My Painting Process #1: Warm and Cool

Brushmarks in orange

I’ve had requests to explain a bit more about my painting process (hence this is called #1). It’s an edifying, albeit slow, process nailing down what I do and why. It doesn’t always make sense to me, even as I realise I’m doing it, but then evolution isn’t necessarily logical or sensible (think: furry creatures that eat very specific leaves only).

I admire artists who work strongly with warm and cool colour*. I know the theory. I’ve tried doing it slowly and conscientiously. I’ve drawn myself little diagrams of what part of a composition should be warm light and warm shadow, cool light and cool shadow, and still blown painting it thus. I put warm into cool areas, make distant hills darker than nearer, and choose between lemon yellow and cadmium yellow based on transparency not warmth.

I could blame all the “soft northern light” on Skye, but that doesn’t hold for not doing atmospheric perspective in a painting. And Monet said the light in Algeria taught him to see colour so all my years under a southern African sky should surely have imbued me too.

Most of the time I don’t about consciously think warm or cool, neither the lack thereof nor the using of it.

[cue: shock, horror]

I paint with my favourite colours**, and if something isn’t working when I’m in “pondering mode”, I consider changing the colour and/or the colour’s tone. But it’s not colour consciously measured in warm/cool. (That’s why if you’re in a workshop with me and you ask about something in warm/cool terms it takes me a while to respond, I need a bit of thinking time.)

Will it always be thus? I don’t know.

Brushmarks in orange

*Such as Alan McGowan in his figure painting and Michael Chelsea Johnson in his landscape paintings.

**Prussian blue, phthalo blue cyan, phthalo turquoise, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow light and medium, cadmium orange, magenta and titanium white.

Small Seascape painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

Small Seascape painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

Monday Motivator: It’s an Artist’s Prerogative

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“It’s good to be able to push accuracy to a high level so that you know you can do it. At the same time, let’s keep in mind that changing what we see is also our prerogative as artists.

“We have the right to distort and exaggerate if it serves our purpose. In fact, the 19th century academic artists were encouraged to alter what they observed in a living model to approach a classical ideal.”

James Gurney, How can you draw accurately but quickly?, 5 September 2018

“But it was like that in the photograph” is the worst reason ever for doing something in a painting.

Kilt Rock in Sunshine and Mealt Falls, Isle of Skye

Followed by “but it was like that in real life”.

Just stop it already. Demand more from your creative self.

Subscribe to my not-quite-monthly newsletter

Monday Motivator: Let the Painting Speak

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

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

“It is important to allow a painting to speak for themselves in terms of balance of mark, gesture, colour and compositional balance…

“I am not particularly interested in illustrating a particular scene with every blade of grass, nor do I want location to be particularly obvious. I want the paintings to speak for themselves as entity.”

— Contemporary artist William Wood

Perhaps when someone looking at your landscape painting asks “Where is it?”, the answer should be “Wherever you want it to be”.

Small Seascape Talisker Bay painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

New Sheep Painting: TLC (Tractor, Lamb, Collie)

Sheep painting TLC (Tractor, Lamb, Collie) by Marion Boddy-Evans

Whilst sitting in my studio sharing his thoughts on my new sheep painting and other works-in-progress, the in-house art critic came up with the title: TLC (Tractor, Lamb and Collie).

Sheep painting TLC (Tractor, Lamb, Collie) by Marion Boddy-Evans
TLC (Tractor, Lamb, Collie). 100x100cm

When I started, there wasn’t a tractor in the composition (though it has appeared in a couple of other recent paintings). But at a certain point it drove into this painting-in-progress.
Sheep painting TLC (Tractor, Lamb, Collie) by Marion Boddy-Evans

And then, because the crofter of the red tractor needed somewhere to go for lunch, a crofthouse appeared.
Sheep painting TLC (Tractor, Lamb, Collie) by Marion Boddy-Evans

And because she’s a multi-tasker, there’s laundry on the line too.
Sheep painting TLC (Tractor, Lamb, Collie) by Marion Boddy-Evans

See Things Differently

laundry line isle of skye

What do you see? Make a list of at least six things. Do not use single words such as “washing”, “bus stop”, “road”, “clouds”, or “grass”.

laundry line isle of skye

How about “sun burning through the billowing clouds”, “wind catching the sheets on the line”, “shadow pattern of the wooden fence posts on the road with counterpoint played by white road markings”, and a “seat for Godot in the bus shelter”?

Did I think all this when I stopped to take this photo? No, I was out taking photos for my new reference book for my next Higham Hall workshop. I’d been hoping to find some laundry, as a reference for elements to include in a painting, and that’s what caught my eye, then the pattern on the road. The sun and clouds had been with me all afternoon, so I noticed it only in terms of not looking directly into it. Godot and the bus shelter, that came to me as I was looking at the photo to write this.

What are the thoughts on your list? Post a comment and let me know!

[Edited to add comments from Facebook]

Lyn Asselta: This is a fabulous exercise! Brilliant! I am always asking my students to stop looking for “nouns” (or objects, things).

