Photos: My Flow Exhibition

Some snapshots taken on my phone camera after last night’s opening event. Eight paintings sold overall (some last night, some via newsletter subscriber preview on website).

My Flow Exhibition Opens Tonight!

The past few days I’ve been taking bubble-wrapped Flow paintings into Skyeworks in batches, as I couldn’t get them all into my car together. Then yesterday the in-house art critic did the hanging, with varying degrees of input from myself and Liza (artist-owner of Skyeworks). I suspect the most helpful thing I did was pack away all the bubblewrap bags as I find it impossible not to play favourites with paintings. Last night I slept for 11 hours straight, woke up feeling excited and ready for this evening’s opening event. Tomorrow I’m at a Growing Your Creative Business workshop Business Gateway are presenting, then Wednesday to Saturday I’ll be in Skyeworks, so it’s a busy out-of-the-studio week!

Flow Exhibition Skye Scotland

Monday Motivator: No Empty Spaces

Art motivational quote

“The cubists arrived at the idea that there is a continuum between something solid and the surrounding space, so to treat the ‘empty’ space as though it too were ‘solid’ would open up a new way of seeing.

“…A river, with such presuppositions, connects rather than separates the two banks, and through its quality of reflection it connects the sky and the earth.”
Wolf Kahn, Wolf Kahn’s America, page 128

The ‘emptiness’ in the space between the ground and clouds in a landscape contains the oxygen we breathe, pollen particles, insects flittering, leaves dropping, birds hovering on the invisible, and the list goes on. If you’re painting, how inadequate isn’t a single wash of a single blue for the complexity of what’s there in this ‘empty space’? How much more enjoyable the challenge of painting a “sky that tastes of rain” (poet Douglas Dunn) than a “clear blue sky”? But how do you know what to include, what colours and mark making to use? There isn’t a simple recipe, it’s something to experiment with, to explore and develop.

Take that the single “sky blue”, but apply it with a brush that leaves marks. Yes, create streaks in your paint. Embrace the overt mark making rather than fight it or blending it into smoothness. Use streaks convey a sense of movement in the air, or flightpath of a bird. Swirl the brush, don’t go side to side. Then you might let it dry and repeat with a different blue to add variation, to suggest rather than tell. Or before it’s dry dab at it with a scrunched up bit of paper towel or rag to remove random bits of paint to create “clouds”. If you think you’ve removed too much paint, then add some more and do it again. All gone horribly wrong, then wipe most of it off or if it’s dry, glaze over with a semi-opaque pale blue (mix in a bit of titanium white or use white gouache for watercolour) and try again.

Figuring It Out (aka Life Drawing)

I’m away for the weekend for a little creative R&R, on a life drawing/painting workshop being led by Alan McGowan for Art Lochaber. Besides the creative stimulation (and break from the varnishing, stringing and admin for my forthcoming exhibition), I was hoping to build on what I’d done last November. I printed out my notes to myself from that workshop, and did today find myself mentally referring to some points (e.g. positioning the angle of the head by looking at where the mouth was in relation to a mental line drawing across the shoulders). I’m pleased with what I produced, especially the tonal ‘lift-off-the-paint’ Rembrandty one, but as for being less heavy handed with charcoal, well that’s still on my to-be-improved list. Apologies, the photos are mere phone snaps.

3 minute figure gesture drawings

Three gesture drawings; three minute poses. Charcoal on A2.

5 minute figure gesture drawing

Five minute pose. Charcoal on A2.

10 minute gesture life drawing

10 minute pose. Charcoal on A2.

20 minute charcoal figure drawing

20 minute pose. Charcoal on A2.

Life painting with graphite and solvent

Graphite and solvent on acrylic primed paper, plus white oil paint. A2.

Life painting

Working from dark to light. Mixture of burnt sienna and Prussian blue (both transparent pigments) mixed with a little linseed oil to slow drying, on primed paper. Wipeaway with cloth and brush/solvent to get highlights.

