What Santa Left Under the Tree (aka the Joys of Books at Christmas)

Christmas Art Books 2017

The joy of printed books, with paper pages to feel, hold, turn. The quality of the printing, the weight of the paper, the style of the binding. The typography, page layout. Joys before reading starts.

Fiction books filled with imagination. Non-fiction books filled with things to be learned and discovered. Art books opening with a creak to release that new-book-ink smell. Books to read from cover to cover, others to dip in randomly. Joys of deciding which book next.

For me, Christmas is synonymous with books, a pile of treasure. Some I’ve mentioned to the in-house-art-critic, others are a surprise. They’re bought across the year and saved in the Christmas box. This is what I’ll be reading into next year:

Christmas Art Books 2017 Stack

Top to bottom (affiliate links):

For studio cats, it’s a simpler joy:

Christmas Art Books 2017 Cat
Studio Cat Graphite testing the theory that you can absorb what’s in a book by putting it under your pillow and sleeping on it.


Paolozzi’s Master of the Universe in Edinburgh

There’s something about this statue that always makes me stop, look, and walk all the way around. Granted, it’s by the gate on the path between the two halves of the Scottish Modern Art Museum in Edinburgh, but there are other sculptures you pass too, yet none of them captivate me so.

By Eduardo Paolozzi, it’s called “Master of the Universe” and is based on a drawing by William Blake of Isaac Newton. I enjoy the realism-meets-Frakenstein’s-steampunk-monster, the divided and rejoined, geometric vs natural shapes.


Paolozzi statue in Edinburgh

I also love the lettering on the gate … a quirky divide that always makes me smile., and a reminder that functional (it’s just the name of the place) need not be dull.

Visiting Scottish National Museum of Modern Art

Scottish National Museum of Modern Art gate

I do wonder if anyone’s ever fallen over the Gormley statue. Not only is it “sunk” into the pavement but its colour means it merges visually.

Gormley statue in Edinburgh

I was at the museum for the Joan Eardley exhibition. If you get a chance, you should go see it!




My Favourite Location on Skye

I’ve been asked by the children of the local primary school what my favourite location on Skye is, for a project they’re working on. Needless to say, there’s an abundance of inspirational landscape on Skye, without even considering how different the same locations look as the seasons change (and the weather). But if I were to pick one, there’s a spot in the Uig woodland, next to a river through a wooden gate, where I love to sit. It might come as a surprise that my favourite location isn’t a sea view, but that’s my everyday joy; the river I have to go to specifically.

In mid-summer it’s a cool leafy respite from the sun. In mid-winter it’s frosty and bright as the low sun penetrates past the trees. In autumn there are yellows and browns; in spring fresh greens. The sounds: birds singing, leaves rustling, water gushing or trickling depending on how full the river is. Yes, there are days when it’s wet and less poetic, but I don’t go here on such days. And, yes, the main road is nearby but, for me, the traffic noise doesn’t penetrate. I find it an ever-enticing dance of colour and shadow that never fails to charge my creative batteries, even if I don’t stop for long. Park at the Uig community hall, stroll along the beach, through the gap in the stone wall, follow the path amongst the young tree trunks then past the oaks, around the corner and on a bit, and I’m there.

Gate at Uig River My Favourite Location on Skye

The reflected colours, light and shadows in the water are mesmerizing, constantly flickering as the water flows past.

Uig River My Favourite Location on Skye

This January light became a 100x100cm painting called “Summer Glow”. (I didn’t call it “Winter Glow” because the painting doesn’t feel wintry to me.)

Summer glow painting

Detail from Summer Glow painting
Detail from Summer Glow

One autumn, after strong wind, all leaves had blown off the taller trees, but the leaves on a short tree had been sheltered, creating a splash of bright colour.
Sketching the river at Uig, Isle of Skye

The page from my sketcbook, with my colour and observation notes.

Sketchbook page from river at Uig, Skye

Sketching at the River in Uig, Skye

It became a 100x100cm painting with the official title “Flowing Past”, though I think of it as “The Little Tree That Could” painting.

Painting In Progress: The Little Yellow Tree

This is what I generally have with me when I’m sketching on location (plus a sketchbook).
Sketching art supplies

Sketching in October.

Sketching Uig Woodland Skye Autumn Colours
Look closely, there is a stream amidst all the greenery!

Sketching Uig Woodland Skye

Sketching Uig Woodland skye autumn leaves

Studio Cat Help

Studio cat Ghost has been helping me with the ‘admin’ side of getting ready for my exhibition at Skyeworks, all the things that need to be done besides the ‘fun’ bit (creating the paintings vs painting edges, varnishing, adding d-rings and wire, photos, price list etc). His favourite role is photography assistant, providing the white for checking contrast.

Studio Cat and Roses Painting

A Personal Monday Motivator: Hours and Hours of Sunshine

There are many reasons I love living on Skye. The long daylight hours for much of the year is definitely one. Sunrise today was at 05:12 and sunset will be at 21:29 (and it’s more than a month to solstice so the days get even longer). All those hours for painting in the natural light in my studio, plus a leisurely picnic lunch in the sunshine without the pressure of feeling I’m “wasting the day away”. For warmer-clime friends shivering at the 20°C, it’s tshirt weather here; Friday will be jumper weather again and back to what you probably regard as “normal” Skye weather.

Sunshine May2016

One of the paintings I’ll be working on today is this new 100x100cm tree painting. This photo is from yesterday, when I was adding iridescent pearl (Buy: USA or Buy: UK[compensated affiliate links] onto what will be silver-birch trees.
Adding Silver Birches to a painting

Happiness Is …

Happiness is … paint and colour, and a somehat tidier studio! I sorted out up my studio a bit when unpacking the crate of supplies I took to last week’s workshop, and finally got my High Flow acrylics (buy: USA or buy: UK) (compensated affiliate links) off the floor and onto a shelf within arm’s reach of my palette.

Paint Bottles 2

Paint Bottles

That “What Have I Done?” Moment in a Painting

You know when you thought you knew what a painting needed but now you’ve done it things seem worse not better? Doubt kicks in and you feel you have probably irreparably ruined it and what on earth had you been thinking…? Well, this is what me in that moment:

Artist Marion Boddy-Evans in her studio
That “did I just ruin it totally?” moment.

Step by Step: Yellow Roses Painting in ProgressThis is how I got there with my yellow roses painting:
Photo 1: I’d eliminated the white of the canvas with a mixed purple, let it dry overnight, then worked over this with lemon yellow.

Photo 2: The purple + yellow created beautiful greens. I found myself wishing I’d made a note of what I’d used to mix the purple (there are a few possibilities within arm’s reach of my palette).

Photo 3: Adding lighter yellows.

Photo 4: Adding a warmer yellow (cadmium) and some smaller highlights. Propped it on a shelf to dry overnight and staring at it realized I’d created inadvertent rows in the roses, then stared at it some more to decide which to enlarge. Reworking the pattern in the roses the next day, I ended up without enough tonal contrast (no photo).

Photo 5: Needed to dramatically increase the tonal contrast, so added a strong dark (quinacridone magenta + phthalo turquoise mix). Sprayed it with water to soften the brushmark edges and to let the colour run a bit. Worried it was over-the-top.

Photo 6: Added warm cadmium yellow. Doubt came to sit on my shoulder and whispered “you’ve ruined it” in my ear. I listened a bit, then told myself what I needed was to keep going, to add the tonal and colour variations that would subdue the dark.

Photo 7: I added several variations of cool yellow, leaning increasingly towards light green-blue by mixing some phthalo turquoise with the yellows. (Very pale cool blue sometimes reads lighter than even white, to my eyes.)

Photo 8: The painting now had lots of fragmented mark making, so I reached for a larger brush (often the solution!) and worked over with larger areas of cadmium yellow. It still needs some highlights  (which will be done both with light yellow and by darkening some areas with a glaze), but I’m pleased with where the painting is (scroll down to see a detail photo).

Artist Marion Boddy-Evans in her studio
That “I think I did manage to pull it off afterall” moment.

Detail from yellow roses painting

Studio Cat Realities

Know all those photos of artists in their studios with serene studio cats sleeping on a chair or cushion that get shared around the web? Well, I’ve tried telling Studio Cat Ghost, but he prefers a more active, investigative role. and clambering over canvas.