Painting Project Photo Gallery: Woodland Pond

The reference photo of the pond and reflected trees for February’s project (see instructions) was a complex scene, with a lot going on. It’s been very interesting seeing how different people have approached it, and the finished paintings. Enjoy!

By Asif: “In the reference photo provided,  reflection of trees in the water looked interesting to me.  So I focused to paint only the trees and the pond area.”

From Marion: I like how you’ve included the building in the distance; I hadn’t even realised it was visible in the photo until I saw your painting! It’s beautifully painted, but have another look at the angles of the reflected trees, which you’ve straightened as you painted them. if you can, find a pond or pool in real life and look at how things are reflected, or set up a still life version at home with a bowl of water and a few bottles or vase of flowers. It’s easier to study in real life than a photo because you can see how things shift as you change position.
By Sarah: “Thoroughly enjoyed this.”

From Marion: I like the extreme vertical format, which echoes the long narrow tree trunks and emphasies the vertical movement of the composition. There’s a complexity to the colour in this that is enticing and beautiful.
By Cathi: ” The first is a representation of what I saw/imagined when I first saw your photograph. I actually love this one, it makes me want to keep looking at it, imagining what lies under the glassy surface. A4.”

From Marion: I like the strong shapes and how you’ve turned the subject into an intriguing abstract. (Keep imagining as having been here when the water had drained away, I know reality is uninspiring and slimy.)
By Cathi: “My second attempt was so dreadful, no one will be allowed to see it, but the third is much better. Done mostly from memory/imagination as I forgot to take the photo to our painting group but had the dreadful picture with me to give the tree placement. Both are done in acrylic but used much thinner than I normally do. This one is A3.”

From Marion: I love the composition, which breaks the so-called rules by placing the band that is the focal point in the centre. My eye is then pulled up and down by the tree trunks, getting a different story in each section. It never would have occured to me to do this because I’m so focused on the grasses that are in the foreground of the project photo.
By Eddie, ink pen.
By Eddie, pastel.

From Marion: I like the tall composition, which gives room for the trees to dominate and stretch but also for the foreground reeds which feel like I’m standing up against them. The shapes of the land/water lead the eye in and up, to the distant stand of trees. Lovely light/shadow.
By Eddie: ” Gouache, ink, acrylic with various mediums and oil pastel. It took around ten days in which I laid a wash, made collage trees with tissue paper, added mediums, added more partial washes, glazes and scumbling. I stopped after each process and let it dry while I considered the next step. Finally I put in the smaller branches with acrylic ink and used oil pastel in patches and over the ridges of the medium to form the reeds. This is it after Marion’s suggestions.”

I’ve had three goes at painting this scene, two of which I regard as finished and the third as a problematic work-in-progress. This was my first painting (do not adjust your eyes: the photo isn’t sharp). My favourite part is the lower two thirds, the sense of water behind dried grasses.

Mixed media on A2 watercolour paper. Acrlic ink and paint with oil pastel.

My second painting was done on location; see my blog Painting That Puddle in the Woodland.

Uig Woodland Puddle painting
Oil paint on 9×12 inch wood panel

My third painting is still unresolved, and has been through a lot of changes. Whether I will ever get to it to a satisfactory point is debatable. This is what it currently looks like after I once again added dark to it. (Project subscribers can view a video of me working on this here.)

As always, if you have a go at this month’s project or any of the previous ones, I encourage you to share a photo of your painting by emailing it to me on art(at)marion(dot)scot. Participation in the monthly painting projects is open to all and free; if you’d like help working on your painting or a critique, this is available to project subscribers via Patreon.

Video Demo: My First Attempt at the Red Boat

This timelapse video was taken as I made my first attempt at painting the red boat and creel nets (see this month’s project instructions). I started with pencil and then coloured pencil, feeling my way towards the idea for a composition I had. I approached it as a study, a first go to explore what appealed about the subject, saving worrying about slowing down to check I was getting all perspective “right” for another time.

If you don’t see the video above, you’ll find it on my Vimeo channel here.

After the pencil layers, I blocked in the main shapes using watercolour, then shifted to drawing with Payne’s grey acrylic ink, followed by acrylic paint, ending with oil pastel.

