It’s so interesting to see a landscape familiar to me through other people’s paintings. For this project we were at the bay at Camus Mor, somewhere I often go, sometimes sketching, sometimes watching the waves. When the sea is calm, it takes on all sorts of reflected colour from the hillside, which Eddie has conveyed beautifully:
The short answer: No.
The long answer: No, it means you’re recognising that it isn’t worth spending more time or effort on that particular painting. Not every painting is going to be successful and it’s unrealistic to expect it, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
A line I’ve remembered from the book “Art and Fear” is ”The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.” (Looking it up, I see it was 2005 I reviewed it; read review here.)
I think destroying paintings becomes problematic only if you’re consistently stopping at the same point, never trying to push past it and find out if you might resolve it. It’s already not working, so you don’t have to worry about ruining it.
I also don’t think something should be destroyed on the same day it was created, or you stopped working on it, because once there’s a bit of time between making it and reviewing it we can be more objective. I go through my paintings on paper two or three times a year and sort out the ones to keep, the ones to be torn up, and the maybe ones who get another look before I decide.
I was skimming an article on “feeling the fear but doing it anyway” on Entrepreneur when I was stopped by the words s the words: “Confidence comes when you’ve accepted your own potential to find solutions“. It felt like an explanation of what’s at the core of painting intuitively.
You have a repertoire of art techniques and materials to hand, and select from these to create potential as well as solve problems of your own making in a painting. You trust you’re not a one-trick pony and can reproduce an effect more often than not because practice underpins it. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but helps us continue.
When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may influence the outcome. Embrace the uncertainty and see if you can find the ride intriguing. Do something and see what results, respond to that, and to that, and to that. That’s painting with intuition.
I’m curious about how you define painting intuitively? Leave a comment on my blog and let me know.
The derelict croft house that is the subject of this month’s painting project is down the road and on a bit from my studio. I’ve walked past it many times though I’ve never ventured inside, partly because the ground around it is very water logged and partly because it feels like it wants to be left alone. I have, however, taken many a photograph of it in various lights and weather conditions. If the sun’s in the right spot, that gangly tree casts intriguing shadows on the wall.
In this photo, the sky has been blown out white by my camera. Judge how clear or cloudy the sky would have been by the shadows in the photo (or the lack thereof), as well as the colour of land in the distance and the sliver of sea in the distance on the right beneath the hills of Waternish Peninsula. To my mind the answer is: it’s partly cloudy, with cloud over the building but sunshine in the distance.
COMPOSITION: I would leave out the other houses to the left of this one because they’re more modern don’t match the ruined building. They’re just a distraction, as are the pine tree and electricity poles.
Whether to include the fence of not is a harder choice. It adds location and character, but doesn’t want to distract from the bulding. Certainly you don’t want it heading neatly into a corner as it in the photo. (Have you noticed that this pole is round and goes above the top strand of barbed wire, whereas the other fence posts are square? It’s because it’s a more substantial pole found at a gate or the corner of a fenced field.)
The roof windows are also something I would consider leaving out, because I enjoy the colour and pattern of the corrugated iron roof so and they interrupt it. The wooden pallet across the doorway is to keep sheep and cows out; you’ll need to decide whether it’ll make sense in a painting or not.
FORMAT: The photo is in landscape format, and this is probably how I’d paint it but that’s because I’ve taken numerous photos and from those selected this one. So in some way I’ve already consider possibilities even though I haven’t drawn thumbnails. I think a horizontal format echoes the horizonal length of the building, and the horizonal bands of colour to the right. The broken wall on the right-hand side feels to me like it’s having a conversation with that part of the scene, like it’s inviting it in or trying to escape into it. (I do realise there’s a bit of overactive imagination going on there.)
COLOURS AND STYLE: This scene lends itself to all sorts of possibilites, from realism with the enjoyment of painting the details and textures (possibly with a close-in crop), to expressive conveying a sense of the emotion and character of the building, to collage and even abstract, where you might reduce the building to shapes of colour and lines echoing its decline.
You might use only black and white to give a sense of sombreness, perhaps sepia and white. You might use realistic colours or you might exaggerate colour for dramatic effect. You might use corrugated cardboard for the corrugated iron roof on the building (in the style of contemporary painter Pete Monaghan) and texture paste for the stone walls.
