March 2019 Painting Project: Instructions

Reference photo for March 2019 painting prohect

This month I’ve selected a photo that offers the option of going wide with a broad landscape view or zooming in on a detail. Plus an extra photo with some other elements you might add into your painting, or all if you prefer it. There is one requirement for this month — your painting must include a passing places sign, however small. The road in this photos is single-track, and where you get such roads, there you find passing places signs. The older signs have a diamond shape, which is easy to identify at a distance; the newer signs are boringly square.

Here’s the wide view, with mountains disappearing into the distance, a road to lead your eye into the middle distance, and a couple of sheep alongside a passing places sign to give a focal point.

Reference photo for March 2019 painting prohect

I would edit out the electricity poles and wires, and the raindrops on the camera lens. The grass in the foreground is quite blue to my eye (blue-green rather than yellow-green) and with the aerial perspective (that distant things get lighter in tone and bluer in colour the further away they are) it could be interesting to paint this with a warmer blue-green in the foreground and cooler, paler blues in the distance. (Have a look at Michael Chelsea Johnson’s paintings for this warm/cool near/far colour shift, he does it beautifully.)

Alternately, exaggerate and emphasise colours, be playful and emotional. Turn a hint of something into a rich version of that colour. For instance the browns in the tufts to sienna-golds, the grass greens to sunlit yellows. What about starting with brighter-than-you-think colour and subdue it with subsequent layers, rather than mixing restrained colours.

Another option would be to focus on a smaller section of the painting. What catches your attention or interest? Might you change these sheep into ones with horns inspired from February’s project?

Reference photo for March 2019 painting prohect

How about adding some other elements into your composition? This photo was taken further down the same road, giving you a passing place sign, post box, red phone box, wheelie bin, gate, and a croft house (plus multiple electricity poles and wires). You might prefer this stretch of road, curving around the corner.

Reference photo for March 2019 painting prohect

The video below (click here if you don’t see it) was taken while I was working on one of my paintings inspired by the photos I chose for March’s project. It’s about 20 minutes of real-time painting (I know this because of the playtime of the original video not because I keep track whilst I’m painting) sped up to two. A couple of things I noticed when watching it was how the board wobbles, something I’m not aware of when painting, and how I shifted the position of the brush in my fingers when I started using the rigger to do the letter, to how I would hold a pen for writing, with the control in my fingers rather than wrist.

I’ll post a photo gallery of February’s project paintings on Sunday, so do send me yours if you haven’t already. Also any from January. Happy painting!

My thanks to all the Project Patrons who help keep my blog advert free and enable me to spend the time on the monthly projects. Project Patrons get access to exclusive extra content on my Patreon page, as well as the option of a critique of their project paintings. It works like a monthly subscription, find out more here.

Photos: January Project’s Paintings of Talisker Bay

Here’s a photo gallery of paintings done in response to January’s project photo. I suggest you scroll through to enjoy each individually, then back and forth to compare composition decisions, the mark making, the results in similar and different mediums, what you might try yourself and what you wouldn’t.

My thanks to everyone who’s shared their paintings, by email and in the Community Section on my Patreon page. It’s so interesting and inspiring to see what the same starting point inspires in different people, and there are bits in every painting that make me think “what if I…?” (including your gold bling Cathi!).

I’m also pleased to see that my “do several versions” approach seems to be rubbing off, and not only on those people who’ve done face to face workshops with me. Which gives me an excuse for slipping in a mention that my next workshop in the Lake District at Higham Hall is at the beginning of April, and on Skye on 11 & 12 April, info here. Bayberry and I worked together from this reference photo last September in the warmth of Skyeworks Gallery in Portree, when the weather was wild and stormy rather than the more usual mild autumnal.

Last but not least, a reminder that Project Patrons not only get access to exclusive extra material supporting the monthly painting project, plus a short critique of your project painting if you wish. Sign up here. Your support helps keep the studio cats warm and fed, thank you.

February 2019 Painting Project: Instructions

Reference photo ram horns

For February’s painting project, I’ve chosen a photo that’s been the foundation of quite a few of my recent paintings. It’s part of a squence of photos I took one evening when local crofters were running a large group of rams with magnificent horns down the road.

Reference photo ram horns

The photo is intended to be a starting point, deliberately chosen to encourage you to focus on the ram and its magnificent horns, with the context cropped off. It’s intended to open the question of composition, to possibilities, rather than being a photo that presents you with a perfect composition, lighting, etc. Will it be more of a portrait, or will you put in the body and a suggestion of location? What about against an area of solid colour? Make a note of your first thoughts or impulses, then push the ideas a bit further with thumbnails to see it leads.

The style, medium, and size of painting are up to you. Click on the photo to get the largest version of it or go here.

Here’s a closer-up view, in black and white to make the tones clearer.

Reference photo ram horns

In the past few weeks I’ve done a version using a black fineliner pen and several painted versions, using a rigger brush for the horns. My starting point was spending some time looking at the twist in the horns, to understand what I’m seeing, tracking the curve of different edges/sides of the horns, using pencil and then coloured pencil. That I subsequently simplified the horns in my paintings was a stylistic choice.

Ram horns structure for drawing

It’s a photo I’ve also included in one of my photo reference booklets, which is what you see lying next to my sketchbook.

drawing ram horns in ink

Of course there’s no reason why your painting should have one ram only. The photo is a starting point, intended to jump-start ideas.

Sheep painting with seven sheep against yellow background
“The Seven Ram-ewe-rai”. Diptych, 100x50m (two panels of 50x50cm). In my studio. £645

When you’ve finished your painting(s), email me a photo on
art(at)marion(dot)scot
for inclusion in a photo gallery at the end of the month, ideally with a few sentences about it (think: things you might say when talking to a friend about the painting). I’ll post photos with first names only, unless you ask me otherwise. Seeing what different people have done from the starting point is interesting, intriguing and inspiring.

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You can become a Project Patron and view the exclusive project content when it’s published here. It also includes the option of a short critique of your painting if you wish.

Getting Ready for February’s Painting Project

studio cat helper Ghost

February’s project details (available to everyone who reads my blog) will be published on Friday (when it’s February, unless the snow takes out the internet). I will also be creating a photo gallery of January project paintings (a little way into February, not on Friday), so do email yours if you haven’t already

Studio cat Ghost has been helping me take photos for next month’s project demo which I’ll be doing as a slideshow video and step-by-step with explanations of what I was doing, using and thinking as one of the pieces of exclusive content created for Project Patrons, join here). I can more or less manage the paintbrush in one hand, cat on the other arm juggle, but opening a tube of paint is trickier.

studio cat helper Ghost
detail of painted ram's horn
detail of painted sheep wool using drips

January 2019 Painting Project: Instructions

Talisker Bay Skye

For the first of the monthly painting projects, I thought we’d start with one of the iconic locations on Skye, Talisker Bay. With its dark sand, masses of pebbles, and sea stack, it’s a very paintable location, and a favourite of mine.

This is the January 2019 painting project’s reference photo, to be the inspiration for a painting. The style, medium, and size of painting are up to you. Click on the photo to get the largest version of it or go here.

Talisker Bay Skye

When you’ve finished your painting, email me a photo on
  art(at)marion(dot)scot
for inclusion in a photo gallery at the end of the month, ideally with a few sentences about it (think: things you might say when talking to a friend about the painting). I’ll post photos with first names only, unless you ask me otherwise. Seeing what different people have done from the starting point is interesting, intriguing and inspiring.

What would be my starting point? Thumbnails considering options. Then choice of medium. For me this location lends itself to continuous line drawing with ink, but also to texture paste and acrylics. Also to a limited palette of Prussian blue, burnt umber and white, which together give a beautiful range of greys.

painting demo Talisker Bay

The two paintings in the photos above I did once I decided which photo to use for January’s painting project. Studio cat Ghost said he couldn’t decide which he liked most and went to sleep on my lap. The one on the left is done with acrylics, working with opaque colour, mostly dark to light. The one on the right with acrylic ink, working in transparent layers.

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You can become a Project Patron and view the exclusive project content when it’s published here. It also includes the option of a short critique of your painting if you wish.

For Project Patrons: