Monday 29 August 2011


Was in the studio again today. Although I've spent the weekend thinking about other things to do, I had left some oil paints out on Friday, so I needed to make use of them.  Despite not being a great completer-finisher, I decided to keep focused on my two big pictures.
On Friday I had also worked on my large Applecross picture. It had started off like this.

Applecross View Take 1 copyright Aileen Grant
Although I liked the watercolour feel about this first layer of oil paints, it did not capture the brooding darkness I wanted, and so after another two layers of oils I had changed the picture to this, and this was what confronted me this morning.
Applecross View Take 3 copyright Aileen Grant
I was not happy with the horizontal effects - was worried that I had lost some energy - and the foreground looked a bit scrappy. And I also thought that the main hill was just too dark, too much of a big blob.  I needed to free up a bit, so I came in and poured some turps on the canvas, followed by some bleach and rubbed away at the paint.  Then I got the paint out and focused first on the sky, trying to calm down the horizontal lines and get a better structure into it. I also loosened up on the foreground, reducing some of the yellw/lime seaweed colour. Of course, having messed around with it, I had to go back and retouch other parts of the picture. Then I decided that the sea needed to be a bit more pewter, and the big hill needed some extra colour. So this is where I left it.

Applecross View copyright Aileen Grant
I also finished off the other two pictures. With Kishorn View I really just focused on the sky which I had not been happy about. Again I thought the sky needed a better structure, so I went in with darker tones on the right hand side, and also brought some white across from the left hand side. I also added a little to the rocks and the shorelines. It ended up looking like this (not changed much).

Kishorn View copyright Aileen Grant

 I then cleared away the oils and think I'll give them a rest for a bit. As to whether or not these are finished, I suppose I'll decide in a week or so.  I'd now like to try a little woodblock printing (if I can remember how to do it) or go back to acrylics and get some new ideas. I think I should focus on painting 'things', trying things out.  So I made a start when I got home by painting this wee watercolour.
Sugar shaker copyright Aileen Grant
Maybe I should try some still lifes...

Friday 26 August 2011

Studio Day

I didn't start anything new today - just working away on some of the pictures I've already posted.  First of all, I thought I would tamper with the Red Bass Rock picture. I didn't think it was quite there. It was looking like this when I started.  I thought that the red was perhaps too dominant in the picture. Don't get me wrong - I like the feeling of heat from the red (and that was what the day was like) but it was maybe just a bit boring.
Emerging Red Bass Rock - Copyright Aileen Grant
Anyway, I thought I would darken the red down a little and try to get some more interesting textures in the red area - I used some beeswax. I also had a bit of a go at the sea and the horizon line which looked a bit weak. I masked off some bits of painting I thought were quite precious - didn't want to lose them - and the end result was this.
Emerging Red Bass Rock copyright Aileen Grant
I THINK it looks a bit more interesting (not entirely sure). But now I see something else I want to do. I think I now need a bit more shape to the dark area in the foreground on the RHS. Oh's so difficult to finish a picture.
Kishorn View is another example of this difficulty. I thought I had almost finished this - when I got back to the studio it was looking like this.
Emerging Kishorn View copyright Aileen Grant
The sky was the part I was least happy about, so I had a go at this again. Also when I looked at the treatment of the sea (it looks OK in the photo) I thought the brushwork looked a little ragged. I didn't spend much time on it (didn't want to overwork it). Anyway, it's now looking like this.
Possibly finished version of Kishorn View copyright Aileen Grant
The changes are quite subtle. I also now remember that I softened the skye hills a little too, making them a little more interesting (I think).
It is quite daunting to approach a picture which is so developed and decide what needs to be done to improve it. It would be so easy to be heavy handed and lose the nice bits (the best bits). On the other hand, we can be too precious about parts of pictures - both my tutors (Jacqueline and Matt) have stressed this. Of course this is only coming back to me now - not while I was actually in the studio. We need to loosen up, not hold onto things and lose ourselves in our picture and then something special will emerge. Well. I am thinking now that this new technique I'm trying out, with my pencil-marks helping to define areas of colour, is preventing me from losing myself in the picture. Maybe I'm being a little formulaic, painting in tiles. I'll have to think about this further and decide what to do next. Sigh...
In the meantime, here's last Saturday's tea. They looked so luscious these prawns....I couldn't resist getting the watercolours out.
A Plateful of Prawns copyright Aileen Grant
 What next?

