April’s Project Photo Gallery (Paint Tube Still Life)

April painting project

An interesting mix of paintings in response to April’s project, and thank you to everyone who’s shared theirs. I was a bit worried I’d put you off by setting a still life, and I do empathise with those of you who’re ambivalent about still life paintings. I often am too, but started loving them more when I met the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi, the way he plays with pattern and shape amongst the objects (such as this painting) his mastery of hatching (see example) creating form. Now still-life painting is a way to completely change pace when I need it. Enjoy the photos!

April painting project
By Bee: ” My attempt at paint tubes.”

From Marion: “I like the juxtaposition between the three tubes in an almost-neat row and the tube of yellow; for me it’s that moment when using tubes overrides the desire to have an organized painting space.” Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Bayberry: “My small effort for the paint tubes.”

From Marion: “I like the contrast between the expressive splashed colour and the controlled line, the sense of a tube containing and restraining colourful expression.” Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Claire: “I struggled most with the background and the lettering. Perhaps if I let the tubes dry properly and used a black pen instead of a barbecue stick and drying paint, perhaps if I took more time, perhaps…”

From Marion: I like the subtleness to the composition, the way the tubes at first glance seem like three in a row but then you notice one is the other way up to the other two, and one has the cap off. Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Eddie: “I struggled a bit with this and spent ages doing thumbnails exploring the various possible compositions. I found the shadows difficult in pencil and almost impossible in paint. I thought I would just go for it to avoid endless vacillation and hope the bold colours distract from the poor painting of the tube. I rarely do still life because I don’t have the patience for the subtle variation in colour, tone and shading required for a realistic depiction. I have tried to do this project in one shot and largely avoided over-thinking it.”

From Marion: I like the flow of the composition, and the contrast of the b&w to colour. Join the discussion…
April painting project
By Lesley: “This one was another challenge as the more I looked, the more errors jumped out in my drawing with all the folds of the tube so there was much correcting as I went along. Time ran away with me this month and no painting, instead a quick pastel pencil drawing (using the wrong kind of paper) then a go at my first digital drawing [see below]. It was good fun learning how to use the drawing app as I went along and I like how it ended up. Not quite as satisfying as real paint, though.”

From Marion: If you hadn’t said it was a digital painting I probably wouldn’t have guessed, though it does explain the even-ness to the drybrush mark making which is harder to achieve when you’re having to reload a brush with paint. I’ve found that with digital I end up missing the tactile quality of paint, but it does save having to wash brushes!
April painting project
By Lesley. digital painting
April painting project
By Erika: “Suckling Piglets”. I couldn’t resist – this was too much fun even though it was cheating on the task of the project! “

From Marion: I wouldn’t call it cheating, it’s thinking out of the box to create a piece of assemblage art.
By Cathi: “What fun I have had this month! I specifically did not look at your work until I had finished mine, I did not want to be influenced!! Having said that I love Joshua Starcher’s work. The design aspect led me to my first two flamboyant efforts.”

From Marion: I love your “flamboyant tubes”, and found myself imagining what the colours would be called, e.g. “Paisley” and “Raindrops”.
By Cathi
April painting project
By Cathi: “I then had a go on a little 8” square board, trying to capture the essence of a used tube….”

From Marion: The mark making of the background conveys a sense of flattening the tub to get every last bit of paint out.
April painting project
By Cathi: “Then I thought “who needs mountains to use texture paste and runny paint! This tube is actually formed with texture paste, details added and then the overcoat added. I love this one, I keep coming back to look at it! I like the way the shadow really lifts the tube off the surface.”

From Marion: I imagine that in real life it’d be hard not to touch the tube!
April painting project
By Cathi: “Finally, I was reminded of your sheep collage painting you were working on. I photographed all the information found on the tubes and used them for the collage background. The tube and lid are painted but the paint is texture paste!

From Marion: This would also be very hard not to touch! It feels as if I could put a finger against the tube and squeeze some more out.
April painting project
By Gail: “April was a very hectic month for me so I am sending a painting I did in 2018 that features not only paint tubes but other artist accoutrements. I didn’t have any metal paint tubes to use as a reference in my studio since just about all my paint either comes in tubs or plastic tubes. Hope this will be suitable and I am looking forward to May’s painting project.”