Julie Rysdale: Smudgy bus stop windows telling the story of who waited; fenced fingers waiting to trip the unwary; green inky grass to smear on the evidence; alphabet shirts flapping their code to whoever will listen; sunshine fleeing the scene of time; the mysterious clouds the only witness to the drama unfolding!

Kit Wells: Refraction of light, bubbling clouds, stark shadow, moisture in air, contre jour washing, division of observed field into classic parts.

Maddy Buckman: Smeary windows, marching pickets in a fence, a peek at fields beyond through the gaps, billowing clouds on the move, lonely chairs in the empty space, soft but definite shadows, washing lifting in a breeze.

Monday Motivator: Respond Like a Stone

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

The second-century slave-turned-teacher Epictetus admonished his students in this way: “Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective?”

quoted by philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, Anger is temporary madness: the Stoics knew how to curb it

Anger is so easy to get caught up in. Instead of finding something definite to do in response to what angers us, we marinate ourselves in our anger. A little marinating adds flavour, but it isn’t the end point.

reflected clouds skye

The Layers of Mark Making (& Thought) in a Painting

The adage is that you learn by teaching has proven itself again this week during a 1:1 workshop during which we’ve been exploring mark making and layering. It’s forced me to slow down and ‘unpack’ how I paint, how I decide what I’m going to do, how I wield a brush, why it’s a flat brush and not a round. Things that have become everyday through time, things that are automatic through practise, things I don’t consciously think about yet must have at some point but can’t remember when that was.

Take continuous line. The first time I met this was in a life-drawing class when I was living in London. Was it love at first encounter? I don’t remember. But I do know I love it now, especially for rocky shores.

So explain continuous line, about drawing a line tracking what your eyes are looking at, without lifting up. Except with ink you do lift up because at a certain point the dropper from the bottle (which I use as a drawing tool) runs out of ink.

How do I control how much ink goes onto the paper a dropper? You can’t really, that’s part of the joy of using it, the unpredictability, the irregular line. But you can to some extent by remembering not to squeeze it, and to wipe it on the edge of the bottle.

How fast does it dry? Well it depends on how hot it is, if you’re outside in the wind or inside, plus the weight (thickness) of the paper you’re working on and, of course, how much ink you’ve put down.

How fast do you need to draw? Well it depends on whether or not you intend to spray the ink when you’ve done the first layer of drawing and have it spread. How far will it spread? It depends on how wet the ink still is, how much there is, how close to the surface you hold the spray bottle and how much you spray. Or maybe you just want some wet spots to spread with a brush into washes of grey (Payne’s), then you don’t need to be as fast but still not too slow so that it’s all dried.

And that’s just one layer.

This is as far as we got:

One is the workshop participant’s, the other mine. A3 size.
Layers of acrylic ink, paint, and coloured pencil.
Layers of acrylic ink, paint, and coloured pencil.

My next scheduled workshops are at Higham Hall in the Lake District, near Cockermouth. (Maximum group size is 12, and over four days there’s plenty of time for some 1:1.) Find out more here.

Word Prompt Charts: Photos of September’s & October’s to Print and Paint

September Word Drawing Chart

Another month of beautiful and inspiring results!

From Jerry: “Some good words for creative thought.”
Word Prompt Charts

From Tessa: “The yoyo had to be big to cover a mark made by chocolate. Looking forward to October’s one and the rest of the chocs.”
September Word Drawing Chart Marion

From Eddie: “Lots of interesting stuff as usual.”
September Word Drawing Chart

From Margaret: “This month quite a few of my drawing went outside the lines. I thought about doing an A3 chart but then I’d get too detailed so I’m spreading where required. I think my animals are getting better and I like my dragonfly (7). My rhino (24) looks a little smooth and friendly. I’ve also learned what a kudu is (10). Not sure that my yoyo (29) would even yo. Printer’s printing Oct sheet as I write.”
September Word Drawing Chart Marion

And mine. For which I am fighting the urge to write defensive words about why so many blocks are empty and why I’ve used mostly just black pen, but that’s not in the spirit of this challenge, it’s about the doing more days than not to whatever level. I realised looking at the photo that I didn’t follow through the thought of punching a pencil through the page for “torn” (6). :
September Word Drawing Chart Marion

October’s word prompt chart can be downloaded here.

Thanks for sharing everyone, and have fun with October’s!

Monday Motivator: Found vs Developed

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

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

‘Passions aren’t “found” … They’re developed.

[There are] two mind-sets. One is a “fixed theory of interests” — the idea that core interests are there from birth, just waiting to be discovered — and the other is a “growth theory,” the idea that interests are something anyone can cultivate over time.

…the fixed theory [can] cause people to give up too easily. If something becomes difficult, it’s easy to assume that it simply must not have been your passion, after all.

— Olga Khazan, “‘Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice“, The Atlantic, 12 July 2018

Put aside the expectation that learning to paint and draw should be easy and fast simply because you’ve finally decided now is the time to do it. Give yourself permission to spend the time, however long that turns out to be. Besides, the goalposts move as you learn.

My Top Painting Tips: Brush Away From an Edge

If you’re looking for October’s word prompt chart, you can download it to print here.