Here are paintings inspired by June’s project, in an array of styles all the way from botanical to abstract. Enjoy!
This month’s project features one of my favourite flowers, white daisies. A challenge to use this reference photo with a small colour range (white, green, yellow) and a lot of repeated shapes (the circles of the flowers and lines of the stems) to compose and create a painting. Remember, a refernce photo is a starting point, not the finish point. See where it takes you, in any medium you choose.
- Simply the composition: There’s a lot happening in this reference photo, so start by thinking about what you would leave out and narrow down what you might include in a composition. Doing thumbnails would be time well spent, tiny drawings with the basics of a composition. (I would crop off the right-hand half and a sliver off the bottom of the photo, a composition with an area top left where there aren’t daisies to give breathing space.)
- Focus on shape: Daisies have a very distinctive shape, the central splash of yellow with slivers of white dancing around. Growing as they are in the reference photo, we see them from all sorts of angles as well as some older flowers where the petals are drooping. A second level of shape is the wiggles of the stems.
- White: The ‘white’ of the petals isn’t the same across the whole flower. Think “interesting whites” not “tube white”. Add a bit of blue or purple to areas in shadow, and yellow to areas catching the light. If you use the same blue(s) and yellow(s) to paint the greenery, you’ll have a colour harmony in your painting.
- Shadows: If you’re using acrylics or oils, think about painting from dark to light, put the shadow areas in first and add opaque colour on top, rather than trying to add shadows afterwards. Or let the painting dry so you can add the darks by glazing.
- Sky: That little sparkle of sky in the top lefthand corner, maybe continue that across the top of the composition to give an extra colour and relieve all that green.
- Think in layers: Create a list of layers you could have, mediums and colours and mark making. It’s a bit like a recipe, all the decisions made before you start, leaving you to focus the painting.
- Do blocks: Taking inspiration from April’s projects and create a composition with little blocks of daisies (as I did with my Dozen Daisies).
- Supersize: Take a detail and make it fill a composition, a “supersized” or giant daisy or three. Like the Edinburgh-artist Lucy Jones has done here and here.
This is what my list of layers might look like, using mixed media on paper (as I did in my Concertina Daisies):
- Pencil to mark the initial composition, especially the position of the flowers. This could be lightly done so it doesn’t show, or used as the first layer of line.
- Line drawing of the flowers and stems, using acrylic ink (because once it’s dry, it won’t lift).
- Yellow ink or watercolour onto centres of flowers, and a little random yellow onto the areas of greenery (to create colour variation once I start painting the stems more deliberately).
- A darkish watercolour green applied with stems in mind to give a linear feel to it, but not too carefully.
- Another watercolour green,similarly applied, to give variation.
- While I wait for the greens to dry, do another layer on the flowers with a light blue ink for “shadow petals”, knowing these will have a layer of white over the blue to ‘subdue’ it.
- Another layer on the stems and foliage, a brighter more yellow green that’s and more opaque too so it pulls forward. Applied with a little more precision to tighten up shapes and give definition to stems.
- Add some light blue ‘sky’ colour along the top, encouraging it to drip and run down. I’d first try with watercolour, but if it’s too lost then I might repeat the layer with a slightly opaque acrylic (adding white to any blue, then making it fairly watery).
- Use white to define the petals. This could be a drawn line with acrylic ink or using a flat brush (which if you twist it as you pull it gives a nice ‘petal’). Watch out for it being too uniform a white — having bits that are still wet that you hit and mix on the paper, or having stray bits of colour on your palette can help. Or mix a bit of ‘interesting’ white and use this first before ‘clean white’ as the top layer.
- Reinforce the yellows of the flowers.
- Check if the darks need to be reinfored.
- Leave it overnight, look again with fresh eyes, and decide if anything else needs doing.
If you’d like to have your painting included in the project gallery, simply email it to me (and for any of the other projects, whenever you might do them). If you’d like help whilst working on your painting and feedback on the finished painting, this is available to project patrons. Have fun!
An email from a friend reminded me I hadn’t done the photo gallery for May’s painting project yet (nor June’s newsletter). Apologies for keeping you waiting; June has rather slipped away from me, but pulling this photo gallery together this morning has reminded me of how much fun there is to be had with grids. So without further ado, here they are for you to enjoy:
May’s project led me in several directions:
The details of June’s painting project (bluebells) can be found here. And a reminder that if you’d like to help with your project paintings, the way to do this is to become a project subscriber via Patreon (now with £, $ and Euro options; I use Patreon because the site deals with the VAT paperwork for me).
