Monday Motivator: The Secret of Constable’s Vibrant Greens

Art motivational quote“One of [English landscape painter] Constable’s ‘secrets,’ not lost on Delacroix and other artists, was his method of creating rich, vibrant greens in foliage and grass… by dabs and strokes of several greens. …

“The variations produce scintillation and ‘depth’ because of a certain amount of fusion in the eye of the observer.”?

(Source: Calvin Harlan, Vision and Invention: A Course in Art Fundamentals, page 107

V&A paintings Constable clouds
Cloud studies by Constable, in the V&A Museum, London

Or in Delacroix’s own words, the secret of Constable’s green:

“… lies in the fact that it is composed of a multitude of different greens. The lack of life and intensity in the greenery of the common landscape painters is caused by the fact they usually paint it in a uniform green.”

(Source: Delacroix’s Journal I, 5 March 1847, p281, quoted in Art in Theory 1815-1900, edited by Harrison, Wood, and Gaiger, p980).

Think of hatching for a pencil drawing, where you use tiny lines to build up an area, rather than a solid line or area of blended tone. To do it in paint, use various hues and tones of green overlapping and layered, with specks of what’s below showing through, rather than one ‘perfect green’ only.

If you zoom in on one of the photos of Constable’s paintings on the London National Gallery website, for instance Stratford Mill, you can see how much variation there is in a small area (and not only in the greens!).

3 Forest Studies using Quinacridone Gold

The starting point for these three studies was quinacridone gold, a transparent pigment. Spread thinly over white it’s got a rich inner glow. Used thickly it’s surprisingly dark, and mixed with titanium white you’ve got an opaque earthy-red gold. It’s been a while since I’ve used it, and wanted to get familiar with it again. Other colours I used include perelyne black, magenta, ultramarine blue, and burnt umber. Here are the studies side by side for easy comparison:

Forest Study in Quinacridone Gold Forest Study in Quinacridone Gold II by Scottish Artist Marion Boddy-Evans Forest Study in Quinacridone Gold by Skye-based Artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Forest Study in Quinacridone Gold
Letting the quinacridone gold do its thing. Working wet-on-wet using the edge of a palette knife to add dark and lights for tree trunks. Scratching into the paint for light lines. Only a little blue added as a top layer for sky at the top,
Forest Study in Quinacridone Gold II by Scottish Artist Marion Boddy-Evans
More blue in the sky, and redder browns at base, creating more of a band in the centre where the quinacridone gold dominates..
Forest Study in Quinacridone Gold by Skye-based Artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Encouraging the sky blue to run down by spraying on some water, increasing the white in the tree trunks. I think there’s a greater sense of depth in the golden glow, as if there’s a low sun shining through a woodland you can’t see through.

3 Minch Studies

These three small studies of the colours of the Minch, looking cross towards Harris, were done on 300gsm rough watercolour paper, three sheets placed alongside one another on a large board on my easel. The differences between them aren’t dramatic, but rather they’re studies focusing on the effect of small things, changes made after the initial laying in of colours of possibilities I want to consider. Here they are side by side for easy comparison:

Minch Study, from Skye to Harris I, by Skye-based Artist Marion Boddy-Evans Minch Study, from Skye to Harris II, by Scottish Artist Marion Boddy-Evans Minch Study, from Skye to Harris III, by Scottish Artist Marion Boddy-Evans

I don’t have a favourite overall, there are pieces from each I will use in a larger painting at some point.

Minch Study, from Skye to Harris I, by Skye-based Artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Using the long edge of a palette knife to spread and mix still-wet sections of separate colour in the sea, with the thought that it could convey a sense of a moving swell. Sea gets darker overall into the distance.
Minch Study, from Skye to Harris II, by Scottish Artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Light blue on the horizon line and additional light blues over the dark blue sea in the distance. I think the light horizon line could’ve been thinner, or possibly an even-lighter line added. I feel the lighter blues in the distant sea enhance the feeling of depth.
Minch Study, from Skye to Harris III, by Scottish Artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Very dark horizon line, with blues gradually getting lighter towards the foreground. Knife-spread swells in the distance. Softer edges on the tops of the hills of Harris, suggesting moving clouds.

Monday Motivator: Without Line

Art motivational quote“The Impressionists made the bold statement that line does not exist. For people whose culture is held together with writing…this is a very hard fact to accept…. We take line so much for granted that we all think line is a basic part of the structure of the universe.”

— Nathan Cole Hale, Abstraction in Art & Nature, page 17

The inventor of Cont? crayons, a form of hard pastel that’s square not round and pencils made with a core of graphite between wood, Nicolas-Jacques Cont?, was born on today (4 August) in Normandy in 1755. Faced with a pastel we all too easily only use the point to draw with lines instead of also using it on its side to draw with blocks of colour (without line). The angular edges to Cont? are great for both types of markmaking without changing what you’re using.
Figure Drawing: Angular, Cubist

Walking and Sketching

“I am thinking about sketching/painting/photographing Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk as I go along but it may prove problematic as I am walking with two friends and I don?t want to hold them up so any tips you may have would be gratefully received.” — Gordon

Sketching SkyeA great walk to do, that will provide lots of inspiration. I’d focus on building overall visual memories and a few special moments as you encounter them, and don’t stress trying to get everything because it’s impossible.

