Photo Gallery: Duntulm Bay Painting Project

Here’s the photo gallery for August’s painting project featuring Duntulm Bay. Definitely lots of fun being had with the various textures and greys in the scene, in mediums from ink to oils. Enjoy!

By Bayberry: ” I kept it to only watercolor and ink, which is harder for me.  I always want to fix it with acrylic.”

From Marion: It’s not easy to resist reaching for acrylics, and not easy to do without, when you’re accustomed to what opaque acrylics do! Overall I think you’ve captured the location, the various textures of the elements and the gentle colours of the day the reference photo was taken beautifully.
By Karen: “I really enjoyed doing it after a first attempt when I wasn’t captured by the subject and gave up. It’s not a scene I would choose to paint but once I got into the flow I really enjoyed it. It is a little darker than I would have liked, although this photo shows it darker than it is.

From Marion: This has depth, the sense of location, the 3D on the slabs of rock, the little gate subtly waiting to be noticed, different textures in the various areas, it’s fabulous! Acrylics do dry darker (watercolours dry lighter), so a painting can easily be darker than we intend. It’s something you learn to compensate for: some people do it as they colour mix (by using colours a bit lighter in tone) others by adjusting afterwards (what I tend to do).
By Katherine: “Usually when I attempt any painting it somehow ends up looking quite grey, so I thought this challenge would suit me perfectly. But I’ve used a new medium for me – Faber-Castell gelato crayons which feel a bit like wax crayons but are in fact watercolour so dissolve if water added. My 12 crayons we’re all bright colours and I’ve ended up with this. Worked into it a little afterwards with watercolour pencils.”

From Marion: Well, this certainly isn’t “quite grey” but a rich tapestry of intriguing colour! I like the different areas of tone and mark making, pulling my eye up into the blues of the sea and calm sky. Definitely a medium you should use again!
By Eddie: “I have strengthened the blue in the sky and muted the sea in response to your comments. The hard edge on the hill was because I wet the graphite and it was difficult to cover completely but I have tried. There was some green in the stones but it didn’t show well against the dark so I have strengthened it. Overall the tweaks have made the painting stronger.

Details from Eddie’s painting.

By Bee. Pastel.

From Marion: The combination of drawing (line) and painting (blocks of colour and blended colour) not only creates visual interest that intrigues and lures me in, but also an energy. Like different tempos in a piece of music, speeding up and slowing down. Lovely use of the texture of the paper as part of this.
By Bee, in oils: “This is my final version of Dutulm Shore, I like it but it is not really the same place , tho’ I guess it was the starting point.”

From Marion: A photo is always just a starting point never the end point. The gentle greys and browns pull me in for a closer look, into the smaller and smaller pebbles. Like the use of line drawing into the wet paint to give texture and form to the rocks.
By Mark: “I enjoyed this month’s challenge, and did three attempts.

From Marion: They’ve got an energy and freshness to them, and I’m hard pressed to pick a favourite.
By Mark
By Mark

Remember, it’s never too late to do any of the projects, there’s no closing date to them. Simply email me a photo of your painting and I’ll add it to the next photo gallery. All the painting projects are listed here. Individual help from me with your paintings is available to project subscribers through my Patreon page and it also has a community section for easy sharing and commenting on fellow subscribers’ paintings.

My paintings inspired by this month’s location:

By Marion Boddy-Evans. Mixed media (watercolour, acrylic, acrylic ink, oil pastel) on watercolour paper, A2 size
By Marion Boddy-Evans. Acrylic on wood panels. Diptych 30x15cm. SOLD.
Video of my creating this painting
By Marion Boddy-Evans. Oils. 30x30cm.
Video of this on my Patreon page for project subscribers here

My Art Workshops at Higham Hall

Expressive Skye at Higham Hall Day 1

There are still a couple of places open on both my November 2020 and March 2021 Capturing Skye workshops at Higham Hall. The one in November is limited to eight participants, and the one in March to ten.

While I imagine it’s going to feel a bit strange at first because of social distancing and face coverings, I’m sure we’ll get into the rhythm of it all quickly enough and settle into the fun to be had with paint. I’m really looking forward to it.

