Photos: Signs Seen in Scotland

These photos were taken Oban, Iona, Dundee and Glasgow during the trip my Ma and I made last week.

Experimenting with DIY Watercolour Ink

Whilst hunting out the one bottle of fluid watercolour I’ve got in preparation for a 1:1 workshop on expressive watercolour, I came across a few empty bottles of acrylic ink and had a lightbulb moment. Why not wash them out and make my own watercolour ink with some favourite colours?

The unknown of course was how much to squeeze out of a tube, and if I’d been sensible rather than impatient I would have started with less and then added more testing it as I’d mixed it up. Maybe next time.

If you’ve noticed that the bottle of Aquafine watercolour ink is ultramarine and are thinking that it’s a colour I openly dislike and wondering why I would have chosen it, the answer is that I was given it as a sample last year at Patchings Art Festival. I wasn’t about to get fussy about the colour of the gift horse!

This is the spread from my sketchbook where I was trying out my three DIY watercolour inks. Definitely a member of the messy sketchbook club.

The sienna is too strong, and needs further diluting. The Lunar Black spreads out a lot on wet paper. The haematite genuine holds a tighter edge on wet paper, and on dry dries to a variegated line. Overall I anticipate much happiness working with these colours and the ink-bottle droppers as the drawing tool,. Taking what I’ve been doing with acrylic ink but using watercolours that granulate and have multiple layers of colour., and remembering that it’ll lift up unlike acrylics.

The sheet with the masking tape removed from the edges. The inspiration was Talisker Bay’s pebble beach, but without putting in the sea stack and leaving the sky blank.

Monday Motivator: Mindful and Mindfilling Painting

Monday motivator art quotes

“When you paint, don’t just pay attention to the subject before you but expand your awareness to include the thoughts that drive your brush.”
Michael Chelsey Johnson

One of the myriad reasons I love painting is that it’s mind filling: it has the ability to occupy every part of my mind, stimulating and stilling simultaneously. It’s the combination of tactile and mental, the comfort of familiar and the discomfort of a fresh challenge against myself.

New Sharp Pointy Ends

Happiness is … three new rigger brushes, each with different hairs, plus one that’s like a rigger with the belly of a round brush. Don’t imagine the brush handles will stay as pristine as this for very long, but what I do know is that the brushes will keep their points for a good while. The riggers they’re replacing have been worn down a bit through use, and will now permanently live in my “workshop brushes” box rather than going in and out each time. The fourth one is a treat*.

Right to left: Evergreen, Shiraz, Ivory, and an Extended Point, which doesn’t come as a long handle.

According to Rosemary & Co’s website, the extended point was created for watercolourist Sandra Strohschein to “act a rigger but with a reservoir ‘belly’ to enable the retention of a good volume of liquid thus allowing painting for a long time without the need to ‘re-load’ the brush.” I went for the smallest one, because I want fine lines and because the bigger ones cost a fair bit.

After playing a bit with the three different rigger brushes (the spirals to the right in the photo above), seeing what differences there were between the hairs (stiffest is Ivory, softest Everygreen, the Shiraz hairs keep together best), I then played with my new potbelly brush. It certainly makes beautifully fine lines, and if the paint is fluid and loaded in the belly the line does go on and on and on beautifully.

But I’ll need to be using a different watercolour palette with this brush, as trying to load it from my half-pans is not exactly kind to the brush.

Painting below was done with this new brush and a small flat one (lying on the table).

Pulling the brush through still-wet paint … just the kind of mark I’m after for the sense of winter trees with bare branches. There’s a short video of my doing it here.

Happiness is.

* A big thank you to you-know-who-you-are for you-know-what that brought me these.

Monday Motivator: You Gain Confidence by Losing

Monday motivator art quotes

“You don’t gain confidence by winning. You gain confidence by losing. You gain insecurity by winning, cause then you have a streak that you don’t want to screw up.

… When people post their sketches online, they’re not posting the fifty pages of stuff that just looks like nothing.”

