I’m delighted that so much enjoyment has been had looking closely at pebbles, seeing them as individuals rather than merely a tiny part of the foreground of a seascape. Thank you to everyone who’s shared their paintings this month. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy looking at the results as much as I have.
This was my first painting arranging the pebbles in a grid, done in my sketchbook:
This month’s painting project continues the seashore theme of March, focusing in on a detail on a beach rather than a wider view (as in February, August 2020 and June 2019). The reference photo is of some seaweed lying on the mixed black/white sand found on Skye, full of pattern and texture as well as “interesting greys“.
What appeals to me are the different textures, the deep darks in the seaweed, and the muted colours. I think it lends itself to exploring various things:
Transparent/opaque colours: being deliberate about choosing transparent colours to start building up layers of colours to get the sense of the depth and texture in the seaweed, then swapping to opaque colours for the topmost layers such as the grey stems. Use the white of the paper or canvas in the transparent layers rather than mixing in white. Use a thin glaze of opaque white as a layer to give a sense of water over elements.
Mixing colours: aim to mix every single colour, to not use any colour straight from the tube. To desaturate (mute) a colour, mix in a little of its complementary, so for yellows mix in purple. To get “interesting greys”, mixing complementaries together and explore the region of colour space where you’re in greys and browns. (I particularly enjoyed using dioxine purple acrylic inkwith yellows and oranges in my attempts at painting this.)
Granulating watercolour: The sand lends itself to granulating watercolour, where the pigment particles in the watercolour separate out rather and dry as specks of colour rather than smooth colour. Daniel Smith Lunar Black would be my starting point; mixed with any other watercolours it retains its strong granulating properties.
Texture paste: The sand could also be done with some texture paste, and here I’m thinking something with small granules, such as glass beads, or black lava texture paste flooded with fluid colour which will sink inbetween the granules.
Exaggerated colour: As well as working with desaturated colours, explore how far you can push (exaggerate or emphasise) a colour and still have it read as real. Getting the tone right will help this. So if something is a blue-grey, push the blue. If it’s a purple-pink grey, push the purple.
Collage: Using different papers for the seaweeds, torn edges and cut. The ribbon seaweed in particular I think could work well as a cut piece of thin paper.
Abstraction: Move away from representation and realism into abstract, focusing on the shapes and working these into your own patterns. Perhaps using shapes of flat opaque colour in the style of Matisse (see example).
To share your painting of this month’s project, or any previous project (it’s never too late to do any ) in the project photo gallery, simply email it to me on art(a)marion.scot or share it with me on social media. I look forward to seeing the results. For extra project-related content and personal help with your painting, become a project subscriber on Patreon here.
I had been thinking about writing up a painting project called “50 Shades of White” for an April Fools, using a photo of Ghost sleeping on the shelf in my studio. I’d put the ‘bubble paper’, which an order of paint/ink had been wrapped in, on the shelf, thinking it could be useful for collage. Next thing he’s on the shelf and fast asleep.
With the whites of Ghost, the roll of paper, the tub of primer (Michael Harding’s non-absorbent acrylic primer, for those curious) and its reflection in my watercolour set, and the whites of the pages of the closed book (volume two of the Matisse biography by Hilary Spurling), and the blacks of the shadows, it could be an interesting challenge. But not one I’m in the mood for right now, hence the thought of doing it as an April Fools’ project.
Then over breakfast this morning, reading various things as I do through an RSS Reader, I came across a long illustrated article on the use of white in art by Vinciane Lacroix titled “Challenge #9 White“, which I thought was far more fun. Even if you’re not in the mood for a long read, I think it’s worth taking a look at the photos of the paintings to refresh our thoughts on white as a colour. And let’s try, as Vinciane says, to “not pass by a white without observing the shades that dress it“.
Looking at the drawings and painting and reading the comments, it’s clear a great deal of creative fun and energy was found channelling our inner Van Gogh! (You’ll find the project instructions here and the list of all the projects here.) Also that using the drawing to guide your mark making in the painting can work well, like a roadmap for brushstrokes. Thank you to everyone who’s shared their pieces. Enjoy!
This month’s project takes the idea of a grid of small paintings from last May (details here and gallery) and uses it for pebbles to create a grid of little pebble portraits. Whether you include the whole pebble or part of the pebble, with or without drawn boxes, is up to you. Another option would be to paint the same pebble from different angles, and/or in different mediums.