From Marion: It counts because the project made you think about it! Hope May is less hectic for you.


May’s Painting Project: The Instructions

Gorse adds a splash of colour before the greens return to the Skye landscape and continues flowering for weeks. Walking along a familiar path recently (more photos) I suddenly noticed this tree and the strip of stone wall, with the yellows across the hillside behind. There was something about the light at that moment that made my fingers itch to paint it, and so it’s the challenge for May.

Painting Project Gorse and Tree
Painting Project Gorse and Tree

For me the interesting things to explore are:
1. All those warm and cool greens: blue-greens of the grass and yellow-greens of the moss. An excuse to pull out all your blues and yellows to spend time colour mixing, and to also explore adding yellow and blue to tube greens.

2. The deep darks in the shadows: how dark can you make it with still having a suggestion of what’s going on. What colours to use, with perylene black feeling like an obvious choice as it makes also interesting greens when mixed with yellow. Alternatively, how colourful can you make this “dark”, or how purple (taking inspiration from the Impressionists).

3. How far across will the tree extend, which will partly be determined by shape of the composition, whether it’s square, portrait or landscape.

4. Compositional choices of things to leave out. The telephone pole seems a definite to me, but what about the fence behind it?

Medium, size and format are up to you. Have fun! I look forward to seeing what this inspires.

My first attempt I did using acrylic ink, one yellow and Payne’s grey only, with the aim of having a light touch, using lots of negative space. Working flat so the ink wouldn’t run.

Only when I stood up again did I notice I’d made the tree too upright and the bundle of small trunks into one solid one even though I had the reference right in front of me!

I’ll be posting my thumbnails for this project and the notes I made on my potential to Patreon for project subscribers, along with a video of when I added the ink tree to a background done in acrylics, my third attempt at this. Become a subscriber here…

These are not thumbnails…

Photo Gallery: Single-Track Road Project Paintings (March 2019)

Thanks to everyone who’s shared their painting (I’m a little disorganized this month trying to juggle too many things and hope I haven’t missed any!).

Seeiing how some people have struggled with this project’s reference photo, with the large area of landscape with relatively little in it, has made me realise that I  enjoyed the challenge of this because it lends itself to layering variations colour and brushmarks to create visual interest (which is what I’m currently enjoying). Other people have zoomed in on a section of the scene, a useful reminder to resist the urge to include everything we see.

Passing places painting project
By Cathy, in ink.
Passing places painting project
By Cathy: “After the inkI had a go with pastels using a new ‘powder and water’ technique we were shown at our art club demo evening…… great fun but not as flexible as acrylics.”
Passing places painting project
By Cathy: “In acrylic, I challenged myself to a) reverse the landscape as I thought it a better composition and b) do the entire painting without using a brush (palette knife and credit card only). This idea came to me after the sand sections I really liked my Talisker Bay project.”
By Claire: “Here is my effort for the March project, using acrylic. Such an inspiring subject but a big challenge for me. I ended up reworking the middle ground and now I have posted it I can see that I have messed up the sky.”
By Eddie: This is my submission for the March project after making the changes suggested by Marion. I think the hills sit back better and I toned down a rather acid green in the foreground. Another passing place sign was added in the mid-ground.
Passing places painting project submission by Eddie
By Eddie: “I enjoyed the pastel so much I thought I would do another version. This is in acrylic 50 x50cm.”
Monthly art project
By Barbara R: “I was recently introduced to your blog by someone in our walking group, and I thought I’d try doing the monthly projects. So here’s my first Passing Place attempt, watercolour and Inktense on watercolour paper, approx 30×24 cm.”


