Monday Motivator: The Three P’s of Painting

Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote“…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.”

Suzanne Brooker, “The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting”, page 195

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).

Timelapse Video of My October Project Painting

This is a timelapse video of me creating a painting for October’s painting project of part of the bay at Camus Mor. It’s acrylic and oil pastel on watercolour paper.

NOTE: Be warned, the light in the video flickers somewhat as the camera tries to deal with my moving around. I might just have to do video on overcast days only. And, yes, at one point Studio Cat Ghost is riding on my shoulders (around 03:51)

If you’re not seeing the video above, this link will take you to it on my Vimeo channel.

You’ll see I initially sketch the cliffs to far to the right, but don’t bother erasing the incorrect lines as I know I’ll be painting over these with opaque colours. Then I start covering all the white, or blocking on areas Colours used: cadmium yellow, quinacridone gold, phthalo turquoise, cadmium orange, magenta, Prussian blue, perylene green, titanium white. Plus oil pastel. Medium and small flat brush; rigger brush.

The phtalo turquoise is a bit intense; my thought was that I didn’t want too dark a dark at that stage and that a green-blue would give a sense of the green on the hilltop and reflected in the sea. After I’d done it, I then worked at subduing it hrough layers without obliterating it

At 04:44 i’m using oil pastel to fix the edge where I’d torn it taking off the tape (I really should be more patient and careful doing this!).

When I looked at the painting the day after with fresh eyes, I realised I’d aligned the sea horizon with the edge of the headland, and that the sea was pouring off to the right. I used some oil pastel to move the horizon up a bit and straighten it. The yellow-orange in the foreground could be more golden, and I might still glaze some quinacridone gold over this.

Eliminating the Variable of Time

Clock with hands drawn in with a pen
Clock with hands drawn in with a pen

Instead of letting a painting take however long it takes, what happens if you eliminate the variable of time? Instead of when a painting might be finish being open-ended, time becomes a known entity.

It’s the norm when figure painting or drawing for the model to have 10 or 15 minutes break every 30 or 45 minutes. It makes you take a break too, gives you time to assess what you’ve been doing and consider what you might do next knowing that at a predetermined point your opportunity with that model will end.

It’s also happens when the in-house art critic comes into the studio and says it’s 15 minutes till supper.

For me, knowing there’s a time limit becomes a motivation to become more decisive, to stop second guessing and considering multiple possibilities, to pick something to do and see where it leads. And literally to paint faster to get more done in the time. It’s those one-minute get-the-whole-figure-down warmup drawings from life-drawing class extended to a longer timeframe.

Set a timer and see if it increases your concentration. If it increases your stress more than it helps focus you, don’t give up until you’ve tried a few times. Like so many things, practice helps.


The clock in the photo I saw at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, a reminder that time is a construct. I wrote this blog on the day clocks went back an hour; yesterday sunset was at six and today it will be at five. (Why not move it by half an hour and leave it be?) Another reminder that time is a theoretical entity.

When is a Portrait Painting Finished?

Walking around the Scottish National Portrait in Edinburgh with a friend recently, it was interesting seeing which portraits caught our attention, which we both liked and disliked. We do enjoy similar things in art — expressive over tight realism, bright colour over gloom — and it’s fun to share and compare without getting too serious.

This self portrait by Scottish Colourist Cadell caught my eye for how much of it is “unfinished”. Notice how he’s painted his features and his painting behind him, leaving the rest as unimportant but still a hint of colour still on his palette. His pipe melds inextricably into the still life. The shadow from the ornate frame is annoying, and you can see a better photo on the gallery’s website (here) that you can zoom in on .

Monday Motivator: Is This a Stupid Question?

Monday motivator art quotes

“Asking questions means you want to learn. You want to understand and know. So where do you start? Anywhere you want. But don’t feel pressure to begin with the big questions… There is a significant amount to be learned from the seemingly mundane ones, questions that seem so basic, once we reach about age 12 we no longer bother asking them—because we either think we know the answer or are afraid of admitting we don’t.”
Farnham Street, The Power of Questions

A question is a recognition of something we don’t know. Knowing what we don’t know is crucial to learning.

How can we know what we don’t know if we don’t know we don’t know? By knowing what we know can never be complete. By remaining curious.

And asking those “stupid questions” regardless of our fear of looking stupid because we’re assuming other people already all know something, which is rarely the case. What we’re really doing is hoping the person we’re asking will be able to explain and teach us, to share in learning. That’s not stupid.