A3 watercolour paper

Overall I was pleased with where I ended up at with this painting, and delighted that I’d tackled the subject (boats being something I rarely do). There are things that aren’t totally working, such as the angle of the boat/cabin, depth of its hull, the length of the creel nets, how I’ve fudged what’s happening to the right of the negs, whether there should be pebbles and not just grass behind the nets. These can all be addressed next time, for now I’m enjoying the feel of the string on the creel nets and the line of them leading the eye up, and the decision to have a relatively simple shape of blue at the top (only sea, not sea/sky).

Special thanks to singer-songwriter Micah Gilbert, who lives down the road from me and wrote the music I’ve used on the video. If you use Spotify, go here.

March’s Project Instructions: The Red Boat

Red fishing boat and kreel nets

This month’s subject s a bright red fishing boat called “Swell” at the slipway at Stein, on the northeastern shore of Loch Bay (yes, it really has this prosaic name), on the west of the Waternish peninsula of Skye. The nearby row of buildings include the historic Stein Inn, the 1* Michelin Lochbay restuarant, and, my favourite, Dandelion Designs Gallery.

When I took the photos, there was a jumble of creel nets etc. and I took multiple photos before deciding this viewpoint was the one I wanted to paint, with a row of creels and the red of the boat towards the back:

Red fishing boat and kreel nets

The sky in the photo is over-exposed; it was a cloudy day, lying low over the land across the bay. It also means there are not any cast shadows in the photo.

For me the appeal lies in the line of creels leading your eye up to the red boat, and on to the little dot of red of the rescue ring. The challenge will be to not have to boat dominate the composition too much, nor have the other elements distract from it too much. I’d probably leave out the rectangular plastic crates because there are so many elements in the composition already, and while they’re colourful they’re not aesthetically appealing.

Another question will be how busy to make the foreground, the grass and pebbles, because there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ happening in those areas but it doesn’t want to be a distraction. I think the way to go would be to suggest, but keep it relatively calm, letting the creels get the attention.

There are composition options to be explored with the reference photo, both in terms of the cropping and what you’ll include or leave out. Consider whether to leave out the sky and hillside across the water, whether to put only sea behind the boat. If you leave out elements in front of the boat, you’ll either have to move something else into that area or think about what goes on in the lower part of the boat you can’t really see in the photo.

I think it’s a subject that could work well for a colourful painting with lots and lots of layers and mark making (and indeed I did this in my first attempt, starting with pencil, then ink and acrylic, ending with oil pastel). But also for a painting that has a lot of white space or one working with a limited palette. For the latter I’m thinking of black and red, using Payne’s grey ink and red watercolour/acrylic, taking inspiration from Scottish artist Liz Myhill’s linocuts (also on Dandelion’s website).

Here’s a photo I took from lower down the slipway, looking back, to put the above photo into context.

Red boat at Stein slipway, Isle of Skye

Up close there are also all sorts of options for colourful, textured abstracts, such as this:

Abstract detail from a red boat

To share your painting of this month’s project (or any previous project ) in the project’s photo gallery, simply email it to me on art(a) or share it with me on social media. I look forward to seeing the results.

Marion-Boddy-Evans artist with her white cat

A special thank you to my supportors via Patreon who enable me to spend the time on these monthly projects and keep my blog advert free. Project Patrons get access to exclusive extra content, including videos of me painting, as well as the option of a critique of their project paintings. Other supporters give me the equivalent of a cup of coffee or a tube of paint a month. It works like a monthly subscription, find out more here. Thank you all!

Project Photo Gallery: Iona Shore

Setting a palette knife as part of January’s project has produced some beautiful results, reminding me to use one more often. Take a look and enjoy!

By Erika: A friend of mine is in Scotland right now. To get any cell phone coverage, he has to go to the beach every morning. “Will my cell phone work here?” is the title of this painting. Lots of fun playing with spatulas, knives and thick paint/medium. I feel, the rocks coming in from the upper right hand side should be a bit softer.

From Marion: I find myself looking closer and closer at the use of transparent colours in the rock, the darks contrasing with the transparent lighter areas with their sense of texture and depth. Agree about the rocks in the upper right; a glaze with some very dilute titanium white would help knock them back a bit.
By Asiff: “This is my first attempt with palette knife and I purchased my first knife for this project. The entire painting was done using it. Even though I struggled to use this tool, I am happy about the output and fully enjoyed the process. Thanks a lot for this project.”

From Marion: It’s clearly a tool that works for you! You’ve used it beautifully to convey the sense of movement in the water, the angular rocks, the softness of the sand and clouds. I would never have guess you’d not used one before.
By Cathi: My first attempt I am very pleased with; I do feel my painting is beginning to take shape!

From Marion: I think it’s very much one to be pleased about. The composition pulls the eye both across and into the distance; the mark making is visually intriguing and pulls me in for a closer look; the cloudy sky is an area of calm that contrasts with just enough going on to entice me to look closer. The two figures give everthing a sense of scale, and even though they’re so minimalise there’s a sense of being buffered by the wind.
By Cathi: My second attempt was for something more abstract. I chopped some of the rocks off the right-hand side, but still think the rocks need a bit more work, they look too much like fingers at the moment.

From Marion: I agree, the rocks are too elongated. I see them like octopus arms. I’d be tempted to crop off even more from the right, and if you think this makes too tall a painting, some of the sky could be cropped off too.

I like the abstract mark making in the sea, the mixing of colours; the direction of the marks gives a lovely sense of depth, and then crashes into the angular rocks in the foreground. I do find myself looking at the sky and feel there’s a sense of sideways movement, of wind moving the clouds particularly top left, which would then mean there’s be a sideways movement on the sea, so I might soften that.
By Bee: “My attempt in oils using a knife, not sure that I like using knives.”

From Marion: You may not be sure about it Bee, but I certainly like your results! The texture, angularity which suits the subject, intriguing colour mixtures … it keeps revealing the more I look. What you may well find is that a combination of knife and brush works better for you, rather than pure knife painting.
Join the discussion on my Patreon page here
By Eddie: ” I did this after watching Marion’s demo. It must have taken longer than I thought since the tide appears to have come in while I was painting.”
By Eddie: ” This was initially a panorama but ended up a picture of two halves. Marion suggested a crop and a few other tweaks which I have incorporated.”

From Marion: I think you’ve taken my suggestions and done just what the painting needed, though you might still straighten the sea horizon line with a confident stroke from edge to edge or using some masking tape.
By Eddie: “Doing two smallish paintings gave me the confidence to go larger so this is 24×20”. I used oil since the working time is much longer although it tends to blend whether you want it to or not. Drawing was confined to a horizon line and a vague indication of the rock area. I used a brush for the sky to make it recede but all the rest was by palette knife.”

From Marion: I think you’re really getting a feeling for doing rocks this way, the “complicated mixing” of colour on the painting itself combining with the directional mark making.
Join the discussion on my Patreon page here…

I had several goes at this scene using a palette knife, and was reminded what fun it can be to use a knife and what range of mark making it offers, whether I’m working on paper or board/canvas. Particularly that squishy pattern created by putting a knife down flat and lifting it up (sure there’s some art-speak term for it!) as in the detail photo on the left below:

Iona Beach painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

A reminder: For US$10 a month project subscribers get access to exclusive extra material supporting the monthly painting project through posts my Patreon page, plus a short critique of your project painting(s) via email or in the community section of Patreon, and additional feedback if you rework a painting. Sign up here…

February 2020 Painting Project Instructions: Woodland Pond

Trees in Uig woodland, Isle of Skye

This month’s painting project is a scene in the little woodland in Uig, when the sun was low in the sky, casting a golden light on the tree trunks. Being winter, the trees are without leaves and the grasses dry (see Late Afternoon Walk for a few more photos).

Trees in Uig woodland, Isle of Skye
Click on photo to see larger version

How to approach it: It’s a scene with a lot going on in it, and one of the first decisions will be how much you’re going to include and what level of detail. Will it be richly painted with lots of colours and layers or simplified to main shapes and colours? What about as a monochromatic painting in Payne’s grey or perhaps sepia?

Decide what the main thing(s) is that appeals to you, what catches your eye the most or remains in your mind when you’re not looking at the photo. For me it was the reflected trunks in the pond and the dry grasses in the foreground. The strong vertical lines echo one another, but one set is thick and the other thin.

Then there’s the stand of trees, their pattern of trunks and branches, which could be a painting in itself without the puddle and grasses. So another decision about composition is whether these areas get equal space or will one get more than the other? A potential danger is having a divide in the centre of your composition — in the photo the line at the edge of the pond is curved (not straight) and the grasses go above it, connecting the bottom to the top.

What to use: It’s a subject that lends itself to texture paste and thick paint, building up a surface that’s gnarly and scratchy, as well as painting with a knife, pulling and scratching in all those hard-edge lines with the edge of a knife. It also lends itself to mixed media, with layers of line drawn or painted over shapes of colour or collage.

For a painting that’s more abstract, about pattern and textures, here’s a photo of the same scene taken from a slightly different angle and with the trees cropped off.

For further inspiration: have a look at the paintings from the Tall Trees project.

To have your painting included in the project gallery, email me a photo on art(at)marion(dot)scot ideally with a few sentences about it (think of the things you might say when talking to a friend about it). I’ll post photos with first names only, unless you ask me otherwise. Happy painting!

Project Photo Gallery: Highland Cows

I think this project photo gallery really shows how it’s our individual preferences and interpretations that make us paint familiar things differently, keeping things interesting both for ourselves and others. (It feels somewhat like a continuation of the topic of my last Monday Motivator of 2019: Subject Isn’t the Most Important Part.) Enjoy!

By Cathi: “A pencil rendering. I love drawing and think that pencil is so often overlooked.”

From Marion: It’s a subject that lends itself to pencil. I agree that in my enjoyment of colour I often overlook the joy of pure pencil.
By Cathi. Ink and watercolour with fabric collage.

From Marion: That quirky bit of fabric works so well — the black-line design on it echoes your ink cow without dominating; it anchors the cow whilst leading my eye across and upwards as I realise it’s not an abstract pattern but flowers.
By Erika: “1. I didn’t like the background.”
From Marion: I think the background’s too calm compared to the strong texture on the cow. Or maybe there’s just too much of it — possibly crop the top and side so the cow dominates the space.
By Erika: “2. Timid and waiting…”
By Erika: 3. Because of “artistic abuse” of canvas, the paint wanted to puddle, no matter, how much medium I used – so I let it puddle. Materials used: paper, acrylic paint and a cut-up vegetable brush.

From Marion: I think this cow is the most successful as it’s got more variation of colour in it and it feels as if it’s sitting in the landscape rather than on it.
By Eddie: “This is ten minutes with a brush and Indian ink. I decided to just go for it and see what happened.”
From Marion: Working wet into wet with ink is very much “go for it” territory, and then trying to repeat “happy accidents”.
By Eddie. Pen, brush and watercolour pencils.
From Marion: There’s a joyous energy to the pen mark making that not only creates the cows but also a sense of rain.
By Eddie: “I did try mussing up the cow’s hair as you suggested but I think the whole thing is overworked.” Pastel.
By Eddie: I went with your advice about scale changing everything. This is 65x45cm. and I like it a lot better. I was surprised to find that the background caused me more difficulty than the cow.
From Marion: It could be because you’d painted various cows just before this and had consolidated all that into what you’d do next. Love the colours, depth, and energy in the mark making.

These are the cows I painted in December:

By Marion. Oils. 8×10″. The colours got a bit murky and I might still glaze some orange over the cow’s coat to liven things up a bit.
Highland cow painting
By Marion. Oil paint applied with a palette knife over an underpainting in acrylics. I feel the right-hand horn got too wide towards the top, but the oil paint wouldn’t scratch off what is quite an “grabby” surface (clear gesso on wood) and I couldn’t overpaint it with the blue without it mixing. I might fix it once it’s dry, or I might find it doesn’t bother me when I look at it again with fresh eyes.
Highland cow painting in ink
By Marion.Acrylic ink on A2 watercolour paper. I drew horns, earsn, face, and outline of the body with a rigger brush, then used a dry flat brush to spread out some of it
Highland cow painting
By Marion. Mixed media (acrylics and oil pastel) on watercolour paper. I started this with an ink drawing, then layered on top, ultimately with oil pastel.

January 2020 Project Instructions: Iona Shore

This month’s project features a technique as well as a subject — painting with a knife, using a reference photo I took on Iona last summer as a starting point. Iona is a much-painted island with turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and jaggered dark rocks; famous for its abbey. (Click on the photo to get a larger version.)

Iona near the ferry, looking towards the Isle of Mull.

A painting knife gives quite different marks to a brush, and is ideal for mixing colours together on a painting itself to give visually intriguing results. For the sake of this painting project, the whole painting need not be created using a knife, but mark making with a knife must be evident. Don’t think knives are for oils or acrylics only; they create interesting results with watercolour too.

The fundamental technique of knife painting is the same as you use for spreading jam on bread: you pick up some jam (paint) and spread it as thickly or thinly as you desire; if there’s butter (other wet paint) on the bread, it will mix in depending on how much pressure you apply. Tapping at the surface with the knife, either flat or on an edge, gives different marks again. And if it all goes horribly wrong, you simply scrape it all off and start again.

There are many different shapes of painting knives available. My favourite has long been this one with a longish flat edge and a sharp point that is perfect for scratching into paint (in artspeak: sgraffito). If you don’t have one, a piece of stiff card or plastic will do a similar job , though a knife has the advantage of being comfortable to hold in the hand and a degree of ‘bounce’ in the metal).

The Scottish Colourists Samuel Peploe and Francis Cadell often painted on Iona in summer. Contemporary Scottish painter Frances MacDonald continues the tradition, saying on her website that “she finds delight in the juxtaposition of angular rock and white sand. Her use of the palette knife creates a dynamism and animation in each painting, She works her paint across the canvas in angular lines; her assured marks arrived at through careful elimination of aesthetic non-essentials.” For online catalogues of her paintings, see the Scottish Gallery‘s website here and here (click on ‘view catalogue’ link on the pages). Another artist to look at for knife painting is Kyffin Williams (read my blog here).

To have your painting included in the project gallery, email me a photo on
ideally with a few sentences about it (think of the things you might say when talking to a friend about it). I’ll post photos with first names only, unless you ask me otherwise.

Happy painting!

Photo Gallery: Derelict Croft House Painting Project

Croft House Painting Project

It’s a dark and stormy day as I pulled together the photos for the November painting project (instructions here) gallery, the kind of weather Eddie has in his pen and brushed-ink painting:

Croft House Painting Project
By Eddie, pen and brush with ink. “I don’t usually use such bold marks, especially on very wet paper, but it is something to explore.”
From Marion: I think it’s an evocative use of ink well suited to the subject.
Join the discussion on Patreon here…
Croft House Painting Project
By Eddie: “This pastel is huge (for me) at 65x45cm but doing it has challenged me and inspired me to the extent that I intend to keep exploring the possibilities it throws up. I was surprised by the amount of creative energy generated by such a simple change.”
From Marion: If it’s the larger scale that’s brought you to this point, then keep it big!
Join the discussion on Patreon here…
Croft House Painting Project
By Asif, watercolour: “I realized that land between the house and water is too flat without details.”
From Marion: A tiny touch of variation in the land  to suggest vegetation will solve this without distracting from the foreground.
Croft House Painting Project
By Barbara.
From Marion: I like the softness of the land, with the few tufts of grass adding interest that pulls your eye upwards towards the building. The suggested texture on the building pulls me in for a closer look, enticing my eye to linger as it sees more, interprets and fills in detail.
Join the discussion on the community section of my Patreon page here
Croft House Painting Project
By Erika: “Party time at the Croft”. This six stages of this painting: excitement – play/fun – despair/anger – banning it from being seen – coaxing it out from the darkest corner – joy.
From Marion: I find the result imaginative, intriguing and invigorating, inviting me in to interpret and connect, as well as connect to the starting point reference photo. . The use of corrugated cardboard for the roof is something I want to try too!
Croft House Painting Project
By Cathi: A good learning trip, trying different ideas.. This was using my mini roller and I love the sky effect.
Croft House Painting Project
By Cathi: But then, having added the red roof (texture paint) I decided I wanted to go greyer rather than blue… then I totally spoiled the whole thing by being too heavy handed so I started over again.
Croft House Painting Project
By Cathi: This time I began with a good orange base to make the colours less flat, and added the tree. I think this is my best effort.
Croft House Painting Project
By Cathi: Thinking I was reverting to being too “fussy/detailed”, I did a really quick one to finish up on, which I quite like as well.