SUBMISSIONS TO THE PROJECT PHOTO GALLERY: As always, you’re invited to email me a photo of your project painting to include in the photo gallery. This can be first name only, under a pen name, or under your initials if you prefer, just let me know in your email. I look forward to seeing your results!
The photo below was taken a little further up the road from the house, in summer which is why it’s all so green. I’m including it here to give you some other views of fences and fence posts, as well as an idea of what the road past the house looks like.
This is a timelapse video of me creating a painting for October’s painting project of part of the bay at Camus Mor. It’s acrylic and oil pastel on watercolour paper.
NOTE: Be warned, the light in the video flickers somewhat as the camera tries to deal with my moving around. I might just have to do video on overcast days only. And, yes, at one point Studio Cat Ghost is riding on my shoulders (around 03:51)
If you’re not seeing the video above, this link will take you to it on my Vimeo channel.
You’ll see I initially sketch the cliffs to far to the right, but don’t bother erasing the incorrect lines as I know I’ll be painting over these with opaque colours. Then I start covering all the white, or blocking on areas Colours used: cadmium yellow, quinacridone gold, phthalo turquoise, cadmium orange, magenta, Prussian blue, perylene green, titanium white. Plus oil pastel. Medium and small flat brush; rigger brush.
The phtalo turquoise is a bit intense; my thought was that I didn’t want too dark a dark at that stage and that a green-blue would give a sense of the green on the hilltop and reflected in the sea. After I’d done it, I then worked at subduing it hrough layers without obliterating it
At 04:44 i’m using oil pastel to fix the edge where I’d torn it taking off the tape (I really should be more patient and careful doing this!).
When I looked at the painting the day after with fresh eyes, I realised I’d aligned the sea horizon with the edge of the headland, and that the sea was pouring off to the right. I used some oil pastel to move the horizon up a bit and straighten it. The yellow-orange in the foreground could be more golden, and I might still glaze some quinacridone gold over this.
Instead of letting a painting take however long it takes, what happens if you eliminate the variable of time? Instead of when a painting might be finish being open-ended, time becomes a known entity.
It’s the norm when figure painting or drawing for the model to have 10 or 15 minutes break every 30 or 45 minutes. It makes you take a break too, gives you time to assess what you’ve been doing and consider what you might do next knowing that at a predetermined point your opportunity with that model will end.
It’s also happens when the in-house art critic comes into the studio and says it’s 15 minutes till supper.
For me, knowing there’s a time limit becomes a motivation to become more decisive, to stop second guessing and considering multiple possibilities, to pick something to do and see where it leads. And literally to paint faster to get more done in the time. It’s those one-minute get-the-whole-figure-down warmup drawings from life-drawing class extended to a longer timeframe.
Set a timer and see if it increases your concentration. If it increases your stress more than it helps focus you, don’t give up until you’ve tried a few times. Like so many things, practice helps.
The clock in the photo I saw at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, a reminder that time is a construct. I wrote this blog on the day clocks went back an hour; yesterday sunset was at six and today it will be at five. (Why not move it by half an hour and leave it be?) Another reminder that time is a theoretical entity.
Nearly a year on from my blog on not using warm and cool as I paint, I’ve been looking at warm and cool again, in anticipation of a portrait painting workshop I’m going on. I started on a random empty page in my sketchbook — the lefthand page — with a little of each colour I had decided to take with me:
Then I had a go at organising the colours into cool and warm by instinct, and getting it muddled by having different criteria in a what was meant to be a binary chart (eg an orange may feel cooler than other oranges but it’s always a warm):
Next the in-house art critic and I had a long discussion about which were what, over coffee. Then I found Gamblin’s comprehensive list and had another go:
It still leaves the question: why do I put cool on the left and warm on the right?
Next I’m going to have another read of colour temperature on Handprint and see if I can internalise more of it.
All of this so I can divide the colours into warm dark (for cast shadows), cool dark (for form shadows), warm light (for direct light) and cool light (for indirect light) whilst trying to paint a likeness. Time to remind myself about why it’s good to get out of our artistic comfort zone!
