Monday Motivator: Monet Took Little Heed

Monday motivator art quotes

“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.

Monday Motivator: Line Speaks to the Mind

Monday motivator art quotes

Monday motivator art quotes

“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.

Project Photo Gallery: Seaweed Rocky Shore Paintings

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!

By Bayberry: I used ink and acrylic.
From Marion: I get a sense from the result that you enjoyed painting this, it has a vibrancy and energy to it.
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By Eddie: This is my take on the June challenge after doing the tweaks Marion suggested, which included extending the area of red seaweed, losing some straight edges and enlivening a rather flat sea. The texture is what I wanted to show and it involved multiple layers of acrylic, gesso and gloss medium with a final layer of oil pastel.

From Marion: There’s such a tangible sense of texture in the photo, and in real life I imagine it’d be hard to resist running my hand over the surface.
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By Gail: It is done all in ink with a little acrylic white for highlights. I added the cat to give it a focal point and thought a cat wouldn’t be too nbelievable on a beach. Really enjoyed doing this project in ink, I don’t do very many art projects with mostly ink and think the result looks okay. This is my home-made alcohol ink made from dried out markers and ink pen.

From Marion: Having had a cat sit on my lap at Talisker Bay beach, I have no trouble believing it! I’ve enjoyed looking at the layers of mark making, the ink energetically pulling my eye around whilst adding a sense of texture of the different elements (rock, water, seaweed) and the gentle colour enhancing it (love that you included the pop of pink on that one rock!).
By Barbara R: Mainly Colourcraft Brusho and acrylic inks.
From Marion: The tide’s come in!
By Erika: “Connections”.
Materials used: acrylic on canvas, Island moss, beet juice, kale greens and juice, money plant petals, dried balsam root leaves cut-outs from magazines and lots of acrylic paste and medium. The critic in me says: done too quickly (3 days), not well thought out, too much alike “Talisker Bay” paintings but overall interesting exploring new materials and checking out the colour “fast-ness” of natural juices.

From Marion: The time taken to make a painting is not a measure of the quality of a painting, it’s only a measure of time. Some paintings happen quickly, others don’t; the ones that take longer aren’t inherently better. I think it’s different to your Talisker Bay paintings and stands by itself, but also sits comfortably alongside them.
By Cathi: Ink and watercolour. I Loved this pic when it came in. I saw total abstracts. Lines predominated. Quilt designs were there too. Then the lights went out and motivation left me… This is kind of what I was imagining. love the half-submerged crocodile rock!

From Marion: I love the strong graphic nature of this, that’s taken it into abstract yet when my eye hits the boulder the shapes shift into seashore. And that’s definitely a crocodile!
By Claire: My June painting in watercolour, which has developed a mysterious blue base I can’t remove!

From Marion: I like the strong colour, that you were bold with this, because this is how it was in real life. It’s got that sense of almost-too-intense and vibrant colour that seaweed so often has.
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By Claire: After the half term invasion, I tried again in acrylics with a little bit of moulding paste. With a bit more time, I even dared to put in some pebbles with acrylic pen.

From Marion: I feel this builds on what you did in your first painting. You’ve got the intensity of colour, but it’s more broken up and not so linear. The texture paste has helped to give depth but also variation in colour as it has helped break up brushmarks.
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By Barbara: Acrylic on canvas.
From Marion: If it were mine, I’d keep working on it. Think of it as a colourfield abstract (think: Mark Rothko) of pattern and colour, rather than having a focal point. There wants to be variation, not every area with the same size or level of mark making but simultaneously having every area reward close looking.
Join the discussion on this painting…
By Bee: Ink, acrylic and oil pastels

From Marion: This painting is far livelier and colourful, and feels as if you enjoyed it more. I wonder if it’s bigger than the previous, giving you more space to make the marks? I like that you haven’t tidied up the drips, and that they go multiple directions, giving a sense of movement and water.
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By Bee: Watercolour and pen, I think this works best, I think the trouble with this project was the lack of obvious focal point.

From Marion: I’d agree that this is the most successful of the three, taken to another level with the pen mark making on top of the layers of colour. The combination of hard edges and soft edges, more saturated colour against the more muted.
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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.

From Shrl: When I saw your photo of the sheep at the crossing and the sign behind it, it reminded me of a similar painting I did a few years ago of a sheep at the side of the road and a sign behind it as well on which I wrote “3 miles to baa”. I didn’t use much artistic license other than making sky color different as well as foreground colors as well.

From Marion: I can’t help myself, I think the title for this has to be “Why did the sheep cross the road?” The touch of sunset colour (or maybe sunrise?) is echoes in the foreground colours, and adds to the tranquility of the scene.
March 19 Painting Project
By Claire: “My first go in acrylic with a few touches of oil pastel. I don’t know what happened with my improvised trees, must practise! I liked the light coming through to the path. But the whole thing is so dark and gothic, I gave up on the gorse as it looked unbalanced.”

From Marion: To the left of where I took the reference photo the path goes down into a shadowy gully, so your painting feels to me as if you were facing in that direction rather than the gorse hillside. I would take the darks further, adding deep purples and blues, perhaps also lighten the gorse to emphasise the darks.
May19 Painting Project
By Claire: “Here is my second attempt in watercolour. I found it difficult , with several features and no clear focal point. I deliberately downplayed the winter trees this time and tried to imagine a walk in early spring and coming across the patch of sunny gorse.”

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..

Four paintings of seaweed rocky shore by artist Marion Boddy-Evans
My four versions of June’s project.

July’s Painting Project: The Instructions

Beach Huts at Findhorn Beach

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.

Beach Huts at Findhorn Beach
Beach Huts at Findhorn Beach

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.

People Walking on Findhorn Beach

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.

Pebbles at Findhorn Beach
Pebbles at Findhorn Beach

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!

Sketching at Cullen & Gardenstown (On the North Sea Coast Part 3)

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.

Photos: On the North Sea Coast (Part 1)
Sketching at Bow Fiddle Rock (On the North Sea Coast Part 2)

Sketching at Bow Fiddle Rock (On the North Sea Coast Part 2)

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.

Photos: On the North Sea Coast (Part 1)

Photos: On the North Sea Coast (Part 1)

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.

Monday Motivator: Intuition

Monday motivator art quotes

“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.

Monday Motivator: What Others Don’t See

Monday motivator art quotes

“When you paint things exactly as they are, you don’t show people anything they couldn’t see for themselves — you’re telling them what they already know.”
Paul Strisk, The Art of Landscape Painting, page 34

It’s a game to play with a friend, to be somewhere, anywhere, and ask not “what do you see” but “tell me three things you see”. In a group, write it down, then share. Play it with yourself by closing your eyes, counting to ten and then seeing what pops up in your visual memory.

Some people look at things close by, others in the distance; how good your eyesight is and whether you wear glasses being factors too, of course. Some focus on details, some on colour. Sometimes a favourite thing will hold our attention, such as when I see foxgloves or daisies growing on a verge.

Foxglove Skye Scotland