Yesterday I caught the ferry from Uig to Tarbert to deliver a painting, being met at the terminal because the ferry turns around rapidly, 20 minutes between scheduled arrival and departure. It was a nary-a-cloud-in-the-sky day with glorious sunshine, albeit wish-I’d-remembered-my-gloves cold.
“In traditional water-ink [Chinese] painting, the artist often uses a shifting perspective so that the eye travels from one place to another and the viewer feels like a traveller moving through the painting. — Sungsook Hong Setton, “The Spirit of the Brush“*, page 68
If you struggle with perspective and are fedup with bumping your head against it, have you considered using a perspective tradition from a different style of painting? Earlier styles of European painting, pre-Renaissance, didn’t do vanishing points and horizon lines and vantage points aka linear perspective. 20th century modern art abandoned it. Chinese and Japanese art traditionally never used it. Between all the options lies your truth.
Some context: I’m a huge fan of Alan McGowan’s painting and have learnt a great deal from his art workshops. Alan wrote this on a Facebook thread and, with his permission, I’m reprinting it here. I think it’s important anyone wanting to learn to draw and paint doesn’t get stuck believing Western classical realism is the ‘right’ or ‘only’ way, there’s so much more to explore.
I had an interesting conversation with a young art student at the weekend … It seemed that she associated skills with a “classical” approach. What struck me was that there was no awareness of another way of doing it, that one could develop discipline and skills in drawing and in painting through other (lets call them “expressive”) approaches, that have been used for years by people like Schiele, Freud, Uglow, Jenny Saville, Rodin. That one needn’t draw “sight-size”, that Barque drawings are not the end point of drawing, that painting does not have to start with a grisaille… etc, etc.
That’s not to decry what the atelier system does, but to say that there has always been a dichotomy in representation between the classical (Raphael, Ingres) and the expressive (Michelangelo, Delacroix), and the understanding of these motivating, invigorating and oppositional forces is being lost. …
I’d say that there is more than one version of what “properly” means, and certainly there are a variety of different ways, techniques and teaching methods that one could use to try and achieve it. I would further argue that the methods one uses are intimately connected to the kind of results you aim for. So not every way is the same. I think this is important in the same way that art is important (moreso than the right way to do other things), because the diversity and choices within it reflect the diversity within people — there can’t be a single “proper” way any more than there can be a single proper way of being a person.
I believe in craft, and I hope my work shows that. I think the point I am trying to make is that not one system has a monopoly on craft; or that there is more than one idea of what constitutes craft.
I am not an expert on music but I think that there are other scales in say Japanese music, Asian music, the Blues scale etc which are not the same as the Western harmonic scale that Mozart used. Whether they are better, inferior or just different becomes a distinction that one makes, and as a musician would have to make. The definition of what is correct varies — as an example at one time idealised proportion was valued over realistic proportions in Neoclassical painting — it’s a different way of defining what is valuable and “correct”.
You know when you’ve 99% decided you want to do something, but once it’s done it’s done so the little bit of uncertainty makes you hesitate, and hesitate, and second-guess, and hesitate? That’s where I was with this painting (inspired by daffodils in a blue vase) when I’d decided I needed to cut off a bit from the bottom:
I’d added the Payne’s grey to give a sense of the blue vase standing on a surface, because it had felt like it was floating. But having done it, it felt like an irritating distraction; being acrylic ink, it dried quickly and adding more paint would spoil the transparency, so I let it be.
Having left it overnight so I wasn’t quite so emotionally connected to it, I reminded myself that just because the sheet of paper was A3 when I started, and I’d fitted the composition into this, it didn’t have to stay this way (that’s one of the joys of working on paper). Out came another sheet to see where I should crop it. Up, down, lift off, up down, lift off…there. Make a light pencil mark. Get ready to fold the sheet so I could tear it (having given up on finding the metal ruler and knife). Hesitate. Look again. Repeat.
Eventually I did fold the sheet and tore it along the fold line (with the mantra “hold the piece you want to keep in your tearing hand”). Phew, I hadn’t ripped the painting and did like the result.
But then the sheet had three hard edges and one torn edge. So I repeated the exercise and tore the other three edges too. Not really sensible, but we shouldn’t always do the sensible thing.
I heard today from Higham Hall that my April workshop is fully booked! I’m looking forward to it and am sure we’re going to have as much fun as last year. If you missed a spot on that, the good news is that I’ve a new workshop at Skyeworks Gallery in April (and in September), part of the gallery’s new Art Retreats, which gives the option of a price including tuition, accommodation, breakfast and lunch at The Isle of Skye Baking Company.
