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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 Bow Fiddle Rock (On the North Sea Coast Part 2)

Looking at these photos you need to add a soundtrack of gulls and shags and wind. I came here several times, sketching in different mediums, struggling against tendency to straighten and shorten the ‘leg’. Most mornings I had it to myself. At low tide you can walk almost to the rock without getting your feet wet. One afternoon, at high tide, there were three women who swam out to it, without wetsuits.

Photos: On the North Sea Coast (Part 1)

Photo Gallery: May’s Painting Project (Yellow Gorse Tree)

I’ve found it very interesting to see the choices of tree vs landscape, silhouette vs colour, focal point vs pattern, in May’s project paintings. Thank you to everyone who’s shared their paintings for us to enjoy.

Painting project photo gallery
By Bee: “Acrylic ink and acrylic paint, I don’t know whether to go any further. Looking at it again I’ve seen a waterfall that i didn’t know I’d put in!”
From Marion: I wouldn’t! It has a beautiful delicacy to it that could so easily be overworked. I think the balance of suggestion and detail is perfect.
Painting Project painting by Sarah
By Sarah: “Thoroughly enjoyed this project thanks. I’m learning so much.”
By Sarah: It’s the last day of the month and I haven’t got back to putting the next layer on this, my second go at it using ink then watercolour. Will hopefully get back to it.
From Marion: Even if you never add more colour to this, the different compositional choices to the first make it worth having done.
By Eddie: “Here is my interpretation of the May project photo after doing the changes suggested by Marion. I have used layers of thin and thick acrylic paint and acrylic ink. I like the way the sinuous lines of the branches sweep across the scene.”
By Eddie: “I used antelope brown acrylic ink with a Chinese brush and a couple of Shiraz riggers with some palette knife scraping. Regardless of the result it was a lot of fun.”
Painting project gorse with tree
By Bayberry: “Here’s mine in ink and watercolor. I never have much luck with trees, although I love them so.”
From Marion: I suspect trees are on of those subjects we underestimate how long it should take us because we think of it as one thing. If we rather start thinking “one trunk, dozen main branches, roots, etc.” and granting ourselves permission to spend equal time on each of these, it adds up.
By Gail
From Marion: My first reaction was that there was no yellow of the gorse, and my second was that the season has shifted to late summer when the landscape is dominated by deep blue-greens. The sense of light on part of the hill and shadow/soft light on the rest is beautiful.
By Cathi: “I have not spent enough time on this, but sometimes that is a good thing! I do like the way my tree and mossy wall come together. Continuous line drawing came into play too.”
From Marion: I like the interplay between line and colour. Initially I wanted there to be line in the ‘negative space’ in the bottom right corner, but after looking at it a bit I think what I would do is crop a sliver off the bottom and left so the lines go up to the edge.
By Barbara B: “my attempt at tree with gorse, in acrylics on canvas type paper meant for oils. I found the composition the biggest challenge with this one, trying to find a focal point that worked for me.”
From Marion: For me it’s a composition I’d approach as a colourfield, a painting more about pattern and colour than a focal point, because there are so many elements striving for attention whilst interacting with on another.
By Erika: “How a tree became a fish. For me, this was a very tough one. Didn’t really like my first try, study I (above). Was happier with study II (below), until it became fish.”
From Marion: I would never have got to fish myself from this reference photo, and throughly enjoyed seeing your journey, how the ‘netting’ in the first attempt takes over as the inspiration point and where it leads.

See Also:

My Paintings of June’s Project Photo

I did six paintings using the photo I chose for June’s Painting project as the starting point. Two were dire and I’m not going to show you those. One was in watercolour, the other in acrylic. The former I gave up on as it got too dark and I didn’t feel like making it a mixed media piece because I was trying to do ‘pure’ watercolour; the latter I even tore up the next day, which I rarely do.

Here are the other four. The top two are mixed media on paper (acrylic and oil pastel) and were done first, followed by the watercolour bottom left (I hadn’t taped the edges) and the acrylic on canvas bottom right. (I’ve created a step-by-step video of photos taken as I painted the first two for project subscribers.)

The latter is my favourite, and feels like persistence rewarded. If you’re thinking it’s more realistic than many of my paintings, it’s simply because I was in the mood for a bit of painterly realism.

Four paintings of seaweed rocky shore by artist Marion Boddy-Evans

June’s Painting Project: The Instructions (Seaweed Rock Shore)

Seaweed covered rocky shore painting project inspiration photo

This month’s project photo is of a section of rocky shore dominated by a big rock and seaweek, presenting an array of colours and textures. I took the photo at Staffin, on the eastern side of the Trotternish Peninsula on Skye, when I was doing some on-location drawing (see photos).

I think the photo offers interesting possibilities for composition, starting with the decision of whether to include the big rock or not, and whether to include any of the sea and breaking waves at the top or not. There’s a strong diagonal in the photo, and where this intersects with the edge is crucial — I’d avoid it being right in the corner because it’ll feel improbable. In terms of colour, I think it lends itself to exploring mixing an orange and blue, the range of browns to greys this produces.

You might use modelling paste or collage to help convey a sense of the different textures of the rocks, water, and seaweed. Perhaps salt or string in still-wet paint. In watercolour, consider granulating colours. Think about how you might convey a sense of the various textures in a painterly way, letting your materials and mark making do the work.

The photo could be the starting point for something completely abstract, a painting that’s about colours and/or textures without strongly stating “sea shore”. What about a mixed media collage using paper, fabric, and paint?

As always, medium, size and format are up to you. Happy painting! I look forward to seeing what this inspires.

If you’ve done a painting in response to May’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.

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.

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.

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.

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.