There are two places left on my newly scheduled workshop for Tuesday 20 June at Skyeworks Gallery in Portree.
What: Expressive Mixed Media.
Where: at Skyeworks Gallery in Portree, Isle of Skye.
When: 20 June 2017, 10 to 4ish.
How much: ?70 a person. All materials provided.
Booking: Essential. Email me at art(a)marion.scot or leave a comment below.
In the morning (10 to 12:30ish) we’ll be exploring and combining materials and techniques, then in the afternoon (1:30 to 4ish) we’ll using these to create a more finished painting, either on paper or canvas. A seascape or forest inspired or whatever you feel like.
If the weather’s sunny, you might want to have your lunch (I recommend a lunchbread or soup from the bakery below the gallery) at the millpond around the corner for inspiration.
Now it’s on the upcoming courses list (and thus all official) I’m excited to be able to announce that at the end of next May I’m going to be doing a workshop at Higham Hall in the Lake District titled “Capturing Skye: Vibrant & Atmospheric Acrylics & Watercolour”. So if you like the idea of painting expressive landscapes and seascapes but Skye’s a bit too far north for you to travel, how about heading to near Cockermouth?
When: Sunday 18, Monday 19, Tues 20 October 2015 Where: Portree, Isle of Skye
Day 1: Sketching on location, info collection and learning to look
(if the weather’s wild, we’ll find a coffee shop with a view!)
Day 2: Intro to acrylics and expressive painting, developing ideas from day one and finalizing a composition
Day 3: Creating a painting using your composition (small canvas provided, larger can be bought)
Cost: ?180 including use of materials, a small sketchbook and small canvas
If you’d prefer to do only one day, this is a possibility.
I’ve had a relaxing, creative-battery recharging week on a workshop at Creative Retreat led by Kate Downie in the intriguing fishing village of Gardenstown (Gamrie) on the east coast (of Scotland). It was a week of trying new things, getting out of comfort zone, rather than being focused on the end product, but for those curious to see what I created are some photos.
The warmup was to do a charcoal drawing of either the sea up to the horizon or the clouds down to the horizon, a subject right in my comfort zone. Then the morning’s project was revealed: a charcoal drawing of a dead rosebush and a weird, ancient electrical box with wires echoing the branches of the rosebush, with the brief “nature vs humanmade”. Let’s stick to saying the still life got me out the comfort zone in no time at all and I give myself credit for not running out the studio screaming.
We did monoprinting, working in layers over a charcoal drawing of some other “nature vs human made” subject we’d found during a sketchabout in the village after lunch, which got 10/10 from me for enjoyment. I’d found a small piece of barbed wire on the beach, along with features, and was hooked (!) on barbs connection, though on feathers the barbs are to keep things together and on the wire their job is to keep things off.
I printed the feathers directly, and could happily have done variations on this all day:
I printed white ink using feathers as masks and then the feathers direct over an earlier printing of sea which didn’t work well. This is definitely something I want to explore again.
This was my “real project”, with multiple layers: charcoal feather drawing, blue layer with feathers as masks leaving gaps through which you see the charcoal, black printed feathers and barbed wire, then same again with the white. I find it a bit hectic, but the layering is something I want to pursue.
This was my warmup charcoal drawing of the sea overprinted with blue experimenting with dropping water onto the ink. It’s, urm, got a sense of rain…
I printed what was left after I’d done the “actual project” and lifted the feathers. I like the moodiness of this, and it’s a reminder not to work on newsprint but on “proper paper” because it’s going to yellow in no time at all.
Kate made rabbit-skin gesso which got applied to various found objects and some paper. Add a layer of PVA glue, leave to dry, then scratch into the surface. Cover with oil paint, which goes into lines, then rub off. I liked the result on paper, but on driftwood and tile I struggled with memories of seaside souvenirs involving glue, seashells and wobbly eyes.