Friday 19 August 2011

Back in the Studio

I forgot to take my camera into the studio on Monday and so I've had to wait till today to record progress. I've been working on 2-3 pictures - 2 proper pictures and a wee extra thing. So here's how it's going so far.  Picture number one is of Kishorn Bay - based on the sketch I did sitting on the shore last week. When I got to the studio this emerging picture looked like this.
Emerging picture - Kishorn Bay
After a bit of work, adding a bit of pencil and trying to capture the sultry atmosphere, it started to look like this.
Emerging picture Kishorn Bay copyright Aileen Grant
I quite liked the sea in this and the shore, but I was not happy with the sky, so I did a bit more work and it ended up looking like this.
Emerging picture Kishorn View copyright Aileen Grant
It's coming along OK, I think. Well, I decided to leave it at this point. When I left the studio I thought this was finished.  On reflection, I think it may have lost a little freshness, but I hope this is not irretrievable. I just need a little distance now to consider whether or not it is really finished.

Picture number two that I'm developing is a view over to Applecross from Kishorn Bay. It's a difficult picture to do as the hills are so iconic - the view up the Bealach. I've drawn and painted it a few times and it has never turned out well, so this is a bit high risk. And this is a big picture.  Anyway, the start was this.

Emerging picture Applecross View copyright Aileen Grant
Actually, I quite liked this, but it's a bit like a watercolour.  I was using oil and turps. There's something quite purist about that first laying down of paint upon the canvas and a part of me wanted to stop there, but I just had to take it further, after all, I really wanted to try to capture the dark broodiness of these hills.  So the next stage was this.
Emerging picture Applecross View copyright Aileen Grant
Actually, looking at this now, I quite like this, but I thought the hills were a bit heavy-handed. On the other hand, I did like the angle and shape of the hills and the drama created by the shapes, and the freedom of the paint treatment. I was still being quite loose in the way I was using the paintbrush. But I decided to take the picture forward using the same technique I've been using recently, using horizontal bands of painting. So the next version emerged like this.

Emerging picture Applecross View copyright Aileen Grant
Is it better than the earlier versions? I'm not sure. Anyway, I was not sure what to do next, so I have left it in the studio at this point for the moment.

Oh and as a distraction, I made an attempt to re-do an earlier picture of trees at Inverleith Park. I think it turned out the best of the bunch today. Anyway, I like it better than all of these (it is a smaller picture and  not such a challenge and the reflection has (surprisingly) turned out in an interesting way). But I'll see what I think the next time I go to the studio......I may feel differently....

Inverleith Trees copyright Aileen Grant 
Why is it, the pictures you spend less time and labour on, end up pleasing you the most?  I think I may know what the answer is...

Saturday 13 August 2011

More sketches in wild places

I had more opportunities for sketching later this week when the weather improved. We had a great walk up Ben Damph on Thursday. It was pretty windy, and gusting so much when we first reached the ridge that I almost didn't go on up the ridge. However, Peter persuaded me that not going on was a bit wimpish, and it was true to say that the wind dropped as we got higher. Then on the summit, surprisingly, it was so calm that I was able to do a quick sketch in charcoal.
Sketch looking over to Sgurr Ruadh and Carn Mhor Dearg from Ben Damph copyritght Aileen Grant
It was a great view and this sketch does not really do it justice. That's a lochan on the right and there's another lochan in the bealach on the left where I've sketched before (looking the other way) after walking in from Coulags. I think now that I'm getting a feel for the hills, ridges, bealachs and glens in the area.  And the great swathe of hill country in the far distance - that's not sky at the top of the sketch, but more hills over in Glens Affric, Starthfarrar and Cannich etc. It's a great wild area.
Peter took a photo on the top - the view won't be the same - I always feel a sketch (even a flawed sketch) captures a more real picture than a photo. (Discuss - haha).

But anyway Thursday was a walking day and I had to wait till Friday to get some real sketching time. I went back to one of my favourite spots on Kishorn Bay (after a lovely chat with Jenny in her amazing shop - Patterns of Light opposite the seafood bar at Kishorn). I had time to do a sketch in colour - nothing brilliant but enough to get a feel for the colour and the scale. The hills in Skye looked so much closer than I remembered from April.

Kishorn Bay colour sketch copyright Aileen Grant
This doesn't really do it justice - there was a great tension between the yellow pole and the teal coloured sea, and the yellow of the pole was similar to the colour of the seaweed in the foreground. Pastels are a bit frustrating (I can never capture the colour accurately with them), but I think I've got something of the feel of the scene - a lovely spot on a sultry day with the rain moving in.
After this, I did a couple of charcoal sketches, including Applecross which was looking particularly black in the light conditions. I love this view and sketch it again and again....
Another Applecross View copyright Aileen Grant
So I maybe have some material to work from now - time will tell. Hopefully it will at least let me keep Kishorn Bay in my head even although I'm back in Musselburgh now. And there's also the Lochcarron view in my mind too.
Lochcarron Tree copyright Aileen Grant
I was inspired by Schiele's treatment of trees and landscapes to work at this pencil sketch and try to capture this rather spindly cherry tree accurately. That tree - in front of Hawthorndene - sets off the view over Loch Carron and to me encapsulates the character of  Lochcarron Main Street.... Sigh.... We'll go back soon, I hope....

