Reinvigorating a Painting by Adding Line

As sometimes happens, I lost the plot. I was doing a little studio study based on my sketches and previous paintings of the River Rha, and at some point I lost too much of the dark and ended up with mid-tone mediocrity and brushwork blended to blandness.

I’d started on a sheet of dark-charcoal pastel paper* that could’ve served as the dark , but painted out too much of it. (*Full disclosure: it wasn’t a carefully considered choice but simply the sheet of A2 that came to hand in a portfolio bag of mixed papers.) I was frustrated with myself, with what I’d done with a brush, so instead of continuing to paint I decided to change mediums, which can be a bit like changing gears. I reached for some oil pastels to redraw a layer of line and hopefully reinvigorate the painting.

Adding line to a painting to reinvigotrate tone or value
(This photo should show four steps, if it doesn’t, try having a look at this blogpost on my website)

Once I’d re-found the joy in the piece, I painted the stream a bit more. I don’t consider it a finished piece as there’s a disconnect between the stream and the rest. But I know where I would go next if I do decide to continue working on this: a layer of paint over the rocks and background, add a suggestion of stream to the right, bit more water-colour that isn’t white to the stream and a flick of splatter.

Why might I not continue with this painting and finish it? Well, it was a warmup, an excuse-for-playing-with-colour moment, a do-something-so-you-feel-productive piece. It might take a little to resolve it and it might take a lot. It might already have served its purpose. I left it taped to the board for now.

Monday Motivator: Always Being a Little Dissatisfied

Monday motivator quote from Danny Gregory

“Being creative means always being a little dissatisfied, pushing for novelty, looking for new ideas and experiences. That’s what makes us humans, what separates us from other species, this restlessness, and I think it exists in its purest form in art making, in questing just for the sake of discovery”

Danny Gregory

Follow the “what if I…” impulse.

Resistance is futile. You must comply.

Monday motivator quote from Danny Gregory

2019 Studio Sale (ends Monday)

My second-ever studio sale includes a few more experimental pieces that have never been exhibited as well as a couple of paintings from my Interlude exhibition.

Just leave a comment below saying “Mine!” with the title or email me on and I’ll be in touch to arrange payment and delivery. Prices include shipping (UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, NZ only). Paintings will be rolled for safer shipping. You simply take it to a framer to restretch or to be framed.

The usual disclaimers about “the colours you see in the photos will depend on the screen you’re using and may not accurately represent the painting” apply. Ends Monday 21 January 2019.

Talisker Bay: Winter’s Day 70x70cm (approx 27×27″) Acrylic on canvas £175. The little touch of magenta/orange as a washed-up buoy inspired by Turner.
Talisker Bay 70x70cm (approx 27×27″) Acrylic on canvas £175
Talisker Bay: Spring Colours 70x70cm (approx 27×27″) Acrylic on canvas £175 SOLD
Moods of the Minch: Sunshine Glare 80x40cm (31×15″ approx) Acrylic on canvas £150 This painting has iridescent silvers (“sunshine glare”) on it, which are hard to photograph.
Moods of the Minch: Cold Snap 80x40cm (31×15″ approx) Acrylic on canvas £150
Pink Melody 50x50cm Oil paint on deep-edge canvas. £125
Yellow Melody. 50x50cm. Acrylic on deep-edge canvas. £125
DIptych: 140×70 cm (55×27″ approx) two panels, each 70x70cm (27×27″ approx) Acrylic on canvas. £245 The tree trunks are painted in iridescent/coppery colours, which is hard to photograph but see the next photo for an idea of when it’s catching strong side light
Photo to show the iridescent colours. See previous photo for price.

What happens to these paintings if they’re not sold? In order of likelihood: reworked, offered to friends offered to friends who’ve expressed an interest, fragmented for use in other experiments, destroyed, stored.

I’m one person away from being half-way to my first goal on Patreon. Will it be you? Patreon works like traditional art patronage, you support what I do because you like what I do and this enables me to do more of it. Or alternatively, you’re official, signed-up, paying members of my fan club with access to some special fans-only stuff. (It also helps lessen one of the greatest stresses of being self-employed artist by providing a bit of predictable monthly income.)

The Rule of Odds

Monsieur P big pencil

Monsieur P big pencilThe Rule of Odds in art runs along the lines of “whatever odd thing you do, people will put it down to your being arty”.

No, wait, that’s the Rule of Oddbods.

The Rule of Odds in art is that a composition will be more dynamic if there’s an odd number of elements in the composition, say three or seven, rather than an even number, say two or six. The reasoning is that having an odd number  means your brain can’t pair them up or group them as easily, that there’s somehow always one thing left over, which keeps your eyes moving across the composition.

Why do we pair things up naturally? Perhaps it’s because our body is designed in pairs: two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, and so on. (Okay, only one nose, but it’s got two nostrils!) Whether we’re painting apples, apple trees, or apple-eating creatures (aka still-life, landscape, or figures), the same Rule of Odds applies.

Take a look at the brushes in the jar in these two versions of a painting.

Rule of odds and evens in art

If I asked you to count the brushes in the left-hand photo, you’d likely be able to do so quickly — once glance and you’ve taken it all in. Whereas in the right-hand version you’d have to spend a little more time and you may, ultimately, be uncertain because some brushes are hidden behind others — you’re spending longer looking and engaging with the composition.