We explored ink painting with soft Chinese brushes, and went out into the sunshine to do some large-scale brush painting for the smaller gesso project. I sat up the hill a bit at the church. Magnificent view, but I was inhibited by worries of spilling the ink on the cement (and couldn’t move to the grassy bit because a tree obscured the view). Ink is perhaps a good medium when perspective doesn’t come naturally because you put a line and you’re committed and simply have to move on no matter how wobbly things get.
On location ink painting with landscapes is far more my thing, and far more forgiving a subject. The village in the distance here is Pennan.
The last day was spent with large scale watercolour, working from our information gathering on location the previous day. This still has a long way to go, but I like the long format and the composition challenges this presents.
And finally, a little textured acrylic piece I created before class on Friday morning using fluid acrylics and texture paste, inspired by the view from the studio window.
I pressed some feathers into the wet paint and lifted them later, leaving shapes in the paint that are visible if angled against the light.
After four days’ life painting in Edinburgh in a workshop by Alan McGowan I found myself repeating “build a bridge between the orange and the blue, build a bridge between the orange and the blue“. Or more fully, create a colour link across the figure between the orange-warms bits and blue-colds parts through desaturated mixes of these.
It had been a rewarding follow-up to last November’s Life Drawing into Painting Workshop. As always on a workshop, I learnt a lot and met interesting people who I wish I’d talked to more (my head is often so full during a workshop I find it hard to chat). My thanks to Alan, who is a generous, patient, encouraging, and understanding tutor. Thanks also to models Topaz, Nicky, and Alistair.
I feel I’ve made progress mixing “interesting greys”, and (finally!) created a figure painting where I didn’t inadvertently put a “warm” mixed colour onto a “cool” part of the figure (and vice versa).
A few of the notes to myself*:
Saturation as purity rather than intensity of a colour.
Create light by darkening other areas; dim the lights elsewhere.
Strongly found vs lost edges.
Don’t start dark and definite. Work from the middle outwards.
Avoid using white in shadow colour mixes. Don’t block in with white (or mix with white) early on.
Relate shadow to shadow to judge the tone, not shadow to light (e.g. shadow beneath arm to shadow beneath chin not to light on top of arm).
Don’t paint reflective light as bright as direct light; if it’s equally bright it’ll flatten the figure.
A small colour shift has great impact amidst desaturated colours.
Add white to a background colour to make it opaque; it’ll demand less attention than transparent colour.
The face colours on Whistler’s Mother are cold; it’s the rest of the painting’s greys that make it seem warm.
Used caput mortem (very opaque oxide violet red) for drawing into a work in progress; sits strongly on top of wet oils paint. Isolate it on palette so don’t accidentally include it in other mixes.
Colours I used: Prussian blue, cerulean blue, Payne’s grey (Sennelier’s, which is very blue), vermillion, alizarin crimson, magenta, primary yellow, yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw and burnt sienna, titanium and zinc white. On Alan’s workshop colour list that I didn’t use: ultramarine, viridian.
*Written in a pocket sketchbook during the workshop, because I know I’ll forget too much otherwise.
I’m away for the weekend for a little creative R&R, on a life drawing/painting workshop being led by Alan McGowan for Art Lochaber. Besides the creative stimulation (and break from the varnishing, stringing and admin for my forthcoming exhibition), I was hoping to build on what I’d done last November. I printed out my notes to myself from that workshop, and did today find myself mentally referring to some points (e.g. positioning the angle of the head by looking at where the mouth was in relation to a mental line drawing across the shoulders). I’m pleased with what I produced, especially the tonal ‘lift-off-the-paint’ Rembrandty one, but as for being less heavy handed with charcoal, well that’s still on my to-be-improved list. Apologies, the photos are mere phone snaps.
Day five of Alan McGowan‘s “Life Drawing into Life Painting” workshop saw us start with four five-minute poses, followed by three 10-minute poses, an hour pose, and the long afternoon pose. We were free to choose which medium/technique we wanted to use and what we worked on. I put acrylic onto A2 cartridge paper to use with graphite, solvent and titanium white, something I really enjoyed when we tried it on the first day.
I did all four of the five-minute poses on one sheet; it eliminates the need to change paper and as I suspected model Michael shifted from one pose to the next without a break. Tricky part is composition, as you’ve no idea what the poses may be.
It’s amazing how much longer 10 minutes feel at the end of week’s focused life painting than at the beginning.
After these, an hour-long pose with a break after 30 minutes. I wanted to move away from the desaturated colours I’d been using in the long afternoon pose. Parts work for me, others not, but I was left feeling that with more time I would indeed have resolved more.
In the afternoon, I wanted to try another, again with more saturated colours, rather than continuing my long-pose painting from the previous afternoons. Not that I consider it finished, but I felt I could learn more by painting something else, trying things that painting wasn’t. Alan resolved the eye (middle photo), showing me (again) how to carve out the sense of the deep socket the eye sits in, the planes around the eye, nose and chin. Ever so helpful being able to watch it develop stroke by stroke, colour by colour. Another valuable thing he reminded me about was the light on the two anatomical landmarks on the arm, which help a lot in the sense of form changing direction in space. The joy of life painting: it’s all in front of you, it’s merely (!) looking and decisive placing of a brushstroke.
Notes to myself:
— Colour and tonal changes on planes.
— Eye sits deep in socket.
— Watch distance to farside brow.
— Drips can be problematic if running from face. Especially watch out for drip from end of nose.
— Instead of trying to paint thin tonal change on nose, paint broad and then cut back in with background.
— With a relatively dark ground, if left exposed it’ll read as an edge.
Day four of Alan McGowan‘s “Life Drawing into Life Painting” workshop saw us start with two 10-minute charcoal drawings, followed by a 20-minute one, then onto some colour theory and a painting with a palette to which magenta and cyan were added, followed by the long post in the afternoon again.
I added magenta and cyan to my palette for the long pose, for purples in shadows, as contrast to the yellow light. But overall stayed with mostly desaturated colours. It’d be great to have another week to work this pose again, with the same colours on my palette but used more saturated.
Notes to myself:
— Highlights in reflected (indirect) light will never be as high in tone as highlights in direct light. The difference is crucial for getting sense of body turning in space.
— Range of colours produced by limited palette. When adding additional colours, consider what it’ll produce when mixed with what already using, whether it’s close to colours you’ve already got or opening new areas. E.g. with palette palette of muted primaries: burnt sienna (?red?), golden ochre (?yellow?), and Payne?s grey (“blue”) adding magenta introduces purples and cyan increases greens.
— With highly saturated colours, such as Matisse used, tone of the colour is still fundamental.
— Use the background to focus on negative space around the body and between sections, to carve in more accurate shapes.
— Check tone of background and put it in relatively early so it doesn’t distract the eye. (Look at “background” beneath stool above.)
— Use 50:50 mix of zinc:titanium white for a white with properties of both (transparent:opaque) akin to properties of lead white.
— Consider and cross check overall shape of figure, e.g. triangle from head to hands to feet.
Day three of of Alan McGowan?s ?Life Drawing into Life Painting? workshop saw us start with three 10-minute charcoal drawings, then onto limited palette painting with oils and an afternoon-long session.
Next up was painting with oil, using a limited palette of muted primaries: burnt sienna (“red”), golden ochre (“yellow”), and Payne’s grey (“blue”). Alan emphasized doing the initial drawing (with brush) in neutral colours, so that it didn’t overwhelm subsequent blocked in colour. Part of this painting was getting familiar with working with oils: getting consistency right (not too thick too early and not too thin), mixing even colours (no stray, unmixed bits), planning ahead for working wet on wet. Given my landscape painting involves fluid paint, encouraging paint to run, and I often work with only a single colour at a time (to eliminate the problem of acrylic drying on a palette), I found myself hesitating and second guessing. By the time the model took a break, I was still stuck in “muted colours” and the only light in the painting was the cloth against the chair. But I felt I’d learnt a lot by identifying some things I do habitually in my studio painting that I might do differently (on occasion, if not always).