Saturday 6 August 2011

Gathering Sketches

On safari up north for a few days, heading for Lochcarron. But now that we've arrived in Lochcarron I am reconnected and can blog.  It was only when we got to Glenelg yesterday that I got some opportunities to sketch. The day started badly (weather-wise) and so instead of climbing Beinn Sgreathall (or whatever the proper spelling of Ben Screel is...) we went to look at the brochs, in the rain, and then we found ourselves in Genelg Bay and surprisingly the sun came out. So out came the sketch book.
Glenelg Bay Sketch copyright Aileen Grant
A lovely spot, this and popular with campers. The Sgurr of Eigg was just visible - it's on the right hand side of the sketch. From here we went back towards the village and found the ruin of the Bernera barracks (interesting and somewhat neglected ruin) and I found a lovely rusty cottage to sketch. A more interesting and better sketch, I think.
Glenelg cottage sketch copyright Aileen Grant
This was on the walk back to the car from the Barracks, in glorious sunshine.  We were in a sort of  'creek' area - the river is on the left of the sketch and also along the bottom edge. I was doing quick charcoal sketches because I knew Peter would be restive if I took too long.

It was probably my best sketch of the day. I did a couple more - one of a boat sitting off-shore near the winged victory monument just to the south of the village.  This time I was more relaxed - P was off taking lots of photos, so I was able to get my pencils out and take a little more time.
Glenelg Boat Sketch copyright Aileen Grant
The light was so bright that the boat and the hills were virtually black. But while I was doing this, other boats caught my eye. I love that image of boats full of people zooming out of the light, something like this.

We did really like Glenelg and will go back there. There's still more to see and sketch...and Beinn Sgreathall still to conquer.
We left Glenelg this morning to take a quick Skye hop north to Lochcarron - went over the Kylerhea ferry then back over (that rather ugly) Skye bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh and then on to Lochcarron. A really nice route to get here with great views of the Cuillins.
It's always good for sketching here, so I had a go at this view, sketching again in pencil.
Lochcarron view from sailing club copyright Aileen Grant
It's a good spot, this, gives a nice view with water in the foreground which makes it interesting. It's not a great sketch, but it's a start, and I hope to get some more sketching time - even some painting time - this week.  Fingers crossed for the weather....but the rain has started already....

Monday 1 August 2011

Emerging pictures?

In the studio today. Was not in the best creative mood as had just been rejected by a gallery (it shall remain nameless). Ah well. Maybe it's better for me working away on my own. Of course, actually working away at painting is more important than producing a picture that somebody might like, but still... Anyway, I got to the studio and then realised that I have so many unfinished bits and pieces that I should really focus on trying to finish an oil painting or two. So I made a start with this one based on the shore at Kintyre.
Kishorn Shore (Oil) copyright Aileen Grant
This is my new style - using pencil and oils. Actually this one is mixed media. And it's better in reality than in this picture. I'm not sure if it's quite finished yet, but it's almost there, I think. So, feeling emboldened by this effort, I turned to my red picture of the Bass Rock from Seacliff (posted a couple of weeks ago), and I tried to use a similar style, using pencil to break up the areas of colour, particularly the sky. Again, it's kind of in the style of Schiele. I took that picture as far as this.
Red Bass Rock copyright Aileen Grant
I was trying to hand onto the best bits from my initial go at this picture, particularly the bits around the rock pools. It's definitely a much more interesting picture. But I'm wondering if there's too much red?  Is it 2 different pictures? I'll reflect on this for a while. I do love this view - it's my third picture of it. Anyway, I also tried to finish off one of my black and whites. I thought this one was already finished, but I had been looking at it at home and felt a bit dissatisfied with it - it looked a bit too rough and ready. So I did a bit more with ink, charcoal and acrylic  and now it looks like this.
Kishorn Boathouse copyright Aileen Grant
I'm much happier with this now and I think it may be finished. What I focused on was the edge of the beach - where the grass begins - and the seaweed trails. The ink was supposed to be a mixture of red and blue, but it seems to be mostly blue, but I think that's OK. I also tried to finish another couple of oils, but that's enough for this blog!
Now my problem is what to do next. I've not started any urban scenes following my sketches on Friday, and it may be that I want to keep focused on trees and shorelines. Time to do more sketches, I think.