Info on Higham’s protocols for covid can be found on their website: “Please do not expect to see floor stickers or distancing signs all over the place, we credit our Highamites will some intelligence. You will, however, notice some sanitising stations (and our new, nifty, no-direct-touch water dispenser), some screens here and there, plus a few different layouts. Numbers on courses will be limited, we are only using bedrooms with private bathrooms, communal seating arrangements and some aspects of service will be sensibly controlled in line with guidance without crushing the ambiance.” Face coverings are also to be worn in company, and the tables/easels in the studio will be arranged to allow for social distancing.

If you’ve any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to email me or Higham.

And remember, you can ask Higham to go on the advance notice list for my November 2021 and April 2022 workshops.

Contact Higham Hall on 017687 76276,, through their website here, and download a copy of the latest workshops booklet here (or request a printed copy).

September’s Painting Project: Breaking Wave

This month’s painting project is about a moment, a wave starting to break as it reaches the shore, and working with a limited palette.

I took this photo at Tsitsikamma (Storm’s River) in South Africa in 2007, and still have the painting I did in acrylics from this on the wall. Thinking about this month’s project, I felt like a “dramatic wave” and looking through all my “big wave” photos, kept coming back to this one. That the photo is over a dozen years old is belied by the timelessness of the movement of the sea.

As always, the style, medium, size, and format are up to you. Think about it a bit, but also allow yourself to be led by impulse to see where it takes you.

I would reach for Prussian blue, pthalo turquoise and titanium white, and work with this limited palette. A chance to really get to know the personalities of these two blues, their transparency and what happens when mixed with white and with one another.

I would leave out the sliver of rocky shore (the rocks are angular and dark), and probably any suggestion of sky, to take the painting away from a wider landscape into a composition about the act of a wave breaking. Leaving out the lower band of crashing foam is another possibility, making the foreground all about the water stretching up into the crest of the wave.

Realism, but with the composition being about pattern and colour rather than location.
Expressive, with large gestural brushmarks and splatters.
Line and colour, using line to convey the movement and broad washes of colour across these.

Notice that there’s shadow cast by the wave on itself, and that as there’s less water in the wave (towards the top), it’s lighter as the light starts to shine through.

If you’d like to have your painting included in the project photo gallery, simply email me a photo with a few words about it by the end of the month (if it’s later, I’ll include it in the next project gallery I create). If you’d like to have feedback on your painting, or help whilst you’re working on it, this is available to project subscribers (link).

Happy painting! I look forward to seeing what you’re inspired to paint.

Interesting Greys

Grey days, with low cloud or haar (sea mist), when there’s minimal colour in the landscape are not “dull days” to me, but “interesting greys”. A challenge to find the subtle changes of colour, the gentle variations in tone (value).

I started thinking of “interesting greys” after looking at paintings by Whistler in the Tate Britain gallery in London one visit, where the whole painting is dominated by shades of grey. For example:
Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Chelsea,
Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, and
Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights

Paintings I’d most likely walked past before, but spoke to me then, and still do.

I know it was at least 11 years ago now, because in October 2009 I did a project in the style Whistler (see it on the web archive here).

In his Ten O’Clock Lecture of 20 February 1885, Whistler wrote: “He [the artist] does not confine himself to purposeless copying, without thought, each blade of grass, as commended by the inconsequent, but, in the long curve of the narrow leaf, corrected by the straight tall stem, he learns how grace is wedded to dignity, how strength enhances sweetness, that elegance shall be the result.

Taking this to greys, I think it’s not confining ourselves to neutral greys, to greys mixed with black and white, but to explore those greys that have a touch of blue, green, yellow, pink, purple. The greys that happen when we mix complementary colours together — yellow/purple, red/green, and my favourite orange/blue — and can happen when we scrape remnant colours together on our palette (depending on what’s there). Add lots and lots of white to get pale interesting greys.

It’s important to make notes about what colours youre using for your interesting greys so that you can replicate them. Imperfectly mixing colours on the canvas/paper, rather than on the palette, can give compelling variations, as in this sheet done by a participant in one of my Higham Hall workshops.

Mixing Interesting Greys

Think of grey not as a constant hue, but a variable.

Greys Days sheep
SOLD “Greys Days”. 76x76cm.

