Painting Daisies in a Concertina Sketchbook (with video)

If you’ve not met one before, a concertina sketchbook has one long zigzag page that folds up between the covers. How many pages it has and what type of paper depends on the brand; the one I’m using in this video is from Seawhite and slips into a case. (If you don’t see the video below, click here to go to my Vimeo channel.)

I started with Payne’s grey acrylic ink, then watercolour in a dropper bottle (including two granulating greens), watercolour from my set using a brush, acrylic paint (cadmiun yellow light and medium), a mixed blue-grey acrylic ink (the masking tape on the bottle tells me it’s a colour I’ve mixed), white acrylic ink (Sennelier’s super-opaque white), and ultimately a touch of orange acrylic ink to deepen the yellows in the flower centres.

The decision as to how many pages to do was intuitive, a feeling for how many would be manageable across the width of my table (and off a bit) and would probably not be totally dry by the time I got back to the start with a new colour. I’m drawing daisies from a mixture of memory and the ones in the jug in front of me, which I turned around at various points so I was seeing ‘new’ daisies.

The colours initially are a bit gloomy, but when I add the bright green these become “background shadows” and everything turns brighter. I had visualised this brighter layer of green before I started, I just didn’t know exactly when I would do it. I’ve got a list in my mind of what layers I’m going to do (colours/materials) but if you’re new to working like this it’s worth taking the time to draw up a list, and having everything to hand, so when you’re painting the decisions are already made and you can concentrate on painting.

What will I do with the rest of the pages? At the moment my thought is to continue with flowers, probably the pink foxgloves that are flowering now too, but I’ll see what I feel like when I start again.

This is only the second concertina sketchbook I’ve used; the first has a watercolour of the sea/weather from my studio on every pair of pages, with a consistent positioning of the horizon line across the pages (drawn in with a pencil before I started). I’m sure there will be more, not least because I have a little Sennelier one with thicker paper I won in a competition and the Moleskine one the in-house art critic gave me last Christmas to try.

My Watercolour Recipe for Bluebell Blue

Yesterday I sat on a tree stump in the Uig woodland amongst the bluebells, with my watercolours. My aim was to try the various blues I have and see if I could crack “bluebell blue”. Looking at the options I had for shifting blues towards purple, I decided to try Imperial Purple (a Daniel Smith mixture of PV19 quinacridone rose and PB29 ultramarine blue) and mixed it with my favourite blue, Prussian (PB27). And just like that I had my recipe, andnow I can tick “paint bluebells in the woodland” off my to-do list.

This is the tree stump I sat on whilst painting bluebells. It was one of the trees cut down by the woodland trust last year because they were damaged or rotten.

Seaside Sketching in the Sun

With a forecast for temperatures in the twenties and covid19 lockdown moved to phase 1, I dug out the tube of sunscreen and drove to my favourite bit of shore with paint and paper.

It took me a few moments to realize what the unexpected shapes at the bottom of the slipway were. Never seen seals here before; not long thereafter they all took to the water, and after a while disappeared.

I mostly used watercolour (granulating black and haematite plus a few others) and Payne’s grey acrylic ink, but did also have some coloured pencils with me.

My first piece
Four little paintings (15x15cm) and four clips to stop them blowing away
Two more after moving north a bit. Coloured pencil used on the left. The blue on the right-hand one doesn’t meet the black of the rocks because this was still wet and I didn’t want it bleed; I might still ‘fix’ this and strengthen the touch of green.
Spot the bird.
Hokusai’s Great Wave reinterpreted as a performance piece!

Freezing Watercolour

frozen watercolour

It was such a beautiful, windstill morning I couldn’t resist painting outside despite the temperature struggling to get to 0°C. I don’t know that I would recommend it, but having ink and watercolour freeze as I used it was intriguing. It certainly “sparked joy” as ice crystals gathered on the tip of my brush.

Ending up with paint frozen on the surface of the paper made for something very tactile, inviting my fingers to slide across it. Of course, as soon as the painting was moved to a slightly warmer environment (i.e. indoors), it melted and the paint behaved like “normal”; the paper was cold-damp to its core across the entire sheet and took a little while to dry through.

This was my favourite painting from today, a slice of loch shore, started on location and finished indoors.

Watercolour on A2 paper 350gsm

Painting “The Little Tree That Could”

There’s one little tree in the Uig woodland that wears its autumn colours later and longer than the rest. I call it the “The Little Tree That Could” (context: the children’s book The Little Engine That Could with the lines “I think I can, I think I can … I knew I could“) and first painted it in 2014 (see this blog). On Monday I went to say hello again, taking my watercolours and some acrylic ink (video link if you don’t see it below).

My first painting, watercolour on A3 paper
My second painting, which I like more than the first
With the second I added a bit of background colour first
Third painting, liquid watercolour and Payne’s grey acrylic ink. There was a bit too much ink andnot enough orange, but overall I think it worked.

This video was taken when I started moving the colour around with a rigger. (It goes a awry for a bit as I open a bottle to add more orange, just skip that bit. Video link)

My fourth painting is my favourite, ending up a bit like Moses’ burning bush. Watercolour only.

I was sitting on a convenient rock next to the stone wall.
1 = Watercolour set.
2 = Painting drying.
3 = A bit of waterproof padding to sit on.
4 = Plastic folder with paper that also serves as a ‘drawing board’.
5 = Inks and fluid watercolour in plastic box.
6 = Water bottle (for me before my brushes)
7 = Backpack with raincoat, biscuits etc.

Sketching at Bow Fiddle Rock (On the North Sea Coast Part 2)

Looking at these photos you need to add a soundtrack of gulls and shags and wind. I came here several times, sketching in different mediums, struggling against tendency to straighten and shorten the ‘leg’. Most mornings I had it to myself. At low tide you can walk almost to the rock without getting your feet wet. One afternoon, at high tide, there were three women who swam out to it, without wetsuits.

Photos: On the North Sea Coast (Part 1)

Photos: Painting at Staffin Beach in the Sunshine (aka My Pebbles Got Bigger)

Painting yesterday at Staffin beach at low tide, I found myself enjoying the large boulders dotted around. When I later showed the in-house art critic my photos, he said my paintings looked postcard size. That’s when I realised that not only had I supersized the average rock I was painting, but that the pebbles I was using to hold down wet paintings were also bigger than normal. Do wonder what I might have painted if I’d had a bigger brush with me!

The first drawing. I initially stopped when it was line only as I was enjoying the piece, but later added wash to it as it felt too sparse.
The second painting. Judge the top angle of the rock by the horizon of the sea, not the edge of the shet of paper.
My second-last painting. I blame the soporific sun for the rounding of the shape…
Looking the ‘other way’.
I mostly used Daniel Smith hematite genuine for the ‘rock colour’. Its granulation gives a sense of the texture of the rock. It’s the second-nearest colour in the left hand row in my box.
Watercolour and acrylic ink on A3 paper. I like and dislike bits in each.
In terms of composition, I think this works as a photo, but could I make it work as a painting?
The dot of red is where I was sitting when painting; the orange is my Ma. I’m standing a couple of metres from the water’s edge.
My Ma, plein-air knitting.
“Do you need a viewfinder?”
My Ma, plein-air knitting.
Me thinking “I can’t see anything on the screen in this glare but this looks about the right angle”.
This volcanic rock is amazingly matte black, darker than in the photo..
Not a fossilized dinosaur brain. (We were close to where the dinosaur footprints can be found.)
Abstracts from nature.
I think the sheep noticed I was painting rocks and wanted to be included too.

Imagine a Fly (a tip about drawing dark and light lines)

Hairy Caterpillar

“Imagine a fly walking on a surface. If the fly walked across a line and disappeared by going around a corner, then that line should be heavy. If the fly walked across a line which marked a change in material in the same plane then it should be light.”
Brian Ramsey, “Trade Secrets”

Or if flies give you the heebie-jeebies, perhaps imagine an ant.

