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.
This month’s project features a technique as well as a subject — painting with a knife, using a reference photo I took on Iona last summer as a starting point. Iona is a much-painted island with turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and jaggered dark rocks; famous for its abbey. (Click on the photo to get a larger version.)
A painting knife gives quite different marks to a brush, and is ideal for mixing colours together on a painting itself to give visually intriguing results. For the sake of this painting project, the whole painting need not be created using a knife, but mark making with a knife must be evident. Don’t think knives are for oils or acrylics only; they create interesting results with watercolour too.
The fundamental technique of knife painting is the same as you use for spreading jam on bread: you pick up some jam (paint) and spread it as thickly or thinly as you desire; if there’s butter (other wet paint) on the bread, it will mix in depending on how much pressure you apply. Tapping at the surface with the knife, either flat or on an edge, gives different marks again. And if it all goes horribly wrong, you simply scrape it all off and start again.
There are many different shapes of painting knives available. My favourite has long been this one with a longish flat edge and a sharp point that is perfect for scratching into paint (in artspeak: sgraffito). If you don’t have one, a piece of stiff card or plastic will do a similar job , though a knife has the advantage of being comfortable to hold in the hand and a degree of ‘bounce’ in the metal).
The Scottish Colourists Samuel Peploe and Francis Cadell often painted on Iona in summer. Contemporary Scottish painter Frances MacDonald continues the tradition, saying on her website that “she finds delight in the juxtaposition of angular rock and white sand. Her use of the palette knife creates a dynamism and animation in each painting, She works her paint across the canvas in angular lines; her assured marks arrived at through careful elimination of aesthetic non-essentials.” For online catalogues of her paintings, see the Scottish Gallery‘s website here and here (click on ‘view catalogue’ link on the pages). Another artist to look at for knife painting is Kyffin Williams (read my blog here).
To have your painting included in the project gallery, email me a photo on art(at)marion(dot)scot ideally with a few sentences about it (think of the things you might say when talking to a friend about it). I’ll post photos with first names only, unless you ask me otherwise.
It being the last day of the year and decade, according to the Gregorian calendar anyway, I’d like to wish all my friends, followers, and readers happiness and creative fulfillment in 2020. Thank you for your encouragement, enthusiasm and support. I look forward to seeing where the journey takes us next year.
These were the 10 most-read posts on my blog in 2019:
Sketching at Cullen on the East Coast — days doing nothing but sketching and walking. (I’ve rented a house for an art retreat here next summer; it’s fully booked but let me know if you’d like to be invited next time.)
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”.)
This is the painting I like best, so far. It’s 30x30cm on wood panel primed with clear gesso (rather than white).
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.
It’s a dark and stormy day as I pulled together the photos for the November painting project (instructions here) gallery, the kind of weather Eddie has in his pen and brushed-ink painting:
I had a few goes at painting this myself, with mixed success. But as it’s a building I’ve walked past even since we moved to Skye, even my failed paintings of it are more than I’d managed previously and so I should count them as victories.
• To become a project subscriber and get a critique of your project painting plus extra related content, or support my artistic work in the historic tradition of artists and patrons, go to my Patreon here….
“…what happens at about the age of 5, when people enter the school system, is that drawing and writing become split. That’s when there’s some idea that those two things need to be moved away from each other. Even to the point, you know, where we start looking at books that have more words than pictures.” — Lynda Barry. Drawing ‘Has To Come Out Of Your Body’
Use words in your sketchbook. Bring back the integration of words and pictures that’s so enjoyable in illustrated books, comics, graphic novels. Don’t believe that sketchbooks are for images only.
Sometimes I mostly use words. It doesn’t turn my sketchbook into a diary, it just means I was in a words mood not a drawing mood.
To end the year, I’ve chosen a subject that’s iconic: the long-hair, long-horned Highland cow. Their long hair covers a coat of shorter, helping to shed rain in a wet climate. Most Highland cows I see are rusty-earthy-orange-brown, but their colours range from black-brown to blonde-white.
The photo is intended to be a starting point, open to various composition possibilities, rather than being a photo that presents you with a perfect composition, lighting, etc. Will it be more of a portrait of a single cow, or will you include them all and a suggestion of location? Might you include more grass rather than the bare earth around the feeder? Make a note of your first thoughts or impulses, then push the ideas a bit further with thumbnails to see it leads.
The style, medium, and size of painting are up to you. Click on the photo to get the largest version of it or go here.
Suggestion: do versions in different mediums.
Pencil (with an eraser)
Pen (as you can’t erase you have to work through/past mistakes)
Black ink (with a brush not a pen)
Pastel, soft or oil (the scale of the painting should suit the size of mark a pastel makes; don’t work too small)
Coloured Pencil (don’t work too big or you’ll be at it all month)
Watercolour (transparent colour)
Acrylic or oil paint
Collage (torn or cut)
So far I’ve ticked 2, 3 and 9 from the list (though the later did start out as a watercolour), aiming for a ‘portrait’ of a cow rather than a ‘landscape with cows’ painting.
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 Couldwith 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).
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.
“…there are three qualities you need to develop as a painter: patience, persistence, and passion.
“Since painting is a complex process, you need to be patient with yourself as you learn to master the craft. Your persistence is important, in order to move past your failures and frustrations. And finally, it is your passion…that propels you forward.”
The Three P’s of Painting: Patience, Persistence, Passion
Passion, enthuasiasm, desire … perhaps the easiest to have in abundance.
Persistence, endurance, determination … it’s a long-distance event not a sprint. Pace yourself.
Patience … the hardest as we expect to learn in less time than is reaistic. Think about how many years it took you to learn to read and write, how we start one letter at a time not with five-syllable words such as phthalocyanine (aka phthalo, as in the blue).