Video: Rocky Seascape Painting with Texture Paste

This little seascape was done on two wooden panels using acrylic over texture paste. If you wonder why the panels aren’t blank when I start, it’s because they’re two I’d previously painted a little on but never taken the ideas further. I knew the texture paste would cover a lot of the colour (it dries as opaque) and that I would then add Payne’s grey acrylic ink as the first colour over the texture, which would hide even more whilst creating a lovely dark in the recesses of the texture. (Note: the video does not have sound.)

The panels when the texture paste and Payne’s grey ink had dried. I dropped some of the ink onto the surface, then sprayed it with water to spread it around without touching the still-wet texture.
Size 30x15cm (two panels of 15x15cm). Acrylic on wood.

Taking a Long, Slow Look at a Reference Photo Before Painting

You’ve got your reference photo, so you stick it up next to your canvas and start painting away enthusiastically. But, really, like doing thumbnails before we start, taking a long slow look at the photo to think about what’s in it, and what we might include in a painting, is time well spent.

The photo below is a page in my sketchbook where I made notes as I looked at the reference photo for this month’s painting project. (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

I started writing from the right-hand side of the page (I’ve no idea why), considering one aspect at a time of what I see and what I might use in a painting. So: elements I could include, colours in the photo, paint colours I might use, mark making possibilities, format, position of horizon, things to emphasise. (Elements to leave out could be another.)

Working through a photo with one aspect in mind narrows your focus, concentrates your attention, and can pull you in deeper and deeper with that one thing. If you made a spreadsheet with multiple headings and tried to consider them all together, it may seem faster, but it’s multi-tasking which means it’s harder to do to the same depth.

It’s not something you need to spend hours doing, nor do your notes need to be detailed. It’s about encouraging yourself to slow down for a bit, to look a little longer. Photos are taken in no time at all. What we decide to include or leave out needs a little longer consideration.

Certainly, I don’t always do it, and I don’t always move thoughts about a photo from my head onto paper. I justifying not doing it to myself by saying I use my own photos anyway, so I’ve already seen the scene with my own eyes and have visual memories. Ideally it’s something I’ll have done on location, but second best is to do it from a photo. The more I look, the more I see.

Photo Gallery: July Painting Project (Daisies)

Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do… and what beautiful and interesting answers we have had for this painting project too! Enjoy!

By Katherine: This was just supposed to be a test piece and was done on a 30cm x 60cm piece of wallpaper lining. I used acrylics and watercolours. A bit of a mess really!

From Marion: It’s not a mess, it’s captured the sense of enthusiasm that daisies have, growing where and how they will (unless you’ve a formal garden with rigid planting) and dancing about under the sun.
By Mark: I enjoyed this one. It’s about 5 inches by 5 inches, acrylic on 360 gsm paper.
From Marion: Beautiful rich greens, with sense of depth, movement, and the cheerfulness that I associate with daisies.
By Cathi: My first effort was done really quickly. I used water colour and masking fluid to keep the flowers whiter-than-white!

From Marion: I’m looking at this and wondering why I’ve never thought to combine pencil and masking fluid, because it totally resolves the hard-edged look of masking fluid white areas that I don’t really like. I do, however, keep wanting to straighten up your painting!
By Cathi: I did enjoy this month’s subject and had fun doing something a bit different with it!

From Marion: Do I detect the influence of the “cut up” from May’s project…? After a bit of pondering I’ve realised that I keep wanting these flowers to be water lilies rather than daisies, but can’t decide whether it’s because the cutout shapes feel like waterlily leaves or it’s the sense of pond in the background.
By Bee: A first quick daisy picture done with Sharpies.
From Marion: I’m intrigued by how the blue background at the top could feel so airy whilst the green and the bottom feels like I’m looking down at the ground, yet both are merely a single colour; how my brain adds and interprets.
By Bee.
From Marion: I like the energy, colours, variety of angles. Looking at the lower left, there’s yellow peaking out beind the green, giving a sense of sunshine and depth. I know layering is one of my enthusiasms, but it’s tiny bits like this that show how effective it can be.
By Eddie: “These daisies get into your head. I was scribbling with a biro while watching TV and this popped up. Promise it’s the last for this month.”
From Marion: That your fingers are leading you to daisies is making me smile! There’s a lovely looseness to this, interesting mark making with an energy and freshness. You might try this approach using an acrylic marker pen and then watery acrylics around it.
By Eddie: “The one on the left was drawn with the dropper of Payne’s grey acrylic ink and on the right with Indian ink and a brush. I then added gouache until I felt I had done enough to make them interesting and, hopefully, avoid overworking.”

