Check a Composition by the Painting’s Title

Sunday morning, studio cat Ghost and I are sitting in the chair listening to Beethoven’s ninth and the birdsong, reading a ‘new’ book that arrived from a secondhand bookshop in the States.

I like these older books because they tend to have more in them, more thoughts and less how-to broken down to the nth. While the photos may be black and white, they’re full of gems that require “reading with a pencil”. Like this:

Go North: A Painting Looking Towards the Shiant Islands

Sitting in the sunshine at the shore looking out across the bay towards the Shiant Isles, that’s the inspiration behind this painting. It’s somewhere I often sketch, but haven’t done as a painting on a large canvas for some time.

“Go North”. 100x100cm (39×39″). In my studio £795.
Go North Shiant Islands Seascape

If you’re wondering about the colour differences between these two photos, one was taken on my phone camera and the other on my SLR (“proper”) camera. In terms of which colour is truer to the original, it’s the first, but neither is perfect. What you see in a painting done with texture and multiple layers of paint changes with the light conditions too.

Here are a few work-in-progress photos from this painting:

wip shiant painting detail 2
wip shiant painting detail 3
wip shiant painting

Photos: Spring Greens

uig woodland backlit leaves

As well as Uig Pier (see photos), I also wandered through Uig woodland and went up to the slipway at Camus Mor with my “proper camera”. These are my favourite photos from there:

spring blossom
uig woodland backlit leaves
uig woodland spring pine growth
uig woodland ferns
tree lichen
tree tall and cut
(This is a managed woodland; when the sections of this tree were still lying on the ground you could see how how the trunk was disintegrating.)
uig woodland crag tree from below
uig woodland gate
reflected trees in stream
river rapid
river ripples
uig woodland backlit leaves
Just an ordinary day, taking a sheep skull for a walk.
sheep skull
Where I found the sheep’s skull. What you can’t see is that it’s on the other side of the stream. The water wasn’t as cold as I feared and I somehow managed not to fall in.
river rha falls spring19
uig river rha colours green water
What colour is water in a stream?
river rha green bank colours
How many shades of green do we need?
tree gorse uig
spot the tractor
Spot the tractor. Clue: it’s one with a canopy and mirrors. Full disclosure: I saw it only when it came around the corner towards me, after I’d taken this photo.
gorse church ruin
rocks green camus mor
hole yellow lichen
yellow lichen sea wall
yellow lichen seashore
uig woodland stream hole wall
uig pier through reeds
Uig pier through the reeds
rope anchor rust
Rope on a huge anchor that washed up on the shore at the Uig woodland and has been pulled further up.

Photos: Uig Pier

uig pier pair buoys

I wandered around a bit with my camera yesterday, at one point along Uig Pier. Looking through my photos to pick favourite, I definitely seem to have been in an abstract/details mood.

uig pier yellow rust
uig pier detail
uig pier ladder
boat rail detail
uig pier pile nets yellow buoy
uig pier chain
creel rope txtures
buoy creels uig pier 2
creel rope buoy uig pier
creel shadows
uig pier creels jetty
uig pier three buoys
uig pier pair buoys

Monday Motivator: Finding Solitude

Monsieur P Artiste Monday Motivator from Marion Boddy-Evans Isle of Skye art Studio

“…solitude is a ‘state of mind,’ a spiritual condition, not necessarily a physical one.”

Austin Kleon On solitude, and being who you are

We share a journey, a destination, provide one other with help, encouragement, motivation, direction, rest, but in every workshop I’ve taught or been on there are moments of intense silence when we’re all alone with our painting. Call it “in the zone”, call it “the muse whispering in your ear”, it’s a state of mind that can bring results that suprise and delight.

Photos: My “Expressive Skye” Painting Workshop at Higham Hall

Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans

My thanks to all participants in my workshop at Higham Hall for your enthusiasm and to everyone at Higham for all you do to make it happen in such a special venue. I thoroughly enjoyed the week, and look forward to next time.

The week started and ended with blue sky, with beautiful sunrises, hail, storm winds, and snow inbetween. Felt just like Skye!

Higham Hall in the Sunshine
Higham Hall sunrise
Sunrise, taken in front of the hall.
Higham hall in the snow
Standing in about the same spot as where I took the photo above, looking in the opposite direction, on the morning it had snowed.
Higham Hall in the snow
The bedrooms at Higham are on the second floor of the building.
The studio (left) is in the old stables at the back that form a courtyard with the three wings of the hall.

It’s up to tutors to decide how to use the space. I like to set the studio up with an area with tables where we work together as a group on specific activities I set, and then use the three alcoves as areas where people work alone if they wish. All those hours playing Tetris came in useful to fit in 10 of the high-adjustable tables so everyone could have one to themselves.

Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Spot the Creative Skye booklets!
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
From left to right: Acrylic on canvas board, pastel on dark blue pastel paper and watercolour, by B. Acrylic on paper by J. My acrylic on paper version, one of the example paintings I brought with me to the workshop.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
A limited colour watercolour and ink interpretation of one of the photos in my photo reference books (buy online).
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Exploring working in layers, from loose and expressive to detail, with my photo of daisies as the starting-point.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
One of the mornings is spent exploring colour mixing, creating “interesting greys”
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Painting using “interesting greys” inspired by my reference photo of seaweed and rocks at Camus Mor.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Painting inspired by a reference photo of rapids in the river at Sligachan, using “interesting greys” and “strong, varied darks”. On A2 size watercolour paper.
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
Workshop at Higham Hall by Marion Boddy-Evans
My Thursday evening demo painting.
The demo painting before it rained and the sheep arrived.

Monday Motivator: Black Isn’t For Beginners

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote“…black is a color that is best used after having some experience.”
Brad Teare, Black is a Color

“Not yet” rather than “never” I think should be the rule with black.

It all too easily gets used for shadow where other colours will be more interesting. It all too easily gets used to mix darker colours ending in dulls colours.

As a beginner, if you think you want black, try a dark blue or purple instead. After that, a chromatic black (the darkest mix you can make with blue/green/red/anything but single pigment black).

When you’ve quite a few miles under your brushes, then add black. As a colour, not as an agent of darkness. And start exploring black as an alternative blue to mix with yellow for green.

Two Videos: Continuous Line Drawing

COntinuous line ink drawing Marion Boddy-Evans

Because I’ll be starting my Higham Hall workshop with continuous line drawing and want participants to easily find these two videos, I’m putting them together in this blogpost. No doubt with the right cable I will be able to play them on the TV in the studio at Higham Hall, but this is the backup plan. Or maybe given my love of cables that’s the backup plan and this is Plan A.

If you don’t see the videoes above, you’ll find them here:

See Also: Continuous Line Drawing & The Layers of Mark Making (& Thought) in a Painting

How to Avoid Cauliflower (the watercolour variety, not the vegetable)

Blooms, washbacks, backflow, cauliflowers … whatever you call it when you’re painting wet-into-wet watercolour and the colour you just applied pushes out the one already down, rather than making friends and sitting with it. There’s one rule to avoiding it (or to use if you deliberately want to get this result, much as watercolour purists might shudder at the thought). In the words of that skilled Australian watercolourist John Lovett:

If you are painting a soft edge into a wet wash, make sure there is more pigment in the color you are applying than is in the underlying wash or obvious blooms will be created.”
Source: John Lovett, Watercolour Edges


So how do you know whether you’ve got more pigment or not? Like everything, practice. It starts by deliberately considering it, and eventually it becomes ingrained knowledge, instinctive. If in doubt, add more pigment (“thick paint”). Or pull some of the water from the brush hairs by holding a piece of paper towel to the ferrule end of the hairs, a tip the artist Katie Lee taught me.

Updated Advice on Acrylic Paint to Water Ratio

Paint Brushes
Artist Marion Boddy-Evans in her studio

There’s now one less thing to worry about when painting, and it’s how much water you can or should mix with acrylic paint without ruining its adhesion. Golden Artist Colors (a USA employee-owned company renowned for its artist’s quality paint and techical info) have updated their advice:

“For years our standard advice was that a 1:1 ratio was very safe for most of our paints and mediums; plus, it had the advantage of being easy to remember while greatly erring on the side of caution. However, our current testing shows you can go a lot further than that before encountering significant issues. Just how far? We think you will be surprised.”

The article gets into the specifics, but for me this is the takeaway:

“We got no adhesion failure of any of our paints, no matter how thinned down with water, when applied on top of acrylic gesso.”

In the FAQ on thinning acrylics I wrote for in 2006 (my original version, as here, not the current surreal rewritten-by-who-knows-who version) I’d said this:

“When it comes to thinning acrylics, the only ‘rule’ is to not mix acrylic paint with more than 50 per cent water. Any more than this and it may loose its adhesive qualities and peel off at some stage. You can mix in as much acrylic medium (glazing, texture paste, etc) as you like because it’s got the acrylic resin in it that acts as the ‘glue’ that makes the paint ‘stick’. (Golden describe their mediums as ‘colorless paint’! )”

If painting on a large canvas, I tend to use glazing medium as well as water to thin paint because in addition to adding “glue” it also increases working time (slows drying). Mostly I simply don’t think about it, and merrily spray paint with water to make it drip and run.

Where I have encountered adhesion issues is with water-thinned acrylic ink lifting as I brush over it, despite being touch dry. Leaving it overnight helps, presumably as the paint binder then cures. I sometimes then also apply a layer of glazing medium with a soft brush, leaving this overnight again, before continuing on top. But mostly if I find it’s lifting — you see the colour appearing on the brush — I just keep going and deal with it.

Minch Seascape painting horizon