March’s Project Instructions: The Red Boat

This month’s subject s a bright red fishing boat called “Swell” at the slipway at Stein, on the northeastern shore of Loch Bay (yes, it really has this prosaic name), on the west of the Waternish peninsula of Skye. The nearby row of buildings include the historic Stein Inn, the 1* Michelin Lochbay restuarant, and, my favourite, Dandelion Designs Gallery.

When I took the photos, there was a jumble of creel nets etc. and I took multiple photos before deciding this viewpoint was the one I wanted to paint, with a row of creels and the red of the boat towards the back:

Red fishing boat and kreel nets

The sky in the photo is over-exposed; it was a cloudy day, lying low over the land across the bay. It also means there are not any cast shadows in the photo.

For me the appeal lies in the line of creels leading your eye up to the red boat, and on to the little dot of red of the rescue ring. The challenge will be to not have to boat dominate the composition too much, nor have the other elements distract from it too much. I’d probably leave out the rectangular plastic crates because there are so many elements in the composition already, and while they’re colourful they’re not aesthetically appealing.

Another question will be how busy to make the foreground, the grass and pebbles, because there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ happening in those areas but it doesn’t want to be a distraction. I think the way to go would be to suggest, but keep it relatively calm, letting the creels get the attention.

There are composition options to be explored with the reference photo, both in terms of the cropping and what you’ll include or leave out. Consider whether to leave out the sky and hillside across the water, whether to put only sea behind the boat. If you leave out elements in front of the boat, you’ll either have to move something else into that area or think about what goes on in the lower part of the boat you can’t really see in the photo.

I think it’s a subject that could work well for a colourful painting with lots and lots of layers and mark making (and indeed I did this in my first attempt, starting with pencil, then ink and acrylic, ending with oil pastel). But also for a painting that has a lot of white space or one working with a limited palette. For the latter I’m thinking of black and red, using Payne’s grey ink and red watercolour/acrylic, taking inspiration from Scottish artist Liz Myhill’s linocuts (also on Dandelion’s website).


Here’s a photo I took from lower down the slipway, looking back, to put the above photo into context.

Red boat at Stein slipway, Isle of Skye

Up close there are also all sorts of options for colourful, textured abstracts, such as this:

Abstract detail from a red boat

To share your painting of this month’s project (or any previous project ) in the project’s photo gallery, simply email it to me on art(a)marion.scot or share it with me on social media. I look forward to seeing the results.


Marion-Boddy-Evans artist with her white cat

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