I love questions because they make me see things from different angles, increase my understanding, and help me in my writing and teaching.

Perhaps the only truly stupid question is the tautological “Can I ask a question?”.

Monday Motivator: What Green is Green?

Monday motivator art quotes

“…what we consider knowledge is more of a general social agreement on a somewhat consistent comprehension of the things before us. For example, we appreciate that the color green can be perceived differently by various people, but we organize our language based on a general understanding of the color green without worrying about the particular experience of green that any individual may have.”
— Farnham Street, “Epistemology: How do You Know that You Know what You Know?

What green do you consider your core green? For me it’s not a tube green but a mix of cadmium yellow with whatever blue I’ve been using (and I’m more likely to have used blue before I get to green when I’m painting with acrylics).

And one of my favourite colour questions: is turquoise a green or is it a blue? The in-house art critic says green, I say blue; we’ve agreed to disagree.

Vivid green seaweed

Painting Project Photo Gallery: Portree Harbour

One of the reasons I chose Portree harbour as the subject for September’s painting project was to motivate myself to paint it. It’s a very distinctive location, with its line of colourful buildings along the shore and the tree-covered hillside and Gathering Hall behind. It’s a complicated subject to paint because there’s so much going on, not least all that architecture. I’m sure the paintings in this photo gallery will inspire you to give it a go if you haven’t already.

First up is Robb, who I met as a painter through the projects and forum of Painting.About.com. Over the past few years Robb’s been focusing on his ceramics, but has now combined both in this pictorial tile:

By Robb: Thanks for the inspiration! My ceramic rendition of Portree on tile form. I used a mid-fire clay, creating multiple layers from the tree line to the quay. The glaze is an under-glaze, left on “over glazed” because I like the matt finish of the under glaze.

From Marion: Exciting to see you combining your painting and ceramics!
By Shirley: “It doesn’t resemble your photo project for September but at least it got me painting which I can’t find much time to do anymore.”

From Marion: “The photo is but a starting point, and the end result doesn’t have to resemble it. Just by getting you painting again, the project has done its job!
By Bee: A rather a quick attempt at September’s subject.

From Marion: A fineliner pen gives a consistent width of mark, which I think suits the subject, adding a sense of rigid, solid bricks and mortar and tile. With just enough wobble to some of the lines to give it personality.
By Bee: Watercolour and pen. Realise now I should have put more trees behind the meeting hall and toned down the end of the church.

From Marion: I agree about lightening the tone on the church and its belltower, possibly reducing the latter in size a bit. Then the trees bhind will read as having mist slowly lifting as the day warms.
By Mark: My efforts this month. I found this quite hard.

From Marion: Is is a hard subject as there’ a lot in the scene and a lot of architecture in it. I think you’ve done it justice in both your paintings!
By Mark:
By Claire: “A scene I have always wanted to paint but unable to reconcile loose and expressive with all those straights! I have tilted my painting to make the harbour appear horizontal and I would like to make the trees and large hall less dominant or more abstract. This my reworked painting, my attempt to knock back the trees and stop the Gathering hall ‘looming’ to much after Marion’s advice ”

From Marion: “I like the loose line work on the harbour wall behind the boat. It adds visual intrigue, dances my eye along, and changes the pace from the water and buildings above.”
By Eddie: Inspired by a recent watercolour plein air course I decided I had time to do a fairly quick watercolour version. It looked a bit anaemia so I decided to add some pen work as well.

From Marion: I think the addition of the pen helps bring the foreground closer, sitting well with the stronger colour.
By Eddie: Mixed media
By Eddie: Mixed media
Line drawing of Portree Harbour
By Cathy: Continuous line (almost). All that fabulous perspective so let’s make it a bit more difficult This totally supports the theory that you don’t need to be totally accurate to get a feel for the place. Lost count of the doors and windows and drew a line at including all the cars! Not sure whether to add a suggestion of the colours in the buildings or not. Think I probably will add just a hint of colour.
(See this blog post)
By Cathi, with colour added

I had several attempts, some more successful than others. This is the one that pleased me most from a “trying to do something different” point of view.

This was the end result of my first attempt (see video) after I added some oil pastel


And last, but not least, a submission inspired by August’s Tall Trees photo from Lorraine, who says she was “playing with ink”:

A Spot on My November Higham Hall Workshop

Higham Hall art workshops with Marion Boddy-Evans

A spot has opened up on my November workshop at Higham Hall due to cancellation.

