Drawing (Neist Point) with One Ink Colour

Is it a drawing, is it a painting? Did it start as a drawing and become a painting when I added water to the ink? I don’t know, and don’t believe it matters. What’s of more interest to me was that this afternoon, after days of exploring new watercolour colours, I felt like using “black” ink only. Maybe it was a side effect of a grey-skies day.

It’s not black though, it’s Payne’s grey*, a dark blue-grey that I find has got more rich depth than straight black.

The subject is Neist Point, the westerly most point of Skye, punctuated with a lighthouse. I was working from memory with one of my reference photos (in the booklet of photos I use for my workshops) to hand to remind me of shapes. I’m using acrylic ink, and the dropper as a drawing tool.

You can’t easily make it out in the photo but there are some composition lines I drew using a non-photo blue pencil before picking up the ink. It meant I could concentrate on getting the ink drawing done fast enough that some would still be wet enough to spread into the sea area when I dampened this. (If I were to do composition and ink simultaneously, it would split my attention and lengthen the drawing time.)

Line only at this stage, on dry paper (350gsm Not watercolour paper).

And here’s where I got so caught up in what I was doing that I forgot to take photos. So between the previous photo and the next the caption reads “Draw the rest of the #@&%! owl”**

Once I’d worked my way down to the foreground (it’s a cliff edge from which you can see the lighthouse), I made my way back across the drawing with line a little. Then I wet the sea area with clean water, taking care not to touch any of the ink yet.

I needed the sea area to all be damp so I wouldn’t get any hard dry edges (except on the horizon) when I started spreading the ink into the sea. I then carefully ran a damp brush along the edge of the ink line to connect it to the damp paper. Areas of still-wet ink spread out, and I brushed it outwards too.

Where there wasn’t enough ink, I used the brush to ‘borrow’ some from other areas. Where there was too much, I dabbed at it with paper towel. Brush wiped and dunked in clean water periodically too. At full strength this ink colour is very dark; thinned it’s a beautiful blue-grey.

I could add colour, such as the greens of the grass, but I won’t. That’s a different painting.

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*Payne’s Grey is named after a British watercolourist and art lecturer, William Payne (1760–1830), who recommended the mixture to students as a more subtle alternative to a gray mixed from black and white. Payne’s grey originally was “a mixture of lake, raw sienna and indigo” according to “Artist’s Pigments: c.1600-1835” (by RD Harley, Archetype Publications, 2001, page 163). What’s in it these days varies between manufacturers, typically a blue and a black together, sometimes a touch of red is added.

**A meme from a few years ago on how to draw an owl in two steps, the first being two circles and the second a detailed owl drawing.

Eye Candy for Artists: Acrylic Inks

Acrylic Ink Droppers

Specially for you-know-who-you-are doing the you-know-where art project using you-know-what, here are some photos of the acrylic inks I’ve been using the last wee while.

Acrylic Ink Droppers
From left to right: Pebeo, Liquitex, Amsterdam, FW, Schmincke acrylic ink. I feel there’s little to distinguish various brands of acrylic ink in terms of quality, but there is in terms of dropper shape. My favourite is the pointy version of FW, which is great for drawing with directly. One thing that does puzzle me is why the Pebeo gold ink is scented.

Acrylic Ink Brands

Acrylic inks

Ink Meets Shore

Lines Shore Black and Orange Ink Drawing Finished

On the ‘other’ side of the waterbreak large bands of waves were crashing in, the result of the previous day’s strong north wind. (Larger than they look in this photo because I’m looking down on a steep shore.)

Waves North Wind

Moving to a favourite picnic table, overlooking the shore, the large boulders exposed, only small waves lapping through bands of seaweed. I’ve been here many times in the nearly 10 years we’ve been on Skye, but I think this was the lowest I’ve ever seen the tide.

I realised that for once I wasn’t staring into the distance, but was being mesmerized by the pattern on the shore. So out came the black ink, followed by a pot of an opaque fluid-acrylic orange that I grabbed as I headed out my studio from where it’s been sitting waiting to be tried for the first time.

Yes, I am applying it with a stick. It gives a randomness to the marks. And, yes, this stick does live in my pencil box because sticks can be hard to find in some locations.

