Sunday, 9 June 2019

Verona Reflections

Back from a fab sketching trip with pals to the wonderful city of Verona at the start of May: now trying to make something out of my sketches.

My aim was modest - to do SOMETHING from my sketches.  However, I set myself a challenge....not just to reproduce one of my sketches, but to play around with motifs and details and try to come up with something a bit more interesting. I also set a time limit - 2 weeks.

I started by scribbling and working things out in my sketchbook.  Thinking about composition, really, but also thinking about the essence of the city - what did I love about it?
What I found particularly fascinating was how the city has adapted itself through time - Roman details in mediaeval buildings, the preponderance of brickwork, and the dominance of the Adige River...and so on. But already I was forgetting things, and the trip was taking on the feeling of a dream
Anyway...initially I did some small watercolours.

Then trying larger ideas in acrylic.

 Thought I'd try to combine different motifs on one picture plane.  
However, this one looked a bit too busy

So I cropped it....and refined it, but it probably needed more space.

 I then decided to play around with a few details to enrich the picture-making. Not just brickwork and castellations!  I referred back to photos I had taken of details and drew these out with a dip pen. Hard work!
Then back to painting, thinking about using some of the details.

But convinced myself that a double-arch motif didn't really work in this one.

And finally decided to simplify by losing the main arch and adding a bit of shadow.
This is where it is now.

Then I had another idea, based on arches and statues, from memory.
And then I refined this, referring back to a very quick sketch I had made at the theatre colonnade - trying to get the proportions better. And I wanted to make the statue a bit dreamier. So this is how it looks now.  Interesting to compare....maybe the first version was better...
But I really didn't think I had achieved what I had (somewhat vaguely) set out to do.  And, in a flash of inspiration, I thought I'd have a go at making a couple of monoprints...well three actually.

I think these are kind of interesting and they're closer to achieving the 'dreaminess' of Verona that I was trying to capture.
And it has taken me 3 weeks to get here, so I think I probably have to move on now....
Comments welcome!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

New Studio! Up and running!

My big project at the start of this year has been to get a wee studio built. I've been planning it for a year and have had a few setbacks for one reason or another.  Eventually I decided to build a posh garden shed, or rather a 'garden room', courtesy of  a firm called Bridge Timber

Doing a building project in this part of the world in the month of January is not an easy task, but the guys set to it very cheerfully, despite freezing temperatures and days of never-ending rain. Within a few days this was how it looked....
 and within two weeks it was fully finished, like this....
I still have a few externals to do, like proper steps and a bit of landscaping. But the internals have been more of a priority.  The space looked so big at first - a lovely empty space - and it took several days to paint it.
But by the time I got the printing press installed and moved the rest of my stuff in from my temporary studio, the space had filled up quite a bit.

It has filled up even more since this point - I suppose a bit of creative clutter doesn't go amiss, but I'm trying very hard to be organised. In the past I have allowed clutter to build up and I found it very frustrating, distracting and bad for creativity: now I have a chance for a new start and I'm determined to be more organised.

At last I've been able to get on with some work. Here's what I've been up to.
Doing a bit of printmaking. (Here's my reflection in the velux window...a kind of arty photo!)

And doing a bit of painting.  Trying to keep my palette simple (not too many colours... and choosing those colours carefully).
I've also been thinking about themes to focus on this year.  I'd like to create a body of work and not be all over the place. The trouble is that the themes that interest me are a bit challenging for picture-making.  Themes such as environmental armageddon - maybe that's too depressing, anyway.  So I'm thinking about metaphors for loss, change and impending doom (nice, eh?)....motifs like abandoned villages, stormy weather, damaged landscapes.  Perhaps my most recent photopolymer print - Skyburst - is along the right lines. Something to build upon perhaps.

 Anyway, I have some themes and ideas, I have the materials and I have the working space, so I really have no excuses now.  I just have to fight off the siren forces of distraction and procrastination.  As you know, life can so often get in the way of art, and that's the biggest challenge of all.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Sketch Book Review

I have been reviewing my 2018 sketchbooks.  I think this will help me to think about what I'm going to do next year.  Once again I am resolved to do more blogging this year - I find it helps me to keep focused on my work and work things out in my head.

Trying to see if there are themes emerging from my sketches. Like the landscapes of home.

Lochcarron and Kishorn.  The sea and the hills.  Rocky foregrounds which I haven't quite perfected yet.  I like rocks and want to keep sketching these in order to get the right look.

