Drawing (Neist Point) with One Ink Colour

Is it a drawing, is it a painting? Did it start as a drawing and become a painting when I added water to the ink? I don’t know, and don’t believe it matters. What’s of more interest to me was that this afternoon, after days of exploring new watercolour colours, I felt like using “black” ink only. Maybe it was a side effect of a grey-skies day.

It’s not black though, it’s Payne’s grey*, a dark blue-grey that I find has got more rich depth than straight black.

The subject is Neist Point, the westerly most point of Skye, punctuated with a lighthouse. I was working from memory with one of my reference photos (in the booklet of photos I use for my workshops) to hand to remind me of shapes. I’m using acrylic ink, and the dropper as a drawing tool.

You can’t easily make it out in the photo but there are some composition lines I drew using a non-photo blue pencil before picking up the ink. It meant I could concentrate on getting the ink drawing done fast enough that some would still be wet enough to spread into the sea area when I dampened this. (If I were to do composition and ink simultaneously, it would split my attention and lengthen the drawing time.)

Line only at this stage, on dry paper (350gsm Not watercolour paper).

And here’s where I got so caught up in what I was doing that I forgot to take photos. So between the previous photo and the next the caption reads “Draw the rest of the #@&%! owl”**

Once I’d worked my way down to the foreground (it’s a cliff edge from which you can see the lighthouse), I made my way back across the drawing with line a little. Then I wet the sea area with clean water, taking care not to touch any of the ink yet.

I needed the sea area to all be damp so I wouldn’t get any hard dry edges (except on the horizon) when I started spreading the ink into the sea. I then carefully ran a damp brush along the edge of the ink line to connect it to the damp paper. Areas of still-wet ink spread out, and I brushed it outwards too.

Where there wasn’t enough ink, I used the brush to ‘borrow’ some from other areas. Where there was too much, I dabbed at it with paper towel. Brush wiped and dunked in clean water periodically too. At full strength this ink colour is very dark; thinned it’s a beautiful blue-grey.

I could add colour, such as the greens of the grass, but I won’t. That’s a different painting.


*Payne’s Grey is named after a British watercolourist and art lecturer, William Payne (1760–1830), who recommended the mixture to students as a more subtle alternative to a gray mixed from black and white. Payne’s grey originally was “a mixture of lake, raw sienna and indigo” according to “Artist’s Pigments: c.1600-1835” (by RD Harley, Archetype Publications, 2001, page 163). What’s in it these days varies between manufacturers, typically a blue and a black together, sometimes a touch of red is added.

**A meme from a few years ago on how to draw an owl in two steps, the first being two circles and the second a detailed owl drawing.

Location Sketching Influencing My Studio Painting

A question that came up with the group of pleinair painters from the US who were on an art retreat on Skye last week was how I thought my on-location painting would relate to or influence my studio work. My answer was (paraphrasing) that I had no idea but I imagined it would be roundabout not directly connected.

Wrong! Sunday was my first “normal” studio day for a fortnight, and when I picked up a little painting to complete it, I found myself reaching for the Payne’s grey acrylic ink I’ve had so much fun using for location sketching. The painting ended up quite different to where it was — more intense colour and strong black (or rather, Payne’s grey).

Dabbing off areas with excessive ink
Red earth ink added
Iridescent green and yellow inks added. (Iridescent simply because I had them to hand.)
Adding white ink with a rigger brush in the sea. I also added blue to the sea, and raised the horizon line slightly so I could include some sea to the left of the sea stack.
As it was when I left it to dry overnight. I was liking where it was.

I still liked it in the morning, and have found myself continuing to reach almost entirely for my acrylic ink.

A Bit More Than a Month of ‘Thinking Time’ (Plus an Afternoon) to Finish a Painting

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.

Diptych. 120x80cm.

Move the Moon or the Reflection?

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).

On My Easel: The Two Sheep Without a Name

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.

Four More Little Goldfish

Four little goldfish paintings

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.

Four little goldfish paintings

Here they are in Skyeworks, plus my other three fish paintings done on canvas:
Paintings at Fish Exhibition at Skyeworks by Marion Boddy-Evans

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.

Little goldfish paintings

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).

Getting Surreal with Lava Paste

Lava paste

Lava pasteKnow 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.

Painting WIP Quairang Lava Paste

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.

Those Are Meant to be Goldfish?

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:

Unsuccessful Gold Fish Painting on paper

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:

Gold Fish Painting on paper

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 :

Gold Fish Painting on paper

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.

Gold Fish Painting

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.

Related: The ‘Secret’ was the Previous Painting

Step-by-Step Photos: “The W.I. Committee” Sheep Painting in Progress

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:

Progress of The W.I. Committee Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

* W.I. = Women’s Institute) and, yes, I do know in Scotland it’s the S.W.I.

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.

Work in Progress of The W.I. Committee Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
The end of the first round.
Dripping paint mixing detail
Use gravity and let the colours run and mix together. The hard part is not fiddling with it, and giving it sufficient time to dry.
Dripping paint mixing by Marion Boddy-Evans
Look closely and you can see some pencil lines of my minimal composition drawing.

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.

Work in Progress of The W.I. Committee Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
The end of the second round.

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”.

Work in Progress -- The W.I. Committee Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
I love this stage, for me there’s a sense of Full Moon light about it, somehow, and I want to explore this more on another day as the final colours for a painting.

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):

The W.I. Committee Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
The finished painting. 100x100cm. “The W.I. Committee”. Sold.

Detail from The W.I. Committee Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

Colours Used:
Cadmium orange
Cadmium yellow
Phthalo turquoise
Titanium white
Perylene Green/Atrament Black (same pigment, different brand names)

The Suggestion of Foxgloves (Painting in Progress)

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.

Four steps in a flower painting-in-progress by Marion Boddy-Evans Scotland Art

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.)

Detail from painting in progress: daisies Marion BOddy-Evans Scotland artist Modern Impressionist

Detail from painting in progress: daisies Marion BOddy-Evans Scotland artist Modern Impressionist