From Marion: “I did a little happy dance seeing these, that joyful feeling that comes from nudging someone in a direction and seeing them run with the idea. Both have a lot I like about them: the looseness, the balance of suggestion and representation, the feel of the ‘hand of the artist’.
By Eddie: “I did a tonalist version in oils.” From Marion: I like it for being so different to your other daisies, that you’ve taken a now-familiar subject and tried a different approach.
By Eddie: “As soon as I saw your concertina book I grabbed the sketchbook, pen and watercolours which sit beside me and played while watching t.v. I enjoyed the looseness and freedom from anxiety a sketchbook gives. I tried but failed to keep this feeling with this larger acrylic.

From Marion: Theoretically we should be able to do a larger painting with the vitality of a sketchbook pieces, because the evidence is right there that we can work in this style. The key is to somehow break the “this is now a serious painting” mindset that overrides the looseness. One thing that may help is to do the bigger version on paper still, not canvas.
From Claire: This is my attempt in watercolour, looking at your photo and my windswept flowers in the garden. I decided not to add other media to tidy up the loose petals and vegetation because I would have been fiddling. At the start, I intended to do four small practice pieces but these two on the left were too fiddly so I did the two on the right as one picture ignoring the tape.

From Marion: The white where the tape was makes it feel like I’m looking through a window (I’ve a whole book of paintings by Matisse with just his views through windows). You’re absolutely right to leave it loose like this, it’s got such sense of movement, of swaying in the breeze.
By Sarah: “In the middle of the night I realised I had not preplanned any firm of composition for my painting and ended up making the one painting into two. I even put an intial signature on the bottom, being happy with my process and result.

From Marion: When you showed me the photo of your painting whilst it was still a work-in-progress, I’d wondered what you might do with the ‘gap’ between the two sections, but didn’t point it out as I wanted to see if you’d resolve it. This is the perfect solution.

And one from June’s bluebells project:

By Claire: Tried a watercolour to get back into painting. It.was such a cold miserable day that I looked back to the glorious heatwave and dug out my yellows to suggest sunshine through the trees , mixed on the paper and added oil pastel, trying to keep very loose. I wasn’t happy with lots of foreground trees I had, so cropped it.

I’ve had fun with daisies myself this month, starting with my concertina book daisies (see this blog post for a video):

Which led to this painting on canvas:

SOLD “Ailsa’s Daisies”. 50x20cm, acrylic on canvas

And this mixed media painting on paper:

Foxgloves and Daisies painting
SOLD “Foxgloves and Daisies”. A2 size paper, mixed media

As always with painting projects, if you’d like to share a photo of your painting(s), please email it to me, send it via social media, or post to the community section of my Patreon. There’s no deadline on any of the projects, I will simply include it in the next photo gallery.

Happy painting!

August’s Painting Project: Duntulm

This month’s inspiration is a bit of rocky coast of Score Bay near the ruins of Duntulm Castle. If you know what you’re looking for, there are fossilized dinosaur footprints hereabouts. The reference photo was taken on an overcast day as the tide was going out. I see it as an opportunity to paint with “interesting greys”, with pops of bright colour.

The dark blip on the horizon is a small cluster of islands

Below is a version of the photo which I’ve edited to increase the saturation of the colours, to give you some ideas for colours to emphasise or exaggerate, to use as undercolours, or use as the ‘bias’ in greys. Notice also that not all the smaller pebbles are grey, there’s a scattering of lighter ones.

Photo with colour exaggerated

And in the version of the photo below I’ve edited it to increase the dark, enabling us to see the shapes of the clouds better. You might even choose to ignore most of the shore and have a composition that’s focuses on the sky.

Photo with dark enhanced

Size and medium are up to you. I think it’s a subject that lends itself to everything and anything, from simple pencil line to layered mixed media.

COMPOSITION: The photo as I took it is but one option, a composition with roughly a third rocky shore, sea (if you count the little bit of shallow water amongst the green on the left), and sky. You might keep these proportions but change the shape to square or a tall vertical format.

