Photos: My Snow Day

Woke up to a world of white, to the view being transformed into almost monochrome, shades of “interesting whites”. And silence as the wind has dropped. After giving the studio cats breakfast and putting the kettle on, I went out to enjoy that crunch-crunch of snow underfoot. Friends who lives in latitudes where you sit in snow for months will have to indulge my excitement as it’s rare for me to have it at garden level.

Looking northwest towards Camus Mor
Wider angle on the same view
Looking west
These pawprints most likely belong to Buffycat, who likes to be outside in all weathers
The sea turns the most beautiful colours under snow showers; this photo doesn’t do the blues and turquoises justice. A real-life Mark Rothko colourfield in blues.
Guess it snowed from the west last night.
Bracken is such a beautiful colour this time of year.
Creeping thyme

Searching Intensively for Cauliflowers

Sign that reads this path is dangerous
Sign that reads this path is dangerous

I never delve very far into the data that my WordPress website software collects automatically (via though inedible “cookies”), because, you know, only so many hours in a day and I’d rather be painting or writing. But I do look at what words people have used on search engines that have led them to my website because I find it intriguing. (And before you jump into the search box on my site with weird search strings, these aren’t included in the stats, only those in search engines such as Google that have led to someone clicking across to my website.)

Excluding anything with my name, here’s a list from this year, starting with those that seem to be looking for homework answers:

  • ____________ is the inclusion of the same or like elements in a composition art
  • what is your first impression on the painting of van gogh impressionism
    (leading to this article)
  • list the elements of composition
  • three parts of composition in space are?
  • drawing composition odd vs even
    (see my rule of odds)

Paint manufacturers ought to take note that there are numerous about broken paint tubes and caps:

  • ways to save oil paint if it breaks
  • how to repackage broken paint tubes
  • how to perserve acrylic paint with no cap
  • cap of my oil paint broke
    (you’ll find my tips here)

Some are looking for techniques and how-tos,

Getting quite specific on occasion:

One puzzled me until I did the search myself and discovered it was a Monday Motivator:

Some I know didn’t give the person the information desired because they weren’t after the art meanings of words:

  • what is the compostion of gorse

Whatever you’re looking for, do remember that you’re welcome to email me and ask directly. It’s not bothering me, it’s not wasting my time, I’m not too busy (which isn’t to say you’ll get an instant response), and it’s not a stupid question.

I have also created a Q&A section on my new Discord forum/message board here. I know, it’s yet another thing to join and learn to navigate, but back when I wrote the forum was a friendly, safe place to ask and share, and I made many friends, so I’m going to see if 2021 is the year we rediscover the joys of a message board. At the moment I’ve just poked around at the written aspects of Discord, but there are also video and voice options. Fingers crossed that my fibre broadband connection does indeed happen in January so I can start exploring these.

Isle of Skye road sign: falling rocks

Merry Christmas

In a year packed with unexpected twists and turns, uncertainties and anxieties, I want to thank all my friends, followers, subscribers, readers, patrons, and collectors, for your support and encouragement, in big ways and small. I wish you a peaceful end to the Gregorian calendar year, and may 2021 be full of moments of joy and laughter, rainbows and daisies, puddles to splash in and pebbles to hold in your hand for a while.

I will be checking my email and social media over the festive season, as well as my new forum/message board on Discord here, so don’t hesitate to send me a message if you’re in the mood for talking or just to say hello.

Last, but not least: If you want to give yourself, and me, a last-minute Christmas gift, how about becoming a Patreon subscriber? Different tiers are available, all of which can be paused, or stopped, at any point. Details here…

Monday Motivator: When I Paint…

Monday motivator art quotes

“When you paint a subject it is not a record but a statement about what particularly interests you as an artist.

“This might be the colour, texture, light, tone, edge values or pattern. It can be anything at all and only you know what that ingredient is … even if we have to delve a little to uncover it.”

Anne Blockley, Watercolour Workshop, p70

What interests me most changes, from subject to subject as well as with repeat visits to the same subject. It depends on how I’m feeling, the weather, the light, what materials I have to hand.

Pattern then colour or is it colour then pattern? Is it shape or pattern, and when does repeated shape become pattern (visualising a rocky shore)? Soft and lost edges. Lines in landscape, but not as hard edges.

Most of the time I don’t consciously think about it. Sometimes it’s something someone says that makes me realise. Sometimes it’s sitting sorting through a pile of paintings: failed and incomplete paintings can reveal things as much as successful ones.

There’s not a recipe for painting. It’s a whole cookbook’s worth.

I Cannot Well Say How

I cannot well say how I decide which words to keep, it’s as tangible as grasping water in my fingers: some words slip away instantly, some words linger, some words decide to cling.

It was a storm of wind and rain,
passed I cannot well say.
Very well drawn struggles,
with difficulties,
and endeavours.
More desire to learn.
Learnt more.