I had a few goes at painting this myself, with mixed success. But as it’s a building I’ve walked past even since we moved to Skye, even my failed paintings of it are more than I’d managed previously and so I should count them as victories.

Croft House Painting Project
By Marion: This was my last attempt, and my favourite. A5 in size, acrylic and ink. I think it conveys the character of the ruined house with enough suggested detail to make you engage with it. (The photo is slightly out of focus.)
Croft House Painting Project
By Marion: I did the lower of these two paintings first. It’s a painting that wasn’t where I wanted it to be but that would merely become an overworked mess if I continued so I started again. The top painting still has issues of composition in terms of the house and the left-hand edge, but I like the looser mark making, the use of dark ink to create tonal contrast and drama.


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December 2019 Painting Project: Instructions

Highland Cow painting project reference

To end the year, I’ve chosen a subject that’s iconic: the long-hair, long-horned Highland cow. Their long hair covers a coat of shorter, helping to shed rain in a wet climate. Most Highland cows I see are rusty-earthy-orange-brown, but their colours range from black-brown to blonde-white.

Highland Cow painting project reference

The photo is intended to be a starting point, open to various composition possibilities, rather than being a photo that presents you with a perfect composition, lighting, etc. Will it be more of a portrait of a single cow, or will you include them all and a suggestion of location? Might you include more grass rather than the bare earth around the feeder? 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.

Suggestion: do versions in different mediums.

  1. Pencil (with an eraser)
  2. Pen (as you can’t erase you have to work through/past mistakes)
  3. Black ink (with a brush not a pen)
  4. Pastel, soft or oil (the scale of the painting should suit the size of mark a pastel makes; don’t work too small)
  5. Coloured Pencil (don’t work too big or you’ll be at it all month)
  6. Watercolour (transparent colour)
  7. Acrylic or oil paint
  8. Collage (torn or cut)
  9. Mixed media

So far I’ve ticked 2, 3 and 9 from the list (though the later did start out as a watercolour), aiming for a ‘portrait’ of a cow rather than a ‘landscape with cows’ painting.

Highland cow sketch in ink
Highland cow in ink
Black ink: started by ‘painting’ with water only, then touched a little ink into this.
Mixed Media Highland Cow
Mixed media: Watercolour, acrylic ink, coloured pencil and after that oil pastel

Photo Gallery: October Painting Project (Camus Mor Bay)

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:

By Eddie: “Acrylic, with pumice gel, clear granular gel and light moulding paste and lots of glazing. This is my attempt after corrections suggested by Marion. Compared to the original I have reshaped some hills and shadows and made the rocks more colourful.”

From Marion: “Just the right level of reworking, not losing what was working whilst moving it that bit further.”
By Bee: Ink and watercolour.

From Marion: I love the delicateness and understatedness of the colour, the strong shapes that are quite abstract if considered individually yet together read as landscape.
By Bee, in acrylic Those cliffs have got a sense of imposing grandeur, dominating an ancient landscape of dark volcanic rock.
By Cathi: From sky down to sea, there is a tissue paper underlay, giving some fabulous textures. My masking tape was very old and because it was on the paper for over a week it shredded the paper when I lifted it….. but I like the ‘happy accident’ where a rock broke the base line.

From Marion: That’s a very happy accident indeed — it looks deliberate!
By Cathi: “This entirely ink. I love the granulation produced by Indian ink diluted with water.”

From Marion: The granulation gives a lovely sense of texture through suggestion, engaging my imagination. I like how close looking reveals the fine pen lines, and the use of negative space for the sea with just a hint of colour.
My project painting: the colours on the seaweed in the foreground are a bit too yellow-orange and I might still glaze over this with a quinacridone gold or something. You can watch a timelapse video of my painting this here.