Another option would be to reduce the amount of sky and make it all about what’s happening on the shore, with or without the cliff on the right-hand side (and if with, then with or without the fence/gate at the top which gives a sense of scale). Or make it all about the clouds, with this taking up most of the composition.

COLOURS: There’s a lot of grey in this photo, giving the opportunity to explore colour mixing greys. By “interesting greys” I mean greys that have a touch of colour to them, not neutral greys. So blue-grey, green-grey, yellow-grey, etc. My favourite mix is blue + orange + white (a lot of white!), but explore mixing the other complementaries too (red + green, purple + yellow).

Your painting might be done with a limited palette, a narrow range of colours and tones, with subtle contrasts for a gentle mood. Or you might have little pops of colour, whether colours not entirely mixed or bits of brighter lower layers shining through or little touches added. Or you might decide to go full-on expressionist, embracing exaggerated versions of the colours that there are.

Another thought that occured to me was to use swathes of flat, opaque greys in the sky in the style of Joan Eardley. To make the sky area one of flat colour, perhaps with a little variation, then the sea have a bit more going on (in terms of colour and/or mark making), and the foreground being “busy”, full of colour and mark making.

If you’d like to have your painting included in the project photo gallery, simply email me a photo with a few words about it by the end of the month (if it’s later, I’ll include it in the next project gallery I create). If you’d like to have feedback on your painting, or help whilst you’re working on it, this is available to project subscribers (link).

Happy painting! I look forward to seeing what you’re inspired to paint.

I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that my first painting of this was a layered mixed media piece. Here’s a detail from it:

Detail. Mixed media on watercolour paper, A2 size.

Project Photo Gallery: Bluebells

Here are paintings inspired by June’s project, in an array of styles all the way from botanical to abstract. Enjoy!

By Bee: “My attempt at bluebell woods in acrylic, using leaf prints. I was worried I had gone a bit dark and got a bit too enthusiastic with the leaf prints.”
From Marion: Really like this! The sense of cool shade, how it leads the eye up to the bluebells and sunlight.
By Bayberry: I gave this one a shot but it is more about birches than bluebells! From Marion: For me it’s got a real sense of walking in the cool shade of Uig woodland, seeing the sunny field of buttercups through the trees.
By Eddie: Having done a couple of small studies I decided to go large. I found it difficult to know how big to do the flowers and started off far too small since I wanted them to be front and centre. I have used watercolour, gouache, inktense, acrylic and soft pastels. From Marion: Your bluebells are definitely front and centre, immediately dominating the composition and demanding we look at them. That they decrease in size as they go into the background adds a sense of depth and location. The layers on the bluebells give them form, colour, and visual intrigue. They feel as if I could touch them with my finger and they’re dance about.
By Katherine: But by following the links on the Higham newsletter I’ve found your monthly projects, and this is my first effort. I’ve combined it with a challenge that my local art teacher to produce something using 3 ‘wet’ colours and 3 ‘dry’ colours so this has been created using 3 loosely applied watercolours and 3 chalk pastel colours. It also had to be done within 30 minutes (not including drying time).
From Marion: Delighted you found the project, and hope you’ll be joining in more.
By Helen R: My go at a bluebell wood.
From Marion: It reminds me of the bluebells growing in the grounds at Armadale Castle on the south of Skye, where they outgrow the other greenery.
By Sarah: . I started with Ink, then I went back to practice more in watercolours. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
From Marion: I’ve enjoyed watching your progress on Facebook with your botanical art studies, and it’s a special thrill that this month’s project prompted you to do a bluebells. A beautiful painting of a deliate flower, and a reminder to me of how it’s time well spent to slow down and look closely.
By Cathi: ” After much doodling and playing around I came up with two totally different pics. Watercolour and ink.”
From Marion: I love the freedom in this, the loose expression of the colour constrained with just a touch of line. So deceptively simple!
By Cathi: “After much doodling and playing around I came up with two totally different pics. This, the second, at last, is going away from the “must look like what it is”! Watercolour and ink.”
From Marion: If it weren’t for the theme “bluebells” I wouldn’t be making the connection, so in your aim to get away from it “looking real”, you’d certainly succeeded. Conversely, having “bluebells” in mind gives me a path into the painting, a way to interpret and make it intriguing rather than merely mysterious. I find myself wondering what a version with curved cut lines rather than straight would feel like, vs the strong straight lines.