And other less familiar landscapes, such as those above in Mallorca.

Then there are the trees at home and abroad. Like this Mallorcan pine tree perched on the edge at the top of the Barranc near Soller in Mallorca.

I was particularly attracted to the exotic shapes of Olive Trees in Mallorca.

 But any tree with character tells me it wants to be sketched, including an old apple tree in Colonsay.


And then there are buildings, groups of buildings and structures.  Like the steading at Balmacara.

 Quiet lanes in Edinburgh's New Town.

The narrow streets of the Alfama in Lisbon.
 And monumental buildings, such as the Belem Tower
Not forgetting the architectural details of buildings in Soller, Mallorca.

And bridges are a favourite subject, including this one nearer home at Duncraig Halt on the Kyle Line.

These are just a few of my sketches from 2018.  However, it's one thing to sketch but quite another to create paintings, and I know I have to spend more time in 2019 playing with sketches and creating pictures. That's probably my resolution for 2019.  Happy New Year!

Monday, 19 November 2018

Golden Days

It seems that we've just hit a spell of good weather up here.  Sunny crisp days.  The hills and summits are so clear.  Had a bit of a hillwalk in Strathcarron yesterday and today I had to run over to Torridon to deliver some calendars, so I took the opportunity to do a bit of sketching.

At this time of year, the grasses are wonderful shades of orange and ochre, and the deer grass has sent out its delicate long stems.  Here's the sketch I did yesterday on a walk in the Strathcarron hills above Achintee. I was trying to get the pattern of the shadows on the hillside, shadows cast by the rocky outcrops. And the lochan kept changing colour as the wind changed. I was able to take a bit of time as it was warm enough and I was quite pleased with this.
Today was similar.  The hills were clearer than ever but there was a cold wind blowing.The shore of Upper Loch Torridon looked cold, in shadow.
Then on through Glen Torridon, stopping for a sketch of Liathach. We stopped at the second car park where there is a stand of pine trees. By this time there was a small cloud sitting on top of Liathach which I was viewing from the east.
On our way back I had time for another sketch of Liathach, a view from the south this time. We walked a bit along the lochside path and I spied a good view with a host of Torridon pines in the shade in front of the hills.
And as a wee extra, Beinn Damh was catching some intense light with interesting shadows so I did a last quick sketch before I headed home.
Lots of material for a few paintings, but this lovely weather is very distracting!

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Hand Made

Difficult times. I've had a thumb/wrist problem - De Quervain's tendonitis to be precise - and this has hampered my painting and printmaking. I so need my right hand! However, this week it's been a little better and I've been trying to get back into a bit of painting.
I started on Sunday with a couple of sketches. I drove up the Bealach road, not too far, just high enough to get a good view of the ridge. And then found a space where I could pull off the road safely.  I walked up the hill a bit and did these two sketches in pastel.  I particularly liked the bright yellow grasses bending in the fierce wind and looking bright in front of the hills behind.

Since then I've tried to develop these into paintings.  Making a start on the first sketch, I paused at this point
It's so interesting to look at this again. I now see things in this composition that I've lost going forward....look
The shape of the hill on the left - I've inadvertantly altered the angle and it's lost some tension. But maybe it's not too bad...

In this development, I've adjusted the height of the ridge and softened the dark patch on the right hand side - I didn't think it looked appropriate. But the shape of the hill on the left has got worse! I was also a bit unhappy with the colour - looked a bit washed out! More work needed.
Today I have done this - I think it's looking better. The darkness of the hill is much better, more drama. I've slightly amended the yellow grasses and added more foreground marks. I have actually spent a lot of time thinking about the marks to make to represent the grasses and other vegetation. And I dropped the height of the far-away ridge - I painted it out in a blue-white which I didn't really intend to be the finished colour, but actually I quite like it!  Interesting! It may remain...we'll see.

Painting the other view has been less successful. Here's the start - very loose and rather nice.
But then I did this.  Added lots more marks. Good and bad.
I had gone back to the sketch to check tonal values, and so made the ridge a bit darker, and tried to divide up the foreground to make it read well, all the time thinking about marks.  I took this approach a little further.

Does it feel like a hillside to you? I think it's getting there, but those rocks are bad! Maybe I just need to darken them down. Or maybe dispense with them!  I'm quite liking the sky, though, and the hilltops, so I think it's worth a bit more effort next week.

And maybe some more sketching tomorrow if we get a blink of sun...