Monday 30 December 2013

Sketching out the Old Year

Well, the weather hasn't been great so far on this trip up North.  Here's a flavour of that recent storm that blew for two days....

December Storm, Lochcarron, Sketch
In fact it was so bad, I could hardly see out of the window.
Cottage Window Sketch

As soon as the rain stops, I rush out and try and do a little sketch before it rains again...
Lochcarron Corner Sketch

And the other day it was dry enough to get the pastels out. Briefly.
Snow on the Tops, Strathcarron
Loch Torridon Sketch

....yesterday it was a bit better - we had a walk along the shores of Loch Torridon, with great views of the Torridon hills.

Two Pines Sketch

I was determined to sketch some of the beautiful Torridon pine trees.


Slumbay View Sketch
And today I did a couple of sketches in and around Lochcarron again. It was a bit gloomy!

Defiant Cherry!

Finally, can't ignore my favourite Cherry Tree.'s to the New Year!  Hope 2014 is a good one for us all!

Saturday 21 December 2013

Urban Studies

For various reasons I've not had as much time in the studio of late. However, I did want to explore a few urban scenes before the turn of the year. I focused first on the sketches I did on our recent sketching group visit to the museum.

I focused first on Greyfriars Corner.  What I liked about this as a composition was the glimpse through the gate to the graveyard, and the gravestone sitting like a focal point. So after re-drawing it once, I started again in graphite, rubbing out and oilbar.

I was wanted to use ink to get a darker moodier look to the painting. So I worked in both diluted and undiluted black ink.

Then I added a little oil-crayon/oil bar for a little colour. I somewhat boldly decided that the double-yellow lines were important to the painting, and so it has ended up like this. So far so good.

The other view I focused on was the view from the Meadows to Argyll Place.  I particularly liked the drama of the white sheen of the light on the wet tarmac and wanted to try and recreate this. This one started to look like this after a bit of work.
But I realised when I checked it against the original sketch that the position of the trees and the proportions of the street were not quite right. And I had not really captured the drama of the light.  Again by working in ink, I tackled these shortcomings.  I think it's close to the look I'm trying to get, but this pic is a bit out of focus.

 Continuing with this urban theme, I pulled out an earlier sketch of Stockbridge Market gateway. I love this piece of townscape and wanted to try a pic. I started on an old piece of card.
But I thought this was a bit too pale - wanted a darker look.

 By this stage it was close to the textured look I was trying to achieve, but the card was disintegrating, so I realised I should do a new painting.
 I ended up with something looking like this. However at this stage I thought some of the texture effects were a bit unsubtle, so I continued to work at this aspect. I also introduced a couple of ghostly figures - can you see them?

Not sure if I've finished it or not yet. Perhaps it's just a bit too dark now. And I need to go back to my sketching spot and check the proportions against the actuality.

Anyway, I'm setting aside my urban preoccupations for the moment; hoping to do a little landscape painting. If only the wind would drop and the rain would stop raining....

Saturday 30 November 2013

Here's the etching I've made from the drawing I posted last week - based on my favourite building block at the top of Cockburn Street. I used Raw Umber ink and natural-coloured paper to give it a sepia look. Actually the small image here looks better than life size - it's almost A4 in size.  I think it's a bit boring - a bit too 'straight' perhaps?
I did a couple of new etchings. A cherry tree image which I printed first in sepia (Raw Umber)
And then in a red-yellow mix
This image is based on a tree I sketched in St Andrew Square, while sitting in the gardens. I loved the set of the branches. I think I prefer the red tree. It's a bit more exciting and more autumnal.
After this, there wasn't much of the week left.  Thursday I spent in the kitchen - Look!

No, I wasn't cooking and I certainly wasn't doing the ironing. But I've found a better use for these appliances.
And then I finished off my prep.
To be completed at a later date, I think.

Friday was sketching day, for a bit of a change, and I met the sketching pals at the museum. I did these two sketches outside in the bitingly cold wind.

Must get more organised next week.....must finish a few things off.

Monday 25 November 2013

Preparation and Experimentation

The highlight over the last week (apart from the Macmillan exhibition) was going to Edinburgh Printmakers - again. I like the discipline of working there - I feel the clock ticking. However, I think it's good to vary what you do there - I think one can get a bit stale trying to cram too much printing into one session. I now think this as on this session I spent most of my time printing from a plate I had already made. I decided to have a go in two colours - using a warm red-brown as foreground, and a cool azure blue for distance.  It turned out a bit like this (this is not the full size). I must say the colours look quite subtle in this photo. I think the actuality may be a bit brighter/greater contrast.
 I'm not sure if I like it more or less than my initial print in soft black - which looked like this.
I am thinking that printing in two colours may make it more appealing, more saleable, but personally I like the purity of the black ink. I think the marks show up more clearly. However, I don't think one is better than the other - they are just different. What do you think?

I also made a new plate. Thought it would be a good idea to do a couple of prints of Edinburgh buildings, so I re-drew this Cockburn Street building - based on a sketch I did last week before the cold weather set in! It had to be Cockburn Street: I spent so much of my previous working life at the bottom of Cockburn Street...
I then re-drew it again, this time on film. I'm wondering if I've been a bit too tight with the drawing - that's always a risk when I draw buildings.  It's ended up looking a bit different from this, but I didn't get time to do a print.....for next session, I think. And I think I'll try a sepia coloured ink (Raw Umber?)

