So having discovered my phone has a slow-motion option on its videos, I’ve been playing with it a bit. This short clip shows how I splatter paint, a technique I use a lot for my sheep and seascape paintings.
It’s a “happy accident” technique you learn to control through practice. The consistency of the paint is crucial, and that you learn through trial-and-error.
The quality of the video isn’t brilliant because it was done late afternoon in low winter light. And imagine my phone balance precariously on my tripod, held by various bulldogclips. Perhaps I ought to set a Patreon goal that relates to better video equipment?
As sometimes happens, I lost the plot. I was doing a little studio study based on my sketches and previous paintings of the River Rha, and at some point I lost too much of the dark and ended up with mid-tone mediocrity and brushwork blended to blandness.
I’d started on a sheet of dark-charcoal pastel paper* that could’ve served as the dark , but painted out too much of it. (*Full disclosure: it wasn’t a carefully considered choice but simply the sheet of A2 that came to hand in a portfolio bag of mixed papers.) I was frustrated with myself, with what I’d done with a brush, so instead of continuing to paint I decided to change mediums, which can be a bit like changing gears. I reached for some oil pastels to redraw a layer of line and hopefully reinvigorate the painting.
Once I’d re-found the joy in the piece, I painted the stream a bit more. I don’t consider it a finished piece as there’s a disconnect between the stream and the rest. But I know where I would go next if I do decide to continue working on this: a layer of paint over the rocks and background, add a suggestion of stream to the right, bit more water-colour that isn’t white to the stream and a flick of splatter.
Why might I not continue with this painting and finish it? Well, it was a warmup, an excuse-for-playing-with-colour moment, a do-something-so-you-feel-productive piece. It might take a little to resolve it and it might take a lot. It might already have served its purpose. I left it taped to the board for now.
“Being creative means always being a little dissatisfied, pushing for novelty, looking for new ideas and experiences. That’s what makes us humans, what separates us from other species, this restlessness, and I think it exists in its purest form in art making, in questing just for the sake of discovery”
“Imagine a fly walking on a surface. If the fly walked across a line and disappeared by going around a corner, then that line should be heavy. If the fly walked across a line which marked a change in material in the same plane then it should be light.” Brian Ramsey, “Trade Secrets”
Or if flies give you the heebie-jeebies, perhaps imagine an ant.
Or a caterpillar, though not a very hungry one like Eric Carle’s.
“Even art created solely in pursuit of pleasure arises from the imperative that pleasure, too, deserves space—like outrage or grief, pleasure is something artists can make.” — Helen Betya Rubinstein,
“Praise, Like Criticism, Can Make Us Forget What Art Is For”
Give yourself permission to yourself enjoy your art without guilt (whether it’s ‘wasting’ time and money, or imposter syndrome). Create happiness for yourself, and others.
The Rule of Odds in art runs along the lines of “whatever odd thing you do, people will put it down to your being arty”.
No, wait, that’s the Rule of Oddbods.
The Rule of Odds in art is that a composition will be more dynamic if there’s an odd number of elements in the composition, say three or seven, rather than an even number, say two or six. The reasoning is that having an odd number means your brain can’t pair them up or group them as easily, that there’s somehow always one thing left over, which keeps your eyes moving across the composition.
Why do we pair things up naturally? Perhaps it’s because our body is designed in pairs: two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, and so on. (Okay, only one nose, but it’s got two nostrils!) Whether we’re painting apples, apple trees, or apple-eating creatures (aka still-life, landscape, or figures), the same Rule of Odds applies.
Take a look at the brushes in the jar in these two versions of a painting.
If I asked you to count the brushes in the left-hand photo, you’d likely be able to do so quickly — once glance and you’ve taken it all in. Whereas in the right-hand version you’d have to spend a little more time and you may, ultimately, be uncertain because some brushes are hidden behind others — you’re spending longer looking and engaging with the composition.
It’s the Rule of Odds in action. That I painted this scene at all, well that’s the Rule of Oddbods.
Last June the water in the river at Sligachan was so low I sat under the new bridge to sketch the old (see: Being a Troll). Sitting nearby was the USA-based artist Michael Chelsey Johnson, who has now turned his small gouache sketches from Slig in a larger studio painting, described in his blogpost Sligachan: The Story Behind the Painting.
Michael says he decided “to treat it as a picturesque landscape, where there is little indication of man and much of raw nature.” Have a read of Michael’s blogpost to follow his choices and reasons, and see how his painting developed here.
For yet another view of this location through an artist’s eyes, have a look at the paintings of Skye-based plein-air painter David Deamer.
My last studio painting inspired by Sligachan was this one, influenced by sitting here on sunny summer days:
Whose 2019 New Year’s resolutions included the one about drawing every day? Well, let Tessa and Eddie who completed all 12 months of drawing word prompts in 2018 be an inspiration, who’ve proved to us that it can be done. Thanks to everyone else who participated through the year and let us see your drawings.
So, for the 12th time, here are some December Word Prompt Sheets for you to enjoy, and my thanks for sharing! Once again, all sorts of intriguing responses!
From Eddie, who said: “The exercises throughout the year have been fun and challenging in equal measure.”
And from Tessa’s grand-daughter, Amelia, her completed November sheet:
And here’s everyone’s from the year.
If you look at these charts and, like me, wish you’d persevered with yours, don’t beat yourself up about it but pick it up again. Even if you only did a week that’s still more than someone who only got as far as thinking about it.
“To be an artist is to have a particular orientation to the world — the interior world and the exterior world — the exact composition of which is somewhat like temperature, impossible to deconstruct into individual phenomenological components without ceasing to be itself.”
I once got seduced by a row of aloes, which weren’t even in flower.
(Cue: Urm, okay.)
In a national park devoted to elephants.
(Cue: Can I rather see your ellie photos?)
It was in the rest camp, where I’d set out to walk to the waterhole viewing platform but didn’t get that far for a while. These aloes stopped me.
(Cue: And? What’s so special?)
As a group, it’s easy to glance, judge it to be a row of plants, and keep going. Close up though, there’s a world of pattern and shape and colour and shadow to investigate.
While I was taking the photos, several adults walked past, giving me that “What on earth is she doing?” look. A young boy came along, watched me for a bit, and then asked: “What are you looking at?” I explained, let him see it through my camera, we chatted a bit, and off he bounced.
Asking “What are you doing?” carries the voice of authority and judgement of an action. Asking “What are you seeing?” carries the unspoken “that I am not” and invites sharing. Give in to your curiosity, don’t walk on by forever wondering.
When I eventually got to the watering hole, there wasn’t an elephant in sight. We didn’t see one at driving around the park (Addo Elephant Park) because it had rained recently and the elephants then don’t need to come to the watering holes. So here’s an favourite ellie photo from another trip:
Investigate, explore, follow the “what if I” impulses.
Try what intimidates or eludes you. It needn’t be a leap all the way across, it can be a step in a direction. “What if I don’t do as detailed a drawing first before I paint?” rather than “What if I don’t do a pencil drawing at all before I paint?”