Camera: Have it accessible in an instant, in a trouser pocket or a pouch around your waist at the front. Take reference snapshots as you’re walking, saving more considered shots for when you’re all having a break or stopped for lunch.?Use a high resolution, then you can always crop the photo for a better composition. Make a note of spots you particularly liked — write the location in your sketchbook or mark the map — and then back home use Geograph to find more photos you could use as reference for painting.

Sketching: Take propelling pencils, which eliminates need for a sharpener and the mark making won’t dissolve if it rains and the paper gets wet. You can get 2B and 4B leads at good art supplies stores, or a packet with HB from a supermarket. Write notes about colours and then paint it later, whether in the evening or back home.?A small pocket sketchbook that’s easily accessible makes it more likely you’ll get it out when you’ve stopped for a break. It’s worth making the time to sketch as it slows you down for a considered look; a photo can be a matter of seconds.

Painting: Use a waterbrush with a small watercolour sketchbook and dab only a little colour as a reminder rather than painting everything, whether doing it on location or at the end of the day, or over breakfast before starting out again.

Postcards: Divert to the occasional village post office and send yourself some postcards surface mail. Not only will you have the perfect postcard shots but it’ll bring back moments when you’re back home, reinforcing your memories. Or carry a few, sketch in permanent pen en route, and post another day.

Sold: Listening to Leaves Falling

The sale of “Listening to Leaves Falling” at Skyeworks to a family from Germany means I’ve only one large forest painting at the moment: Wodeland. (No, that’s not a typo, it’s related to the painting being dominated by blue.) Definitely time to translate another of various woodland images bouncing around my mind onto canvas and to finish Tartan trees. Maybe start with the latter so it’ll be ready for the Lochalsh Art Fair towards the end of August.

Listening to Leaves Falling forest painting Scotland
Listening to Leaves Falling
Acrylic on canvas

Painting Techniques: Oils Over Acrylic

Painting in progress magenta treesHi Marion, Can I apply oils over a dry acrylic base? — Karen M

The short answer is “Yes, but…” with the “but” being about how glossy the surface of the acrylics you’re using is, which has am impact on how well the oil paint sticks to it.

The longer answer is yes, oil paint can be used over acrylic that is definitely dry. With thicker layers, it must be dry all the way through, not only the surface.

Oil over acrylic is a useful approach for speeding up the drying time of a painting, though whether you ultimately call it an oil painting or mixed media is debatable. Using? “good student” acrylic paint for a coloured ground and/or the initial underpainting also saves money.

The only possible issue I’ve heard about is an adhesion problem if the surface of the acrylic is very glossy and slick. This is because the bond between oil paint and acrylic is not a chemical one but rather a mechanical one (think “glued together” rather than “mixed”). There needs to be something for the oil paint to grip into, so matt acrylics are better than gloss. Or use some matt medium or thin the acrylic with water so it doesn’t fill the tooth of the canvas completely, giving the oil paint something to grip onto. Or rub a piece of sandpaper across the surface to roughen it.

An information leaflet published by Golden Artist’s Colors says: “While we have done studies of the glossiest of our acrylics under oil paint films and have not seen any signs of delamination, we want to err on the safe side and suggest the films should at least be matte finishes.”1

1. Priming: Acrylic Gesso Under Oil Paint, Golden Artist Colors. Accessed 31 July 2014.

Monday Motivator: Positive & Negative

Negative and Positive Space in a painting“The biggest mistake artists make is to concentrate only on the positive space, the objects which define the painting. Negative space gives the connection between objects ? if the negative space is greater than the positive then objects are distant to each other. If spaces are enclosed, they cleanly define objects, if they are open, they allow a flow from one object to another.”
–Alistair Boddy-Evans, The Elements of Art

Think of negative space as the chocolate between the nuts in a bar of nutty chocolate. Without it the whole doesn’t exist, and poor quality lets the whole thing down. You pay attention to it, but you notice the nuts more.

Additions to My Painted Flock

My flock of little paintings at Skyeworks Gallery has grown a bit, with a few new sheep (this time with reds), plus a Highland cow and, because it’s been so hot, a shady tree (albeit in autumnal colours, shedding leaves).

Sizes: 5×5″ or 5×7″. Price: ?35. International shipping is about ?15. Contact Skyeworks Gallery by email, on Facebook or phone.

Small Paintings at Skyeworks Gallery Isle of Skye

Small Paintings at Skyeworks Gallery Isle of Skye
Small Paintings at Skyeworks Gallery Isle of Skye

Deciding What to Sketch: Cloudy Cliffs

Faced with a landscape with many possibilities, how do I decide what to sketch? Take this example, a picnic spot a little south of Struan, where I was on Sunday. To the right there’s an inlet with boats, to the left a sequence of headlands and a lighthouse, looking down a colourful rocky shoreline.

How to decide what to sketch

I’ll look around, but most likely go back to what got my attention initially, what do I find most striking or dramatic or appealing? That’s what I’ll sketch first; other possibilities might become further sketches, depending on time and the weather, or saved as a location to revisit another day.

In this instance, it was the tall, dark cliff in the far distance (not quite as far as the wide angle of this photo makes it seem), and the splash of white that was the small lighthouse in the middle distance. As the clouds moved, the light on the distant cliff changes; sometimes darker, sometimes lighter and revealing more. I’ll definitely come back here on a sunnier day for another look.
How to decide what to sketch

Sketching View near Struan, Skye