Or a caterpillar, though not a very hungry one like Eric Carle’s.

Hairy Caterpillar

Continuous Line Drawing (with video)

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans with wash

Continous line is as it sounds, drawing a line without stopping. I think of it as a line tracking what my eyes are looking at, done at the speed I am looking.

You don’t close your eyes when you look from one part of a subject to another. So if you’re creating a drawing that’s foremost about looking rather than representation, then the line should be continous, not broken (though it could get lighter).

If you’re using pencil, where you don’t have to stop for a while before you “run out” (i.e. need to sharpen it), things can get really interesting as you loose where you are on the sheet of paper (and you didn’t stop to reorientate yourself). By interesting I mean abstracted and distorted. It’s worth doing a few times, giving yourself a taste of the freedom that comes when you’re concentrating on looking, not on the results nor perspective nor representation.

I had a search through my photos but can’t find an example from my own drawings, which doesn’t really surprise me as I don’t often do it with pencil except in a life-drawing session. Have a search online for “blind continuous line”, but be sceptical about all the ones that look like perfect contour drawings.

What I like doing most is continuous line with quick checks keep the drawing achored in reality, regardless of what medium I’m using. An ink bottle pipette lends itself to this as the ink runs out regularly. When I stop to dip the pipette back in the bottle, I look down at my drawing, then back at what I’m drawing, decide where I’m going to look/draw next, position the pipette at a suitable point, then draw again. As I’m drawing I occasionally glance down, to check what I’ve done and where I am and whether I’ve run out of ink, but mostly as looking at what I’m drawing.

This video shows what I mean. I’m look at the outlines and cracks in a slab of rock on the shore at Camus Mor, north Skye (see this blog post and this one for more photos, from the day before I took this video):

If you don’t see the video above, you’ll find it here: https://youtu.be/sgVzMus8ngI

I do it with both my left and my right hand, especially working in the A3 landscape sketchbook I’ve been using the past few weeks.

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans

This is what it looked like when I’d finished the line drawing, with a section of rocks I was looking at behind it.

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans

This time, after I’d done the ink line drawing, I then used a small, flat brush and water to turn some of the still-wet line into ink wash. Plus some paper towel to lift off excess ink and create pattern.

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans with wash

There’s a risk to doing this, a risk of messing up a drawing I was pleased with, not least because how much of the ink is still wet is an unknown factor. On a cold winter’s day I know it’ll be more rather than less, though the wind does still dry thinner lines quite fast. It would be more sensible to let the acrylic ink line dry completely and then add a layer of watercolour, which could be lifted and changed without moving the dry ink. But I spend too much time being sensible, logical, responsible, practical (cue: Supertramp’s Logical Song).

Photos: Sketching at Low Spring Tide

Sea wall vs cliffs Camus Mor Isle of Skye

It happened to be low tide when I went out with my sketchbook yesterday, extra low as it’s spring tide. Even more of those enticing rocks to sketch, but which viewpoint would I choose, where would I sit? I wandered out a bit, further than ‘normal’, awkwardly as the rocks were rather slippery, getting distracted by pattern and colour.

This slab of black rock has become a favourite, and against the sun I was mesmerized once again. But beautiful as this was, I can’t sit with my back to the sea, even when I know it’s hours until high tide.

These are not fossilized dinosaur brains:

This is not where I spilt yellow paint:

Justification/evidence for adding lines of colour amongst my rock drawings:

There’s something about a pile of old rope:

Nature vs built environment. This is my favourite photo from the day but it also makes me wonder why I’ never noticed this juxtaposition before; perhaps because I usually sit on the wall rather than stand looking up at it:

Sea wall vs cliffs Camus Mor Isle of Skye

Eventually I did pick a sketching spot, against a big stone that broke the breeze:

Then a rain shower snuck up behind me. Suffice to say, watercolour isn’t a wet-weather medium.