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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Up close there are also all sorts of options for colourful, textured abstracts, such as this:
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)marion.scot or share it with me on social media. I look forward to seeing the results.
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!
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!
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:
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…
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.)
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 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.
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:
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.
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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.
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.
Pencil (with an eraser)
Pen (as you can’t erase you have to work through/past mistakes)
Black ink (with a brush not a pen)
Pastel, soft or oil (the scale of the painting should suit the size of mark a pastel makes; don’t work too small)
Coloured Pencil (don’t work too big or you’ll be at it all month)
Watercolour (transparent colour)
Acrylic or oil paint
Collage (torn or cut)
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.
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: