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.


May’s Painting Project: The Instructions

Gorse adds a splash of colour before the greens return to the Skye landscape and continues flowering for weeks. Walking along a familiar path recently (more photos) I suddenly noticed this tree and the strip of stone wall, with the yellows across the hillside behind. There was something about the light at that moment that made my fingers itch to paint it, and so it’s the challenge for May.

Painting Project Gorse and Tree
Painting Project Gorse and Tree

For me the interesting things to explore are:
1. All those warm and cool greens: blue-greens of the grass and yellow-greens of the moss. An excuse to pull out all your blues and yellows to spend time colour mixing, and to also explore adding yellow and blue to tube greens.

2. The deep darks in the shadows: how dark can you make it with still having a suggestion of what’s going on. What colours to use, with perylene black feeling like an obvious choice as it makes also interesting greens when mixed with yellow. Alternatively, how colourful can you make this “dark”, or how purple (taking inspiration from the Impressionists).

3. How far across will the tree extend, which will partly be determined by shape of the composition, whether it’s square, portrait or landscape.

4. Compositional choices of things to leave out. The telephone pole seems a definite to me, but what about the fence behind it?

Medium, size and format are up to you. Have fun! I look forward to seeing what this inspires.

My first attempt I did using acrylic ink, one yellow and Payne’s grey only, with the aim of having a light touch, using lots of negative space. Working flat so the ink wouldn’t run.

Only when I stood up again did I notice I’d made the tree too upright and the bundle of small trunks into one solid one even though I had the reference right in front of me!

I’ll be posting my thumbnails for this project and the notes I made on my potential to Patreon for project subscribers, along with a video of when I added the ink tree to a background done in acrylics, my third attempt at this. Become a subscriber here…

These are not thumbnails…

My Style of Painting Palette Control (or not)

palette color mixing

Know those photos you get of artists’ palettes with squeezes of colour around the dge and a mixing area in the middle? Mine never looks like that.

I don’t use a staywet palette for acrylics, and I don’t like to waste paint, so I have evolved a working method that involves a lot of opening of tubes or tubs of paint, taking out a little, using that, then repeating. It may seem inefficient, but it also has the benefit of making me step back from my painting regularly.

The tubs/tubes live on the shelf below my palette so they’re easily to hand and, yes, I do put them back in the same spot. I’d call it a taboret but it’s really a slimline wire kitchen trolley the in-house art critic found, and before that it was an old computer desk, and before that a TV trolley that was a bit low.

This photo shows the squence of colours as I was working on a seascape. I don’t clean the palette, just add the new colour and mix.

If I recall correctly, the colours were (1) Mixed grey from orange/blue. (2) Cerulean blue (3) Transluscent orange PO71, a new colour I’m using (4) Cadmium yellow (5) Cadmium orange (6) Prussian blue (7) More Prussian blue (8) Titanium white on the brush which gave me (9).
wip palette colors
Painting-in-progress. This was end of Day One, where I left it to dry overnight. Orange and magenta were used as the “get rid of the canvas white” colours.
Detail wip painting
There’s texture paste on the canvas too.

Photo Gallery: Single-Track Road Project Paintings (March 2019)

Thanks to everyone who’s shared their painting (I’m a little disorganized this month trying to juggle too many things and hope I haven’t missed any!).

Seeiing how some people have struggled with this project’s reference photo, with the large area of landscape with relatively little in it, has made me realise that I  enjoyed the challenge of this because it lends itself to layering variations colour and brushmarks to create visual interest (which is what I’m currently enjoying). Other people have zoomed in on a section of the scene, a useful reminder to resist the urge to include everything we see.

Passing places painting project
By Cathy, in ink.
Passing places painting project
By Cathy: “After the inkI had a go with pastels using a new ‘powder and water’ technique we were shown at our art club demo evening…… great fun but not as flexible as acrylics.”
Passing places painting project
By Cathy: “In acrylic, I challenged myself to a) reverse the landscape as I thought it a better composition and b) do the entire painting without using a brush (palette knife and credit card only). This idea came to me after the sand sections I really liked my Talisker Bay project.”
By Claire: “Here is my effort for the March project, using acrylic. Such an inspiring subject but a big challenge for me. I ended up reworking the middle ground and now I have posted it I can see that I have messed up the sky.”
By Eddie: This is my submission for the March project after making the changes suggested by Marion. I think the hills sit back better and I toned down a rather acid green in the foreground. Another passing place sign was added in the mid-ground.
Passing places painting project submission by Eddie
By Eddie: “I enjoyed the pastel so much I thought I would do another version. This is in acrylic 50 x50cm.”
Monthly art project
By Barbara R: “I was recently introduced to your blog by someone in our walking group, and I thought I’d try doing the monthly projects. So here’s my first Passing Place attempt, watercolour and Inktense on watercolour paper, approx 30×24 cm.”