I started a thought this afternoon:
draw, art, poetry, painting.
Trust myself:
suggesting, varying, adding.
Till the whole [is] adjusted.

Monday Motivator: Waiting for the Picture’s Intent (Not Yours)

Monday Motivator quote

“…back when I was teaching art, the hardest thing to get across was convincing students to let go of their preciousness. Either they clung to a preconceived notion of what their piece was going to look like, or they were scared to ‘mess up’ after they’d barely laid-down the groundwork.

“… I would repeatedly remind the class that they wouldn’t know what their work was going to look like (or what it was about) until they’d committed to multiple of layers of paper and paint.

“My own collages often have twenty or thirty such layers, the colours and the content matter in a constant state of change, waiting for the picture’s intent (not mine) to emerge. Then, when the subject, the palette and the atmosphere finally emerged, there was still the fine brush work to be done. That consisted of carefully painting out the tears and cracks so that the image developed continuity and became a single surface. When a piece is complete, it needs to speak with a single voice, and if it doesn’t, then it simply isn’t finished. “

Nick Bantock, on Facebook 21 November 2020 and check out his art for sale

The highway from A to Z is never the interesting road to travel, and a motorway cafe is never going to serve anything but the predictable. It’ll get you to a destination, but is it truly where you want to be?

Photos: A Few Moments of Calm

This time of year, this far north (57°N), the sun sleeps in late (sunrise today 08:58), doesn’t stay for long (sunset today 15:40), and doesn’t get very high in the sky. It makes seeing sunrise/sunset easy, and for a moodiness during the day. Driving around the “north end” this morning to see a friend, I stopped a few times to snap some photos.

First the Trotternish Ridge, looking south:

Then reflections in a little loch:

And then low-tide reflections at the beach at Staffin:

December’s Painting Project: A Dark Foreground

This month’s reference photo was taken in southern Scotland on a crisp November morning with the sun relatively low in the sky, backlighting and silhouettting a scattering of autumnal leaves and branches. It’s is an excuse to get out yellow, orange, sienna, as well as explore strong darks. The challenge lies in the dark foreground: having it dark enough to have dramatic impact but still pull you into the painting.

In the dark foreground there’s a stream, path, bench, and autumnal leaves covering the ground. If you click on the photo to get the full-size version you’ll see these more clearly.

You might choose to mix a chromatic black (the darkest mix you can create, typically a blue/green/red) rather than use a tube black because it’s a richer dark. It’s also easy to create gentle variations in it by varying the proportions of the colour in the mix and/or by not mixing the colours completely before you use it.

I’d be telling myself to not go too dark too early but to also not be afraid of the dark. Better to need to glaze or add another layer of dark later on in the painting’s development, than to have a black hole. But not to be half-hearted about committing to having a dark foreground.


  • The tree isn’t right in the centre of the composition. The base of its trunk is to the right of centre and then stretches across the centre. Its branches lead your eye up and across. The tree on the right echoes this whilst providing a dark ‘frame’ on the right to keep your eye in the composition.
  • Use branches to lead the eye across the composition, not worrying to replicate them exactly as they are in the photo but for the photo to be a starting point.
  • Notice in the top left corner all the small branches going off the side and top edges in an open, lacey pattern. It’s not a single branch going into the corner, which would lead your eye in and off the edge.
  • The green hill runs down in an improbably straight line, creating a very hard edge that’s distracting. I would change it to a more irregular line, putting a curve into it. Just because it’s in the photo and like that in real life doesn’t mean it should be like that in the photo if it doesn’t work for the painting.
  • Put the houses in the distance or not? They give a sense of scale, and add to the story, but are they a distraction?
  • Consider the format: might you crop it to a square or a vertical rectangle rather than horizontal? The photo is a result of compositional choices I made when taking it,and I like the horizontal format with space for the branches to stretch out into, but that doesn’t mean it has to be this.

If you’d like to see your painting included in the project gallery, simply email it to me. And remember, it’s never too late to do any of the monthly painting projects or share your paintings of any of these. For some extra project-related content and one-to-one help, become a project subscriber on my Patreon here.

Happy painting!

Monday Motivator: Choosing Little Joys

Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote

“Choose joy. Choose it like a child chooses … the crayon to paint a sky.

“Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow.

“… Joy is not a function of a life free of friction and frustration, but a function of focus — an inner elevation by the fulcrum of choice. So often, it is a matter of attending to … “the little joys”; so often, those are the slender threads of which we weave the lifeline that saves us.”

Maria Popova, 14 Learnings from 14 Years of Brain Pickings

Little joys like comparing the yellows in my paintbox to lichen:

Seaside Yellows Watercolour

Like playing with shadows when I thought I was going to play with colour:

Like colour mixing for the sake of colour mixing not for creating a painting:

Warm and cool primary colours

Like the sun reflecting in the sea:

Photos Skye to Harris Ferry