— Chris Oatley, 4 Keys To A Long and Healthy Illustration Career

It’s a Catch 22: we need self-confidence to pick ourselves up after failing (whatever form this takes), yet doing so does help our self-confidence. The fallacy is believing that winning (whatever form this takes) removes all doubts. Some doubts don’t change, others get replaced with new ones you didn’t previously know existed.

Aim to get better at embracing the uncertainty, and recognising that what you see of an artist’s work is but the tip of the iceberg. Learn to fail better.

Check a Composition by the Painting’s Title

Sunday morning, studio cat Ghost and I are sitting in the chair listening to Beethoven’s ninth and the birdsong, reading a ‘new’ book that arrived from a secondhand bookshop in the States.

I like these older books because they tend to have more in them, more thoughts and less how-to broken down to the nth. While the photos may be black and white, they’re full of gems that require “reading with a pencil”. Like this:

Photos: Painting at Staffin Beach in the Sunshine (aka My Pebbles Got Bigger)

Painting yesterday at Staffin beach at low tide, I found myself enjoying the large boulders dotted around. When I later showed the in-house art critic my photos, he said my paintings looked postcard size. That’s when I realised that not only had I supersized the average rock I was painting, but that the pebbles I was using to hold down wet paintings were also bigger than normal. Do wonder what I might have painted if I’d had a bigger brush with me!

The first drawing. I initially stopped when it was line only as I was enjoying the piece, but later added wash to it as it felt too sparse.
The second painting. Judge the top angle of the rock by the horizon of the sea, not the edge of the shet of paper.
My second-last painting. I blame the soporific sun for the rounding of the shape…
Looking the ‘other way’.
I mostly used Daniel Smith hematite genuine for the ‘rock colour’. Its granulation gives a sense of the texture of the rock. It’s the second-nearest colour in the left hand row in my box.
Watercolour and acrylic ink on A3 paper. I like and dislike bits in each.
In terms of composition, I think this works as a photo, but could I make it work as a painting?
The dot of red is where I was sitting when painting; the orange is my Ma. I’m standing a couple of metres from the water’s edge.
My Ma, plein-air knitting.
“Do you need a viewfinder?”
My Ma, plein-air knitting.
Me thinking “I can’t see anything on the screen in this glare but this looks about the right angle”.
This volcanic rock is amazingly matte black, darker than in the photo..
Not a fossilized dinosaur brain. (We were close to where the dinosaur footprints can be found.)
Abstracts from nature.
I think the sheep noticed I was painting rocks and wanted to be included too.

Monday Motivator: How to Stay Relevant

Monday motivator art quotes

“If your work is original and if it draws deeply both from your imagination and from the world around you, your work will continue to have relevance. Take your inspiration first from your own experience. If you want to get fired up by the art of others, look at artists of the past or from other cultures, not your close contemporaries.”
James Gurney

Experience need not be far-flung. How long didn’t Monet paint his pond?

Lost marbles

Monday Motivator: The Thing About Thoughtful Critique

Monday motivator art quotes

“The thing about thoughtful critique is that it makes you want to engage it and continue the conversation”
How Millennials Grew Up and Burned Out

One of the hardest things for me when asked “what do you think of my painting” is not to hesitate too long before replying because this delay is invariably taken as a sign that I think it’s terrible rather than I’m thinking. Saying “let me gather my thoughts” to gain a few more seconds doesn’t reassure either.

We all want people to like our paintings, to be intrigued by them at least. Be patient and let someone have time to look.

While you’re waiting, think of a different question to ask. Be a bit more specific than “do you like it?” or “what do you think?”. Perhaps about something new you tried, the colour choices, how it fits with your other paintings. Start the conversation.

Feather Monoprints: Leave Some Things Unsaid
Feather Monoprints: Leave Some Things Unsaid

April’s Project Photo Gallery (Paint Tube Still Life)

April painting project

An interesting mix of paintings in response to April’s project, and thank you to everyone who’s shared theirs. I was a bit worried I’d put you off by setting a still life, and I do empathise with those of you who’re ambivalent about still life paintings. I often am too, but started loving them more when I met the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi, the way he plays with pattern and shape amongst the objects (such as this painting) his mastery of hatching (see example) creating form. Now still-life painting is a way to completely change pace when I need it. Enjoy the photos!

