New Painting: Listening to the Sun Rise

It all began with the thought: “what if I were to use some of that fluorescent Sennelier orange as a coloured ground?”

First I created “tree trunks” with texture paste, left this overnight to dry completely. (It’s incredibly annoying to flatten a still-wet spot with a brush, but ever so tempting to be getting on with the painting!) Next came the fluorescent orange, plus fluorescent pink (well, you know, it was just sitting there feeling lonely) as well as some red (leftover sample of Liquitex artist’s spraypaint). I worked wet on wet and sprayed additional water to encourage the paint to spread. The result was certainly, urm, colourful. And intense. And bright.

Once this was fairly dry I laid the canvas flat and applied some fluid sepia and pearlescent white. I encouraged it to spread by spraying some water over it, then left it do meander its way around the texture. Left to dry, and repeated, and tweaked, and repeated, and pondered, and tweaked.

The final result is, to my eye, an interesting result of intense colour peering through intriguing darks. The in-house art critic, running his fingers across the surface, said it felt and looked like dragon skin. Take a look at the detail photos below, then share your thoughts in the comments section. (Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

Tree Painting: Listening to the Sun Rise tree painting by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans

“Listening to the Sun Rise”

Painting Detail: Listening to the Sun Rise

Photos: Colour Palette for a Skye Spring

Wandering around the gardens at Armadale Castle on Sunday felt like I was walking through a palette of colours for painting springtime Skye. The intensity of colours, the variations in light and shade, the different species… I could have spent all day looking. These snapshots were taken when I encountered particularly irresistible moments. Think colour, pattern and texture.

Colours of Skye Spring: Bluefells

Which blue are bluebells, or is it more of a purple?

Colours of Skye Spring: Light and Shade

Bluebell blues and grass greens in light and shade

Colours of Skye Spring: Ivy

Texture contrast

Colours of Skye Spring: Yellow

Contrasts of colour and texture

Colours of Skye Spring: Green Gold

Is it a greenish yellow or a yellowish green or both? Time for some greengold I think!

Colours of Skye Spring: Leaves

Green and yellow

Colours of Skye Spring: Greens

Yellow-creams and greens

Colours of Skye Spring: Greens

Greens in light and shade

Colours of Skye Spring: Water Droplets

What colour are waterdrops?

Colours of Skye Spring: Greens

Greens heading to greys

Colours of Skye Spring: Leaves

Light from behind

Colours of Skye Spring: Blossom

White blossom

Colours of Skye Spring: Trunks

Tree trunk colours

Colours of Skye Spring: Old Man's Beard

What colour is an old man’s beard?

Colours of Skye Spring: Spots

Monkey tree texture

Colours of Skye Spring: Reds

Autumnal reds in spring

Colours of Skye Spring: Pink Rhododendrons

Pink rhododendron

Colours of Skye Spring: Skye Blue

Sky blue and castle grey

Colours of Skye Spring: Bluebells

Bluebell in a breeze; still trying to decide what colour it is.

Colours of Skye Spring:

Which colour/texture direction will I choose go?

Monday Motivator: Relearn the Art of Play

Art motivational quote

“If we are to see beyond the periphery, we must first learn to let go of self-seriousness and relearn the art of play. … If you can learn to tap into your true motivations and passions, then your creative drive will automatically follow. But to find those driving forces you’ll need to loosen the reins and take on the mantle of mischief.”

Nick Bantock, The Trickster’s Hat, page 6

Talking to a craftmaker yesterday, she expressed envy at kids playing amongst some trees with their dogs, saying she wished she could still play. When I asked why she’d stopped, she thought then said she didn’t know. My guess was someone probably told her it was time she became a “responsible adult” (along with the impact of making your own way in the world, earning a living).

Why is being “adult” is interpreted by so many as meaning you need to be weighed down by life, never expecting it to be otherwise? You can be responsible and serious while remaining playful, curious, joyful, creative, whimsical.

It’s not about having a “sense of humour”, it’s about taking delight in everyday things, about following the “what if I…” impulses, poking at buttons to see what they do before reading the instructions manual, not knowing the outcome before you start, colouring-in outside the lines.

Let your aim be to choose to laugh rather than to cry, not only in public but when you’re by yourself too. And suppress the expectation that it ought to be easy.