A Day for Reflection

Crisp sunshine, ultramarine sky with fluffy white clouds, snow-dusted peaks, no wind… today was the northwest Highlands in tranquil mode. Calming, majestic, mesmerizing. Full of visual puzzles if you look at pieces rather than the whole. So many starting points for abstracted landscape paintings, using pattern and colour from reality rather than painting the postcard view.

Reflections Loch Lochy 1

Loch Lochy

Reflections Loch Lochy 2

Loch Lochy


At Loch Garry


Reflections Cluanie Dam

Cluanie Dam

Reflections Cluanie Dam

Cluanie Dam. Inset photo shows a wider view.

Reflections Cluanie Dam

Cluanie Dam. But for these two taking photos, I would’ve tossed a pebble into the still water; I waited a bit but they weren’t leaving any time soon.


This is my favourite photo from today. It’s taken standing on a bank of Loch Garry, looking down through some trees onto still water reflecting clouds. Inset photo shows the scene looking across the water to the hills on the other side of the loch.


Monday Motivator: Art Holds the Power to Dissolve & Mend

Art motivational quote

“I believe that all great art holds the power to dissolve things: time, distance, difference, injustice, alienation, despair. I believe that all great art holds the power to mend things: join, comfort, inspire hope in fellowship, reconcile us to our selves. …

“We stand before a work of art and our spirit is lifted by it: amazing that someone is like us! We stand before a work of art and our spirit resists: amazing that someone is different!”

Source: The Question of Light, Tilda Swinton speech at the Rothko Chapel when presented with Visionary Award in 2014

An artist friend and I were talking on the weekend about the inevitability of being influenced by the artwork of others, whether you fight against it or whether you absorb and make it something of your own, and how you might do either of these. We may differ in our approaches, but we agree that nothing lifts the spirit like art, both seeing it and creating it.

Paintings-in-Progress: What’s Beneath the Wool

It being so sunny yesterday, I went a’wandering a bit, taking lots of snapshots of snow-covered bits of the Trotternish Ridge, ending up at Skyeworks where I couldn’t resist removing the wool from the paintings in progress. The results are intriguing, and definitely something I’ll do again, not least to see whether I can replicate an effect deliberately. Here are some photos of the results (here are the ‘before’ photos):
Small Paintings in Progress (4 Flow Landscapes)

Small Skye Landscape Painting in Progress (detail)

I’ve brushed off the coarse salt, but haven’t yet washed the residue off with some clean water, so the final result may change.

Small Paintings in Progress (detail)

Paintings-in-Progress: Flow Meets Wool

On Saturday at the ‘creation tables’ at the back of Skyeworks, I experimented with placing a piece of wool onto the canvas to restrict the spread of High Flow acrylics (Buy Direct USA or Buy Direct UK). I put it in places where I’d have drawn a line if I were working in pencil, for instance the top of a ridge or divide between sea and land.

Why wool and not string? No reason other than Skyeworks’ box of crafting bits contains wool not string. I also put masking tape around the edge of the canvas to create a “dam”, so the paint wouldn’t pour off the side if the canvas wasn’t flat. (Note to self: double-check it is stuck all the way around!)

The wool did constrain the paint as I’d hoped, allowing a little colour seepage if the canvas is kept flat, and more if tilted but not as much as if it wasn’t there. Where the wool is the paint dries speckled, as some is absorbed, which adds interesting texture. Bottom right photo shows the result; this was the first canvas I worked on and the paint was just about dry (it being cold, the acrylic dries slowly). The other three I managed to leave to dry thoroughly; it’s a tremendous temptation to tweak and fiddle andĀ  peak under the wool. Top right has some coarse sea salt on it; same idea as with watercolour, that some of the paint will be absorbed to leave interest effects. BottomĀ  left I used gloss medium along with the paint, and it’s spread differently.

What happens next with these will depend on how I feel about them until I see them again (I left them at Skyeworks) when they’re dry. Might like the result totally, might work a layer or two over the top, might do a lot. I won’t know, which is part of the fun.

Small Paintings in Progress (4 Flow Landscapes)