Then, some “sea colours”, in acrylic inks. Payne’s grey, marine blue. A splash of acid yellow-green. Watercolour paper, 350gsm, A3 size.

It’s abstract, but I like it. For me it’s got a sense of location (though seashore, not necessarily Camus Mor) and the breeze in my hair. What others will see and feel, I can only guess.

Painting Workshop Photos: Starting with Rosehips & Sunflowers

Working with black ink and dip pen you have to keep going forward with it, you can’t stop to erase, rethink and redo like you can with a pencil. At one point in my recent workshops at Skyeworks, there was a “try it with both hands” moment:

Without this out-of-comfort-zone yet playful moment, would the free mark making with the black ink and pen in this subsequent mixed media painting have happened? It’s impossible to say, but I do think it’s part of why there’s such a sense of joy in this painting (enjoyment in exploring the mediums and the exploration of the subject, some rosehips in a glass jar).

And while this next painting (work-in-progress) may look like a graphite pencil and watercolour drawing in the middle of a realist painter’s comfort zone, in fact it was out of comfort zone because it’s graphite and acrylic ink. What’s reassuringly familiar to one person is unfamiliar to another. What’s scary is relative and individual, and changes as we progress on our artistic journeys.

It was a joy watching both of these paintings being created and develop, the enthusiasm, and tenacity.

The sunflower painting below was done by the same person who did the rosehip pencil drawing, after a weekend’s break. It’s mixed media, started with soft pastel, then acrylic inks and paint, and black ink. Much further out of comfort zone but at the same time easier because of the time spent earlier in the session just trying out? materials without worrying about results, being a kid again and enjoying pushing colour around.

Parts of it are still work-in-progress, less resolved, but I think it’s beautiful and painterly — a celebration of both the joy of sunflowers and paint — particularly the top left sunflower.

The next painting was done by someone who started the session never having been near acrylic paint. We were focusing on looking at a subject with an eye towards abstraction and impressionism rather than realism, suggesting rather than telling, reducing detail.

I enjoy all sorts of things about this, such as the sense of a surface in the bottom right, which starts my mind on a journey of “is it a table cloth or…?”. The suggestion of shapes in the background, the sense of depth behind the centre top. And something, which you wouldn’t know unless you had been there: the last-minute joyous adding of a glaze of magenta to the vase because it’s a favourite colour, and ties into the magenta in the flower centres, changing the overall dominance of yellow in the painting.

I had my own version, started as a demonstration piece (e.g. “this is how dark a shadow I’m thinking you might add, yes, really, this dark”) then continued a bit as I tidied up at the end of the session, using up the little bits of leftover paint. Parts were still wet when I took this photo and I’m interested to see how much the last layer of acrylic ink on the petals has sunken into the paper.

But I left it on the table in the workshop area of Skyeworks Gallery, so it’ll be a couple of days before I see it again. At the moment I’m thinking: “that jug is awfully tall!”

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How I Created My Biggest Painting Yet

The Majestic Minch” is the largest painting I’ve done on a single canvas, at 150x90cm. I could have laid it flat on my studio floor if I’d moved all sorts of things to create a large enough space (read: “not my idea of fun”) but, instead, once I’d decided I would tackle it (read: “this canvas sat around for years intimidating me with its size”) I waited for some dry weather and took it outside (read: “let’s play in the sunshine”).

Majestic Minch seascape painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

The initial challenge was how to eliminate all that intimidating white. I had the composition/colours in my head, a summery Minch seascape, when there are little pink flowers (thrift) blooming along the coastline, with “interesting greys” in the water, and the line of outer isles. So out came the squeezable bottles of acrylic plus a big brush and some water. Oh, and a bit of canvas to catch runs of paint, because I was working on a slight slope.

First down was Prussian blue, spread across the sky area to cover all the white and broken up where there’d be sea. Sprayed this with some water to help spread it and to let it run, and spread with a brush dipped in water, hence the blue on the dropcloth. Then some yellow, which brushed mixed with the blue to give green, then golden ochre, light pink and white, which were spread and mixed for the shoreline, and then golden ochre for the distant islands. Because it was sunny and dry, the paint was drying quickly but not instantly (this is Skye after all), giving time to move it around and mix on the canvas somewhat.

