Thursday 30 May 2013

Painting practice

Was so excited to have new paper to use - my former work colleagues had given me a token for Greyfriars Art Shop and I got some lovely heavy Fabriano paper (hot pressed). A change from the usual watercolour paper. So although I've been a bit distracted with Peter in hospital, I was determined to get some painting time yesterday.

I decided to do another version of the view of Skye from the Sandy bay on Applecross. I had got as far as this last week (with a little adjustment of the clouds).
 I liked the palette of this and the composition. So I tried to approach a new version in the same way. Started off with charcoal, rubbed it out a bit, applied some gouache.  So it started off looking like this.

I carried on in acrylics and pencil marks, trying to minimise the amount of water I was using.  Quite soon it was looking like this.  Looks a bit scrappy, don't you think? And I felt I hadn't got the colours just as I wanted them.  Probably not added enough of the lemon yellow to the blues.  And not used enough Prussian Blue, I think.

Anyway, I carried on, trying  to improve the technical 'look' of the painting without losing the energy of the marks.
But you can see that I didn't do much more to it.  I think I got a bit 'gripped' by the painting, too scared to keep the looseness (cos there are some bits I like).  And the slightly different composition has lost some of the tightness of the spaces - it's all a bit too studied.  The things that I like? - the rocks are not bad and the irises in the foreground are nice and loose. So I think I've got to go back in with a looser approach with better flesh-coloured sand to get that cold look.  It looks just a bit too warm for Scotland (although they are having nice weather up there at the moment!).  Other tips would be welcome!

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Starting Anew

I've been so disappointed with my picture of the Nungate Bridge last week, that I came into the studio yesterday detemined to start afresh. I felt as if I got trapped by detail last week - clearly I got too focused on the stonework and ended up doing a very 'literal' picture.  I cropped it but I think it still looks a bit restrained, even boring.  So I'm adopting a slightly different approach this week.

I went back to some Applecross and Lochcarron images that I had decided to use as a basis for picture-making.  I had previously made an attempt at this motif - the view from the sandy bay in Applecross.  I started off in charcoal, then rubbed it out a bit.....
 Then I added some gouache and acrylic......

  Then I drew into the paint and also added some more acrylic.  I was trying to use the paint quite thickly, more like oil paint, and I kept to a limited palette. 

Maybe that blue in the foreground is the wrong colour - it should possibly be toned down, and the sky needs some careful work.
I set this aside and made a start to another picture, again in charcoal, rubbed out a little. This picture was based on a sketch I did of Beinn Alligin from the south across Loch Torridon (with some birches in the foreground).  I really like the composition.

I thought I'd add some magenta and burnt orange - the colours of the hills - in gouache at this stage.

 And after this I went in with the same acrylic colours and pencil.  The grain of the hill was based on the marks in the sketch I did .
I think I lost a bit of definition in the sea just when I finished, so I'd like to revisit this and then see  how it looks.  The birches are maybe a little heavy too.  I might also try this composition again in another picture.

My next effort was based on a sketch I did of Shieldaig Island from the new pontoon pier.  I had already done a fresh drawing of this in the studio which I pinned to the top of my board, and I started again with a stylised charcoal sketch.

This time I added red, green and magenta gouache.  By this time I had thinned down the acrylic paint and so it was much more watery than earlier in the day.
 I carried on with pencil and acrylic but I wasn't getting quite the same effect as earlier because of the thinner consistency of the acrylic.
I wasn't satisfied with the way the sea was looking but really wanted to hang onto the swirls in the sea in the foreground - I remember observing these and trying to draw them.

So this was how it ended up.  It still needs a bit of work, but I quite like the way the island has turned out.

Anyway, I felt much happier about the way my painting went yesterday.  The work felt like less of a chore and I feel the results are looser, freer - closer to what is in my head....I think....

Tuesday 14 May 2013


Yesterday and today I've been back in the studio trying to finish off the Nungate picture. We have to hand in our pictures for Cockenzie House a week today, so today was the day I felt I needed to have all pictures for 3 Harbours finished.

