you forward.”
The Three P’s of Painting: Patience, Persistence, Passion
Passion, enthuasiasm, desire … perhaps the easiest to have in abundance.
Persistence, endurance, determination … it’s a long-distance event not a sprint. Pace yourself.
Patience … the hardest as we expect to learn in less time than is reaistic. Think about how many years it took you to learn to read and write, how we start one letter at a time not with five-syllable words such as phthalocyanine (aka phthalo, as in the blue).
There’s a parking spot on the road next to Loch Oich (between Invergarry and the Laggan swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal) where I often stop to take photos of the trees on either side. The regimented rows of the plantation on one side, with light from behind, and relaxed gathering with dark trunks on the other.
The next is the much-photographed stretch of road through Glen Coe, which in November wears shades of earthy greens, yellows, browns (that these photos don’t do justice to).
Heading from Carlisle to Higham Hall, I head to Upfront Gallery and Puppet Theatre for a coffee, then use random minor roads heading west knowing that at some point I’ll hit a main road again. I’ve met this determined tree before, but still don’t know how to deliberately find it.