It’s Art Because it’s Not Made to be Used. Really?

I came across a description of the difference between pottery that was art and pottery that was craft as being that the former is something that’s not made to be used. It’s been bouncing around my mind, and I’ve been trying to crystallize why I disagree. I think it’s because of the underlying concept that art doesn’t have a use, how “use” is defined. For me “use” isn’t synonymous with “functional”.

If a painting I’ve got makes me smile as I go past it, then its ‘use’ was to engender joy. If might also remind me of the artist who created it, or the person who gave it to me, or where/what/when I was when I painted it, or of an idea/technique, or a personal artistic achievement.

To take but one example from the artwork in our home, a painting of a cat by mixed media artist Morag Archer, called A Place to Rest: some days it makes me smile for the cat depicted, others for memories of cats in my life; occasionally the conversation Morag and I had about it; sometimes I stop and take a look at the detail or contemplate how it was made. All these “uses” are part of keeping my mental batteries charged.

The desire to differentiate between art and craft is a long-standing and ongoing one. (Rather like the one on the definitions of a drawing vs a painting.) To me it’s an artificial divide, one that denies the skill and creativity to be found in great craft work. It should be Arts AND Crafts, not Arts OR Crafts. More than 130 years since the emergence of the Arts & Crafts Movement it’s still a divide which many can’t or won’t bridge.
Wirework eagle bird by Marion Boddy-Evans, Isle of Skye Art Studiot

Thoughts on Half a Dozen Small Painting Studies

These are a few of the studies I’ve done recently; in each I was trying something specific or remind myself of something. Often I work on a pair together, aiming to push the one a little further than the other. I find mounting makes me see the piece more objectively and assess it more critically, not least because you have to decide where to crop the painting with that sharp, stark mount edge.

In this sheep study I was trying to work wet-on-wet in the clouds, letting the white paper do its thing. The danger is my tendency to overwork it, then needing to use white acrylic or gouache to rescue it. The very dark bit of blue echoing the shape of a bird (or perhaps sheep’s ears?) was a ‘happy accident’.

Sheep painting by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans

Mixed media on paper. Mounted size: 25/x25cm (10×10″). £49

With this woodland study I was again working wet-on-wet, trying to use the white of the paper as an integral part of the painting, rather than covering it all up as I would do when painting on canvas. I was also trying to use cobalt blue for sky, rather than my more usual Prussian blue. Overall the colours are  softer and softer than my ‘usual’, like colours muted by mist (hence the title).

Forest tree painting by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans

Mixed media on paper. Mounted size: 25/x25cm (10×10″). £49

With these two tree studies I started with a layer of thin quinacridone gold, which gives the glowing light gold in the background and the deeper orange-golds on the trunks. I wanted to create a sense of wintry sunlight where in the afternoon it turns the landscape gold but it’s not exactly warm. So warmth from the quinacridone gold background and cold from the top layer of blues on the edges of the trees. The second study I used more blue; still deciding if it’s too much. Colours:  quinacridone gold, cadmium red, perelyne green, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, titanium white.

Forest tree painting by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans

Mixed media on paper. Mounted size: 25/x25cm (10×10″). £49

Forest tree painting by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans

Mixed media on paper. Mounted size: 25/x25cm (10×10″). £49

I’ve been in the mood for tackling another large flower painting, along the lines of Listening to Daisies. These two studies were intended to remind me of how I’d painted that: the layering, the colours,the refining detail from chaos. The second one I tried to add stronger darks, for more tonal contract, something I ought to have done at a lower layer.

Rainy Day Daisies painting by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans

Mixed media on paper. Mounted size: 25/x25cm (10×10″). £49

Rainy Day Daisies painting by Skye artist Marion Boddy-Evans

Mixed media on paper. Mounted size: 25/x25cm (10×10″). £49

These paintings are all now at Skyeworks Gallery (£49 each).

Not shown are the other half dozen studies that ended up as a muddy confused mess or didn’t get anywhere near anything sensible that are still pinned to my easel. I’ll have another round with some, overworking with opaque or semi-opaque colours; the rest I’ll save for when I need something to rip up in frustration abandon.