My other idea for this week was to search for a way to do monochromatic pictures without using acrylic paint. Can I use more sustainable materials and still get interesting effects?  I happened to have some egg whites, decided to make glair (egg white ink) and tried this out using charcoal and white pigment.
In this first study I used white glair and tried to make a black ink using crushed charcoal in egg white. Not sure that the charcoal ink worked!
However, I do like the charcoal effects - a nice loose and splodgy effect. Quite stormy looking. I'm not sure what to do next with this study. Maybe the top of the hill needs to be a bit more distinct. Or maybe it's just an experiment.

Because the charcoal ink wasn't working, I decided to add a little Prussian Blue pigment to make a blue glair. It ended up behaving a bit like watercolour.
However, again I quite like this restrained effect. For the dark trees I used charcoal and painted over them with the charcoal ink. Also used pencil for some better marks.

I did a couple more studies which were I think less successful.  Nevertheless, kinda interesting!

Not quite the bold effect I was wanting.  So where next? Can't begin to think about this - I've now got a terrible cold!

Saturday 16 November 2013

In Reflective Mood

During the past week I was working both in Lochcarron and back in the studio.
I started thinking about images of Applecross, particularly the long views out to sea. First I did a charcoal drawing based on that quick charcoal sketch I did on Applecross.
 I then did another version using watercolour paper. I used graphite and ink.
I then added white conte and darker ink marks. However I wanted more light in the distance, so I added white acrylic. I really wanted to focus on getting good sky effects.
When I looked at this, I thought the Skye hills were not the right shape. And I wanted to capture the small luminous clouds near the horizon and the little hint of blue sky above. So I did a bit more in acrylic and conte and it ended up like this. It's close to the look I was trying to achieve. But is it interesting enough?
I also tried a more colourful view, based on a view over Lochcarron. I had done some earlier work and it was looking like this. I wasn't happy about it - I liked the colour (I do really love the orange and russet colours at this time of year) but it was a wee bit too bright and literal for my satisfaction.
 I tried to darken it down and make it more moody, using conte, brown and black inks, and acrylic colours, but in the end I wasn't particularly happy.  The issue, of course, may be that the composition is not good enough. Or that I've not been clear about what I was trying to achieve. So I've set it aside.
Back in the studio, I had a go at painting the view over the island of Rona that I had sketched in pastels. I have tried painting the isle of Rona a few times, but never been happy.  I thought that focusing on the sky might help to produce a good painting. After working at it for a while, it ended up like this.

However, as so often happens at this time of year, I'm feeling a bit stuck in a groove - not sure that I'm really achieving what I'm setting out to do. Maybe I'm not being ambitious enough: maybe I'm not clear about what I am trying to achieve. Whilst I'm attracted by wildness and like to focus on the wild Wester Ross landscapes, maybe I haven't yet found an appropriate 'language' for capturing the emptyness and wildness. So I'm setting these aside for a while and I'm going to focus on some quirkier scenes. I've started with this.
This is based on a little harbour I saw in North Harris. To me it looked like boats placed within a boat. I did a little CD picture for the Inchmore gallery of this, and wanted to try a larger picture. Again I used graphite, conte, gouache and acrylic. I'm satisfied with the boldness and graphic qualities - a slightly different approach, I suppose.

And I've also brought this unfinished picture out of retirement.  I had got a bit stuck with it in the summer. It has my Aberdour tree in the composition. Wasn't sure how to finish it.
So after a critical self-review, I've got rid of the figure and made the cottage a bit smaller to get better perspective. (NB Is it necessary to get the perspective right? A modernist approach might play with perspective, I suppose.)  Anyway I feel as if it's coming along - just not sure where it will end up.  I'll get back to it next week....

Friday 8 November 2013

A Few New Sketches

Up north this week, trying to get a few new sketches, hoping for some fresh inspiration from Autumn colours. However, the weather hasn't been that great.
Tried to do a little sketching over in Applecross. When we arrived (after driving over the Bealach) I was very taken with the look of Rona (the island!). I tried to capture the ephemerality of the light in this sketch - difficult - it was changing all the time....

One of my favourite views is the view of Skye from Sand. I tried to capture the atmosphere...

I was also taken with the view looking east from the Applecross Inn. The sunlight caught the colour in the hill!
But it was really a bit of a black and white day, with very atmospheric views of the Hebrides. I stopped the car and dashed off a very rapid charcoal sketch. (It was very, very windy).

We continued on to the villages. I love this stunted Crab Apple Tree in Fearnbeg, so I had another go at sketching it.

 Back in Lochcarron, I've been sketching too. Just caught this corner before the light disappeared.
And here's another sketch done from a similar spot - but with a broader outlook.
And here's a view from Ardaneaskan - this is another favourite place (just along the road from Lochcarron) - did this sketch in charcoal.I love the shape of the hill on the RHS. It's my 'Dark hill above Strome'!
So I'm pleased I've managed to do a few sketches. Can I use these to develop paintings from them? I'm not sure. Only time will tell....