Wednesday 28 September 2011


It's all doom and gloom this week in Europe - is this the end of capitalism as we know it?  These are strange and unnerving times and who knows what the future holds. Perhaps this is distracting me and affecting my energy and enthusiasm for painting - I did not go into the studio on Monday.  But another reason for not going in was that Rob and Michaela had given me some sunflowers from an East Lothian farm and I wanted to have a go at painting them.  So I started with a sketch in charcoal.
Sunflower Sketch copyright Aileen Grant
It's been a while since I used flowers as a subject for painting.  The trouble with sunflowers is that Van Gogh did them so well and any attempt to draw or paint sunflowers is inevitably measured against his achievement.  Nevertheless, I soldiered on, got the watercolours out and had a go at painting them.  This is what resulted.
Sunflowers by the window copyright Aileen Grant
I was trying very hard not to do a botanical painting, but still trying to capture the essence of the flowers, and I thought the fabric - with yellow and purple stripes - would help to make a good picture.  Sunflowers are rather beautiful - so strong and structural.  However, using watercolours imposed limitations in terms of the artistic treatment, but I tried to keep the treatment loose and catch the sun falling on the flowers. End result?  I think I prefer the drawing - the marks are more interesting.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do next, but I don't think I'll become a painter of flowers. Maybe a few days up north will help me get a new focus and allow me to stay occupied over the winter.

Monday 19 September 2011

Catching Up

Bit of a gap with the blogging, I'm afraid, partly due to losing a day's painting 'cos I had to work, and partly because we had a night out in Glasgow on Friday. So catching up today.
I didn't do much on Friday: the only thing I really did was to finish my wee, postcard-sized picture that I started on 5th September. Then I delivered it to the Gallery on the Corner for the charity exhibition starting at end of the month (watch my facebook page for details).
Towards Leith Copyright Aileen Grant
This is a wee picture based on Fisherrow Harbour, with Leith in the background. It's done in acrylic and inks. I think it turned out OK, so I hope the Gallery is able to sell it to raise funds for the project.

Today, I think my head was still in the hills, having been on a hillwalk yesterday. When I was there, I did a couple of small sketches on the top and took a photo, and today it just seemed the right thing to do to work on the image I had of a small pond with lovely russet-coloured grass in it.  Here are three images of what I was doing.
(Emerging) Hilltop copyright Aileen Grant
Emerging Hilltop copyright Aileen Grant
Hilltop copyright Aileen Grant
Well this is finished, but it's not a finished picture, and I am reflecting now on whether or not I have overworked it. The pond has definitely lost something - it was better in the middle version. But I think the grass is maybe better.  I used blue oilbar (ultramarine), oil crayons, a few acrylic colours and red ink. Oh, and charcoal of course.  I think I quite like the composition and so I may try it again. Does it capture that feeling of being on top of the hill, looking down over the dark valley below? Maybe a little? Anyhow, painting it did help me to feel that I was somehow still up on the hill.  Maybe I should do a hilltop series next.

Friday 9 September 2011

Sketching in Edinburgh

It's been a week of sketching (with a few days of work in between). On Monday I had my drawing group in Musselburgh and did a few sketches of the model, along these lines.
Monday night sketch copyright Aileen Grant

Today has been a particularly a good day's sketching in town with pals. We started off in the recently re-opened Royal Scottish Museum ( ).  The Museum does look great now that it has opened again.  I miss the fish in the main hall, and I'm sorry about the clock being moved into a side gallery, but the main gallery looks very elegant and quite lovely.  It was really just a little too lovely, on too grand a scale, and distracting, difficult to sketch.  However, I did one little sketch of this - a view from the ground floor.
Museum View Sketch copyright Aileen Grant
I quite like the looseness of this sketch, and it was important to capture the image of that lady in between the arches.  The fact that the sketch is not too recognisable as the museum - there's an ambiguity - it could be a number of places  - is quite good and I like this about it. That feeling of ambiguity is probably less apparent in this sketch (done at first floor balcony level) which is (probabaly recognisably) a sketch of St Giles' steeple.
Sketch of St Giles through the window copyright Aileen Grant
  But I quite like this too. I think both of these sketches have some potential to explore. Anyway, after some time sketching we went for lunch across the road.  And I was very struck by my view in the restaurant. I managed to focus on the food and enjoy my lunch, but I couldn't resist doing a very very quick sketch just  before we left.
Sketch - lunch looking over the Old Town copyright Aileen Grant
The reality is much darker than this sketch, but I have a photo that I can use to help me get the depth of colour and darkness, should I choose to take this further.  And I just think that I might as I think this has potential as an interesting  picture.  I've already done another sketch, and it's inspiring me to think of a theme of window views.  Anyway, we went on to Greyfriars churchyard and did some more sketching - very inspiring - but that's another story. What a lovely city Edinburgh is - it's always good to be reminded of this!

Monday 5 September 2011

An Acrylic Day

I wasn't in the studio on Friday (was starting to prepare a woodblock for printing at home), but I decided to have a painting day today so went into the studio.  I had also done a few sketches down at Fisherrow Harbour over the weekend. So I thought I'd work up a sketch in acrylics.

I  used a sketch of the harbour with the tide out - nice muddy harbour bed - in fact it was this sketch

Fisherrow Harbour Sketch copyright Aileen Grant
I quite liked the sketch - the feeling of enclosure within the harbour and the escape route to Leith, and that thought of being trapped because the tide is out. So how to approach this? I started with charcoal and then added white, sky blue plus raw umber - acrylic paint. I thought raw umber might be a good base for the harbour wall. So my start to the picture was looking like this.
Emerging picture Fisherrow Harbour copyright Aileen Grant
At the time I thought this was a good start, and looking at it again now, I think it does look quite good. Not too tight, not too clearly defined, a nice darkness in the harbour corners.  However, I felt that the harbour wall needed more colour in it and I wanted to have a go at painting the mud. So I carried on, adding orange and blue and also some inks. Anyway, what I've ended with today is this....
Emerging picture Fisherrow Harbour copyright Aileen Grant
Is this better or worse than my start? I'm really not sure. I feel I've lost something in taking it further.  However, I like how Leith has turned out - it's quite dreamy - and I like the foreground - the stone slabs and the setts. But I'm wondering if there's too much colour now in the harbour wall. Is it too bright and sunny and cheerful when I was really wanting to convey a threatening feeling - that feeling of being trapped? So I may go back in with the raw umber and charcoal to get the feeling I want. But I've brought it home to look at in the meantime.  I also did a petite version of the picture on a piece of wood.  It turned out like this.
Fisherrow Harbour mini picture copyright Aileen Grant
This picture is so small (11x16 cms) that I decided that the tide had to be in. I was doing this small picture to hand into the Gallery on the Corner on Dundas Street - they're having a charity sale and I said I would do something for them. It's supposed to be on a theme of journeys, memories or dreams, and I think this kinda works.  Maybe the sky needs a little more attention. We'll see.
Overall I was not particularly happy when I left the studio today. I am doing this blog with some difficulty as I don't feel very positive. But actually now that I have reflected on my efforts, I think I can see a way forward with the pictures. Possibly....