Watch over my shoulder as I paint using the reference photo from the painting project for June as my starting point inspiration (along with my visual memories from the times I’ve been in the Uig woodland and seen bluebells). I’m using an A2 sheet of 350gsm watercolour paper, with watercolour, coloured pencil, and oil pastel.
At one point I take the masking tape off to try to stop myself overworking it; the next day when I continued I taped the edges again, cropping a bit at the top. You’ll see quite a bit of my putting down paint and then lifting most of it off with a piece of paper towel; I was worried about getting too dark too soon, but may well have hesitated too much. The video is at 10x speed, except for the bit where studio cat comes to inspect (at 06:41).
Bluebells transform a landscape into dance of purple-blue amidst all sorts of greens. The flowers are a distinctive colour, blue that leans strongly to purple but isn’t any of the straight-from-the-tube blues available to us, so gives an excuse to spend time colour mixing with all our possible colours. (See: My Watercolour Recipe for Bluebell Blue.)
Scottish bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) have flowers mostly on one side of the stem, pulling it over in a stoop, curls on the petals, and narrow leaves, about 1cm. It’s Spanish blubells that are more upright, plus all the variations that come with hybrids (which means there’s leeway for artistic licence).
The project for this month is to do a painting using this reference photo as the starting point:
A painting about the woodland floor, the patterns of colour and shape, light and dark, soft edges and hard, the layers of foliage. Painting style can be anything, it could be realism enjoying the details, impressionist enjoying patterns of colour (e.g. Renoir’s Path in the Wood) and brushwork (like Monet), or abstract as in this Hommage à Klimt. You might divide it into a grid of little pictures in the style of last month’s project.
For my own painting I’m visualising something in the style of Gustav Klimt’s forest paintings e.g. his Birch Forest but in blue-greens and with flowers not fallen leaves. A bluebells version of my Listening to Trees painting (from 2013) less abstracted than my Listening to Bluebells painting.
Tips: If it feels like an impossibly complicated scene, start by reducing it to its main shapes (e.g. rectangles of tree trunk, triangles of ferns/leaves, dancing curls of bluebells). This will give you the building blocks for a composition. Look at where the lightest lights are and the darkest darks (maybe ignoew the sliver of light across the mid-ground). Do some colour mixing for shades of green and your bluebell blue. Think of painting it in layers rather than from blank canvas/paper to finished in one go, working from main shapes towards detail, what can be suggested and what must be described.
Here are some additional reference photos to provide extra information and inspiration:
As always, if you’d like to have your paintings included in the next photo gallery, email a photo to me or send through social media. If you’d prefer for it to be shared without your full name, just let me know.
April’s project was something quite different, and it’s been heartening to receive comments about how much it’s been enjoyed and the directions it’s taken people. Here’s an assortment, starting with blackout poems and moving onto more visual. Enjoy!
Reading Austin Kleon’s blog on the Calm of Collage yesterday led me to Lynda Barry’s quote: “Sometimes we are so confused and sad that all we can do is glue one thing to another”, which led me to digging out some of the sheets in my “failed paintings on paper” pile, cutting up a couple with scissors, and finding a seldom-used stick of glue.
The first was a “tree painting”, done in watercolour that hadn’t gone anywhere (and wasn’t destined to as I’d added a black cat peeping out behind a tree). Once I started moving the squares about, it started to feel like it was a depiction of the pond from February’s project.
The second was a demo painting of kilt rock, that had random ink on the back. Once I’d cut it up, I found I preferred the ‘wrong’ side of quite a few of the squares. Moving the blocks around, it started to feel like a collection of “low tide shore”.
I rather like the results. Think I might well be reaching for the scissors and glue again today. Whether I will stick with “definitely failed” paintings or have the courage to cut up some “might still be made to work” paintings remains to be seen.
This month’s project is something that can be done slowly over several days or in a burst of activity, at a level of colourful complexity or simply in black-and-white. It’s about recording small bits of things we see and building up a grid of these to show us things anew. I’m calling it “Blocks of Abstraction”.
The starting point is cutting yourself a small viewfinder from a piece of stiff paper or card. Not too small and not too big; mine is about 5x5cm (2×2″). I used a pair of scissors to cut mine, and it’s a little organic rather than perfectly square, but that just adds character. It doesn’t have to be square, it could be rectangular.
Next, use your viewfinder as a stencil to draw a grid on a sheet of paper or in a sketchbook, as many as will fit across and down but leaving some space inbetween each to write notes. You’ll see I cut the borders on my viewfinder to allow for this.
You might want to create several pages with grids like this so that if you’re on a roll you don’t have to stop to draw one.
The project is about filling the grid using the viewfinder as a composition tool, a way to restrict what you’re looking at. There are numerous ways to go about this, but what I suggest as a starting point is to sit somewhere, hold the viewfinder at arm’s length, and capture what you see in a grid box. The main shapes, lines, intersections, colours, not details. Holding the viewfinder at arm’s length means you don’t see too much through it, and also that you don’t take too long with each drawing because your arm is going to get tired holding the viewfinder in position. Write a few words alongside about what it was (think “clue” rather than “description”). Then shift your arm left or right, up or down, and repeat, and repeat.
Don’t overthink it and don’t reject too many of the compositions that present themselves (some selection is inevitable unless you’re incredibly disciplined). This project works when all the grids are filled, it doesn’t rest on the success of an individual one. The sum of the parts and all that. What you end up with is a page filled with pattern, shape, and colour, small abstractions of ‘life’. This has a beauty and intrigue all of its own, but can also become the starting point for larger abstract paintings.
As an example of what I’ve in mind, here’s my table in my studio. The items are things that happened to be there, not selected nor arranged: a roll of blue paper towel and a scrunched up bit, a water spray bottle, a water bottle with a blue lid, bottles of ink/watercolour, brush washing water container with lid, pencils on a plastic box lid lying on top of my watercolour set, and assorted rocks.
I lifted up my viewfinder and noticed there was a blue pencil, which linked the blue of the bottle lid and the blue of the paper towel. So that became a colour to use in my drawings (along with 2B graphite in my propelling pencil) and a starting point for what I would draw.
Do it outside:
Go outside with a sketchbook and pencil and draw looking north/south/east/west at eye level, looking down, and looking up. If you can go for a walk, set yourself a random target for stopping, say every 20 steps.
Look through the viewfinder, scanning a room or garden, and stop to draw every time you see an intersection of two lines or shapes.
Pick a theme:
Limit yourself to a colour and look around for it. Or a shape, such as a circle. Or something that you might have variations of, such as a chair, or what’s on a shelf. Or looking through a particular window.
Object from different viewpoints:
Take an object, something that’s not symmetrical, and look at it through the viewfinder from different viewpoints or angles. You might rotate the object or you might move yourself around it. I’m thinking here of Cubism, where an object was depicted from several angles all in one drawing/painting, except you’ll be using the grid to separate out the parts.
Tear up old paintings:
Use your viewfinder to select interesting bits of old paintings and tear out those bits. Or cut up the entire painting into small squares and then re-arrange the pieces from most to least interesting, or by dominant colour.
Take your paint box or set of coloured pencils and put a different colour in every box. It might be at random, the order you pick them up. It might be colours arranged as a rainbow, or starting each row with a colour and creating variations across, whether in tone or by mixing with other colours. For words, add the colour names, pigment numbers, things that contain this colour, or go on a tangent with moods/emotions you associate with the colour, perhaps sounds.
For inspiration, take a look at the work of mixed media artist Tansy Hargan on Instagram (or Facebook) @palimpsestparade, who describes herself as a “landscape architect gone rogue”. She’s created all sorts of grids, including using white pen on black paper, collaged paper, fabric, pencils, paint. And you can see how these lead towards larger mixed pieces.
Thank you to everyone who sent in their paintings for the Red Boat Project (instructions here) for us all to enjoy and be inspired by. From ink and wash to watercolour to pastels, acrylics to oils, these paintings show how different mediums each have their own characteristics, along with the artist’s style. Enjoy!
From Marion: This was my first attempt. You can see a video of its creation in this blog. Overall I was pleased with it, and delighted I’d tackled the subject because boats are something I rarely paint.
This was my second attempt, working with the thought of having the red of the boat’s hull as a strong shape of colour at the top of the painting. I shared a video of my painting this to my Patreon project subscribers here.
This was my third attempt, again using the red of the boat as a strong shape of colour at the top of the composition. (And it’s not merely to avoid dealing with the perspective of the boat!) There’s a lot I like in this painting, but feel it still needs another round to add some highlights and darken some shadows; it’s a bit midtone.
A reminder: all the monthly projects can be found on this page. It’s never too late to do any of the projects, and if you’d like to share a photo of your painting email it to me and I’ll add it to the next month’s photo gallery.
If you’d like help with your project painting through a critique, this is available to project subscribers via Patreon (sign up here; there’s also an option for ). If you enjoy reading my blog, you can support me with a wave via Patreon. A big thank you to all my Patreon supporters and subscribers; I greatly appreciate it. If you’ve any questions on how Patreon works, simply email me or post a comment on this blog (comments get held in an approval queue until I’ve read them and approve them for publication or delete).
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!
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.
My second painting was done on location; see my blog Painting That Puddle in the Woodland.
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.