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