My Painting-in-Progress: Kilt Rock has been moved from my studio to Skyeworks Gallery for my Edges Exhibition. It’s still waiting for me to finish it and as the exhibition opening is tonight it won’t get the waterfall added in time never mind finished. But I thought some people might find it interesting to see a work-in-progress and I’m intrigued to see how people respond to it as it is right now (I consider it no more than two-thirds finished).
I’ve been asked a few times whether the painting in my Edges Exhibition poster is of Kilt Rock. It’s not, it’s a detail from “Edge of Skye”, but it made me think it’s a subject that does belong with my edges theme, so I’ve started painting it. These four photos show my progress. Next step will be adding the waterfall. But it won’t be finished for Monday’s exhibition opening.
The inspiration for titles for paintings comes from all sorts of places; sometimes a title even leads to a particular composition (such as “Lambic Pentameter”). In this instance, the comments on my abstracted painting inspired by a rocky shore about it looking like people and war led the in-house art critic to suggest the military term “Beachhead” as a title. Works for me on several levels, and thus this painting now has a title.
Sometimes an idea takes quite some time to make it into paint (and not every idea does). I’ve previously done a rocky shore as a pencil drawing and in charcoal, as well as an etching. This version doesn’t have a sea/sky horizon.
I started by creating a dark ground, using a chromatic black mixed with texture medium. Once this had dried, I “drew” with various colours of Golden’s High Flow Acrylics. Once this had dried, I painted the sea and ‘tops’ of the rocksy, again using very fluid paint. I’m now, once again, waiting for paint to dry, and will then access whether I’ll be doing anything else to it. Right now I think not, but looking in it in different light tomorrow will tell me.
These four photos show this painting-in-progress I was working on yesterday.
Photo 1: Though you can’t see it in the photo, the sheep in the foreground and the cliffs in the distance had been ‘sketched’ in with texture paste, which is why I had put down colour on the sky, hills, and sea only. This having now dried, I started by adding yellow to the foreground, knowing the blue under this would show through, shifting it towards green. I applied the yellow directly to the canvas, then used a brush dipped in clean water and then some glazing medium to spread it around.
Photo 2: Without cleaning the yellow from my brush, I picked up some blue from my palette and let this run down, creating green. I added dark (perylene green) for the sheeps’ heads and legs, and applied a little to the distant hill. Then I started adding white for the sheeps’ wool.
Photo 3: I’ve added more colour to both the foreground and the distant hills. Permanent rose mixed with the leftover blueish colour on my brush/palette, giving a range of pink-purples, suitable heather colour. Then another round of white added to the sheep.
Photo 4: I’ve applied more dark to the faces (running the brush along the texture of the horns), and greens to the background. This wasn’t tube green, but created by mixing quinacridone gold with leftovers on my palette. Now it needs to dry completely before another round, which I’m hoping will get me to the “is it finished yet?” stage.
Given Monday’s Motivator to Keep Striving, I thought I’d share work-in-progress photos of one of the paintings I’ve been working on this week, one that’s been testing my resilience. Wildflowers are something that have bounced around my mind’s eye for some time, but a subject I’ve not translated into paint much. “Listening to Trees” was the first time I painted foxgloves to my satisfaction. My idea with this painting was for it to echo myforest paintings, but be only flowers. It’s a large canvas, 1×1 metre (about 39×39 inches).
The first photo shows where the painting was when I downed brushes yesterday. To my mind, very much still a work-in-progress that lacked oomph. It needed more tonal contrast, a stronger sense of sunlight, pinker foxgloves. The last thing I had done was to add a stronger dark tone using a mixture of Prussian blue, burnt umber, and perylene green. It was a bit streaky but once dry my plan was to do something similar with some “sunlight” and “blue sky”, then reassess.
How long would this take? Would it work? Doing it is the only way to know. I might make it worse, but ultimately that’s irrelevant as it’s not right now anyway.
Awake at four this morning thinking about this painting, I headed back into my studio to give it another go. I dug out some fluid medium, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, and titanium white, then played around with very fluid paint and gravity. This photo shows where the painting is now. I like it more — it’s less static — but will reassess once it’s daylight. Studio cat seemed to approve though.
Update: I ultimately decided I did like what I’d done and made only minor tweaks.
I had promised the in-house art critic I wouldn’t touch this painting for a week (this is where I left it) but looking at it at lunchtime I knew what I would do next, and we’d discussed it extensively, so I played the exception card. (The rule being: don’t fiddle with a painting that is unresolved, wait until you have something definite in mind.)
First up, I darkened the sea, particularly the lower section, using Prussian blue mixed with varying quantities of glazing medium. I wanted what was already there to still show through, hence the glazing medium. Then I added a bit more white on top again at the shoreline. Using leftover white mixed with glazing medium, I introduced some mist. I did this in two rounds, starting cautiously, asking the in-house art critic’s opinion, then adding some more. There are also a few more sheep and some birds, though too small to see in this photo.
I’m now back into “don’t touch it mode”, pondering whether it’s finished or not. I suspect it might be.
This painting is inspired by the cliffs at Rubha Hunish, working from my sketches, reference photos and memories of the location. The top photo is where the painting was this morning; the second where it is now.
I had two aims when I picked up my brushes today: to increase the tonal contrast by adding strong darks and fix the shape of the lower cliff which was too perfectly curved. When I downed brushes I felt I’d fixed the latter somewhat, but it still needs further work. The tonal contrast I will ponder in better daylight, as well as consider whether I should add some blue back into the sky.
Part of me is itching to change the weather in the painting to misty, to make everything more ethereal. Or perhaps have the weather coming in from one side. Doing this would involve titanium white and glazing medium, perhaps adding a little retarder to give me time to wipe it off should I change my mind. I think part of the desire to do this is the muted moodiness of my Trying to Snow painting, where I knocked back the colour with thin white.
If you’re wondering how I achieved the vertical dribbles in the sea (which I feel evokes a memory of rain as well as enhancing the sense of movement), it was by letting paint from the cliffs run all the way down to the bottom of the canvas over the still-wet sea area, removing the colour. Later, when it was dry, I’ve painted another layer over this area.
Another thing I want to add are lots of seabirds flying around the cliffs, as well as several more sheep grazing. If you look carefully, you’ll see these two above the lower cliff, at the right.
When it’s bluebell season, the colours in woodlands changes yet again. In some places the flowers carpet the woodland floor, influencing the colour of everything you see, almost as if I’m wearing turquoise-tinted glasses. This painting is a compilation of memories of walking and sitting amongst bluebells in different woodlands. The dominant colour used was a phthalo turquoise, a strong, staining colour that easily takes all your mixed colours on your palette if you’re not paying attention. It also teaches you to clean a brush properly because if there’s a little left in a brush, you’ll know about it!
This detail from the painting is about life size. As you get closer and closer to the canvas, the pieces of paint start dissolving into a colourful chaos. It also reveals the different colours in the dark background, created with various glazed layers. The variation in colour showing through is created by working with a big brush and not meticulously covering every millimetre but letting there be ‘missed bits’.