With model Michael back in the pose, it was time to explore the possibilities of these colours, mixed clean rather than muted. At one point Alan demonstrated on the eyes/nose/chin what he meant by laying in the darks first, then cutting in with lights over this; I preserved this bit of painting, other than adding the light blue highlight as suggested, extending the nose a little and adding a bit of Michael’s beard, telling myself it was because there was more than enough else to be done within the time. Final change was to narrow the width of the head by adding background colour.
After lunch we started with oils on the long-pose painting, for which we’d done the initial drawing using acrylic yesterday. It doesn’t particularly look like it, but lot of time spent thinking “warm/cool” with the colour mixing. Looking at painting during model’s last break, I realized the angle of the shin didn’t relate to the bent knee; work-in-progress photos reveal how long I’d missed seeing it. Ended with realizing the forehead needed to be bigger, shifting the eyes/nose/chin down, so I put in darks ready for continuing tomorrow afternoon. Overall, a tremendously rewarding and satisfying day.
Notes to myself:
• Think planes, changes in direction. Use for brushstrokes.
• It’s not a coloured-in drawing; apply deliberate brushstrokes where colour/tone occurs, working across whole composition all the time.
• Judge which surface is flat and which has the change of direction; shadow is on this. It may be the part in front e.g. bent leg against a torso.
• Put down darkest tones before light. Exaggerate/overemphasise somewhat, then carve into this with light. Reads far better than dark over light.
• Using a muted primary palette means you’re already part of the way there with skintones, gives a faster in to painting, rather than having to mute-down primaries.
• Include width of head vs width of torso in cross-checks.
• At end of painting session that will continue, leave it somewhere specific so know what you’ll start with next time.
• All parts of the painting must be contributing, even if not yet resolved.
Second day of Alan McGowan’s “Life Drawing into Life Painting”workshop saw us start with three charcoal drawings, both as warm-ups and to increase the number of drawings we do overall during the week.
Next up, tonal painting with acrylics. My attempt went from “dubious but with a sense of light” to “decidedly dubious and now also dull” (my words, not the tutor’s!). I put this attempt into the “trying too hard” category, where I get so desperate for things not go wrong further that of course things do.
Then onto a colour acrylic painting. Colour…I can do colour, can’t I…?! Yes, but can I do composition, proportions, tone, considered mark making, warm and cool, colour and a living, breathing model…?
And finally the initial drawing in acrylics for an oil painting to be done over the next three afternoons. Idea is that if you end up in a murky oil-paint mess, you can scrape back to this acrylic start. The more I look at this photo, the more I see how his legs/arms need adjusting.
Notes to myself:
Remember head and neck sit within the bowl of the shoulders, it’s not a lollipop stuck on top. Check position and check again! Think of dotted line joining the two shoulders, and what facial feature this goes through. For instance, bottom of chin or nose, or the mouth. Check relationship to spine and vertical relationships (with pelvis/feet) to check position.
Follow the progression: composition, gesture (armature), add the destinations (head, feet, elbows/hands) in probable positions, find the road between the destinations (focus on mass not outline), cross-check the map (check relations between body parts), adjust and repeat, and only when this is sound start looking at tone.
Add eyes, nose, and planes around eyes early on for a sense of scale overall.
Be deliberate, decisive, find and loose edges with considered looking.
Four considerations not two, especially with orange light on model from heater: warm highlights, warm shadows, cool highlights, cool shadows.
Most of the painting will be midtone.
Eliminate the unwanted light of the paper fairly early one, all the way to the edges; it distracts the eye.
Traditionally a dark background would be done with glazed layers not thick paint, which is reserved for light tones.
Turner’s known for his landscapes, not his figures.