My Favourite Location on Skye

I’ve been asked by the children of the local primary school what my favourite location on Skye is, for a project they’re working on. Needless to say, there’s an abundance of inspirational landscape on Skye, without even considering how different the same locations look as the seasons change (and the weather). But if I were to pick one, there’s a spot in the Uig woodland, next to a river through a wooden gate, where I love to sit.
It might come as a surprise that my favourite location isn’t a sea view, but that’s my everyday joy; the river I have to go to specifically.

In mid-summer it’s a cool leafy respite from the sun. In mid-winter it’s frosty and bright as the low sun penetrates past the trees. In autumn there are yellows and browns; in spring fresh greens. The sounds: birds singing, leaves rustling, water gushing or trickling depending on how full the river is. Yes, there are days when it’s wet and less poetic, but I don’t go here on such days. And, yes, the main road is nearby but, for me, the traffic noise doesn’t penetrate. I find it an ever-enticing dance of colour and shadow that never fails to charge my creative batteries, even if I don’t stop for long. Park at the Uig community hall, stroll along the beach, through the gap in the stone wall, follow the path amongst the young tree trunks then past the oaks, around the corner and on a bit, and I’m there.

Gate at Uig River My Favourite Location on Skye

The reflected colours, light and shadows in the water are mesmerizing, constantly flickering as the water flows past.

Uig River My Favourite Location on Skye

This January light became a 100x100cm painting called “Summer Glow”. (I didn’t call it “Winter Glow” because the painting doesn’t feel wintry to me.)

Summer glow painting

Detail from Summer Glow painting
Detail from Summer Glow

One autumn, after strong wind, all leaves had blown off the taller trees, but the leaves on a short tree had been sheltered, creating a splash of bright colour.
Sketching the river at Uig, Isle of Skye

The page from my sketcbook, with my colour and observation notes.

Sketchbook page from river at Uig, Skye

Sketching at the River in Uig, Skye

It became a 100x100cm painting with the official title “Flowing Past”, though I think of it as “The Little Tree That Could” painting.

Painting In Progress: The Little Yellow Tree

This is what I generally have with me when I’m sketching on location (plus a sketchbook).
Sketching art supplies

Sketching in October.

Sketching Uig Woodland Skye Autumn Colours
Look closely, there is a stream amidst all the greenery!

Sketching Uig Woodland Skye

Sketching Uig Woodland skye autumn leaves

Exploring Painting with Line

I’ve long liked the way Giacometti used line in his later paintings, and one of the challenges I’ve set myself for this year is to explore the use more line in a painting. On my easel at the moment is a large canvas featuring daisies in which I’d been doing this, working with a rigger brush, small flat brush, and acrylic marker pens. The latter feels like it shifts the making into “drawing” and saves having to constantly reload a brush, though they do create a consistent line (rather like a propelling pencil vs a sharpened pencil) rather than a variable one (as can easily be done with a brush).

You don’t see the line from afar, you’ve got to come quite close and then, for me, it rewards close looking. (And even closer to see the thin dark lines.) I’ve lost track of how many rounds I’ve had with each daisy, though there were at least two with dark and four with light. I don’t worry about counting, as it’s only the result that ultimately matters.
Painting in Prpgress: Daisy Lines

Here’s the whole painting as it is at the moment.
Painting in Prpgress: Daisy Lines 2

Here’s what it looked like the day before, prior to my ‘calming down’ the sky with a glaze of cobalt blue. I liked it at this stage, but felt it was too busy and distracting overall, that your eye needed a bit of respite.
Painting in Prpgress: Daisy Lines

Recommended Art Supplies: Acrylic Marker Pens Buy UK or Buy USA
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Monday Motivator: Art is … Looking?

The more you look, the more you see. The more looking you do, the more you realise there are different ways to see.

Monsieur P painting

“…art is not so much the way things look, but a way of looking at things.

It is a way of looking at the world, of interacting with the world…”

— Samuel Rowlett, “Why Can’t You Draw?“, Hyperallergic

A drawing or painting can be about appearance and representation, about “reality”, about “looking like” an object or landscape. Many people think this is what art ought to be, the ultimate (and only) achievement. But a drawing or painting can also be something else too, something beyond realism, less confined, less predictable, more about the maker thereof than the object or scene being depicted.To take one example: a drawing can be about the looking, tracing the movement of your eyes.

My favourite way to do this is a continuous line drawing, where (theoretically) you don’t pick up the pencil and place it in a new spot but draw the line of the movement of your eyes. Unless you closed your eyes between looking at two things, your eyes did track across what’s in between, even if you didn’t consciously register it. Though most of the time I do it as not-quite-continuous line, stopping and restarting after a bit, or “cheat” by making the “joining lines” very light.

Almost Continuous Line Rose Drawing

New Sheep Painting: “Coral Beach Picnic”

I’ve been wondering whether the time this sheep painting sat unfinished between Easter and now counts as part of the answer the question “How long did it take to paint?”. (This is something that gets asked fairly often, and because the answer is convoluted I tend to treat it more as a way into a conversation rather than directly answer it. Sometimes I reply with “how long is a piece of string”.)

