My First Long Video

It took an entire afternoon to upload on my single-track broadband (fibre currently ends three miles down the road), but eventually it did. So cue the dramatic music, my very first long video is a now available to rent (watch online) or buy (watch and download) here.

It’s 27 minutes long, featuring me painting this month’s project and “thinking aloud” about what I’m doing. It’s like watching me do a demo in a workshop. (And being on Vimeo rather than YouTube it’s advert-free.)

All my current Patreon subscribers should have received an email with a code to watch it for free; check your spam filters if you haven’t. If you beome a subscriber (on any tier) by 15 January 2020, you’ll also be sent a VIP code. Find out more here…

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, go here…)

Do I get bonus points for ticking something off my to-do list before it’s even fortnight into 2020? Thoughts and comments appreciated, as always.

My First Steps with Plein-Air Oils

Painting on location in a part of the world where the weather forecast is often “changeable” and “occasional showers” has meant I have, at times, had Nature add to a painting. Unfortunately, with watercolour or ink it’s invariably not a “happy accident” result. More like a “washed that off” result.

I’ve been thinking more and more about having a go with oil paint on location as rain won’t have an impact, and being outside means solvent won’t be a problem. It still leaves keeping wet paintings out of reach of the ever-inquisitive studio cat Ghost while they dry, but that isn’t unsurmountable with small paintings.

Cue the arrival of my first pochade box a few weeks ago, one with space for keeping two wet paintings safe as I stumble along a rocky shore. After a week of staring at it, I tried it out in the safety of my studio, then a few days later ventured out. This is me grinning like the Cheshire cat after putting the very first bit of oil paint on a panel (with orange acrylic for a coloured ground).

Bit further along on that first painting, when the sun came out and changed all the colours.

The point at which I stopped. Not too shabby for a first anxious attempt, I thought. Size 8×10 inches.

My second attempt with it was in the Uig woodland. I’d hoped the Little Tree That Could would still have some autumn colour on it, but it didn’t. I’ve also painted at the Rha waterfall, and at Camus Mor a few more times, enjoying myself immensely, albeit with mixed results. (And, no, I won’t be sharing photos of the dire ones! Just think “overmixed muddy colours”.)

Painting of Rha River rapids
Painting of Rha River Double Waterfall
plein air seascape painting

This is the painting I like best, so far. It’s 30x30cm on wood panel primed with clear gesso (rather than white).

step by step seascape painting

Using a shallow plastic container for a palette has contained the paint and made cleanup easy, the lidded metal container for solvent hasn’t leaked, I’m nowhere as anxious about it all, I haven’t dropped a painting, and Ghost hasn’t walked over a still-wet painting, yet.

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.

Timelapse Video of My October Project Painting

This is a timelapse video of me creating a painting for October’s painting project of part of the bay at Camus Mor. It’s acrylic and oil pastel on watercolour paper.

NOTE: Be warned, the light in the video flickers somewhat as the camera tries to deal with my moving around. I might just have to do video on overcast days only. And, yes, at one point Studio Cat Ghost is riding on my shoulders (around 03:51)

If you’re not seeing the video above, this link will take you to it on my Vimeo channel.

You’ll see I initially sketch the cliffs to far to the right, but don’t bother erasing the incorrect lines as I know I’ll be painting over these with opaque colours. Then I start covering all the white, or blocking on areas Colours used: cadmium yellow, quinacridone gold, phthalo turquoise, cadmium orange, magenta, Prussian blue, perylene green, titanium white. Plus oil pastel. Medium and small flat brush; rigger brush.

The phtalo turquoise is a bit intense; my thought was that I didn’t want too dark a dark at that stage and that a green-blue would give a sense of the green on the hilltop and reflected in the sea. After I’d done it, I then worked at subduing it hrough layers without obliterating it

At 04:44 i’m using oil pastel to fix the edge where I’d torn it taking off the tape (I really should be more patient and careful doing this!).

When I looked at the painting the day after with fresh eyes, I realised I’d aligned the sea horizon with the edge of the headland, and that the sea was pouring off to the right. I used some oil pastel to move the horizon up a bit and straighten it. The yellow-orange in the foreground could be more golden, and I might still glaze some quinacridone gold over this.

My Thoughts on My Watercolour Rocks

Watercolour of rocks

As all location painting should, I started by just sitting staring out to sea. The warmer the sunshine, the longer this stage tends to last.

Sitting at the sea side

Then getting out my supplies: sheets of watercolour paper, clips to hold these down, my watercolour set, container for water, box with drawing supplies and longer box with bottles of fluid watercolour (also known as watercolour ‘ink). I’m hoping not to drop anything off the left-hand edge of the wall, because it’d be quite a scramble to get to it.

Watercolour sketching in the sunshine

My first sketch of the day was the view to the left, of the headland and the pebble beach. I was trying to get a sense of the rocks and the colours of the seaweed on it. The direction of the sea as it comes into the bay isn’t right — it doesn’t turn this sharply — but I didn’t feel like fixing it as I’d lose the white and overwork it.

Watercolour of rocks

I then shifted my focus closer to where I was sitting, the jumble of larger rocks with the puddles of green weed.

Watercolour of rocks

I was pleased with the painting above, and decided to try again with a wider view. As so often happens, I was then trying too hard, hindered by what I’d just done, and ended up with a displeasing result. It lacks the strength of the previous painting, and feels insipid, unresolved, confused. If I crop off the sides, I’m less unhappy, but I consider this a dud.

Watercolour of rocks

This was the other dud of the last, the very last painting I did, though this one might still be rescued if I add something that pulls the sea and shore together. And also crop.

Watercolour of rocks

This was my favourite painting from the session. The rocks were painted with Daniel Smith’s Lunar Black, a strongly granulating colour.

Watercolour of rocks
Watercolour of rocks

I then did a version using Daniel Smith Hematite Genuine, which goes from deep dark to browns depending on how diluted and mixed it is, plus some Lunar Black. I like the colour, but I’ve rounded the rocks as I concentrated on the colour rather than shapes.

Watercolour of rocks
Watercolour of rocks

I’ve kept the expanse of sea ‘white’ as part of my ongoing exploration of white space inspired by the little I know of the traditions of Chinese painting. It’s ever so tempting to paint colour in that space, but that’ll change it completely. Also, I find the granulating colours lift very easily, so you’ve got to have a light hand painting over them. Given I was using a stiff acrylic brush not a soft ‘proper’ watercolour brush, that’d be near impossible, thus removing the temptation to try.

Video: My First Attempt at Painting Portree Harbour

One of my reasons for selecting Portree harbour as the subject for September’s monthly painting project was to get me past the point of merely thinking about painting it and to give it a go, all that perspective in the buildings or not. The video below is of my very first attempt at this subject.

I regard it more as an exploratory study than an resolved painting, there are bits that I like and bits I don’t. Most of all it’s a painting that has got me past my fear of the subject, made me study the scene, and motivated me to try again.

I have since changed the building that shouldn’t have been pink to yellow using acrylic paint, but otherwise am not going to ‘fix’ this painting. Its job is to help me create other, future paintings. I think there’s too much black on the hillside, and some of the ink work is too messy rather than linear. My favourite bit is the water, and that I did it at all.

The non-photo blue pencil I started theoretically is easy to eliminate from photos; I like it for its soft colour that gives me a round of sketching before I get to graphite. I used a propelling pencil with 2B because it means I don’t have to stop to sharpen a pencil.


I’ve moved to the advert-free Vimeo for my videos. You can follow my channel here.

Video: Tall Trees Painting

This video shows me painting on the middle of my trio of tall trees from yesterday’s blog. I used an unfinished seascape with texture paste, starting with yellow acrylic ink which I knew was transparent enough to turn the blues to greens. I had the canvas sideways so I could easily reach edge to edge, rather than having to stretch across it.

The in-house art critic asked how I decide where to put the “blobs of colour”. The answer “I know it’s only to go on the trunk and just random” is inadequate, apparently, so I’ll be trying to figure it out more and put it into words.

Trio of Tree Paintings

I have been wanting to try a tall trees painting (see this month’s painting project) using acrylic ink on canvas rather than paper, and have ended up with three in quite different colours. I’m unsure whether to move them closer to one another (that would involve choosing a favourite, which I think is the middle one) or let them be individuals.

Two were painted over unresolved paintings (one a waterfall, the other a seascape). The leftmost canvas is covered with black lava paste and the middle with my favourite light texture paste. I did this because reusing a canvas ‘permits’ experimentation with less worry about ‘wasting’ the canvas. Also because I thought the texture could work well and didn’t have to wait for it to dry. The rightmost canvas I covered with light turquoise first, which it wasn’t quite dry when I started on the trees.

I mostly used acrylic inks but also a few fluid colours which are more opaque and spread less wet into wet, such as the orange in the central painting. Iridescent yellow and gold too. Canvas size 20x50cm (8×20″). Brushes were a rigger and smallish flat, both with long handles. I painted flat on my table rather than vertical at my easel so that gravity wouldn’t pull the paint.

The paintings weren’t totally dry when I took the photos, and I will look at them afresh tomorrow and decide if tweaks are needed.

Video: Four Of My Attempts

This video is a speeded up version (eight times faster than real life) of four of the paintings I’ve done with this month’s Tall Trees painting project as the starting point. I’m using acrylic ink (no prizes for guessing it’s Payne’s grey) and DIY watercolour “ink” (hematite genuine and undersea green, both distinctive Daniel Smith colours).

If you’re a Project Subscriber, you should already have received the link to the real-time video of the first of these paintings, or go here. As a celebration of summer (or the thought of summer if you’re in the southern hemisphere), I’ve set the real-time video so that If you become a patron today via Patreon, including at the $2/month level, you’ll be able to watch this.

Which do you prefer? Speeded-up or real-time, a bit of both or speeded-up a little? Post a comment and let me know.

What Photos Don’t Show Us About a Painting

Ram Painting with Line in Different Lights

Which of these four photos shows ‘the truth’ of this painting?

Ram Painting with Line in Different Lights

Top left: Taken in my studio out of direct light (most of my photos are taken like this).
Top right: Photo edited with ‘auto-adjust’ (subtle differences).
Bottom left: Taken in my studio in direct sunlight.
Bottom right: Taken in my studio with part of it in direct sunlight through the window

I think they’re all ‘true’ because what you see in a painting depends on the light. The more light there is, the more you’ll see down through the layers of colour; the less light there is, the less you see. That’s one of the joys of an original painting, what you see does change as the light changes through the day. One photo simply can’t convey it all.