Trying (and failing) to Rescue a Painting

This is the story of my second attempt at July’s project. Plot spoiler: It does not have a happy ending.

I wanted to create a painting with more interesting mark making on the huts than than my first attempt at this scene, which was this:

A3 watercolour paper. Acrylic paint.

Sometimes it feels like a painting goes from a promising start to bad to worse to give-up-now. I try to remind myself it’s also an opportunity to push it past the usual point of stopping, to attempt things and see what happens. It’s already not working, so it’s not as if I will ruin it; at worst I just won’t succeed in rescuing it and use up some time and materials.

First I tried adding some oil pastel. Helped a bit, but felt I was just faffing at it not resolving things. So, frustrated and irritated, I put the painting flat on the floor and poured some acrylic ink over it. (Payne’s grey, though it looks black in the photo.)

Splat! Take that you troublesome painting!
Spreading the ink around with a piece of paper towel. The oil pastel of course repels the water-based ink.
All a bit dark now, and the oil pastel lines too basic. So I put it back up on my easel and started adding more acrylic paint.

This video is a sequence of photos taken as I painted this, except for the bit where I worked on the floor adding the ink.

I’ve since had a third go, and although it lost the plot in terms of perspective and shadow direction, it has an energy I like. I might still add some coloured pencil or thin acrylic over the too-dark shadows. Or I more likely I’ll leave the painting to fester in the pile of also-rans and focus on sorting out August’s project instead.

A3 watercolour paper. Acrylic paint and ink plus oil pastel.

If you’ve still to have a go at this project, here’s a ‘starting point’ for the beach huts courtesy of Cathi and Sarah, done as we painted together recently. Note the horizon for the sea will be below the top of the huts.

Photos: Inside York Minster

York Cathedral Chapter house ceiling

On my way to Patchings Art Festival, I stopped over in York. As well as visiting my favourite second-hand bookshops, I also went into the Minster. It’s been some years since I was last in a cathedral other than the small one in Inverness with its beautiful wooden interior. A tour was just about to start, so I tagged along, learning a mixture of things about the building and its history, including that it’s reckoned to have the best stained glass in England, and the oldest as it was not destroyed during the Reformation.

York Cathedral
East wing.
York Cathedral Chapter House stained glass
Chapter House (meeting room)
York Cathedral Chapter house ceiling
Looking up in the Chapter House
York Cathedral stained glass
The link to the Chapter House, with a model of how it was built
York Cathedral
Patterns everywhere you look…
York Cathedral floor tiles
Chapter House floor
York Cathedral chairs
Seating and heating vents and shadows
York Cathedral candles
Lots of cathedral visitors, but not many prayers
York Cathedral organ scaffolding
Scaffolding on the organ, which is undergoing a two-year renovation.
York Cathedral temporary organ
The Little Organ That Could … This is the organ standing in for the cathedral’s organ whilst it’s being renovated. It felt like a metaphor about how we should dream big because one day we might just achieve it.

Monday Motivator: The Cost of Innovation

Monday motivator art quotes

“Innovation makes its mark in the world only at the cost of endless effort, groping, and guesswork.

“Manipulating both form and substance, a painter stumbles across what will one day be [their] future path without knowing exactly that it lies in that particular direction…”
— “Monet Water Lilies: The Complete Series” by Jean Dominique Rey and Denis Rouart, page 75

You’ll know how to get there once you’re there, but until you’re there you won’t know how to get there. And then “there” moves, and the artistic journey starts anew.

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: Gazes and Recombines

Monday motivator art quotes

“A photograph of the site of a well-known painting arouses our curiosity right away: it breaks open the sealed world of the landscape canvas, situated the artist in a place and a moment, and reminds us that an artist searches, gazes, at times disassembles, and recombines.”

Pavel Machotka, “Cézanne. Landscape into Art”, p ix

Cézanne is an artist I have grown to like more and more, yet has never moved much on my “learn more about to understand better” list. But finding the book today’s quote comes from in a second-hand bookshop in York felt like it might be just what I need. Photos of Cézanne’s paintings juxtaposed with photos of the locations, enabling you to see what he decided to include, emphasise, omit. I haven’t read much of it yet, just gazed at the pictures, but it feels like a big step closer.

Who’s on your list? Post a comment on my blog and let me know…

Monday Motivator: Line Speaks to the Mind

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.
Join the discussion on Patreon…
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.
Join the discussion on Patreon…
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.
Join the discussion on Patreon
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.
Join the discussion on Patreon…
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.
Join the discussion…
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.
Join the discussion…

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)