My Harbour Sketches

Following on from my blogs with photos of the little harbour in the Scottish Borders I was at last week (She Sees Seaside and Harbour Details), here are some photos of what happened when I got my paints out. Having multiple days of sunshine in November was a real treat.

The first day I walked about taking lots of photos, then ended up sitting at a picnic table watching birds you can’t see in the photo, including some swans. I got out my sketchbook telling myself that making just one quick sketch would be fine, to not worry about how ‘good’ it was as it’s impossible to do everything on single trip to a location.

Pencil first, then watercolour

The second day I got out my oil paints and had a go at a composition that’d been bouncing around my head all night. Yes, I could have done thumbnails and studies first, all that preparatory work that does help produce pleasing results, but my fingers were itching to paint this. So I jumped in at the point that was appealing to me, knowing that I might not do it justice but that it’s worth a try anyway.

The low winter sun of November means the hill behind me casts its shadow over the harbour from quite early in the morning. I was sitting on this convenient little wall running alongside a bit of road.

Below is the point at which I got cold and stopped painting. It has a few things I like about it, such as the sense of chain on the wall, the curved corner, and the green on the nearer harbour wall, and things I don’t. Mostly I am pleased I had a go at it, and I regard it as a “good learning painting” or study. The next morning I walked around a bit here having a closer look at elements of this composition, such as the width of the nearest wall (which is narrower at the top than the other walls, having a stepped top to it).

Oil paint on wood panel. 9×12 inches.

The next day I got out my favourite Payne’s grey acrylic ink and did some ink and watercolour paintings. The fishing shed with its row of colourful doors, the view through the harbour entrance to the old cottages, the stacks of creel nets. And, no, I never did get around to the boats themselves.

I stopped at this point because the shadow from the hillside caught up with me, and I moved to a new spot in the sunshine.
First attempt
Second attempt. The narrower format works better, I think.

The last day I spent using pencil only, making sketches with notes about things that had caught my eye. Information gathering for a studio painting.

When might I start creating some studio paintings based on these sketches? I don’t know. It may convert into something soon, it might sit and simmer, it might be never. I don’t have a plan for it, I was simply enjoying being in a very paintable location, with a friend who was also painting.

4 Replies to “My Harbour Sketches”

  1. Marion I love your approach so immediate and lively. The sketches are great and inspirational as a sketcher (very much amateur) myself I love to see other peoples sketches and you are right I often try to do a ‘lovely’ sketch but it really is more important to capture your reaction to the scene.

    Thank you
    Margaret Matthews (Shropshire Urban Sketchers)

    1. Thanks Margaret! It took me ages to be able to put aside the need/desire/stress to do a “good sketch” and realise that any sketch is better than none. Calling it “information gathering” helps!

  2. A very productive time. I am inspired by your idea to sketch while letting go of the feeling that it has to be perfect. I sometimes achieve this but, more often, I am concerned that my efforts will not be “ good enough “.

    1. I have varying luck letting go of the desire to have a sketchbook full of magnificent pieces, as some artists seem to produce. Working on individual sheets helps a bit as if it’s truly appalling I don’t have to tear it out a sketchbook or glue the pages together. It took me far too long to realise that my greatest hurdle to sketching was waiting for me to feel like I would do a “good one” rather than just getting on and doing anything, which is better than nothing.

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