It’s near Cockermouth in the English Lake District, in a characterful building with a beautiful garden. My workshop runs from 6:30pm supper on Thursday 7th November to breakfast on Tuesday 12 November.

Expect: exercises exploring the techniques I use, painting time and demos, plus open time in the afternoon if you want to explore the area or have a nap (I’ll be in the studio or garden).

Contact Higham Hall on 01768 776276. Assisted places info here.

Project Instructions: Camus Mor Rocks

Camus Mor on the Isle of Skye

For this month’s painting project we’re at Camus Mor on the northwestern tip of the Trotternish Peninsula on Skye for a scene with a foreground of large rocks, a middle distance of pebbles, and a green hillside at the back.

Camus Mor on the Isle of Skye

For me it lends itself to a composition focused on the rocks and pebbles, that lends itself to expressive mark making and textures, to abstracted with its feet in realism. The different colours, sizes and shapes in the rocks.

One of the compositional choices would be whether to include the sky and hillside at all. There’s the enticement of reflected colour in the sea — blue from the sky and greens from the hill. Plus the line of colour of the washed-up seaweed on the high-tide mark. And the echo of green between the foreground seaweed and the hillside.

There’s a lot going on in this scene, so consider whether you’re going to focus in or go wide and include it all. This is view to the right, with the whole of the hillside:

Camus Mor on the Isle of Skye

And here’s some video I took at this location. Add a soundtrack of waves lapping and pebbles rolling, and the feeling of little breeze tickling your hair.

With the greys and browns, it’s a chance to use a blue + orange + white recipe as this produces a range of interesting browns and greys that harmonize together because they’re all based on a mix of same colours. If this is new to you, maybe try cadmium orange + phthalo blue. To get light tones, you’ll need a good lump of white.

A perylene green (or black) will give you the strong darks, and mixed with yellow it’ll produce a range of earthy greens.


I’ve painted this location quite a few times over the years, most recently using granulating watercolour, which I’m enjoying for the sense of texture it gives. See:

My Thoughts on My Watercolour Rocks

Watercolour of rocks

As all location painting should, I started by just sitting staring out to sea. The warmer the sunshine, the longer this stage tends to last.

Sitting at the sea side

Then getting out my supplies: sheets of watercolour paper, clips to hold these down, my watercolour set, container for water, box with drawing supplies and longer box with bottles of fluid watercolour (also known as watercolour ‘ink). I’m hoping not to drop anything off the left-hand edge of the wall, because it’d be quite a scramble to get to it.

Watercolour sketching in the sunshine

My first sketch of the day was the view to the left, of the headland and the pebble beach. I was trying to get a sense of the rocks and the colours of the seaweed on it. The direction of the sea as it comes into the bay isn’t right — it doesn’t turn this sharply — but I didn’t feel like fixing it as I’d lose the white and overwork it.

Watercolour of rocks

I then shifted my focus closer to where I was sitting, the jumble of larger rocks with the puddles of green weed.

Watercolour of rocks

I was pleased with the painting above, and decided to try again with a wider view. As so often happens, I was then trying too hard, hindered by what I’d just done, and ended up with a displeasing result. It lacks the strength of the previous painting, and feels insipid, unresolved, confused. If I crop off the sides, I’m less unhappy, but I consider this a dud.

Watercolour of rocks

This was the other dud of the last, the very last painting I did, though this one might still be rescued if I add something that pulls the sea and shore together. And also crop.

Watercolour of rocks

This was my favourite painting from the session. The rocks were painted with Daniel Smith’s Lunar Black, a strongly granulating colour.

Watercolour of rocks
Watercolour of rocks

I then did a version using Daniel Smith Hematite Genuine, which goes from deep dark to browns depending on how diluted and mixed it is, plus some Lunar Black. I like the colour, but I’ve rounded the rocks as I concentrated on the colour rather than shapes.

Watercolour of rocks
Watercolour of rocks

I’ve kept the expanse of sea ‘white’ as part of my ongoing exploration of white space inspired by the little I know of the traditions of Chinese painting. It’s ever so tempting to paint colour in that space, but that’ll change it completely. Also, I find the granulating colours lift very easily, so you’ve got to have a light hand painting over them. Given I was using a stiff acrylic brush not a soft ‘proper’ watercolour brush, that’d be near impossible, thus removing the temptation to try.