I encourage you to paint from life, a pebble you can hold in your hand, view from different angles, watch the light fall on it and any shadows. Get to know a pebble as an individual, its specific characteristics rather than merely a generic pebble.
If you don’t have pebbles, take a small vegetable such as a mushroom or onion, something with pattern and texture that looks different from various angles. Cutting it in half, and sections, would be another series of views.
I appreciate that not everyone has access to a beach or river with beautiful pebbles to borrow for a bit, so here are closer-up photos of each of the nine pebbles in my grid. Click on a photo to get the biggest version of it.
Doing it as a monochrome, using black ink, charcoal, or pencil has potential too.
For my first attempt at this project, I used a pen with black ink and watercolour, on a page in my sketchbook. The ink is water soluble, so the lines softened a little as I brushed watercolour over them; how much varies on how thick the line was and how long it had dried.
I initially wasn’t going to add a background to my grid, but leave the pebbles against the white. However studio cat Ghost had other ideas: if you look at the bottom right image, to the left of the middle pebbles on the right, you’ll see the remants of a pawprint where he’d stood on my watercolour set and then neatly printed his paw on my painting. I tried to lift it, but the colour was one of those that stains the paper, so instead I added a background of hematite genuine, a granulating colour that works well as ‘sand’.
As always, to have your painting included in the project photo gallery, email me (on art[at]marion.scot) a photo along with a sentence or two about it. For individual help with your painting and extra project-related content, become a project subscriber on my Patreon. Remember, it’s never too late to do any of the projects!
This month’s painting project is to create an ink drawing and a painting of the reference photo working in the style of Vincent van Gogh, who has long been one of my favourite artists. In both mediums his style involved strong mark making and direction, individual strokes rather than smooth blending together. The drawing will help you with the painting as it’ll give you a map for brushmarks.
I took the reference photo in Uig Bay at high tide. For me the appeal is the contrast between the different textures and the strong lines. The smooth bigger rocks against the “hairy rocks” (which the in-house art critic says look like the heads of Highland cows without horns), the small pebbles against the dark sand, the gentle ripples in the water against the line of foam at the water’s edge. I’m still undecided as to whether I prefer it as a horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) composition, so here are both photos.
For the ink drawing, use something that will give you a variable width line, such as a dip pen or stick, not a fineliner pen which has a consistent width. If you haven’t got anything suitable, use a soft pencil, at least 2B, or a piece of charcoal.
For the painting, you might using a limited palette, (e.g. only white, yellow, and black or Payne’s grey), like the dark colours of the earlier paintings of Van Gogh. Or use exuberant, exaggerated colour as in his later paintings, with or without his distinctive black outline.
For examples of Van Gogh’s drawings, take a look on the Van Gogh Museum’s website, which has them divided into early and later drawings. Similarly for his landscape paintings. I suggest choosing one drawing that appeals to you, and then copying it as there’s no better way to get a close feeling for the mark making.
GET MORE: Additional articles and other content supporting my painting projects available exclusively to Project Subscribers on Patreon. This also includes feedback on your finished painting, and help as you’re working on it, if you wish it. Sign up here…
PROJECT PHOTO GALLERY: 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). Alternatively, send it to me on social media. 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.
This was my first attempt at an ink drawing, in my sketchbook. A little squashed in on the right-hand side, looking at it; I should have started drawing on the left-hand page of my sketchbook and then I would have had space to continue it.
This project is about going beyond the obvious in the everyday and finding the potential in the familiar, about the visual interest in the ordinary and changing how you’re looking at something. The subject is one I’m thinking many of us have in our hand regularly, an eggshell. The challenge is to get past the “it’s just an eggshell who’d want to paint that” and “I hate still life” reactions, and realise the potential in this seemingly simple subject.
IMPORTANT: Your painting or drawing should be done from life, not a photo (unless you’re allergic to eggs or can’t get hold of any). The reason for working from life is that you have do set up the arrangement of the eggshells yourself, figure out and decide a composition, and then ensure that you’re positioning yourself when you’re painting it so you’ve a consistent viewpoint. Submitted paintings for the project gallery should ideally be accompanied by a photo showing your still life setup.