April painting project
By Bee: ” My attempt at paint tubes.”

From Marion: “I like the juxtaposition between the three tubes in an almost-neat row and the tube of yellow; for me it’s that moment when using tubes overrides the desire to have an organized painting space.” Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Bayberry: “My small effort for the paint tubes.”

From Marion: “I like the contrast between the expressive splashed colour and the controlled line, the sense of a tube containing and restraining colourful expression.” Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Claire: “I struggled most with the background and the lettering. Perhaps if I let the tubes dry properly and used a black pen instead of a barbecue stick and drying paint, perhaps if I took more time, perhaps…”

From Marion: I like the subtleness to the composition, the way the tubes at first glance seem like three in a row but then you notice one is the other way up to the other two, and one has the cap off. Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Eddie: “I struggled a bit with this and spent ages doing thumbnails exploring the various possible compositions. I found the shadows difficult in pencil and almost impossible in paint. I thought I would just go for it to avoid endless vacillation and hope the bold colours distract from the poor painting of the tube. I rarely do still life because I don’t have the patience for the subtle variation in colour, tone and shading required for a realistic depiction. I have tried to do this project in one shot and largely avoided over-thinking it.”

From Marion: I like the flow of the composition, and the contrast of the b&w to colour. Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Lesley: “This one was another challenge as the more I looked, the more errors jumped out in my drawing with all the folds of the tube so there was much correcting as I went along. Time ran away with me this month and no painting, instead a quick pastel pencil drawing (using the wrong kind of paper) then a go at my first digital drawing [see below]. It was good fun learning how to use the drawing app as I went along and I like how it ended up. Not quite as satisfying as real paint, though.”

From Marion: If you hadn’t said it was a digital painting I probably wouldn’t have guessed, though it does explain the even-ness to the drybrush mark making which is harder to achieve when you’re having to reload a brush with paint. I’ve found that with digital I end up missing the tactile quality of paint, but it does save having to wash brushes!
April painting project
By Lesley. digital painting
April painting project
By Erika: “Suckling Piglets”. I couldn’t resist – this was too much fun even though it was cheating on the task of the project! “

From Marion: I wouldn’t call it cheating, it’s thinking out of the box to create a piece of assemblage art.
By Cathi: “What fun I have had this month! I specifically did not look at your work until I had finished mine, I did not want to be influenced!! Having said that I love Joshua Starcher’s work. The design aspect led me to my first two flamboyant efforts.”

From Marion: I love your “flamboyant tubes”, and found myself imagining what the colours would be called, e.g. “Paisley” and “Raindrops”.
By Cathi
April painting project
By Cathi: “I then had a go on a little 8” square board, trying to capture the essence of a used tube….”

From Marion: The mark making of the background conveys a sense of flattening the tub to get every last bit of paint out.
April painting project
By Cathi: “Then I thought “who needs mountains to use texture paste and runny paint! This tube is actually formed with texture paste, details added and then the overcoat added. I love this one, I keep coming back to look at it! I like the way the shadow really lifts the tube off the surface.”

From Marion: I imagine that in real life it’d be hard not to touch the tube!
April painting project
By Cathi: “Finally, I was reminded of your sheep collage painting you were working on. I photographed all the information found on the tubes and used them for the collage background. The tube and lid are painted but the paint is texture paste!

From Marion: This would also be very hard not to touch! It feels as if I could put a finger against the tube and squeeze some more out.
April painting project
By Gail: “April was a very hectic month for me so I am sending a painting I did in 2018 that features not only paint tubes but other artist accoutrements. I didn’t have any metal paint tubes to use as a reference in my studio since just about all my paint either comes in tubs or plastic tubes. Hope this will be suitable and I am looking forward to May’s painting project.”

From Marion: It counts because the project made you think about it! Hope May is less hectic for you.