February 2021 Painting Project: Shoreline in the Style of Van Gogh

This month’s painting project is to create an ink drawing and a painting of the reference photo working in the style of Vincent van Gogh, who has long been one of my favourite artists. In both mediums his style involved strong mark making and direction, individual strokes rather than smooth blending together. The drawing will help you with the painting as it’ll give you a map for brushmarks.

I took the reference photo in Uig Bay at high tide. For me the appeal is the contrast between the different textures and the strong lines. The smooth bigger rocks against the “hairy rocks” (which the in-house art critic says look like the heads of Highland cows without horns), the small pebbles against the dark sand, the gentle ripples in the water against the line of foam at the water’s edge. I’m still undecided as to whether I prefer it as a horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) composition, so here are both photos.

For the ink drawing, use something that will give you a variable width line, such as a dip pen or stick, not a fineliner pen which has a consistent width. If you haven’t got anything suitable, use a soft pencil, at least 2B, or a piece of charcoal.

For the painting, you might using a limited palette, (e.g. only white, yellow, and black or Payne’s grey), like the dark colours of the earlier paintings of Van Gogh. Or use exuberant, exaggerated colour as in his later paintings, with or without his distinctive black outline.

For examples of Van Gogh’s drawings, take a look on the Van Gogh Museum’s website, which has them divided into early and later drawings. Similarly for his landscape paintings. I suggest choosing one drawing that appeals to you, and then copying it as there’s no better way to get a close feeling for the mark making.


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PROJECT PHOTO GALLERY: When you’ve finished your painting(s), email me a photo on art(at)marion(dot)scot for inclusion in a photo gallery at the end of the month, ideally with a few sentences about it (think: things you might say when talking to a friend about the painting). Alternatively, send it to me on social media. I’ll post photos with first names only, unless you ask me otherwise. Seeing what different people have done from the starting point is interesting, intriguing and inspiring.


This was my first attempt at an ink drawing, in my sketchbook. A little squashed in on the right-hand side, looking at it; I should have started drawing on the left-hand page of my sketchbook and then I would have had space to continue it.

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