TIPS: Use some poster putty or tape to hold the eggshells in position. If you put the eggshells on a piece of card, you can turn this around and see the setup from different angles.
COMPOSITION; With this relatively small object, a small shift in the angle or height at which you’re looking at it will change what you’re seeing quite a bit. In the three photos below, the eggshells haven’t moved at all, it’s my viewpoint that has, giving three quite different options.
But before I got to this, I had to decide how many eggshells I would have (three fitting the Rule of Odds) and decided to place them in a straight row. Part of the joy of still life painting is in the setting up of the subject, exploring the arrangement, looking at the light, deciding on a background and a viewpoint. The fun and challenges are not just about painting the thing.
COMPLICATED WHITE: Like snow, the white of an eggshell isn’t all straight-from-the-tube titanium white. It’s that range of colours that are are off-white or not-quite-white. If you’ve strong light, there’s the possibility for reflected colour too (light bouncing colour off a surface onto the subject), such as this orange from my bottle:
TAKING IT INTO ABSTRACTION: Besides painting this subject realistically, I think it invites explorations of pattern and shapes of colour. You might focus on the negative space around the eggshell. Or cut a stencil of the shapes of the eggshells and use this for layers of colour and pattern. Or create a grid of closeup details as in the Blocks of Abstraction Painting Project.
To have your painting included in the project gallery at the end of the month, 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.
Being a bit late with November’s painting project photo gallery, I thought I’d be a bit early with Decembers and do them together. Enjoy!
These are my two paintings:
Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s projects, and a special thank you to those who’ve shared photos of their paintings for us all to enjoy and project subscribers on Patreon. Here’s to 2021 being another creative year for us together!
This month’s reference photo was taken in southern Scotland on a crisp November morning with the sun relatively low in the sky, backlighting and silhouettting a scattering of autumnal leaves and branches. It’s is an excuse to get out yellow, orange, sienna, as well as explore strong darks. The challenge lies in the dark foreground: having it dark enough to have dramatic impact but still pull you into the painting.
In the dark foreground there’s a stream, path, bench, and autumnal leaves covering the ground. If you click on the photo to get the full-size version you’ll see these more clearly.
You might choose to mix a chromatic black (the darkest mix you can create, typically a blue/green/red) rather than use a tube black because it’s a richer dark. It’s also easy to create gentle variations in it by varying the proportions of the colour in the mix and/or by not mixing the colours completely before you use it.
I’d be telling myself to not go too dark too early but to also not be afraid of the dark. Better to need to glaze or add another layer of dark later on in the painting’s development, than to have a black hole. But not to be half-hearted about committing to having a dark foreground.
The tree isn’t right in the centre of the composition. The base of its trunk is to the right of centre and then stretches across the centre. Its branches lead your eye up and across. The tree on the right echoes this whilst providing a dark ‘frame’ on the right to keep your eye in the composition.
Use branches to lead the eye across the composition, not worrying to replicate them exactly as they are in the photo but for the photo to be a starting point.
Notice in the top left corner all the small branches going off the side and top edges in an open, lacey pattern. It’s not a single branch going into the corner, which would lead your eye in and off the edge.
The green hill runs down in an improbably straight line, creating a very hard edge that’s distracting. I would change it to a more irregular line, putting a curve into it. Just because it’s in the photo and like that in real life doesn’t mean it should be like that in the photo if it doesn’t work for the painting.
Put the houses in the distance or not? They give a sense of scale, and add to the story, but are they a distraction?
Consider the format: might you crop it to a square or a vertical rectangle rather than horizontal? The photo is a result of compositional choices I made when taking it,and I like the horizontal format with space for the branches to stretch out into, but that doesn’t mean it has to be this.
If you’d like to see your painting included in the project gallery, simply email it to me. And remember, it’s never too late to do any of the monthly painting projects or share your paintings of any of these. For some extra project-related content and one-to-one help, become a project subscriber on my Patreon here.
Marion’s paintings: I had great fun with this project, trying it in pencil, watercolour, and acrylic on watercolour paint. A friend sent me a concertina album book she made, which by happenstance was the perfect size. I also did a couple in acrylics on wood panel with a gold ground, which make me smile when I look at them as they’re so different from what I mostly paint.
Project instructions can be found here, and the list with all the projects and related content here. Remember, it’s never too late to do a project, nor submit a painting to share. Happy painting!