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!
- Instructions for May’s Painting Project
- My tube paintings can be seen on my new Small Paintings page
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
“…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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.