It’s the Rule of Odds in action. That I painted this scene at all, well that’s the Rule of Oddbods.

A Thought for 2019

quote restlessness
quote restlessness

Let your creative heart/mind be an eternal nomad.

Investigate, explore, follow the “what if I” impulses.

Try what intimidates or eludes you. It needn’t be a leap all the way across, it can be a step in a direction. “What if I don’t do as detailed a drawing first before I paint?” rather than “What if I don’t do a pencil drawing at all before I paint?”

Monday Motivator: Try Things Against Your Grain

Inspirational quotes for artists

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is.”

“You are always the student in a one-person art school. You are also the teacher of that class.”

“Vermeer found a life’s work in the corner of a room.”

Irwin Greenberg, The Painter’s Primer

There are 97 other tips in the primer linked above, a list that was apparently distributed to students of the Art Students League of New York. These three resonated with me in particular.

Another sounded very familiar:
“Never say I can’t. It closes the door to potential development.”.

I generally say: “Add the word ‘yet’. Say ‘I can’t, yet’.”

May 2019 be a year filled with creative joy for you, with moments where ‘I can’t, yet’ becomes ‘I can, now’.

Inspirational quotes for artists

Inspirational quotes for artists

Inspirational quotes for artists

Continuous Line Drawing (with video)

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans with wash

Continous line is as it sounds, drawing a line without stopping. I think of it as a line tracking what my eyes are looking at, done at the speed I am looking.

You don’t close your eyes when you look from one part of a subject to another. So if you’re creating a drawing that’s foremost about looking rather than representation, then the line should be continous, not broken (though it could get lighter).

If you’re using pencil, where you don’t have to stop for a while before you “run out” (i.e. need to sharpen it), things can get really interesting as you loose where you are on the sheet of paper (and you didn’t stop to reorientate yourself). By interesting I mean abstracted and distorted. It’s worth doing a few times, giving yourself a taste of the freedom that comes when you’re concentrating on looking, not on the results nor perspective nor representation.

I had a search through my photos but can’t find an example from my own drawings, which doesn’t really surprise me as I don’t often do it with pencil except in a life-drawing session. Have a search online for “blind continuous line”, but be sceptical about all the ones that look like perfect contour drawings.

What I like doing most is continuous line with quick checks keep the drawing achored in reality, regardless of what medium I’m using. An ink bottle pipette lends itself to this as the ink runs out regularly. When I stop to dip the pipette back in the bottle, I look down at my drawing, then back at what I’m drawing, decide where I’m going to look/draw next, position the pipette at a suitable point, then draw again. As I’m drawing I occasionally glance down, to check what I’ve done and where I am and whether I’ve run out of ink, but mostly as looking at what I’m drawing.

This video shows what I mean. I’m look at the outlines and cracks in a slab of rock on the shore at Camus Mor, north Skye (see this blog post and this one for more photos, from the day before I took this video):

If you don’t see the video above, you’ll find it here:

I do it with both my left and my right hand, especially working in the A3 landscape sketchbook I’ve been using the past few weeks.

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans

This is what it looked like when I’d finished the line drawing, with a section of rocks I was looking at behind it.

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans

This time, after I’d done the ink line drawing, I then used a small, flat brush and water to turn some of the still-wet line into ink wash. Plus some paper towel to lift off excess ink and create pattern.

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans with wash

There’s a risk to doing this, a risk of messing up a drawing I was pleased with, not least because how much of the ink is still wet is an unknown factor. On a cold winter’s day I know it’ll be more rather than less, though the wind does still dry thinner lines quite fast. It would be more sensible to let the acrylic ink line dry completely and then add a layer of watercolour, which could be lifted and changed without moving the dry ink. But I spend too much time being sensible, logical, responsible, practical (cue: Supertramp’s Logical Song).

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Isle of Skye

Wishing you joy and peace, inspiration and resolution, tenacity and downtime.

Thank you for your support and enthusiasm this past year. It’s very much appreciated.

Monday Motivator: Make Your Own Museum of Happiness

Motivational quotes for artists Museum of Happiness
Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“I’ve made my own Museum of
Happiness, which isn’t built of brick
or stone or wood, its walls the thickness
of the day …

“I’ll carry it around with me to pitch
beside the sea, in a field or by
that river, a billowing rickety marquee,
a travelling show of personal delights
performing one night only & forever.”

From the poem “Happiness” by Stuart A Paterson


How about a small sketchbook as a pocket Museum of Happiness? Carry it around to make notes of things seen and heard, thoughts, sketch, doodles, to stick in things so it’s a sketchbook-cum-scrapbook-cum-journal-cum-things-that-made-me-smile-book .

The only rule — if some else wants to take a look, you show them because why wouldn’t you share happiness?

Monday Motivator: Inspiration vs Disinclination

Motivator quote Tchaikivsky

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.”
— Tchaikovsky
(From a letter the composer wrote to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck, March 1878; via Brainpickings)

Some 150 years ago the issue of “I don’t feel like it today” also existed. Seems this creative issue is timeless! So we may as well give up waiting for the right moment, because if it existed someone would’ve explained how to get there by now.

moody clouds

Motivator quote Tchaikivsky