I’d started this the same time as three sheep paintings others of the same size (“Summertime”, “After You”, and “Tea for Two”) which went to Skyeworks for Easter (photos here) but didn’t finish it in time and it sat in my studio neglected. In part it was because I’d made a good start and so I knew the next round with it would have the “don’t mess it up now” stress, which can be inhibiting. Having sold four large sheep paintings (two a few weeks ago, one last Friday and one on Saturday), I had tremendous incentive to finish it, which I now have. It still needs to dry for 24 hours, then varnishing, then it’ll be ready to be sent out into the big wide world.

Sheep Painting Coral Beach Picnic by Marion Boddy-Evans
100x100cm. “Coral Beach Picnic” Acrylic on canvas.

Here’s a close-up of one of the sheep, to give a sense of the layers and colours.
Detail from Sheep Painting: Coral Beach Picnic painting

Close-up of the sea and the texture paste “sand”.
Detail from Sheep Painting: Coral Beach Picnic painting

Detail from Sheep Painting: Coral Beach Picnic painting

Monday Motivator from Me and Monet

Art motivational quote
Two favourite quotes from Monet, the first related to the quest to see “atmosphere” not only “landscape” and the second on the studio-painted vs plein-air debate:

“…a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life — the air and the light which vary continually … it is only the, surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.”1

“Whether my cathedral views, my views of London and other canvases are painted from life or not is nobody’s business and of no importance whatsoever.”2

Monet remains a strong favourite artist, particularly his seascapes and late lily-pond paintings, which I look at again and again. It’s that tricky dance between inspiration (“I’m going to do this too”) and defeatism (“I’m never going to manage this, may as well give up now”) and making it my own (which I’m trying to do by using more fluid paint).

When I get asked about the choice of a composition of a landscape, and my answer lies in it usually being based on one spot but with bits of other places added. Monet’s words about it not existing in its own right, that it’s a composition of my experience and memory, that it may start with an on-location sketch but ends in my studio.

Quote sources:
1: European and American paintings and sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, ‎Michael Lloyd, ‎Michael Desmond (1992), p75
2: Monet’s Years at Giverny, Metropolitan Museum of Art, p28

Art Quote: Monet on Landscape

Hedging My Painting Bets?

Being a gloriously sunny and not too windy day, I took a work-in-progress done on two 50x50cm canvases taped together outside to dry. Wanting to keep it out of studio cat reach, I propped it up in the rose hedge. The in-house art critic’s comment when he saw: “Are you hedging your bets?

Work in progress drying in the sun
Work in progress drying in the sun

Here’s an on-my-easel photo of the painting at the stage where I wanted it to dry thoroughly before continuing.

Work in progress. Two 50x50cm canvas
Work in progress. Two 50x50cm canvas

This is the painting as it was when I decided it was finished. I even have a title — Weather Forecast for the Minch: Occasional Showers.

Work in progress. Two 50x50cm canvas

And this is the back, how the two canvases were held together with wide masking tape for painting. The reason for doing it like this rather than on a single, larger canvas is that it’s easier to transport.

Work in progress. Two 50x50cm canvas taped together
Work in progress. Two 50x50cm canvas taped together

Monday Motivator: Van Gogh’s Answer

Monsieur P painting

“But when will I do the starry sky, then, that painting that’s always on my mind? Alas … the most beautiful paintings are those one dreams of while smoking a pipe in one’s bed, but which one doesn’t make. But it’s a matter of attacking them nevertheless, however incompetent one may feel vis-à-vis the ineffable perfections of nature’s glorious splendours.”

— Vincent van Gogh, letter to Emile Bernard, June 1888.

There isn’t the perfect time, the right time, the time that guarantees success in a painting; waiting for it is procrastination. You may not succeed, it may be beyond you at the moment, but anticipating it to be and thus not trying means you’ve definitely failed, through inaction. Trying and failing gives you something to work with in finding your way to getting there another day. Plus there’s always the possibility it’ll be one of those days where you make a leap in your painting and things flow and work.

When you think of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting, I bet you don’t visualise the Starry Night in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, but rather Starry Night in MoMa in New York, which painted months later.

Van Gogh other Starry Night

Pondering Green

Sitting in the sun yesterday with my view filled by the rose hedge (that rambling greenery behind the small sheep painting in the photo below), I found myself thinking about the quote attributed to Picasso about “they’ll sell you thousands of greens, but never that particular green”, and the quote about the secret of Constable’s greens being small bits of different green (full quote here).

Complicated Greens, with sheep painting by Isle of Skye Artist Marion Boddy-Evans

Staring at just one bit of rose, you really see it’s a multitude of shades of green, depending on the age of the leaves, the light, the shadows, the angle a leaf is growing. I was rather relieved I had only a pencil with my sketchbook so didn’t have to be up to the colour challenge and instead could focus on line. “Lazing with line in the sunshine” … sounds like the title for a painting, or perhaps a song. (The resultant drawings aren’t up to much, which is why there aren’t any photos.)

Later in the afternoon, when I was back painting in my studio again, one of the things I did was to add a glaze of lemon yellow to two small wildflower verge paintings-in-progress, to give the greens more oomph. This photo shows the result; the one of the left has the extra yellow layer and looked like the one on the right before I added it. The application was deliberately a little uneven, rather than uniform, to enhance the variations in the green.

Glazing Greens with Lemon Yellow