Sketch to Studio on Skye
2 to 6 April 2018
17 to 21 September 2018
Exploring ways to gather reference material on location (including sketching and photography) which we will then use to develop paintings in the studio at Skyeworks.
Skyeworks Art Retreat prices: including tuition, accommodation (shared house within short walking distance), breakfast, lunch and welcome dinner, basic materials £795. Art Retreat including tuition and basic materials only £450. Email me on art(a)marion.scot if you’re interested and I’ll put you in touch with the gallery.
I’m also doing another “Capturing Skye” workshop at Higham Hall in November, which isn’t up on their website yet but you can contact them to register an interest and be amongst the first to get the details. This one is mixed media, so an excuse to dig out all those supplies you don’t often use or have been too intimidated to try.
This word prompt chart for February comes from Issie. Once again, fun to look across the squares, noticing all sorts of things, such as the apple (12 apple core) being a green apple rather than red. I think my favourite blocks are 22 Cheese and 26 Spoon.
Now to the surprise: I’ve decided to create a a printed book version of 365 word prompts, on paper that would take pencil, coloured pencil, or not-too-wet paint. It will be A5 size, 56 pages, and wirobound so it opens flat. The paper will be 170gsm uncoated, the same as in my updated Pocket Muse. My thought is that this way you have a journal of your drawings all in one place. It should be ready early April, but you can pre-order a copy, for a special pre-publication price, here.
“Progress is never permanent, will always be threatened, must be redoubled, restated and reimagined if it is to survive.”
— Zadie Smith
This quote is about society, not art, but it could be.
If you aim to stay at a particular point, it gradually wears down and you one day notice you’re not where you thought you were.
If you’re thinking this is more depressing a thought than motivating, it’s not a Sisyphus scenario, more of a never-stop-practising-your-scales situation. Some days it’s simple C major, other days tackling C-flat major.
I think my favourite artistic scale is exploring different blues and my should-practice-more scale is tone vs colour. What’s yours?
If you’ve been anywhere near the UK news you’ll have heard little other than the blizzard conditions (aka The Beast from the East) that’s hit most areas (not Skye though, where there’s a lot of muir burning happening). Margaret has shared her word prompt drawings, saying:
“As I’m inside surrounded by snow, I found myself printing the March grid and quite enjoying thinking up ideas. As its only the 2nd March, I reached for February’s grid and have had a pleasurable time this morning with my pens and coloured pencils filling this in. I wonder what our grids may tell people about us. I’m thinking a wannabe poker player (20 chips) with a supportive friend (14 friend) who likes club sandwiches (28 sandwiches). No 15 under the oak is definitely my favourite oak tree (the Wharton oak). I’ll do some more self analysis at the end of March.”
When I created March’s chart, I found myself thinking more sequentially through the days, so to mere there’s a greater connection. But we’ll see at the end of the month. Thanks for sharing your grid Margaret, and I hope the snow clears soon and lets spring arrive.
My thanks to my patrons who are helping me have time to write more each month, including time to create the monthly word prompt. Will you be my next $2 patron (or via PayPal)? It works on the 1,000 steps principle, each small contribution helps keep me on an artistic journey we can share. Thank you.
And one from Tessa, who says: “I have attached my Feb word prompts. Stella my dog (sadly no longer with us) appeared several times. Studio cat and some of the words were the prompts. I found myself extending ideas out of the box and linking ideas between boxes. Again fun to do.”
I love that your sandwich has a bite out of the middle Stacey, and the ball Stella’s chasing being outside the grid Tessa. Once again, it’s fun seeing what each block/word has prompted. My thanks to you both for sharing!
I’ve once again had such fun looking at the photos of completed February Word Prompt charts. Once again ideas that would never have occurred to me (including cultural reference such as Chase being part of a bank’s name), and the way everyone’s done something that’s different, all from the same starting point.
From Eddie: “It was fun and challenging at times.”
From Erika: “This was a tough one. Some days came by easy, others I could not find a picture in my mind whatsoever — but was determined to fill all the blank spaces, eventually!”
From Gail: “I really enjoyed this project since this past month is one of the more dismal months of the year around here and I sit around bored out of my gourd trying to get inspired to pick up a brush or a pencil or even think about art. This little project got me going and I’ve managed to draw, paint or experiment artistically every day. Thanks for the motivation and inspiration!”
From Lynn: “I am a doodler… when I was seeking inspiration, I would doodle along the edges of the sheet… I used colored pens and markers, so it is mostly color. I find it challenging to draw so small and with the pens it isn’t very forgiving, but I didn’t give up or tear it up, so that is good!”