One of the reasons I chose Portree harbour as the subject for September’s painting project was to motivate myself to paint it. It’s a very distinctive location, with its line of colourful buildings along the shore and the tree-covered hillside and Gathering Hall behind. It’s a complicated subject to paint because there’s so much going on, not least all that architecture. I’m sure the paintings in this photo gallery will inspire you to give it a go if you haven’t already.
First up is Robb, who I met as a painter through the projects and forum of Painting.About.com. Over the past few years Robb’s been focusing on his ceramics, but has now combined both in this pictorial tile:
I had several attempts, some more successful than others. This is the one that pleased me most from a “trying to do something different” point of view.
This was the end result of my first attempt (see video) after I added some oil pastel
And last, but not least, a submission inspired by August’s Tall Trees photo from Lorraine, who says she was “playing with ink”:
For this month’s painting project we’re at Camus Mor on the northwestern tip of the Trotternish Peninsula on Skye for a scene with a foreground of large rocks, a middle distance of pebbles, and a green hillside at the back.
For me it lends itself to a composition focused on the rocks and pebbles, that lends itself to expressive mark making and textures, to abstracted with its feet in realism. The different colours, sizes and shapes in the rocks.
One of the compositional choices would be whether to include the sky and hillside at all. There’s the enticement of reflected colour in the sea — blue from the sky and greens from the hill. Plus the line of colour of the washed-up seaweed on the high-tide mark. And the echo of green between the foreground seaweed and the hillside.
There’s a lot going on in this scene, so consider whether you’re going to focus in or go wide and include it all. This is view to the right, with the whole of the hillside:
And here’s some video I took at this location. Add a soundtrack of waves lapping and pebbles rolling, and the feeling of little breeze tickling your hair.
With the greys and browns, it’s a chance to use a blue + orange + white recipe as this produces a range of interesting browns and greys that harmonize together because they’re all based on a mix of same colours. If this is new to you, maybe try cadmium orange + phthalo blue. To get light tones, you’ll need a good lump of white.
A perylene green (or black) will give you the strong darks, and mixed with yellow it’ll produce a range of earthy greens.
I’ve painted this location quite a few times over the years, most recently using granulating watercolour, which I’m enjoying for the sense of texture it gives. See:
As all location painting should, I started by just sitting staring out to sea. The warmer the sunshine, the longer this stage tends to last.
Then getting out my supplies: sheets of watercolour paper, clips to hold these down, my watercolour set, container for water, box with drawing supplies and longer box with bottles of fluid watercolour (also known as watercolour ‘ink). I’m hoping not to drop anything off the left-hand edge of the wall, because it’d be quite a scramble to get to it.
My first sketch of the day was the view to the left, of the headland and the pebble beach. I was trying to get a sense of the rocks and the colours of the seaweed on it. The direction of the sea as it comes into the bay isn’t right — it doesn’t turn this sharply — but I didn’t feel like fixing it as I’d lose the white and overwork it.
I then shifted my focus closer to where I was sitting, the jumble of larger rocks with the puddles of green weed.
I was pleased with the painting above, and decided to try again with a wider view. As so often happens, I was then trying too hard, hindered by what I’d just done, and ended up with a displeasing result. It lacks the strength of the previous painting, and feels insipid, unresolved, confused. If I crop off the sides, I’m less unhappy, but I consider this a dud.
This was the other dud of the last, the very last painting I did, though this one might still be rescued if I add something that pulls the sea and shore together. And also crop.
This was my favourite painting from the session. The rocks were painted with Daniel Smith’s Lunar Black, a strongly granulating colour.
I then did a version using Daniel Smith Hematite Genuine, which goes from deep dark to browns depending on how diluted and mixed it is, plus some Lunar Black. I like the colour, but I’ve rounded the rocks as I concentrated on the colour rather than shapes.
I’ve kept the expanse of sea ‘white’ as part of my ongoing exploration of white space inspired by the little I know of the traditions of Chinese painting. It’s ever so tempting to paint colour in that space, but that’ll change it completely. Also, I find the granulating colours lift very easily, so you’ve got to have a light hand painting over them. Given I was using a stiff acrylic brush not a soft ‘proper’ watercolour brush, that’d be near impossible, thus removing the temptation to try.