Monthly painting project
By Bayberry: “The updated painting minus the pine tree.”
Monthly painting project
By Barbara: “I decided I needed to be honest and post disasters as well as those I am happier with. The hills are to dark , probably the format is wrong , in fact there isn’t anything I like about it. One to cut up.”
Monthly painting project
By Gail: “. I painted an underpainting and then painted over that with a palette knife. I had a lot of fun with this project.”
Monthly painting project
By Lesley: ” I struggled a bit with this one and am still not sure I ended up with anything I’m entirely happy with. I started off with a quick pastel drawing to work out where I wanted to put things, but didn’t quite find enough tonal range from the limited pastel colours I had to hand.”
Monthly painting project
By Lesley: “I then moved on to acrylic, which I’m happier with than the pastel, but it’s lacking something, not entirely sure what. I might try another without looking at the photo references now that I know the scene a bit better. Maybe going mad with colour is the way to go?”
Monthly painting project
By Erika: “First try….what a dud. Boring. The inside art critic was very dissatisfied. More than the sheep inside the phone booth.”
Monthly painting project
By Erika: “Happier with this one””
By Marion: “My first painting for this project, Mixed media on A2 watercolour paper.”
Passing places painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
By Marion: “I challenged myself to do this in a portrait (vertical) format, adding another section of road. I’m suspect it it’s too busy overall and may glaze over areas to make the sheep and road stand out more. Acrylic on A2 watercolour paper.”
Passing places painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
By Marion: “I decided to focus on the sign and sheep only. The background wasn’t initially yellow, but I felt it needed brightening up so changed it to be a hillside covered in gorse. Acrylic on A2 watercolour paper”

April’s Painting Project: The Instructions

Drawing paint tubes

This month we’re going to move from landscape to still life, to looking at something familiar and small, a tube of paint. It’s something we rarely pay much attention to, merely a container for the colour it contains. My thought is for this project to be about slowing down, seeing the familiar with fresh eyes, a reminder that we don’t need to be out chasing new experiences, there’s plenty right in front of us.

So dig out a tube of paint, and study it. Draw it, paint it, collage it, abstract it. Don’t spend too long deciding which is the perfect tube to use, they’re all good. How you juggle the realism/painterly/abstraction balance is up to you. The medium is up to you.

Start with one, explore the possibilities of a composition with a single element. Is the tube flat or rolled up, viewed from the top or side, cap on or off? How about a foreshortened view from the cap end? How many compositional choices do you have with a single tube?

For inspiration: Abstracted and more graphic approach to paint tubes, take a look at the paint-tube paintings by Joshua Starcher (a random find, his website doesn’t give any info about him) and the paint tube paintings by Duane Keiser (the original painting-a-day artist, whose painterly realism I greatly admire).

For intrigue: When I was in Edinburgh a couple of weekends ago, I came across paintings by Donald Provan which are done on paint tube he’s opened and flattened, like this.

My paint-tube painting: For me the aim was to have a painterly painting, something that’s used paint to convey a sense of the subject, with parts that are detailed and parts that are suggestive. I wanted some evidence of the “hand of the artist”, some poetry not an academic treatise.

Painting of a paint tube by Marion Boddy-Evans

The photo above illustrates what my thinking. The small painted lettering isn’t readable, it’s squiggled lines not letters, but your eye wants to make it into words. You can see the brushmarks of paint on the tube, the edges aren’t blended out to make soft transitions in colour/tone. (Project subscribers will get to see step-by-step photos of this painting, and the one before it, on my Patreon.)

I chose this particular tube of paint because I wanted the challenge of the silvers of the metal tube. Silvers are but shades of grey. Though iridescent paint colours we have available to us work beautifully to add the glimmer of light catching on silver, resist these initially and focus on tone. Think three intially — dark, light, and medium. Black, white, and mixed.

The painting above wasn’t my starting point, though, I began with pencil drawings, then added watercolour to a pencil drawing, then got out the acrylics, then there were a couple before the one on the yellow which pleased me.

Drawing paint tubes

Initially I was drawing small than actual size, but then realised it would be easier if I did it the same size as the tube of paint. Remembering that the photos show a viewpoint from above, not what I’m seeing as I’m sat drawing.

Remember to send in your photos for March’s painting project (and previous months). I’m away teaching a workshop at Higham Hall, so the photo gallery won’t appear until the second week in April.

Monsieur P and the BIg Paint Tube

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
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.


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
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.


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: