Part of the reason it’s hard to answer the “how long did it take to paint” question is because of ‘thinking time’. When I’m thinking about a painting, about what I need to do or might do (or wish I hadn’t done!), but not standing brush in hand and paint on palette in front of it.
It came to mind today when I finished this painting which had been waiting more than five weeks for me to feel brave enough to tackle a few small changes and additions as well as add more glazes to finish the sky. My main hesitation point was my doubts about matching the blue in the stream, but in the end I was right with my first guess, cerulean.
For a bit I used the excuse of getting ready for my workshop at Higham Hall to not finish this painting, then the excuse of a bit of R&R after teaching the workshop, then I got sidetracked by an idea, and then today I suddenly felt up to it.
Being hot meant things dried quickly (acrylics at 21°C is quite different to it at 10°C!) and I had to just get on with it. I think I have finished it, besides varnishing, and choosing a title, and stringing, and photographing properly. But those can wait a bit still.
I tried painting my way through a Category Four headache today, but looking at the results I definitely lost the plot. That moon is not sitting on top of its reflection. Oops.
Here’s a photo showing today’s starting and ending points:
So do I move the reflection (by repainting sea blues) or move the Moon (which will entail repainting the sky as it’s layered colour not solid)? Or, as the in-house critic’s suggested, enlarge the Moon to the left (which means just repainting the Moon).
Strictly speaking, just off my easel rather than still on, lying on a shelf to dry out of “I’ll just tweak it” reach, is this new sheep painting that still needs a title. Any suggestions? (It’s 70x60cm in case you’re wondering.)
Here it is as it was when I downed brushes yesterday, along with another work-in-progress that’s texture-paste sheep added to a seascape that had gone awry and needed a drastic change (I put them together like this so I would see both on re-entering my studio):
And here it is when the first round was finished, with fluid paint running down still-wet texture paste.
Apologies, there are no other in-between photos as I forgot to take any! Needless to say, there were several layers of paint between the start and finish.
The response to my “The One That Won’t Swim Away” little goldfish painting inspired me to have a go at creating a few more for the Fish Exhibition at Skyeworks Gallery. Not quite a repeat of what I’d done because “my fish” has some texture on the surface, and also strongly motivated to do “without hesitation” because there wasn’t much time.
These four little goldfish were the result, and I was delighted that one sold on the opening day of the exhibition.
Here they are in Skyeworks, plus my other three fish paintings done on canvas:
Don’t be misled by how neat and tidy they look lined up. This photo of them on my desk while I was waiting for the varnish to dry is more representative of the organized chaos they were created in.
For those curious about what else is in this photo:
The goldfish in the frame is painted on a page from a tiny dictionary I found languishing in a secondhand bookshop in York, on the page with the entry for “fish”. It was done the same time as “my goldfish” and is now also in Skyeworks.
The little circle with the fish on still needs to get a dimensional glaze over it and will probably become a piece of wearable art as either a brooch or necklace.
The ink in the glass jars labelled “ink” is shellac-based rather than acrylic ink, I’ve been playing with it on a strip watercolour paper testing out a workshop activity idea.
The pink sunset on the right is the new photo-reference booklet for my Captureing Skye workshop coming up at Higham Hall. (I’ll have copies at Patchings Art Festival.)
The mug with my brushes in is from Cath Ball of Stitched Ceramics (and is a “seconds” with a small crack on the handle, so it’s not sacrilegious to use like this).
The little bit of black cloth is for cleaning my specs.
The black tin on the left is my every-colour-I-have watercolour set that the in-house critic bought for me (as an empty tin).
Know those dreams where you wake up but it’s vividly stuck in your head even though you’re awake? Last night I had a dream in which I overheard someone saying snide things about my paintings ending with “when an artist gets desperate they use lava paste”. I woke up with the thought “what the [expletive]” but now I’m amused as to why it was lava paste.
After all, I also use plain texture paste far more, plus glass-bead paste occasionally; the use of lava is rather new to me. It’s also true I have a work-in-progress I’ve been pondering in which I’ve used lava paste, but not very much of it. It’s the black stuff in the work-in-progress photo below.
Maybe I’ll dream the next chapter in this soapie tonight? Though it’d be more useful to dream about where to go with this painting.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again, and again, and again. I know this. You know this. But sometimes a painting can be rather far away from where we want to be.
My first attempt at wet-into-wet goldfish resulted in this “urm, those are meant to be goldfish?” painting:
Let me try on a smaller scale, I thought. And my second attempt result in this dubious school of fish. Though, I reassured myself, at least some are looking a little less like post-nuclear-apocalypse mutants:
I can do this, I told myself, and on trying yet again, I got to this, which to me falls into the “getting there” category :
Which then left me with the “will I be able to do this on a larger scale, on canvas?” question. I’d previously painted the background, with tube acrylics, and now the task was “add goldfish”. Three acrylic inks: white, orange, and Payne’s grey (not quite as harsh as black). I had the not-goldfish to the side to remind me what not to do.
After the fish had dried, I added more layers to the water using acrylic ink blues.
It’s one of those paintings that is tricky to photograph because the more light there is the lighter blue the water appears. In subdued light, the water is quite dark. But at least these fish looking more like fish than not. And next time I’m staying with the friend who has goldfish, I’ll be looking at them more closely.
The starting point of a painting and the end point can sometimes be a fair distance apart. It’s most often because a painting takes a turn I decide to follow to see where it leads, knowing I can always go back to my original idea another time. So the painting that became “The W.I.* Committee” started with bright oranges/yellows and a row of sheep and ended with gentle purples and three sheep. These four photos show the progress:
I started with orange and yellows as the blocking in colours, the eliminate-the-white-of-the-canvas and establish-the-composition colours plus some phthalo turquoise, white and magenta. The orange of the sky encouraged to run by spraying it. It’s all a bit “pass-my-sunglasses” intense at the moment but it’s destined to be mostly hidden by subsequent layers.
Enter more phthalo turquoise. One of my current favourite colours, it’s a strong dark when used thickly, a sea blue-green when thin. In this round I was using it to establish darks in the foreground, and this is when the row of sheep got reduced to three. Why? I don’t know, it just felt right.
I started getting entranced by the beautiful mixes of magenta with turquoise, white, orange and yellow, finding myself pulled towards lighter tones for once. Why? I could invent some philosophical statement about the purples on the hills behind my studio at the moment and the low clouds of a mostly overcast day, but truly it’s simply because at that moment I was enjoying those colours.
In this third photo the tones are still quite dark overall, but you can see where I’ve started adding light tones. This was a turning point in the direction the painting headed, and I knew it was destined to be more gentle than my other recent paintings, and not dominated by blue or green. And, subsequently, many of the comments I’ve had about it have started with “those are unusual colours for you”.
I left it overnight to dry thoroughly, then worked further ending up here (I realise that’s not much of a description of what I did; compare the two photos, they tell the story):
Perylene Green/Atrament Black (same pigment, different brand names)
There are more nights until it’s Christmas than there are until the days start getting longer again, but it will still be a long wait until the snowdrops emerge, followed by daffodils heralding spring. But that’s no reason for there not to be flowers on my easel.
My current painting-in-progress has white daisies, the suggestion of foxgloves, and an abundance of colour. (The in-house art critic used the word “tropical” at one point.) It was started on top of another abandoned daisy painting that had a layer of dark painted over it a few months ago when I decided it really wasn’t going where I wished and couldn’t be rescued. As I started this new painting the old daisies loomed beneath, but gradually they disappeared into the depths.
These two detail photos were taken after another round of painting from the photos above. I stopped to let everything dry overnight, and next need to assess the tonal contrast as well as see if there any inadvertent/unwanted pattern has crept in. (The painting is 100x100cm.)
It being so sunny yesterday, I went a’wandering a bit, taking lots of snapshots of snow-covered bits of the Trotternish Ridge, ending up at Skyeworks where I couldn’t resist removing the wool from the paintings in progress. The results are intriguing, and definitely something I’ll do again, not least to see whether I can replicate an effect deliberately. Here are some photos of the results (here are the ‘before’ photos):
On Saturday at the ‘creation tables’ at the back of Skyeworks, I experimented with placing a piece of wool onto the canvas to restrict the spread of High Flow acrylics. I put it in places where I’d have drawn a line if I were working in pencil, for instance the top of a ridge or divide between sea and land.
Why wool and not string? No reason other than Skyeworks’ box of crafting bits contains wool not string. I also put masking tape around the edge of the canvas to create a “dam”, so the paint wouldn’t pour off the side if the canvas wasn’t flat. (Note to self: double-check it is stuck all the way around!)
The wool did constrain the paint as I’d hoped, allowing a little colour seepage if the canvas is kept flat, and more if tilted but not as much as if it wasn’t there. Where the wool is the paint dries speckled, as some is absorbed, which adds interesting texture. Bottom right photo shows the result; this was the first canvas I worked on and the paint was just about dry (it being cold, the acrylic dries slowly). The other three I managed to leave to dry thoroughly; it’s a tremendous temptation to tweak and fiddle and peak under the wool. Top right has some coarse sea salt on it; same idea as with watercolour, that some of the paint will be absorbed to leave interest effects. Bottom left I used gloss medium along with the paint, and it’s spread differently.
What happens next with these will depend on how I feel about them until I see them again (I left them at Skyeworks) when they’re dry. Might like the result totally, might work a layer or two over the top, might do a lot. I won’t know, which is part of the fun.