Monthly painting project
By Bayberry: “The updated painting minus the pine tree.”
Monthly painting project
By Barbara: “I decided I needed to be honest and post disasters as well as those I am happier with. The hills are to dark , probably the format is wrong , in fact there isn’t anything I like about it. One to cut up.”
Monthly painting project
By Gail: “. I painted an underpainting and then painted over that with a palette knife. I had a lot of fun with this project.”
Monthly painting project
By Lesley: ” I struggled a bit with this one and am still not sure I ended up with anything I’m entirely happy with. I started off with a quick pastel drawing to work out where I wanted to put things, but didn’t quite find enough tonal range from the limited pastel colours I had to hand.”
Monthly painting project
By Lesley: “I then moved on to acrylic, which I’m happier with than the pastel, but it’s lacking something, not entirely sure what. I might try another without looking at the photo references now that I know the scene a bit better. Maybe going mad with colour is the way to go?”
Monthly painting project
By Erika: “First try….what a dud. Boring. The inside art critic was very dissatisfied. More than the sheep inside the phone booth.”
Monthly painting project
By Erika: “Happier with this one””
By Marion: “My first painting for this project, Mixed media on A2 watercolour paper.”
Passing places painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
By Marion: “I challenged myself to do this in a portrait (vertical) format, adding another section of road. I’m suspect it it’s too busy overall and may glaze over areas to make the sheep and road stand out more. Acrylic on A2 watercolour paper.”
Passing places painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
By Marion: “I decided to focus on the sign and sheep only. The background wasn’t initially yellow, but I felt it needed brightening up so changed it to be a hillside covered in gorse. Acrylic on A2 watercolour paper”

Photos: My “Expressive Skye” Painting Workshop at Higham Hall

Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans

My thanks to all participants in my workshop at Higham Hall for your enthusiasm and to everyone at Higham for all you do to make it happen in such a special venue. I thoroughly enjoyed the week, and look forward to next time.

The week started and ended with blue sky, with beautiful sunrises, hail, storm winds, and snow inbetween. Felt just like Skye!

Higham Hall in the Sunshine
Higham Hall sunrise
Sunrise, taken in front of the hall.
Higham hall in the snow
Standing in about the same spot as where I took the photo above, looking in the opposite direction, on the morning it had snowed.
Higham Hall in the snow
The bedrooms at Higham are on the second floor of the building.
The studio (left) is in the old stables at the back that form a courtyard with the three wings of the hall.

It’s up to tutors to decide how to use the space. I like to set the studio up with an area with tables where we work together as a group on specific activities I set, and then use the three alcoves as areas where people work alone if they wish. All those hours playing Tetris came in useful to fit in 10 of the high-adjustable tables so everyone could have one to themselves.

Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Spot the Creative Skye booklets!
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
From left to right: Acrylic on canvas board, pastel on dark blue pastel paper and watercolour, by B. Acrylic on paper by J. My acrylic on paper version, one of the example paintings I brought with me to the workshop.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
A limited colour watercolour and ink interpretation of one of the photos in my photo reference books (buy online).
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Exploring working in layers, from loose and expressive to detail, with my photo of daisies as the starting-point.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
One of the mornings is spent exploring colour mixing, creating “interesting greys”
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Painting using “interesting greys” inspired by my reference photo of seaweed and rocks at Camus Mor.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Painting inspired by a reference photo of rapids in the river at Sligachan, using “interesting greys” and “strong, varied darks”. On A2 size watercolour paper.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
My Thursday evening demo painting.
The demo painting before it rained and the sheep arrived.

Monday Motivator: Black Isn’t For Beginners

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote“…black is a color that is best used after having some experience.”
Brad Teare, Black is a Color

“Not yet” rather than “never” I think should be the rule with black.

It all too easily gets used for shadow where other colours will be more interesting. It all too easily gets used to mix darker colours ending in dulls colours.

As a beginner, if you think you want black, try a dark blue or purple instead. After that, a chromatic black (the darkest mix you can make with blue/green/red/anything but single pigment black).

When you’ve quite a few miles under your brushes, then add black. As a colour, not as an agent of darkness. And start exploring black as an alternative blue to mix with yellow for green.

April’s Painting Project: The Instructions

Drawing paint tubes

This month we’re going to move from landscape to still life, to looking at something familiar and small, a tube of paint. It’s something we rarely pay much attention to, merely a container for the colour it contains. My thought is for this project to be about slowing down, seeing the familiar with fresh eyes, a reminder that we don’t need to be out chasing new experiences, there’s plenty right in front of us.

So dig out a tube of paint, and study it. Draw it, paint it, collage it, abstract it. Don’t spend too long deciding which is the perfect tube to use, they’re all good. How you juggle the realism/painterly/abstraction balance is up to you. The medium is up to you.

Start with one, explore the possibilities of a composition with a single element. Is the tube flat or rolled up, viewed from the top or side, cap on or off? How about a foreshortened view from the cap end? How many compositional choices do you have with a single tube?

For inspiration: Abstracted and more graphic approach to paint tubes, take a look at the paint-tube paintings by Joshua Starcher (a random find, his website doesn’t give any info about him) and the paint tube paintings by Duane Keiser (the original painting-a-day artist, whose painterly realism I greatly admire).

For intrigue: When I was in Edinburgh a couple of weekends ago, I came across paintings by Donald Provan which are done on paint tube he’s opened and flattened, like this.

My paint-tube painting: For me the aim was to have a painterly painting, something that’s used paint to convey a sense of the subject, with parts that are detailed and parts that are suggestive. I wanted some evidence of the “hand of the artist”, some poetry not an academic treatise.

Painting of a paint tube by Marion Boddy-Evans

The photo above illustrates what my thinking. The small painted lettering isn’t readable, it’s squiggled lines not letters, but your eye wants to make it into words. You can see the brushmarks of paint on the tube, the edges aren’t blended out to make soft transitions in colour/tone. (Project subscribers will get to see step-by-step photos of this painting, and the one before it, on my Patreon.)

I chose this particular tube of paint because I wanted the challenge of the silvers of the metal tube. Silvers are but shades of grey. Though iridescent paint colours we have available to us work beautifully to add the glimmer of light catching on silver, resist these initially and focus on tone. Think three intially — dark, light, and medium. Black, white, and mixed.

The painting above wasn’t my starting point, though, I began with pencil drawings, then added watercolour to a pencil drawing, then got out the acrylics, then there were a couple before the one on the yellow which pleased me.

Drawing paint tubes

Initially I was drawing small than actual size, but then realised it would be easier if I did it the same size as the tube of paint. Remembering that the photos show a viewpoint from above, not what I’m seeing as I’m sat drawing.

Remember to send in your photos for March’s painting project (and previous months). I’m away teaching a workshop at Higham Hall, so the photo gallery won’t appear until the second week in April.

Monsieur P and the BIg Paint Tube

For Nervous Workshop Participants

Higham Hall Workshop: Studio

As I look ahead to Sunday’s workshop at Higham Hall, I’m excited and nervous, wondering who’ll be on it, who I’ll be meeting and working with, travelling with on a painting journey for which I’m the guide, whether the last two of the 12 spots will be taken by last-minute bookings, whether anyone will be wearing perfume that makes me sneeze, and what breakthrough moments there might be and what surprises. It’s both a joy and an anxiety.

Thankfully the latter is relieved and the former enhanced by having some participants who’ve done workshops with me before, and I look forward to travelling together for a few days again. I’ve some new worksheets, so don’t think you know exactly what to expect! To those doing a workshop with me for the first time, I hope you’ll be reassured that there are other participants who’re coming for the second and third time, so I must be doing something right. It’s going to be a fun, rewarding week, with time for hard work and relaxation, plus all the delicious food that Higham puts in front of us, thinking about which is making me hope it’ll include Pavlova one evening again.

Suggested Reading:

Expressive Skye at Higham Hall Day 1

How to Avoid Cauliflower (the watercolour variety, not the vegetable)

Blooms, washbacks, backflow, cauliflowers … whatever you call it when you’re painting wet-into-wet watercolour and the colour you just applied pushes out the one already down, rather than making friends and sitting with it. There’s one rule to avoiding it (or to use if you deliberately want to get this result, much as watercolour purists might shudder at the thought). In the words of that skilled Australian watercolourist John Lovett:

If you are painting a soft edge into a wet wash, make sure there is more pigment in the color you are applying than is in the underlying wash or obvious blooms will be created.”
Source: John Lovett, Watercolour Edges


So how do you know whether you’ve got more pigment or not? Like everything, practice. It starts by deliberately considering it, and eventually it becomes ingrained knowledge, instinctive. If in doubt, add more pigment (“thick paint”). Or pull some of the water from the brush hairs by holding a piece of paper towel to the ferrule end of the hairs, a tip the artist Katie Lee taught me.