Introducing Art Critique Corner

Watercolour by Marion Boddy-Evans: Sitting Figure

I know one of the things people have missed since I stopped writing for is the painting projects and opportunity to get feedback on a painting. It’s taken longer than it might have, but finally I’ve got a new Critique Corner online, to be followed by art projects at some point when I get my act together.

Critique Corner is an opportunity to get feedback on a painting, either posted to the online gallery where other people will be able to learn from it too, or emailed privately. It’s not free, because I’ve a living to make, but it’s at the “good coffee and a slice of cake” level. It’s happening on my new Skye Art School website here…

If you’ve any suggestions or ideas for art projects, do share them in the comments section below.

Monday Motivator: Paint Without a Security Blanket (aka a Drawing)

Art motivational quote

“I did the first two figures that I painted this year just the same way as I tried last year — drawing first and then filling in the outline. That’s what I would call the dry manner. In the other manner one in fact does the drawing last and begins work by first seeking the tones without worrying much about it, about the drawing, just trying to put the tones roughly in their place in one go and to gradually define the form and the subdivision of the colours. Then one gets more of that effect of the figure coming out as if it’s surrounded by air, and it takes on a softer quality. While the colours become more delicate, because one goes over them often and sweeps one colour through another.”
Vincent van Gogh Letter to Theo, 3 August 1883

“This was the first time VanGogh let go of the drawing as his foundation and guide.”
Van Gogh at Work, by Marije Vellekoop page 64

Are you so attached to a way of working that it’s become a security blanket you can’t let go of? “But it works” I hear you say, and I’m sure it does, but you’ll never discover what else might work too, what might be added and incorporated to your current approach that might enhance it, if you never try other things. Think of it as putting your security blanket in the wash, it’s not gone forever, only temporarily.

Ask yourself: If you can carefully draw a composition in pencil before putting paint onto it, why not skip that step and ‘draw’ it with the paint and a brush? (Note: I’m not talking about paintings in which the pencil is an integral, visible part if the final result.)

Then, how about reducing how much you draw and move towards a minimal painted sketch of the composition, a framework for blocking in colour? Start with broad areas of colour and refine it more and more, working towards detail in layers rather than working in tiny jigsaw pieces alongside one another. A blocked-in area of colour is but a stepping stone in the journey, not the destination; that unfolds and gets clearer the further along the journey you travel.

Here are four photos taken while I was working on a painting of Kilt Rock. The composition was briefly sketched using Prussian blue, then some green added to hilltops and grey to cliff and rocky shore (top left photo). I worked onto this, refining it layer by layer to the final painting. The approach allows me to work expressively rather than tightly filling in tiny bits right from start. The layers give a richness and depth to the colour, and there’s an energy to the result.

Painting Work in Progress: Kilt Rock


Photos: There (Stornoway) & Back (Uig) Again

There’s a temporary ferry running between Uig and Stornoway whilst work is being done on the ferry terminal at Ullapool, presenting the opportunity to do a journey and to see bits of seascape I couldn’t usually. All I needed was a “ferry weather” day, i.e. sunshine and little wind so the sea would be calm. That day was Friday. The in-house art critic’s comment: “Someone who’s not a good sailor, subjecting themselves to a six-hour boat trip, must be seriously keen to see the view.”

It was a beautiful journey, calming and mesmerizing, intriguing and familiar, inspiring and overwhelming. I took lots of snapshots of bits of coastline, the view down over Skye to the Cuillan, the snow-topped mainland mountains, the various small islands, the open water…

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Shiant Islands

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Shiant Islands

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Cuillin

Cuillin (mountains) in the distance

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Lighthouse Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Traffic

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Calm Sea

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Harbour

Stornoway harbour

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Sea Monster

“Here be sea monsters…”

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Isle of Lewis Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Sun Glare on Sea

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Shiant Islands

Where’s my Perylene green and Prussian blue?

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Shiant Islands

The ferry itself has all sorts of intriguing shapes and patterns. Geometrical abstract paintings anyone?
Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Abstracts

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Abstracts chairs

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Abstracts chairs

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Abstracts chairs

Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Abstracts funnel

I did also sketch, a little. I mostly simply looked and absorbed:
Uig to Stornoway Ferry Trip:  Sketching