By Marion. Mixed media. (See this blog post)

July’s Painting Project: White Daisies

This month’s project features one of my favourite flowers, white daisies. A challenge to use this reference photo with a small colour range (white, green, yellow) and a lot of repeated shapes (the circles of the flowers and lines of the stems) to compose and create a painting. Remember, a reference photo is a starting point, not the finish point. See where it takes you, in any medium you choose.


  • Simply the composition: There’s a lot happening in this reference photo, so start by thinking about what you would leave out and narrow down what you might include in a composition. Doing thumbnails would be time well spent, tiny drawings with the basics of a composition. (I would crop off the right-hand half and a sliver off the bottom of the photo, a composition with an area top left where there aren’t daisies to give breathing space.)
  • Focus on shape: Daisies have a very distinctive shape, the central splash of yellow with slivers of white dancing around. Growing as they are in the reference photo, we see them from all sorts of angles as well as some older flowers where the petals are drooping. A second level of shape is the wiggles of the stems.
  • White: The ‘white’ of the petals isn’t the same across the whole flower. Think “interesting whites” not “tube white”. Add a bit of blue or purple to areas in shadow, and yellow to areas catching the light. If you use the same blue(s) and yellow(s) to paint the greenery, you’ll have a colour harmony in your painting.
  • Shadows: If you’re using acrylics or oils, think about painting from dark to light, put the shadow areas in first and add opaque colour on top, rather than trying to add shadows afterwards. Or let the painting dry so you can add the darks by glazing.
  • Sky: That little sparkle of sky in the top lefthand corner, maybe continue that across the top of the composition to give an extra colour and relieve all that green.
  • Think in layers: Create a list of layers you could have, mediums and colours and mark making. It’s a bit like a recipe, all the decisions made before you start, leaving you to focus the painting.
  • Do blocks: Taking inspiration from April’s projects and create a composition with little blocks of daisies (as I did with my Dozen Daisies).
  • Supersize: Take a detail and make it fill a composition, a “supersized” or giant daisy or three. Like the Edinburgh-artist Lucy Jones has done here and here.

This is what my list of layers might look like, using mixed media on paper (as I did in my Concertina Daisies):

  • Pencil to mark the initial composition, especially the position of the flowers. This could be lightly done so it doesn’t show, or used as the first layer of line.
  • Line drawing of the flowers and stems, using acrylic ink (because once it’s dry, it won’t lift).
  • Yellow ink or watercolour onto centres of flowers, and a little random yellow onto the areas of greenery (to create colour variation once I start painting the stems more deliberately).
  • A darkish watercolour green applied with stems in mind to give a linear feel to it, but not too carefully.
  • Another watercolour green,similarly applied, to give variation.
  • While I wait for the greens to dry, do another layer on the flowers with a light blue ink for “shadow petals”, knowing these will have a layer of white over the blue to ‘subdue’ it.
  • Another layer on the stems and foliage, a brighter more yellow green that’s and more opaque too so it pulls forward. Applied with a little more precision to tighten up shapes and give definition to stems.
  • Add some light blue ‘sky’ colour along the top, encouraging it to drip and run down. I’d first try with watercolour, but if it’s too lost then I might repeat the layer with a slightly opaque acrylic (adding white to any blue, then making it fairly watery).
  • Use white to define the petals. This could be a drawn line with acrylic ink or using a flat brush (which if you twist it as you pull it gives a nice ‘petal’). Watch out for it being too uniform a white — having bits that are still wet that you hit and mix on the paper, or having stray bits of colour on your palette can help. Or mix a bit of ‘interesting’ white and use this first before ‘clean white’ as the top layer.
  • Reinforce the yellows of the flowers.
  • Check if the darks need to be reinfored.
  • Leave it overnight, look again with fresh eyes, and decide if anything else needs doing.

If you’d like to have your painting included in the project gallery, simply email it to me (and for any of the other projects, whenever you might do them). If you’d like help whilst working on your painting and feedback on the finished painting, this is available to project patrons. Have fun!