In order to warm up a bit I did another big sketch of the same subject - started in charcoal and added pencil and white conte.  When I had finished, today, it looked like this.
Nungate Bridge - Drawing
 Then it was back to the painting. I find it so difficult when I'm trying to improve on a picture and not lose what I consider to be the good bits.  That's where my tendency to overwork a picture kicks in.  So this time I spent a bit of time looking at the picture and noted down that I wanted to tone down the sky, 'improve' the stonework on the bridge (really by toning it down a bit), and adding more interest to the stonework under the arches.  It was only at this point that I realised the picture is absolutely full of stonework of different types - coursed rubble in the bridge, random rubble of the river wall and a mixture of rubble in the house.  Anyway, by the time I had finished today, it looked like this.

Nungate Bridge - Painting - Finished?
A very interesting exercise.  Which is better - drawing or painting?  I suppose they are just different - not comparing like with like.  The question I must address now is whether or not I should get the picture framed ready for 3 Harbours. The composition is quite strong, but maybe my painterly treatment just not exciting enough...

Friday 10 May 2013

Working on the Nungate Bridge

Today I continued work on my picture of the Nungate Bridge.  It is such a strong image and I had started the picture on good quality watercolour paper so I knew I should be able to continue.  I had decided (yesterday's blog) that I should go into the picture with some paler acrylic washes, so I made a start with two pale colours, one based on white acrylic mixed with a little rose madder and ochre and the other with cobalt blue. 

Nungate Bridge - emerging picture?

I then decided to use a little sky blue (mix of prussian and white) and also some red and blue inks (separately and mixed together).  This was a similar mix of paints and inks to those I had used for my Edinburgh Gables picture and this was the look I was aiming for.  Well, I worked at it for a while, painting and spraying it, then I got a graphite stick out, and then some extra oil crayon etc etc.  I wasn't all that happy and so I stopped when it looked like this.

Nungate Bridge - emerging picture?

It's looking more painterly now, but I think the blue sky makes it look a little too cheerful.  It is also perhaps a little too studied-looking - maybe I've worked too hard at it, too long.  I haven't brought it home yet, but I'll think about it over the weekend.  I may even go back in to work on it.  I'd quite like to finish it before the 3 Harbours.....but we'll see....

Thursday 9 May 2013

Focus in the Studio...

I thought I would carry on from Tuesday's sketches and focus on the Nungate Bridge.  Started by mapping out the composition out in charcoal.  I noticed in doing this that there are some good abstract values - the angles of the roofs matching the angles of the bridge and the repetitive verticals.  It's quite a strong composition.

After the first charcoal drawing I rubbed it out a bit then drew back into it, still working in charcoal. Improved the composition a little too.

Then I added a bit of oilbar followed by water and then some black ink.

Then I wanted to work on the texture of the stonework so used oil crayons in various colours and some red ink which I used on its own and also mixed with the black ink.  Also applied water spray.

I continued to work at the textures, including the water, also adding white acrylic, but then I was really not sure what to do next. So I stopped. 

 On reflection, I think I now need to go in with restrained washes to tie the picture together - aiming for a finish not unlike my Edinburgh Gables.  So we'll see what I can do tomorrow.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

East Lothian Sunshine Sketches

Looked up at the sky this morning and decided it was a day for sketching (oh - such freedom!).
So off to East Lothian to try and capture some iconic images on the best day of the year....

Spent most of the day in Gifford.  I focused first on the church, which I discovered is actually Yester Parish Church .

Pencil sketch, Gifford
 I walked round the back and did another sketch from the back of the building
Charcoal sketch, Gifford

The sun was still shining, so I returned to the hall.
Another pencil sketch, Gifford
 Then I thought I needed a change of scene, so went off to Haddington.  Managed to do a couple of quick sketches of the Nungate Bridge.
Graphite sketch of Nungate Bridge

Another sketch of the Nungate Bridge (oil crayon on coloured ground)
I thought that was enough for the day. Must get back into the studio tomorrow, whatever the weather.