“I know the objects are where I left them. But they change with each viewing and always reward you with more looking—and most importantly, more thinking. Each time you stand before them, they expose something new—often because you’ve changed in the face of their endurance.”
The weather, the season, the time of day, our mood: these differences we tend to notice when revisiting a location. Less evident are the longer term changes to ourselves and how this impacts what we see and feel, and paint.
How to turn a ‘happy accident’ into a technique so an effect can be used repeatedly and built upon, that’s one of my thoughts behind this painting. The context is a smaller painting I did in a quiet moment when staying with friends last week, when I was supposedly tidying up my paints for the day: using acrylics in a watercolour-like way on unprimed wood panel, with the colour of the wood the equivalent of the white of the paper in a watercolour.
I was in two minds about the headland so have left it off this second painting, though I hear my friend’s “it gives context” comment as I think about it. I also changed used a bigger wood panel, to an A3 size (equivalent of two sheets of printer paper).
Part of me thinks I have overworked it and part says it’s underworked. I might add more white on it as it’s disappearing into the wood, as I did with the previous painting. I’m also pondering the direction of the woodgrain and whether I should have used this panel as landscape (horizontal) not portrait (vertical).
Hopefully fresh eyes tomorrow will decide it for me. All else fails, I use it as a panel for a painting with thicker paint.
“When I first started plein air, I relied very heavily on the scene doing all the heavy lifting in the painting. If the scene was boring, the painting was boring. I would walk and bike around all day with my heavy backpack and often not even find anything to paint.
But as I progressed, the role of the scene and the role of the artist started to switch places.”
When painting or sketching on location, do you choose the best spot for yourself or the painting? Do you spot a comfy-looking spot to sit first and then see what you might paint? Standing on a bank of pebbles may give you a better view, but will this be undermined by it not being stable underfoot and thus diverting some of your attention and energy?
I do a bit of both, depending on my mood and energy levels. The photo below was the day I chose a spot where I could sit whilst painting.
“I went and stayed with the Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum in 2012 for 6 weeks. … I could see how much joy he got from painting something he was pleased with. I understood that for me to have any sort of satisfaction and longevity within painting I needed to get the joy of creation back that I had had as a child.
… painting wasn’t about any sort of brute force. It was an exploration. Watching paintings evolve on the canvas without any pre-planning work was difficult for me initially, but it was enjoyable. Finishing the painting wasn’t the best part any more. It was like finishing a good film, I just wanted it to keep going.”
Here’s the photo gallery for August’s painting project featuring Duntulm Bay. Definitely lots of fun being had with the various textures and greys in the scene, in mediums from ink to oils. Enjoy!
Details from Eddie’s painting.
Remember, it’s never too late to do any of the projects, there’s no closing date to them. Simply email me a photo of your painting and I’ll add it to the next photo gallery. All the painting projects are listed here. Individual help from me with your paintings is available to project subscribers through my Patreon page and it also has a community section for easy sharing and commenting on fellow subscribers’ paintings.
There are still a couple of places open on both my November 2020 and March 2021 Capturing Skye workshops at Higham Hall. The one in November is limited to eight participants, and the one in March to ten.
While I imagine it’s going to feel a bit strange at first because of social distancing and face coverings, I’m sure we’ll get into the rhythm of it all quickly enough and settle into the fun to be had with paint. I’m really looking forward to it.
Info on Higham’s protocols for covid can be found on their website: “Please do not expect to see floor stickers or distancing signs all over the place, we credit our Highamites will some intelligence. You will, however, notice some sanitising stations (and our new, nifty, no-direct-touch water dispenser), some screens here and there, plus a few different layouts. Numbers on courses will be limited, we are only using bedrooms with private bathrooms, communal seating arrangements and some aspects of service will be sensibly controlled in line with guidance without crushing the ambiance.” Face coverings are also to be worn in company, and the tables/easels in the studio will be arranged to allow for social distancing.
If you’ve any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to email me or Higham.
And remember, you can ask Higham to go on the advance notice list for my November 2021 and April 2022 workshops.
This month’s painting project is about a moment, a wave starting to break as it reaches the shore, and working with a limited palette.
I took this photo at Tsitsikamma (Storm’s River) in South Africa in 2007, and still have the painting I did in acrylics from this on the wall. Thinking about this month’s project, I felt like a “dramatic wave” and looking through all my “big wave” photos, kept coming back to this one. That the photo is over a dozen years old is belied by the timelessness of the movement of the sea.
PAINTING PROJECT: As always, the style, medium, size, and format are up to you. Think about it a bit, but also allow yourself to be led by impulse to see where it takes you.
COLOURS: I would reach for Prussian blue, pthalo turquoise and titanium white, and work with this limited palette. A chance to really get to know the personalities of these two blues, their transparency and what happens when mixed with white and with one another.
COMPOSITION: I would leave out the sliver of rocky shore (the rocks are angular and dark), and probably any suggestion of sky, to take the painting away from a wider landscape into a composition about the act of a wave breaking. Leaving out the lower band of crashing foam is another possibility, making the foreground all about the water stretching up into the crest of the wave.
STYLE: Realism, but with the composition being about pattern and colour rather than location. Expressive, with large gestural brushmarks and splatters. Line and colour, using line to convey the movement and broad washes of colour across these.
LIGHT AND SHADOW: Notice that there’s shadow cast by the wave on itself, and that as there’s less water in the wave (towards the top), it’s lighter as the light starts to shine through.
If you’d like to have your painting included in the project photo gallery, simply email me a photo with a few words about it by the end of the month (if it’s later, I’ll include it in the next project gallery I create). If you’d like to have feedback on your painting, or help whilst you’re working on it, this is available to project subscribers (link).
Happy painting! I look forward to seeing what you’re inspired to paint.
“Delight, unlike pleasure, contains an element of surprise, an unexpected frisson. And delight, unlike pleasure, leaves no bitter aftertaste. You never saw the delight coming so you don’t miss it when it’s gone.
… Appreciating life’s small, fleeting pleasures demands a loose grip. Hold them too tightly and they break.”
“We keep coming back to learn more and more as we go along …We don’t load up facts and then spew out painting after painting because we had all the necessary information ready at hand. Try it first, decipher it next. We are explorers. …
“I teach my students that they must dive in while they learn basics. That way, they come back from the experience with specific questions, not just general thoughts like, “how do I get better?” or “what’s the right color?'”