Majestic Minch seascape painting

The angle of the next photo makes the brush handle seem longer than it really is.

Majestic Minch seascape painting

I added more layers of blue-greys, mixed in a squeezeable bottle so I could pour it out across the canvas, gradually getting lighter in tone and greyer in colour. I also added glazing medium and water to the paint bottle. I don’t have any photos because I was having too much fun painting to stop. The big size meant walking around and stretching over, and remembering to go edge to edge not only do the middle.

Majestic Minch seascape painting

I left it outside to dry, moving it onto the grass where it is more level, then moved it into my studio onto my easel for the pondering stage and, ultimately, the final rounds. Most significant change was the distant islands, knocking back the bright colour without obscuring it completely and adding some “rain”. I also worked on the sea, adding in darks?and lights, spray on the shore (read: small additions, lots of pondering, more additions and tweaks).

Majestic Minch seascape painting

Majestic Minch seascape painting

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Majestic Minch Seascape by Marion Boddy-Evans

Used in this painting:

  • Genie Canvas Collapsible Canvas, not available in the UK). I was sent one some years ago to review when I was still writing Painting.About.com; I still think it’s a clever, useful concept and it seems to have been refined since, but they’re not cheap.
  • Amsterdam acrylics for the initial layers. A ‘student’ paint that I find a good balance between quality and price, with strong, clean colours.
  • Liquitex String Gel. The “flows like honey” medium that works for me only when it’s warm enough, and then it’s great for strings of colour on a seascape. Most of the year it sits around as my studio’s too cold and it “flows like jam” (i.e. doesn’t).
  • Artist’s quality acrylics for layers above the initial colour, Prussian or phthalo blue plus burnt umber and white to produce various greys. My current favourite brands are Golden and Schmincke, but I use all sorts.
  • A wide coarse-hair brush. Look for a “thin flat varnish brush” and go for wider than you initially think; it’s for getting large areas painted fast, not details.

How I Created “Symphony in White”

I’ve had quite a few questions about how I created the painting on my Interlude exhibition poster, “Symphony in White”, so here are a few photos I took while working on it. As so often happens, I don’t have any step-by-step photos of the later stages where it all comes together as I was too caught up in the painting and pondering. Fundamentally, it’s a combination of deliberate and happy accident, letting paint run and colours to mix, as well as leaving it to dry before applying another layer, all the while referring to the idea in my head.

I’d worked out the composition idea and started with a minimal pencil drawing on the 100x100cm canvas. I painted the negative space (pthalo turquoise, I think) and then added texture paste to where the flower heads would be.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 1

Texture Flower Base Layer no colour yet

I then spread it with a big brush, a little colour added to differentiate the flowers. I can’t remember what colours I used, but it looks to me as if I added some magenta top left, then used the colour that was still on the brush to do the other magenta-ish flowers, then added some yellow which has mixed to give green-ish and orange-ish. The specific colours don’t matter at this stage, it’s all about the texture.
Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 2

This was then left to dry overnight, to ensure the texture paste was definitely dry. More blue was added, and some magenta to some of the roses, and the painting sprayed with water to allow the colours to run.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 3

Before this was dry, I added some yellow and let it drip.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 4

And then a layer of titanium white.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 5

The paint I’m using is Golden High Flow which is about the consistency of ink, but with a different viscosity so behaves differently, and an high pigment loading (artspeak for seriously intense colour). The texture paste (Golden Light Molding paste) creates an absorbent surface. When I spray the paint with water it does interesting things. Having the canvas vertical uses gravity to encourage the paint to flow. You’ll also notice there’s a piece of fabric (raw canvas) to catch the drips; there’s more on the floor.

And this is where I run out of step-by-step photos. But there was more spraying of water, more colour, more white, more spraying, more waiting for paint to dry or partially dry (you can see there’s some white that’s run that has not mixed into still-wet paint), some? colour from the flowers added subtly into the top negative space, and eventually left to definitely dry. Then adding of tube titanium white with a brush and palette knife to give definition to the roses, some thick and some thinned with glazing medium, and some lifted off to reveal colour beneath (such as centres of flowers). And more pondering and more tweaking, and ultimately arriving at this as the finished painting. How long did it take? I don’t know, just as I don’t exactly know how I got the painting from as it was in the photo above to as it is in the photo below. I only have a rough idea of the journey to get there, and had a lot of enjoyment doing it.

