How I Created My Biggest Painting Yet

The Majestic Minch” is the largest painting I’ve done on a single canvas, at 150x90cm. I could have laid it flat on my studio floor if I’d moved all sorts of things to create a large enough space (read: “not my idea of fun”) but, instead, once I’d decided I would tackle it (read: “this canvas sat around for years intimidating me with its size”) I waited for some dry weather and took it outside (read: “let’s play in the sunshine”).

Majestic Minch seascape painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

The initial challenge was how to eliminate all that intimidating white. I had the composition/colours in my head, a summery Minch seascape, when there are little pink flowers (thrift) blooming along the coastline, with “interesting greys” in the water, and the line of outer isles. So out came the squeezable bottles of acrylic plus a big brush and some water. Oh, and a bit of canvas to catch runs of paint, because I was working on a slight slope.

First down was Prussian blue, spread across the sky area to cover all the white and broken up where there’d be sea. Sprayed this with some water to help spread it and to let it run, and spread with a brush dipped in water, hence the blue on the dropcloth. Then some yellow, which brushed mixed with the blue to give green, then golden ochre, light pink and white, which were spread and mixed for the shoreline, and then golden ochre for the distant islands. Because it was sunny and dry, the paint was drying quickly but not instantly (this is Skye after all), giving time to move it around and mix on the canvas somewhat.

Majestic Minch seascape painting

The angle of the next photo makes the brush handle seem longer than it really is.

Majestic Minch seascape painting

I added more layers of blue-greys, mixed in a squeezeable bottle so I could pour it out across the canvas, gradually getting lighter in tone and greyer in colour. I also added glazing medium and water to the paint bottle. I don’t have any photos because I was having too much fun painting to stop. The big size meant walking around and stretching over, and remembering to go edge to edge not only do the middle.

Majestic Minch seascape painting

I left it outside to dry, moving it onto the grass where it is more level, then moved it into my studio onto my easel for the pondering stage and, ultimately, the final rounds. Most significant change was the distant islands, knocking back the bright colour without obscuring it completely and adding some “rain”. I also worked on the sea, adding in darks?and lights, spray on the shore (read: small additions, lots of pondering, more additions and tweaks).

Majestic Minch seascape painting

Majestic Minch seascape painting

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Majestic Minch Seascape by Marion Boddy-Evans

Used in this painting:

  • Genie Canvas Collapsible Canvas, not available in the UK). I was sent one some years ago to review when I was still writing Painting.About.com; I still think it’s a clever, useful concept and it seems to have been refined since, but they’re not cheap.
  • Amsterdam acrylics for the initial layers. A ‘student’ paint that I find a good balance between quality and price, with strong, clean colours.
  • Liquitex String Gel. The “flows like honey” medium that works for me only when it’s warm enough, and then it’s great for strings of colour on a seascape. Most of the year it sits around as my studio’s too cold and it “flows like jam” (i.e. doesn’t).
  • Artist’s quality acrylics for layers above the initial colour, Prussian or phthalo blue plus burnt umber and white to produce various greys. My current favourite brands are Golden and Schmincke, but I use all sorts.
  • A wide coarse-hair brush. Look for a “thin flat varnish brush” and go for wider than you initially think; it’s for getting large areas painted fast, not details.

Moods of the Minch: Iridescent Sea

Moods of the Minch Seascapes: Iridescent Paint

This time of year, between the position of the sun in the sky and the long daylight hours, there’s lots of light bouncing off the sea in the afternoon as the sun heads to the horizon. Little wonder then I’ve found myself reaching for iridescent pearl not only for my current silver birch painting but also my Minch seascape paintings-in-progress. It conveys the silvery glare beautifully and works both in the top layer and lower layers. A little can be quite determined to show through layers! Depending on the light falling on the painting, and your viewing position, you may see lots of it or you may see nothing at all.

Painting-in-Progress: Minch Seascape

It’s that time of year again when the sun’s moved north and is setting past the tip of the Waternish peninsula and late (about 9pm) making for hours of enticing patterns and colours on the expanse of the Minch (sea between Skye and Harris). My fingers have been itching to paint it again (see Moods of the Minch catalogue). Here are a few work-in-progress photos, canvas size 120x60cm.

Minch Seascape painting
Yes, I am indeed mixing the sea colours directly on the canvas. I used the “sea area” as a palette and brush-wiping space while painting the rocky foreground and islands. Not only does it mean there’s no palette to clean, but also no paint wasted and a colour coherence between the sea and the rest of the painting. The “trick” is to use a biggish brush and to not overblend it into a uniform colour. It’ll get more layers of paint on top anyway.
Minch Seascape painting horizon
Painting the sea horizon with a flat brush and Prussian blue. The “trick” to this is that it has to be a really good brush, not one with errant hairs. And practice. And doing it when the islands are dry so it can be wiped off if it does go astray.
Minch Seascape painting horizon tape
The “trick” to getting the sharp edge on the outer islands is masking tape. Pulling it off for the ‘great reveal’ is always a fun moment!

 

Inspired by Sketching at Uig Bay

I’ve started a large (1x1m) painting inspired by the shoreline at Uig next to the woodland, where there’s a stream that runs into the bay. It’s still at the “doesn’t look like much” underpainting/blocking in stage, and the two composition questions I’m asking myself are whether to include the ferry pier in the distance and the daisies in the foreground.

uig-bay-sketch-book2

uig-bay-sketch-wall

uig-bay-sketch-book3 uig-bay-sketch-daisies

uig-bay-sketch-3

uig-bay-sketch-studio1

 

Being More Abstract: Intertidal Paintings

I’ve been working on a series of paintings that are decidedly more abstract that usual. The inspiration come from the intertidal zone, where what’s there is fluid, changing as the tide washes in and out, influenced by colours observed in the bay at Uig, where there’s also a river adding its variations and reflections from the cliffs/hills/clouds. These paintings will go into Skyeworks Gallery this weekend, when the changearound for Christmas happens, along with a few more feather prints created with feathers I’ve found in the intertidal zone.

Painting: Intertidal
Intertidal #6, #5, #4, #3, #2. Size: 15x15cm each. (Each was photographed standing ‘inside’ the back of a 30x30cm WIP canvas.)
Painting: Intertidal, Skye Scotland seascape
“Intertidal”
Size: 100x50cm

Waiting for the Perfect Wave Painting

Detail: Four Small Waves

I’ve been working with fluid paint creating some small wave paintings, depictions of memories of watching and waiting for the perfect wave.

Four Small Waves Paintings by Skye Scottish Artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Each of these is 15x15cm.

The enjoyment and challenge are in the dance between the deliberate (where I place each colour), the not-quite-controlled (how much paint I apply), and the mostly-beyond-my-control (how the colours intermingle). The properties of the individual pigments have an influence: their opacity, obviously, but some also tend to pull over others more strongly, and others spread more enthusiastically when you break the surface tension with a spray of water.

Like waiting on the shore for the perfect wave, each “this is it” moment leads you to anticipate the next, which is why there isn’t only one painting but a series. And why there shall be more.

Colours: Titanium white, cerulean blue, indigo, phtlalo blue and teal on a coloured ground of Prussian blue hue mixed with a little orange, which shifts it to a cool, steely blue.

Detail: Four Small Waves

Detail: Four Small Waves

Detail: Four Small Waves

Painting-in-Progress: Oystercatchers

I enjoy watching oystercatchers, and have often see them on Staffin beach: walking, hopping, pecking, then flying away when you take that one step too close. Their skinny red legs and long red beaks, the weirdly red eye. An on-going contemplation of how orange-red or pink-red that red is.

Now, finally, I’ve started working on a large painting featuring them. It’s had two rounds of “stop and leave to dry” then reassess and rework, and needs more. This photo was taken at the first “leave to dry overnight” stage, and first thing I did the next day was make the heads smaller by “adding sea”. I want to both delineate the birds more and keep a sense of movement. Whether I’ll get it working to my satisfaction I don’t know. But it’s pleasing to be trying.

Painting in Progress: Oyster Catchers by Scottish Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Painting in Progress: Oyster Catchers
100x50cm (40x20cm)

New Minch Seascape: Storm Warning

Inspired by this winter’s storms and the non-arrival of spring. The paint is still drying in places where it’s particularly thick, so to remove the temptation of poking at it (“Are you dry yet…?!“) it’s now propped on the bookshelves in the in-house art critic’s office.

Minch Seascape Painting: Storm Warming
“Storm Warning”
75x75cm
Acrylic on canvas

Detail from Storm Warning painting

Incoming Tide: Always Stopping But Never Stops

The sea makes a tired sound
That’s always stopping though it never stops.

“Fetching Cows” by Norman MacCaig

I’ve been exploring an idea related to the incoming tide, those tentacles of water that slither up the beach reaching further and further while simultaneously always sliding back. Always stopping but never stopped. Paint that is always drying but never dry if I keep adding to a painting.

Incoming Tide paintings by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans
Mixed media. Mounted size: 25x25cm.

These four related studies are now at Skyeworks sold.