August’s Painting Project: Duntulm

This month’s inspiration is a bit of rocky coast of Score Bay near the ruins of Duntulm Castle. If you know what you’re looking for, there are fossilized dinosaur footprints hereabouts. The reference photo was taken on an overcast day as the tide was going out. I see it as an opportunity to paint with “interesting greys”, with pops of bright colour.

The dark blip on the horizon is a small cluster of islands

Below is a version of the photo which I’ve edited to increase the saturation of the colours, to give you some ideas for colours to emphasise or exaggerate, to use as undercolours, or use as the ‘bias’ in greys. Notice also that not all the smaller pebbles are grey, there’s a scattering of lighter ones.

Photo with colour exaggerated

And in the version of the photo below I’ve edited it to increase the dark, enabling us to see the shapes of the clouds better. You might even choose to ignore most of the shore and have a composition that’s focuses on the sky.

Photo with dark enhanced

Size and medium are up to you. I think it’s a subject that lends itself to everything and anything, from simple pencil line to layered mixed media.

COMPOSITION: The photo as I took it is but one option, a composition with roughly a third rocky shore, sea (if you count the little bit of shallow water amongst the green on the left), and sky. You might keep these proportions but change the shape to square or a tall vertical format.

Another option would be to reduce the amount of sky and make it all about what’s happening on the shore, with or without the cliff on the right-hand side (and if with, then with or without the fence/gate at the top which gives a sense of scale). Or make it all about the clouds, with this taking up most of the composition.

COLOURS: There’s a lot of grey in this photo, giving the opportunity to explore colour mixing greys. By “interesting greys” I mean greys that have a touch of colour to them, not neutral greys. So blue-grey, green-grey, yellow-grey, etc. My favourite mix is blue + orange + white (a lot of white!), but explore mixing the other complementaries too (red + green, purple + yellow).

Your painting might be done with a limited palette, a narrow range of colours and tones, with subtle contrasts for a gentle mood. Or you might have little pops of colour, whether colours not entirely mixed or bits of brighter lower layers shining through or little touches added. Or you might decide to go full-on expressionist, embracing exaggerated versions of the colours that there are.

Another thought that occured to me was to use swathes of flat, opaque greys in the sky in the style of Joan Eardley. To make the sky area one of flat colour, perhaps with a little variation, then the sea have a bit more going on (in terms of colour and/or mark making), and the foreground being “busy”, full of colour and mark making.


If you’d like to have your painting included in the project photo gallery, simply email me a photo with a few words about it by the end of the month (if it’s later, I’ll include it in the next project gallery I create). If you’d like to have feedback on your painting, or help whilst you’re working on it, this is available to project subscribers (link).

Happy painting! I look forward to seeing what you’re inspired to paint.


I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that my first painting of this was a layered mixed media piece. Here’s a detail from it:

Detail. Mixed media on watercolour paper, A2 size.

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