Symphony in White. 100x100cm. Acrylic on canvas Rose painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
Symphony in White. 100x100cm. Acrylic on canvas. At Skyeworks Gallery.

 

 

My Palette Isn’t Pretty

You know those beautifully laid out palettes with a rainbow of colours arranged equidistant from each other around the edges and a mixing area in the middle? Well, mine doesn’t look like that at all, because:
(a) I’m not using a stay-wet palette with acrylics so too much of such squeezed-out paint would dry before I’d used it all.
(b) I don’t decide on all the colours in advance (though I do have regulars).
(b) I don’t use all my regular colours in every painting.
(d) I work with one colour at a time (single or mixed), applying it across the whole composition before moving onto the next, working with the fast-drying of acrylics, not against. Any leftover gets used to build up coloured grounds on a small canvas, so it’s not wasted.
(e) I like colour-mixing through layering and glazing.
(f) I often squeeze paint (and medium) directly onto a canvas, particularly in the initial layers of a painting.
(g) There’s less wet paint for studio cat to jump onto.
My palette is a small mixing area that reflects the last colour I used, in the photo it looks like “sheep black” over Prussian blue over cobalt teal. I wipe the space if the next colour doesn’t want any traces of the last in it. It’s not a pretty, photogenic palette, but it works for me.

Palette

Video: Painting White Roses Wet-onto-Wet

This short video shows me adding white onto still-wet purple to create white roses. Working wet-into-wet lets colours mix together in the painting in interesting ways. It helps to keep your brush dry (wipe it clean rather than rinse) so the paint doesn’t become too slippy and end up sliding across the surface rather than sticking and mixing.

That First Texture Paste Layer

Two photos from the very first layer in a new roses painting started on Sunday, in answer to a question about how I use texture paste to create a coloured, textured ground. The first photo was taken moments before I spread it, the second when I’d finished and stopped to let it all dry.

Texture Flower Base Layer no colour yet

Step One: Loosely pencil in composition. A few guidelines only, it’s going to get hidden completely soon. (These spirally squiggles are roses, in my mind’s eye.)

Step Two: Scoop out paste from jar with palette knife and place in strategic spots directly onto canvas. How much comes from practice. (Can easily add more; I use a knife so I don’t contaminate the jar with colour from my brush.)

Step Three: Squeeze out some paint next to texture paste, directly onto canvas. (Again, experience tells me how much, but rather less than more.) Different colours to help me differentiate the roses when I start the next layer.

Step Four: Spread with big bristle brush (at least an inch wide). Occasionally I use the palette knife to scrape texture paste out of bristles, but I clean brush once only, when finished.

Step Five: Check composition, now in texture/colour rather than pencil. Adjust if needed. Leave to dry overnight.

Texture Flower Base Layer
Textured and coloured first layer, following my composition sketch.

There are all sorts of texture mediums available. My favourite is Golden’s Light Molding Paste. This doesn’t shrink too much when it dries, holds its shape, is remarkably light (as the name says) so using it on a big canvas doesn’t make it horribly heavy, and dries to a matte, slightly absorbent surface.

Join Me: Intro to Acrylics Art Class Next Friday

Life painting step-by-step photos
A few photos taken while painting in life class.

There are three is one space available on the workshop I’m going to be doing on Friday, 26 February 2016, 10am to 4pm, at Skyeworks in Portree. It’s an introduction to acrylics paints and techniques, plus a look at ways to create a painting, themed around portrait/figure painting.

Beginners welcome.
Cost: ?65 including use of materials.

Expect to spend the time exploring acrylic paints, medium, colour mixing, and techniques. This is not a “let’s all paint the same pretty picture step by step” type of class.

Email me at info@isleofskyeartstudio.com or pop into Skyeworks tomorrow (Saturday) as I’ll be on gallery duty.